India. I hated it upon first arrival. Not because I actually had an educated peripheral experience.
I spoke no Indian.
I smelled of recycled air and privilege.
With a fax number for my hotel contact and a vague mile long street location, I was ....
I was plain lucky the kind and patient taxi driver decided to use his own phone to repeatedly call my mistaken phone number. He asked every snoring street-side sleeper if they had heard of Karlos Kastel Hostel. Finally he backed into a small alleyway with a smile, nod and hand motion that we had arrived.
I was uncertain...thinking he just wanted to be rid of his pre-dawn cargo drama.
He was right.
We had arrived. The 3 boys sleeping across the tiny lobby sofa's and coffee tables assisted in my check in. My name was 'on the list' thanks to Crystal and Whitney nearly one month prior.
I entered my private room, sweaty, exhausted and cross-eyed.
Maybe I slept.
|View from the town of Vashisht|
Legs twitched from 20 hours of airplane comfort.
My journey jostling elbows in this city of over 18 million people had only just begun.
Alone with many more hours to travel, I ventured cautiously from my 'private' alleyway to sort transportation onward.
|Whitney enjoying one of the many Chai stops|
The Main Bazaar is a bustling commerce center in the heart of Delhi.
Car horns, rickshaws, people and cows fighting for space nearly all hours of the day. The hours zoomed by in a whirl bobbing and weaving through the street lined shops, fruit stands and occasional pile of feces…cow and human alike.
|Packing up early morning Vashisht|
Finally, on the night bus, I tossed and turned almost rhythmically along with the exceptionally winding road north. After a brief and unintended 3 hours pit stop somewhere rural northern India, due to an axle issue, I finally plopped into a gravel parking lot in Manali. Excited my travel journey was only to be 20 minutes more, I hailed the first motor rickshaw driver in sight, forgoing any sort of bartering with the driver. Forget saving 40 cents, I just wanted to be in Vashisht with the girls!
|Manali to Vashisht richshaw ride|
A glorious sight for sore eyes— people and a language I knew! My shoulders nearly slid down off my back entirely as I relaxed.
The girls, having 3 weeks prior to my arrival, had just completed their second foray into the Himalayas. Their first mission included a second ascent of peak CB6a (5450 m), by their route NibbiJibbi (5.10-, 400 m). Their second adventure climbed an unnamed 5100-meter peak in the Miyar Valley, they named their route Poornima (5.10, 600 m). This valley was icy cold. A long storm left them tent bound for days. Almost October, the higher peaks were experiencing a pubescent cycle. Immature ice, once clean rock now pitted with snow and a horrible cover-up of crevasses.
They switched objectives and climbed a beautiful new line in a push.
Seeing their smiling faces, breathing fresh mountain air and nearly touching the surrounding peaks, renewed my stoke. I bit my lip, attempting to calm the energy boiling… What do you think, how are conditions, what is the snow line, what is the weather?
“When do we head back in?” I blurted somewhere between “Hi” and “It is so nice to see you.”
|Pitch 3 of Poornima|
Shrugging, Freshy Ms Fresh was up against miles of trekking with big loads, cold climbing and wet camping. I am not blaming these ladies for lack of enthusiasm nor diminishing their accomplishments. I wish I could have joined.
Its just that I was amped and a little tiredness secreted out their gaze.
We chilled for two nights in the hippie town of Vashisht, planning and scheming. The third day 5am a private taxi van transported us eastward 12 hours across the Himachal Pradesh. The narrow dirt roads (bike paths in North America) carved out mountain sides. In some places the mountain regained control, causing total destruction to our path forcing all to reroute. Delivery trucks, public transportation buses and our taxi vans literally kissed one another as we passed.
|Nearing our climbing destination|