We set off again after devouring lunch. I had surely over eaten. It always happens to me up in the mountains. In the city, I can barely ever find my appetite but take me higher and the tummy begins to come alive. The dal, rice and chutney was simply lip smacking and given that all we had had to do was sit and eat made it even better! Our hosts sat about us but refused to share a meal with us. It was against traditions. First the guests ate and then the family sat to eat. It is one of those practices that I have witnessed so often before but have still not got used to.
Mansingh strolled along to show us the route once again. Again, the trail was more or less made of rocky steps. Thankfully, the gradient had eased off and we were able to climb faster. It was 2pm and the next campsite was at least 3 hours away. Having heard plentiful stories of the abundance of bear and leopards to be found in these forests, we certainly did not want to become dinner. For most part of the day’s walk, we continued to climb stairs and at times it seemed like we were making our way like devout pilgrims to visit a holy shrine.
The forests are fast turning red and pink with rhodendron blossoms. Gold hued leaves mixed with red petals lay strewn along the path and often enough I simply stood marveling at what I was witnessing. Occasionally, we met with shepherds who were grazing their cattle on the higher pastures. Little babies clung to their mothers, almost walking between their legs to avoid getting any closer to us.
Slowly I found myself coming back to life. This was me in my elements. I love the sun in my face, the woody fragrance of cedar as you walk through alpine forests; those tiny yellow and purple wild flowers that find a way to exist out of rock cracks; little lady birds floating on the river; butterflies as they filled the sky, moving skyward and not to forget, the intriguing white caterpillar like insect that insisted on crawling on its back with legs raised to the sky.
A sudden awareness of being, of the miracle of this life and my fortune to have been born a human, comes on each time I am out there. For me there is no greater form of meditation, no more direct means of knowing myself and the world I inhabit, than being out there.
And as the sun sets behind the ridge and we light a small campfire, the world’s grandest astronomical show begins. Countless galaxies come to life. Now the sky is my drawing sheet and the stars, little points and I choose what I wish to draw. Tomorrow will be another sunrise.