‘Dying in the Himalayas is not a bad way to go at all!’
On January 11th, the three of us boarded a Go Air flight to Leh that stopped over in Delhi for a couple of hours. We were nervous, to say the least.
CAP thrived on adventure. Whether I was physically capable of doing this, I did not know, but my will would get me through. Even so, we were plagued by questions. Could we do all that climbing? Were we well equipped for the cold? What if I just die doing this? The last question I asked myself and answered, almost immediately, ‘ dying in the Himalayas is not a bad way to go at all’. The view of the striated Himalayas from the airplane set our hearts to rest. Shades of white, black and brown, the Himalayas looked much like minimalist art, stripped to its bare essentials. And such beauty cannot harm, I reassured myself. Someone I met back home in Mumbai said , ‘ Leh cannot be that beautiful, there’s no vegetation. No greenery.’ Sometimes all you need is black and white and effortless symmetry of sorts!
We landed in Leh at about 10 AM and I felt that the moment I stepped out of the flight would be the moment of reckoning. The pilot had announced that the temperature at the time of landing was -10 degree Celsius. Surprisingly, the cold did not hit me like a blizzard nor was I struck down by its onslaught. I knew we were going to be ok.
Hotel Auspicious is off the main market road but known to all and sundry in Leh. Gudiya had spoken to the manager who assured her that there was place for us to stay even if we came a day early. As our taxi stopped at the door, people milled around asking for Gudiya. Gudiya took some time coming out of the taxi and the crowd got more restive. But soon she was out of the vehicle and into the caring hands of Hotel Auspicious’s management. It wasn’t entirely clear why Gudiya received this celebrity status, but subsequently, we all surmised, it was her charm- something that came to her aid throughout the trip. She just had to bat some eyelashes to get someone to fetch and carry for her.
Established in our rooms, the cold started seeping into our layers now. We asked for the gas heater to be switched on and spent the afternoon, alternating between, deep sleep and wishing we were nearer the heater. Sick with lack of sleep and, I suspect, lack of oxygen in the room caused by extended usage of heater in a closed room with 4 adults, we were nursing headaches, loss of appetite and general lethargy. We went to the dining room for dinner, forcing ourselves to eat even if we didn’t feel hungry and drinking lots of water even as we felt cold. We met the members of the trekking batch that started a day ahead of us. January 12th too was spent acclimatizing but also getting to the market to buy last minute essentials. All of us needed to buy gumboots. Some of us needed jackets. Some others needed gloves. I bought myself these yak wool socks. Throughout the trek, I wore those socks during the night and, I think if I felt warm ( sometimes hot), it was the Yak wool socks.