Friday, 18 December 2009

The First Climb

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India; 27th September; Day 6; Belak Khal; 2808m


Trek: 4hrs 14mins starting at 8.52
Low: 1683m at 8.52
High: 2784 at 12.45
Descent: 7m
Ascent: 1107m

During the night Keith discovers that he picked up a leech on his back. Probably from swimming in the river. There is blood all over the place including on his sleeping bag and mat. He's grossed out and the rest of us check ourselves for any signs. James reckoned he picked one off his foot! Keith remains paranoid about leeches for the rest of the trip but that doesn't stop him from bathing in the rivers.

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I lay in bed until Maneesh arrives with the tea at about 7am. From the river I hear a huge commotion going on and when I get down there I see hundreds and hundreds of sheep and goats being shepherded over the river. Most of them are going over the thin log pole bridge but a few try to jump and swim. Their is so much pushing and shoving on the bridge that many leap off into the river and the Shepherd has to wade in and manhandle them onto the bank. It's pandemonium out there and it takes a good hour for the whole flock to get across and disappear up the trail.

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We break camp and re-cross the bridge for breakfast. The bridge is now lethally slippery but we all manage to tiptoe our way across. Today it's porridge and an eggs for breakfast. A pattern is emerging; cornflakes and porridge will alternate!

Today will be one long steady climb and we hit the trail shortly before 9am. After a short while we hit a fork and after waiting for a while I go back to camp where the porters are still packing and ask advice. It's left. All day it's up and up and up through the forest. There is not much wildlife about; no birds and few butterflies. Not much to photograph either!

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After an hour I take a break and after that I dawdled and managed to find one butterfly to shoot. At one point the trail climbed steeply but generally the gradient was kind.

As the trail climbed the forest started to include bamboo. After a while we reached a clutch of Shepherds Huts and sat down to have some lunch. We are given a packed lunch everyday. This is usually a sandwich, an apple, a couple of energy bars, some fruits and nuts and a juice drink. Lying in the dappled shade around us was the sheep and goats that we'd seen earlier this morning at the bridge.

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Pretty soon we were joined by the muleteers and the mules as they sat down and took a break too.

Our final climb took another hour and the forest thinned out and we were met by a cool breeze at the pass which had a small village. A local family gave us tea as the children looked on. After waiting here a while we walked over to the campsite close by. The mules had already arrived so we were able to retrieve our gear and put up our tents.

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We rested and dozed in the afternoon but also took the time to gather some firewood and hang out some washing. Not much chance of it drying though as a mist rolled in.

After dinner we sat around the blazing fire and burnt everything we had. We also finished off the Jamesons.

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