Saturday, 19 December 2009

Up and Down

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India; September 28th; Day 7; Bhudar Kedar; 918m

Trek: 6hrs 53mins starting at 8.31
Low: 918m at 18.16
High: 2789m at 8.31
Descent: 3356m
Ascent: 1859m

I'm up at 5.45 to walk up to the ridge behind the campsite to take early morning photographs of the mountains in the distance. I'm a bit too early though and I have time to go back and fetch another camera and to persuade Keith to come too. We hang around for an hour taking shots of the peaks as they are lit by the morning sun.

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We pack and have breakfast but I leave half an hour after the others as I wait for the sun to dry my tent before packing it. I take some shots of the village before leaving.

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The trail descends down through a forest - sometimes the trail is quite steep. After an hour it breaks out into a meadow with fine views into the valley below. We meet a group of Indian hikers who are carrying full packs and doing without porters. It transpires they are doing some kind of Outward Bound course and are all studying at the Civil Service academy in Messoli. We pass and re-pass them all day as we descend and rest in turn.

Eventually Keith and I catch up with the others and after crossing a stream on slippery stones we stop for lunch. Jim is unwell and not eating.

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We continue the long descent down to a river and a small village. Some stop for char in a dark tea shop but I press on down the trail which is now a rocky road. It's hot down at this level and the heat is bouncing off the white stone road and this continues for what seems many miles.

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The heat bores down on me but we do eventually struggle and straggle into town and find a place to sit in the shade. A small shop sells us Pepsis and water as we wait for the porters to come down and show us where the campsite is.

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The mules and muleteers arrive first and we follow them over the bridge and down to the river bank where we set up camp. Keith and I immediately go for a swim. Its cold; very cold, but at the same time refreshing. Keith is hoping the river is flowing too fast for leeches!

It's a pity but it seems that we are camped on what smells like a toilet ghat. The evidence is all around. It's tight for space in the campsite and we have to keep fighting off the mules that want to graze around the tents. We also have to fend of a ragbag assortment of small boys who are hanging around. It's unlikely they will steal anything though.

I have another swim when Jim and James and Jan are ready and then sit on the bank having tea and biscuits which Maneesh has brought down.

Keith and I go for a wander around the small town before dinner and are surprised by the number of shops. We watch a wedding procession go through accompanied by a drummer. The bride is carried in a covered sedan whilst the bridegroom rides behind on a mule.

After dinner we go back into town and go to the barbers for a shave. Keith goes first and I watch the whole palaver. The boy appears to be only 14 years old or so. He spends a long time lathering before putting a new blade in the cut-throat. You actually get a double shave followed by a range of unguents rubbed into the face, then a massage and lastly a pungent aftershave. Keith looks shiny and new. A small crowd of young boys turn up to watch and chatter. After I've taken my turn we cough up the 20 rupees each. In the afternoon the young lad had quoted us 5 rupees!

We finished off the evening with a 7Up in the last shop that remained open.