I t is almost a norm that I jump into various types of activities, completely unprepared. A long and hard trek definitely needs a certain level of preparation in terms of toning up the limbs and getting the harmonica of the lungs tuned for hard forced marches and high altitudes. But the last two months have been a relentless and cruel schedule and I land up here without any preparation in terms of walking or diet. Only a couple of days of golf in a mountainous terrain are all that I got. Thanks to golf here and there, I am using my lower limbs, otherwise a busy day means twelve to fourteen hours of sitting in one place.

Kathmandu has been a good time for all the participants to get together and know each other after a long ride from Lumbini through the spectacular mountains and challenging traffic situations. Lumbini has been a pending place to visit for over 35 years. In the year 1979, I reached Nepal border alone upon my motorcycle – they didn’t let me pass as I did not possess a passport. I knew that just across the border was the place where Gautama (the Buddha) was born – it took so long to get to Lumbini.

The flight from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj was uneventful, except that the pilot, for some strange reason, chose to land on a short strip downwind and had to do some panic braking and stuff. Nepalgunj has a meteorological reputation of holding up groups of people for days and sometimes weeks. We took off from Nepalgunj in less than an hour in an 18 feet Dornier – these work horses have served in most difficult terrains, quite ancient in design and fitting but reliable as a dog.

Simikot has a wonderfully located 100 to 280 degrees landing strip. It is considered a miracle in the region that you take off from Kathmandu and reach Simikot in less than three hours – weather usually never allows that – well, the weather gods are well disposed towards us! After a quick grub, we set off trekking towards Dharapani, only nine kilometers but a steep and rocky descent – a true knee breaker. Took us over nine hours for the last of the group to get to the campsite. As usual, pain and panic takes its toll and a few want to turn back, and of course, I won’t let them. They have done fine on day two from Dharapani to Kermi, all of ten kilometers, with some killer steeps to climb but not much of downhill and not much of rock.

Here we are at Kermi; camp overlooking a valley which befits the attention of more than two eyes.  Not much spiritual activity as yet, just conditioning legs and lungs. From tomorrow, we will set the pitch for making the group more receptive to what the region is in general, and to what Manasarovar and Kailash in particular have to offer. This hard trek is a good tool to make one more perceptive, unless too stuck in macho stuff and sense of achievement that people are generally messed up about. This is quite a nice group of people. Hope these mountains and me together will break open their doors for Mahadeva.

Sun has just gone hiding behind the mountain peaks. Oh’ of course he has other appointments; to light and heat other parts of earth where multifarious forms of life are awaiting his warm charm. This twilight is magical at the least; the greens turning into darker green, the rocky sheer beginning to brood about ancient something, smells and sounds of animals returning home and cooking fires from a tiny village close by. And above all, a steady roar of the river down below. All will change by the moment except the roar of this precious element hurtling down to the plains to nourish millions of people of various kinds. But the aching muscles are awaiting nightfall and will take one into slumber world, turning the roar into a lullaby.

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Smell of Shiva

The silent Mountains
Stoic but full of eyes
The roaring river-rapid
in a hurry to lose itself

A nameless valley steeped
in occult ways. People as
Earthy as earthworms
Found ways to bend nature
to their will, seeking the
mundane through magic

The smell of Shiva
makes me set down
for a night, a day and a night
Now how to tell the fools of
His plumbless ways.

Love & Grace