“What a cosy shelter I made for myself”, I kept thinking over and over while I stood there, under that straw-awning outside the shack’s door, looking at the rain falling and enjoying my noodles-and-vegetables meal. And then, all of a sudden, an angry voice blared out of the silence from behind, and I saw a torch-light approaching towards my whereabouts. In no time, that short, middle-aged bloke was standing in front of me.
Imagine now this picture: Me standing up with my torch aforehead lighting straight into that guy’s face, and still eating apathetically, directly from the saucepan using a big knife – as I’d forgotten my fork. And he screaming and swearing at me furiously in some alien-sounding tongue with some few English words in between. The situation – I could understand – was quite bad. And it became much worse when, at a moment, without thinking much, in an attempt to calm him down, I did to him: “relax man, it’s ok, don’t take things wrong”, patting him at the same time on the shoulder. Holy shit, the man got enraged, completely out of his mind. He stayed there another minute or two ejecting a torrent of unintelligible to me stuff out of his mouth, and then, calming down for a second, he concluded in English: “This Malana – no touch – touch, give money – no give money, Malana kill!”
The very next moment I was standing alone again, watching my angry visitor scampering up the trail towards the village, contemplating his last words, and finishing off the last mouthfuls of my meal. Thereafter I started working on what was to be by far my packing-time record ever. It could not have been more than a couple of minutes, and my tent was down, all my stuff thrown anyhow inside my backpack, and me disappeared out in the rainy night, looking for shelter once again. I could well imagine the villagers all together coming down to me in a procession, carrying fire-torches and winnowing forks, while chanting praising hymns to that god of theirs. So I moved cautiously through the bush towards the village and detoured it, ending up on the trail coming to the village from the opposite direction. The rain had fortunately stopped by the time I got there, but the terrain was again as camping-unfriendly as it was before. It took me yet another hour or so of looking around, till I finally found no other spot to camp, but one marginally wide enough, right in the middle of the trail.
Next day was a new, glorious day. It was due to the villagers, who were bypassing my tent going to their farms or wherever, that got my aware of its advent. Despite their being careful not to touch my tent, they showed no sign of aggression or other interest against my person. So, after having a good breakfast and packing up slowly, I judged there would be no danger heading back to the village for having a look-around. Right I judged. They were, of course, examining me curiously, but I don’t think the had any suspicion of me possibly being the culprit of yesterday’s sacrilege, or even that any such had happened at all. Luckily, I caught no sight of yesterday’s lad, cause if I had so I’d be in need to employ one of my emergency plans, ranging from insisting I had just come from the opposite way and I know nothing, to start running as fast as I could.
The village was an amazingly picturesque one. It consisted of a quite tight agglomeration of mostly wooden, two or three storey houses, with slab paths laid in between. Its inhabitants are estimated to count around 1700 individuals. Even though they don’t like to be touched, the most of them very much like to be taken photos, in many cases posing readily without even being asked. To earn their living, they breed cattle and sheep, they fleece strangers who happen to violate their rules, and, most rewardingly of all, they cultivate weed. I seriously have never seen so many marijuana-trees accumulated so tightly. They were everywhere inside the village and all around it in a great radius. Pretty much as olive-trees would be in a Greek village, or vineyards in Bordeaux Region. And that thing is pure dynamite! I found out when a young man sitting by the side of the path was kind enough to pass me that joint he was puffing phlegmatically. Since I had touched it he wouldn’t take it back either. So, being stoned as the Great Wall of China, I then left the village heading towards Chandrakhani Pass.
The trail to the pass goes off the main trail leading west of the village at a point (32.06116 77.25470) at 2775 amsl. It then follows the streamlet steeply straight up till it reaches the pass at 3645 amsl. I had packed quite light. So I should be carrying about 12 kg of weight, if it wasn’t for all the moisture nested inside my backpack after the previous day’s storm, which must had added at least another 3 kg to it. For the first half of the ascent the sky was fairly clear, even letting me to receive some short spells of sunshine and marvel some magnificent views of what I was leaving below me. About half the way, as expected, the sky turned black once again, and in no time that monsoon’s fury was unleashed in an unruly manner upon that part of the Himalayas. It kept pouring and pouring, and up and more up I kept clambering toilsomely the steep, muddy trail.
By the time I finally reached the pass, the rainstorm was at its fiercest. Despite all that water, though, I was highly satisfied of having now to walk on even ground. And notwithstanding all the views being well hidden behind the dense fog, my whole being got reigned by that exalted emotion the limited visible surroundings had designed for whosoever was to experience their grandeur. And I surely was the only one! All in awe I was ambling along that high ridge, hearing nothing but the hissing wind and the falling water, and only seeing water streaming through the grassland covering the ridge and some lonely cattle regarding me bewildered, appearing every now and then through the all-pervading whiteness of the foggy atmosphere.
It was late afternoon, time to get some rest. I chose an elevated spot next to a cairn I found to use as a wind barrier. I pitched my tent and dug a trench around it in an attempt to drive the streaming water away. And in I roosted, making a rewarding meal, and hoping the storm is going at some point to give out.
Five o’ clock in the morning, I was sitting awake and sleepless inside my tent, still hoping. It was an utter disaster! Not only did the monsoon not give out, but it turned manifold as wild by dark’s advent and kept raging throughout the entire night. My tent was certainly not the best one could have. It rather was quite the worst – I had bought it new for 8€ in Kiev. It didn’t have an outer layer, so I was always carrying with me an extra tarp of mine to reinforce it at every situation needed. And despite its cheapness it was a damn proud tent! Nearly a 100 nights I must had spent in it throughout the period I had it in my possession. And it had survived many storms and hardships of various sorts. But all heroic achievements must at some point take a tragic end. And that was the end for my poor tent. The poles broke, the fabric was torn, the floor cleaved… and loads of water were penetrating in my nest. I could do nothing better than cover the best I could all my permeables, and wait for the first light so to get the hell out of there.
So I packed everything that dawn into my soaked backpack, which would then weigh at least 30 kg, and down I rolled, abandoning my tent to rest in peace on that high ridge, perfectly worthy a burial place for that honored tent. The way was long. I was walking as fast as I could and the rain didn’t stop for a second the whole day. By early afternoon, soggy down to the marrow, I had made it to Rumsu village, whereat I soon found someone to drive me back to Manali. I was all exhausted and frustrated, and my spirits were harmed and daunted by the time I was falling like a log on my dry bed. Next morning I woke up fresh again. Those bewitching images of the wild Himalayas were circling around my thoughts. And that overpowering lust to leave this boring, safe world, for that wild, marvelous one up there, had come upon me once again.