Hiking in a Himalayan Hailstorm

DSC_0704We went on a trek this morning – quite short and easy by trekkers’ standards, but pretty long for old(er) folks staying at a resort in the Himalayas where there’s a golf cart and driver if you don’t feel up to walking down the hill from reception to your room.  In total it was about 6.3 km in length, climbing 500 meters vertically, with a destination of the Kunjapuri Temple, which (on a clear day) boasts views of snow-capped mountains.

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There were about a dozen of us – mostly foreigners, which included a couple of middle-aged Russian ladies who talked nonstop and wore way too much perfume (don’t get stuck behind them on the trail!), a male couple from Bavaria wearing dress shoes and black socks, and a few other folks, all generally pretty fit.  As we were about to leave the paved road and start climbing a series of switchbacks, one of the hotel vehicles showed up with an Indian couple who had decided at last minute to go on the weekly hike instead of taking part in the daily beginner yoga session.

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Terraced fields at every semi-level spot along the way – think of the work it must have taken to move all these stones!

As we worked our way up the hillsides, we’d get an occasional few drops of rain here and there.  The mist and clouds kept us from getting the long-distance views of the surrounding mountains.  I didn’t think too much of it, other than I was kicking myself that I hadn’t thought to bring along the Ziploc bags in our room that were specifically for the cameras in case of rain.

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On the way, we passed through a couple small villages. Settlements, really. We saw the most amazing back yard ever. Driving down to Walmart or wherever would be a pain – but what an idyllic place with the most amazing view.

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Anyway, we were already patting ourselves on the back as we approached the last 5-7 minutes of the hike, where it became necessary to climb over an old tree that had fallen across the path. And that’s where the Indian lady who had opted not to do yoga that morning ended up doing a faceplant. “I’ve never seen so much blood in all my life!” (she had a nosebleed).  While she was being patched up (i.e. handed some tissue to wad up in her nose), a troupe of monkeys was jumping through the surrounding trees.  While we were taking pictures of the monkeys, the gay couple was surreptitiously snapping pictures of the nosebleed as she alternately called for “her babies” and berated her husband for making her come on the hike instead of doing yoga.  And then the skies opened up.  Hailstorm!!  Probably punishment for our lack of sympathy.

We finally made it up to the temple, where all of our fellow hikers ran down to the waiting vehicles after a quick glance at the temple. The Russian ladies were clomping around the temple area with their shoes – apparently they hadn’t noticed the 50 pairs of shoes at the entrance – while Anne stood in line for the BEST CUP OF PIPING HOT COFFEE EVER.

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I stood shivering in the rain as the hiking guide asked, “Cold?” and watched as visiting worshippers rang the bell at the entrance and walked down the stairs, touching each one with their hands. Finally, we were ushered down the stairs to the waiting SUV. I snapped a couple more photos along the way as we headed back to the resort, with numb fingers and toes, for breakfast.

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