Trek up to Jalori Pass in the Western Himalayas
When your morning starts this beautiful, you should never ruin it with a trek or a ride up some bumpy roads.
Or should you?
A few months ago I said I will never trek again on this trip (after my trek in Penang) and I meant it. I am not an adventurer of the wild and prefer to look to my sides as I slowly walk, instead of my feet as I am trying not to break my legs. Then, we came to the Himalayas, where simple walking turns into trekking and most of the places really worth seeing require the mentioned activity, and I had to soften up my stronghold on the issue.
“Tomorrow, Jalori Pass” says Raj with the sideways nod, which we have started to love.
“With the other family? They are going?”
“Yes, the other family going” more sideways nodding.
Jalori Pass is the nearest to us and a favorite spot to see some of the sweeping mountain views we are missing down in the valley. We knew that, yet never really did anything to organize getting there, simply because…just because. A family from Mumbai arrived and their idea of a relaxing time was thankfully quite different from ours and we decided to share a taxi to the pass with them.
To get to the pass took the longest hour. At first the road is the usual mountain variety around here, tight one laners with crumbling sides down a cliff. The last few kilometers though we were bouncing up, down and sideways on a dirt rocky flat area on the sides of the mountain that is also called road, but just barely.
We parked at the pass not a second too early.
There are a few shops and dhabas(street side food places) here and not much more.
“This way” says Raj quietly, armed with our lunch, as he starts walking in the other direction.
We scramble behind him, our brains still scrambled by the car trip and wondering how far would we have to go. The rocky path was hard enough, but soon it went up some impressive boulders. “How far, Raj…how far?” aimlessly we called out to his fast disappearing image. A look of disapproval was piercing me under the sulky heavy eyebrows of Miss Fab, who has been unhappy about this journey from the very beginning.
When we go over the boulders we are faced with a steep climb up a lush green hill.
“You go straight or sig-sag” gestures Raj. I look up and am thinking straight, shorter and quicker… “Go sig-sag. Sig-sag better” sideways nods Raj and walks off. Zigzag might be better, but it will take forever and by then the kids would have eaten us alive. I decide to take it as it comes. The day is beautiful and the sun is keeping us warm at the altitude. The big kids – Miss Fab and the 10 year old daughter of the Mumbai family are having the hardest time and taking frequent stops, while Little B is running up with Raj, living up to one of her nicknames – The Mountain Goat. The rest of us huff and puff our way up.
We conquer the hills one by one and suddenly we find ourselves in a different world.
The cows munching around the pond look staged, it cannot be possibly so beautiful and no other soul around. But since we are not paying enough for such feat, I am just gulping it all in.
Mountain goat child is running around, because she has failed to notice we have been trekking. The Dod, up until now comfortably riding on daddy’s arms like a king, joins her full of energy to expand. The views are striking, the grass cannot be greener and I am thinking this is it, this must be the spot.
Then Raj walks on as effortlessly as the birds that are circling around us.
“Raj?..Raj?” I call on him as the big kids catch up to us and collapse into a heap of preteen drama. “Is this it?”
He smiles and nods again. What does that mean, Raj? What is that smile? Dont smile like that. Mumbai mama comes to my aid and they start to clear up the situation. The next moment they are both looking into the distance to the next hill and I know we are not there yet.
“We are not moving anymore” – ultimatums are flying from the weaklings lying on the grass.
Since we wanted to see the best views, we leave Raj with the kids and continue on. This hill we get through very quickly and in front of us unfolds the promised sweeping panorama – the freshly snow capped mountains in the distance and layer upon layer of hills from rich and green to barren brown every which way we look.
It takes us a few minutes to gather our composure and we take the opportunity to ask Mumbai parents to take a decent picture of the two of us, accomplished, happy and proud.
…maybe next time.
Not even this view could keep on distracting me from the signals my body was now loudly sending me – pee, darn in! Its just us, so I walk away a bit and visit a friendly looking bush. Feeling lighter than the air around me, I stop on the way back and the moment there is no crunching from my steps, I hear it. It is perfectly quiet. So quiet that from time to time I can distinctly hear the slight breeze running by the ridges of my ears. The blues are everywhere, the sun is warming me up and its just me and the never ending hills…of the Himalayas.
“Coo-eee!”… “Cooeee!” the kids are calling for us.
“Coo-eee!” I cup my mouth and smile in to the distance.This has become our communication call in the mountains and it makes me grin every time.
By the time we make it back to them, the children are happily playing on the same spot we left them huffing in a sorry heap. Raj opens up the lunch and we eat what seams to be the best rice and beans ever, but the view is even better. I can try to explain what it feels like, but I think its better for you to come and see for yourselves, because it is good. Real good.
Full of beans the children go first and we follow shortly after. Raj is talking on the phone, laying on the grass and I worry that he wont make it on time. The hill is steep and the grass is slippery under my shoes, and on top of it all my muscles have decided to tremble a bit with each step, so I am taking it slow and steady trying to ignore the picture in my head of how I slip and end up all the way down.
“Look!” Mr.Blab is calling and I do so in the direction he is. And there is Raj flying, no! rolling, no! running down the hill, carrying the big lunch container as though its nothing, his feet barely touching the ground in a more graceful way that I would care to imagine and in just a few seconds he is with the children all the way down in the forested area. My mouth still hanging wide open I answer the calls coming from there “Coo-eee!”
Surprisingly the trek was almost enjoyable and definitely worth it.
The way to and from in the car? I am still not sure.