The frost was so thick on the ground this morning it looked as if snow had fallen.
The dining room of our guest house was small but efficient in that there was bar type seating around three sides of the wood stove. Three people could sit along each of the three benches. This morning an Israeli father and son were occupying two of the benches. They were performing a ritual – prayer – routine that took more than 20 minutes to complete. It was interesting to watch but we wondered why they choose to hog so much of the only warm space in the room.
The father had draped a shawl over his shoulders and both men had secured small black boxes to their foreheads. The father had two other boxes, intricately carved with Hebrew symbols, sitting on a makeshift perch in front of him. Both men had wrapped long lengths of leather strapping around one of their arms and hands. They read from their Torahs. The son read quietly. The father rocked back and forth and murmured his reading for all in the room to hear. The rest of us did our best to go about the business of eating breakfast in less cozy parts of the dining room and getting ready to depart.
We set off – continuing up the steep ridge that seems to go on forever. The sun shone through high cloud, which burnt off during the morning. The first part of the trek was steep up across frozen and snow covered ground. Then the real excitement began. We headed along a narrow trail hugging the top of an extremely steep canyon. Where the trail was snow free it was about about a metre wide. BUT it was not always snow free. In the numerous places where snow still covered the trail the slope above blended with the precipice below and we had to step with caution. A misstep would have meant a fall to our death. The foot steps marked in the trail were single file, narrow and slippery. Each step needed to be mindfully placed.
We arrived here in Gosainkunda at 4380 metres at 10:20 a.m. Awesome. Elevation gain today 490 metres. Easy.
The lodges here are still half buried in snow, with passages cut for access to doors and windows. We spent the afternoon on a sunny terrace out of the wind and in the sun watching the lake turn from white to bluish-white under the thawing influence of the sun.
We also watched a few people labouring, single file, up the narrow snow-covered trail to the pass above. That will be our challenge for tomorrow.
We are now in the dining room. The fire has just been lit. Thank goodness, Michel and I are now just about frozen. We’ve scored prime seats close to the fire so anticipate some thawing to take place fairly soon. We’ve ordered an early dinner so we can go climb into our sleeping bags and get warm.
A large Exodus group has staggered in. They’ve climbed twice the recommended number of metres of elevation gain for our altitude. What foolishness. The last part of their trek was through fog so they missed some fabulous views. More foolishness considering the trail conditions. With these off-shore companies, there is no scope for itinerary flexibility. Time is money. There was one overladen porter per two clients. The porters had arrived a couple of hours earlier. In the clients came, leaving the door open, grumpy and over tired and not even sure where they were or where they were going. I offered my map to one lady who looked at it blankly. She really had no idea where she was other than what her Exodus itinerary told her. Michel and I showed her and she seemed genuinely pleased. They ordered their group dinner for 7pm, meaning no guides or porters would get to eat until after 8:30. Unacceptable. Some people have no clue about the importance of the welfare of those who are carrying and caring for them.
Our guesthouse developed a significant plumbing problem. The outflow pipe had become clogged with too much poo that kept freezing in place because the pitch of the pipe wasn’t steep enough. The back up was becoming obvious. The owner asked the guides to tell the clients to poo outside. Tendi passed this news on to Michel and I. The Exodus leader was afraid of the reaction from his British clients so did not tell them. Stand by for tomorrow’s blog to find out how this turns out.
When we climb into our frigid beds with hard thin mattresses, I look down at the floor and through the cracks in the rough boards, can see snow. The building is poorly constructed with wind whistling in through numerous openings in the outer walls. I sense a rough night coming up.
Good night from a chilly snowy world, land of the poopcicles.