Dec. 14, 2008 – backtracking…..The Walk to the Waterfall
Today is actually December 29th and it would seem that it would be difficult to recount this day from almost two weeks ago, but it is so etched in my mind, I could write about it in two months time as well, with no trouble.
This Japanese fellow had asked me several times to go with him “up to the mountains”. (only later did I find out that he not only spends a good part of his life trekking all over the world, he also made a documentary film which was sold to Discovery Channel, among others. There are very few places in the world he hasn’t been, always traveling when possible with non-motorized transportation. Walking, bicycle, kyack, dog sleds, reindeer sleds, etc. He has an amazing life story and if I had known all this about him beforehand, I doubt I would have agreed to go with him on this walk. It would have been too intimidating. He is also a trekking guide, and this is one of the reasons the waterfall trek was so enjoyable with him, although I didn’t realize that until later on). So, he continued to look for me on a day when I wasn’t working, and that was difficult to catch, but he finally did, and we agreed to go to the waterfall the next morning. I was a little nervous but he seemed pleased with the idea.
He came to get me at 10 in the morning, and although he was wearing only a thin cotton shirt and trousers and sandals, I was wearing a couple of layers of clothing including a sweatshirt with hood, warm jeans and walking shoes. I was also carrying a shawl in case I got cold! I asked if he thought I needed all these clothes and he told me to take whatever I felt comfortable with and he would carry it later on if necessary. It was really cold that morning, so I wore it all. I was happy when we first left as even with the clothes on, the wind was very strong and I was not warm at all. He himself was shivering and when I asked if he wanted my shawl, he said no, since shivering is the body’s natural way of warming up and soon he would be fine. Which he was! Not more than 15 minutes into the walk, (there is a full gallery of beautiful pictures at the end of this post. It is just taking too long to post them one by one in the appropriate places…sorry
I already had removed my sweatshirt and true to his word, he tied it around his waist so I wouldn’t have to. He also carried my liter of water. He had no water with him. Said he wouldn’t need it.
We walked for the first 3 kilometers along the main “highway” road, following the Ganga upstream into the mountains. The wind was really fierce, the kind that makes it difficult to talk and freezes your mouth and nose. But we were mostly walking in the sun at this point, so the wind probably was a blessing in disguise. We continued walking, and talking the whole way, my getting bits and pieces of his amazing life story, and before I realized it, we were at the tea shops which mark the entrance to the walking path that leads up to the waterfalls. You have to pay 30 rupees to get in as it is a government project to keep the path clean and well kept up for visitors.
We began walking, and in less than 5 minutes we were IN the mountain forest.
No more traffic, or traffic noises, just wind and birds and the sound of water coming from nearby. It was like coming home to a place I had missed for a long time. Had not been up in the mountains since I left Dharamsala in June 2007. I just took it all in with all my senses, not talking, just being mindful of each and every moment. And he understood exactly what I was doing. He did not speak other than to say I could go as slowly as I wanted to in order to get full pleasure, in a mindful way, from the day. I realized afterwards that the entire day I was in the lead, and this was his way of allowing me to set the pace which was best for me, both physically and spiritually as well. Because it was a deep spiritual experience for me. The mountains always do this to me.
Along the way, every so often, are little side paths which lead to gazebos and benches strategically placed to allow you to rest and enjoy a lovely pool of water and listen to the rapids falling over the rocks on their way down the mountainside. You can only imagine the beauty from the pictures, but you can go back and listen to the sounds once again on the video I previously posted at this link:
We continued walking and eventually the path gave way to manmade steps which were with us most of the way up. In a way they are helpful, but climbing steps is always difficult for me. It made it easier coming down, however and I appreciated them later on in the day. Although walking a regular path seems easier, it is much easier to slip and fall on a steep path. So steps can be helpful. Most of the walking was in the shade which was also a blessing. We talked very little, each of us absorbing completely the wonder of each step of the way up. (I didn’t realized how high up we were going, until we began the descent, and my ears started popping, like in a plane landing!).
Eventually we came to a lovely bridge
and directly across it was the first waterfall. Quite lovely and worth the effort to reach it. But most of the people there, after seeing it, taking pictures and resting for awhile, went back down. My friend said that we would keep going up to the next waterfall, which was not far. And we did.
Continued walking and just when I was beginning to wear down, he said, ten more minutes and we will see the next waterfall. Which we did. We rested here for quite some time, he actually going into the water, me resting in the shade and watching. There were monkeys playing around the waterfall, but other than their chatter and antics, we were along in this wonderful spot.
After resting and having some dried fruit , he asked if I wanted to continue up over the ridge and see the villages, the lovely terracing of crops etc. He said it was about 15 more minutes up. I took a look at the path, which was only a narrow path now, and very steep going up, and after much thought, asked if he would mind if I said no, since I still had to go all the way down! He respected my decision and said I was the only one who could make the decision about my own abilities. (Only later did he tell me it was the right decision as he had been watching my walking and realized about 5 minutes before we reached the second waterfall, that I was getting weak, even I myself did not yet realize it – remember, he is a highly experienced trekking guide).
So, we began heading down, the descent just as lovely as the ascent. We stopped frequently to rest and talk, and the entire way down, he carried a plastic bag which he filled with trash he picked up along the way. I asked him why people do this (this is a road that local villagers take daily to walk down to Rishikesh to work, or shopping etc. and each morning and evening it is full of people) to such a beautiful place. And he gave a very interesting insight which he has seen all over the world. Until very recently, everything that people threw on the ground, was organic and either eaten afterwards by animals, or decomposed into the ground. It is only in the last number of years that people buy bags of snack food (which is what most of the trash was) or cans of cola etc., and they still have the habits of generations. He promised me that within 2-4 years this would almost completely stop as people became aware, through education programs, that they were seriously polluting their surroundings. Said he had seen it in South America as well and for now, just does his part by picking stuff up wherever he walks).
It took us a very short time to get all the way down, just over ½ hour to my surprise, and I didn’t want to leave yet, so we sat again and rested for quite sometime before leaving the wonderland of the mountains and getting back onto the “real” road and back into the real world. Walking down was definitely easy, but more difficult as the possibility of slipping and falling is more pronounced and so you have to watch each step very closely. This is where the steps helped a lot.
He offered to take a taxi back but I felt fine, and the rest of the way was easy as it was basically straight road. We got back into town and I felt I needed to eat and drink so went up to eat in Tulsi, and the 10 steps up into the restaurant, were actually the hardest part of the day for me!!! The first real difficulty I had felt all day.
I was quite proud of myself, but also know I made the right decision not to continue further up that day. If I had known what the next day would bring, I WOULD have done it anyway.
I woke up the next morning completely certain that I would feel my knees and all minds of muscles complaining, but to my great surprise, absolutely nothing bothered me!! It was just perfect…
I look forward to doing this again, and trying to get to the top, but will need to do it with someone. I realized after my walk alone to the other waterfall, that it is not a good idea to do these things alone, as you “never know” what might happen. Good to have someone along.
And that’s finally that!