OUR SECOND MONTH
We spent December 2015
in Uttarakhand, India
Riding in busses and jeeps was mostly fun
– at least for some…
Waiting for the bus
With over 60kg of luggage
we are not exactly traveling light…
As long as there is a river
and some rocks, life is good.
Matthieu and Timo are getting ready
to cross the Ram Ganga.
Snow at last
Hiking up to Tungnath Temple in snow and ice
was fun, but also tough…
The reward was this panorama of blue horizons.
On top of the world!
360º panorama on a beautiful clear day.
For sunset we were all alone…
…Pitching our tent on a grassy area…
…Enjoying the moment…
Kung Fu on the banks of the Ganges.
We just arrived back in Delhi. Back where we started, but still far from the end of our trip. A pit stop. A wash-a-lot-of-very-dirty-clothes-stop. A work stop. Some meetings. Camera-sensor-cleaning-drive-5-hrs-through-Delhi-stop. Two months have passed and I look back. This second month, while obviously melting into the first, had us a bit more restless. We still spent our time in Uttarakhand in the mountains, but much more of our time was spent ‘traveling’. With a heavy heart and warm smiles, we left Reba and Preeti and our cosy, simple home in Nau Ghar and headed North-East to Munsyari. Public Busses, packed-to-the-brim shared jeeps, freezing concrete-block hotel rooms, a feeling of movement and being on the road are the memories of a big part of December.
Then there was Christmas. What a very special 2 days… There was a quick and unanimous family decision that camping for Christmas would be great. We didn’t know exactly where, but detailed studies of google maps, the assumption that we would find a roadside chai shop where we could leave the bulk of our luggage behind and a leap of good faith led us onto some small roads definitely off the beaten track. (For those interested, this is the northern route between Munsyari and Gopeshwar on the Uttarakhand map). We had a fantasy of camping near a river bed on a green meadow and the Ram Ganga seemed to fit that fantasy. We did find that chai shop near a bride over the river and entrusted our big 25kg monster bag (containing school stuff, our laptops and much other useless things) to the unsuspecting shop keeper. “We are just going down the river. We’ll be back in 2 days.” A good hour’s walk down the rocky riverbed, over a rickety log bridge, up a few sandy screes and into a wooded area, we found our idyllic Christmas campsite. Here’s me setting up our tent in expert fashion:
Christmas eve was spent under the full moon by the fire. For the foodies, here’s our fancy Christmas menu:
Coarsly chopped cucumber with Amul cheese*
sprinkled with Bang Namak (before leaving Reba made us
some of her special spiced hand-ground salt –
a mix of salt, mint and Marijuana seeds)
* = a terrible plasticky Indian version of “La vache qui rit”
Real Italian Spaghetti
(brought all the way from Delhi)
with tomato puree (expired in June 2015, but hey…)
and freshly plucked organic riverside baby spinach
(courtesy of some friendly village ladies)
2 Kindersurprise eggs
(which doubled as Christmas presents and
evoked screams of joy and
heartfelt thank yous from Timoluka)
Due to a lack of electricity, TV, iPads, mountains of presents, phone calls (no reception!) and without other distractions, we spent a few nice evening hours sitting around our campfire, playing a game of: I am thinking of ____ and I think he/she is doing ____ right now. Doesn’t that sound so pure and romantic and wonderful? Well, it was. Great memories that will last…
But thinking back, I also have to admit to first feelings of ‘travel weariness’. There was a lot of time spent squeezed in bumpy jeeps – for hours, Timo on my lap…, a lot of changing vehicles, hauling luggage, dirty laundry, 1-night stopovers, kids-that-really-need-a-shower. I love the backpacking, the letting-the-world-pass-by, the movement, but at the same time I felt unsettled. I was longing for a change, for something new, something different, something more comfortable maybe? Was I confused? Scared? I can’t grip it or even understand it now. Memories like to play tricks on us, no matter how hard we try to ‘never forget a feeling’. As I write, I realize that any negative, uneasy feelings have already turned flighty and unreal, reduced to a mere shadow of a truth that I decided to not completely disregard later. Left are the adventures, hard times turned funny anecdotes, the images and videos edited to a ‘best of’ selection.
And this is the stuff you want to hear, of course, so I will close my internal dialog and turn from reflection to recap. Wait – a few more reflections are worth sharing:
Traveling with Matthieu
Anybody who’s ever been on a trip with Matthieu knows that everything will turn out different than planned. With childlike trust and secret excitement I expect the unexpected and don’t try too hard to interfere. Matthieu, my chatty, inquisitive, provocative, moment-seizing husband is a people-person. Guidebooks are great and useful resources, but it’s the people and unplanned encounters that will ultimately shape the direction of travel. Hardly ever considerate of norms (people don’t go there in winter), rules (it’s not allowed), other people’s advice (oh, there is no bus to there at that time) or other viable considerations (is that not too far/too long/too high for the kids), he seeks out beautiful places, motivated by the visual and not so much the comfortable—you either follow, or you don’t. We’ve traveled together for over 20 years and I am grateful and happy that we still have this synergy, even now when traveling as a family with 2 kids. I realize, that as a mother, I am a bit more careful and considerate when making travel plans, happily trading the ultra-adventurous option for something more comfortable. Matthieu, as well, is a father and accepts himself in that role. We discuss the options and often it doesn’t need much convincing either way. I might decide that I actually do want to sleep out in a tent on 3600m at -15°C with the kids, rather than down in a guesthouse in the village. On other occasions we do admit that spending the extra to book a private car will save us more headache and time than the authentic and fun experience of traveling it rough in a bunch of local busses is worth. The kids, of course, have not much choice but to follow along and I guess what they learn is: Never be shy to ask. Plans might change and that’s ok. Speaking the local language is fun. Talk to people and knock on doors. Try everything – you can always spit it it out again.
Trekking with Children
Oh, how much I love trekking. Oh, how trekking with children is different. Well, I will be really honest here: Trekking is my meditation. My alone time. I walk, I think, I sweat, I breathe. I…. Now, trekking with the kids (high-five for their stamina and general willingness) is more like shooing two moaning donkeys up a neverending sand dune. The first 10 minutes are great. Then the first sigh. I have develop an amazing wealth of motivational techniques: “Let’s try and take over daddy.” “I’ll give you a candy when you’ve reached that rock over there.” More moans. I revert to talking about vampires and the Second World War. Another sigh… I end up shouting: “Stop complaining and leave me alone!”
This was a generalization and a summary of course – we’ve had many great trekking moments (especially later in the ‘best of’ edit), but I find it much tougher, especially mentally, than trekking alone or with adults. Trekking, I found out is one area where I definitely lack patience. Basically, I want to be left alone. As a result, I’ve pushed hard for keeping the treks we’ve done so far short and child-friendly and successfully vetoed some of Matthieu’s more hard-core ideas. His willingness and ability to ‘push’ not only himself, but also others, by far exceeds mine. Something to work on. At least I’m good at reading good-night stories…
The spur of the moment
The non-planning continues. In fact, I am so in love with this lifestyle of not knowing what will be next that I get uncomfortable every time I am forced to make a decision. And of course, no matter how unplanned you plan to live your trip, some ahead-thinking is unavoidable. There was a meeting at Ananda in Rishikesh that I had to somewhat pre-plan and that put Rishikesh as a ‘for-sure’ destination on our itinerary. This kept me from dreaming of wandering off to Nepal by road. Ahead lies another Franco-American-Germano-Italian chapter in Goa. Simone’s kids’ have school holidays for 10 days in January – another set date and fixed location that requires some pre-booking. That said, we still haven’t booked our tickets, but we shall be off next Wednesday. Matthieu’s parents want to come and meet us somewhere in February, I am invited to teach as a Visiting Master at Ananda before we leave India. Matthieu has an assignment in Delhi to do at some point, I am starting to plan Pilates Retreat Asia’s 2016 and 2017 retreats. I would like to call these fixed events in the future ‘stations’ and keep the freedom to decide how and when exactly to get there. Wish me luck. Let the moment prevail!