We have switched Himachali valleys, from the Tirthan to the Phalachan.
We have also gained about 700 or 800 metres in altitude.
Our base for a whole blissful week, our home away from home (yes, another!) is with our friends Shalini & Dam. We are their first guests this year, and I cannot tell you what a privilege it feels to be here with them, gazing out at this amazing view.
The days are still hot, making late-morning walks along the dusty, rutted road a bit of a struggle at times – but the early mornings and evenings are cold.
We arrived on September 26th to a nippy wind, and a welcome fire in the evening.
Last night we had a fire lit in our room, and out came the hot water bottle – and it’s still only September!
While Himmat and Bahadur fish, I am reading a lot, and do one long-ish, very slow walk every day.
Yesterday I walked down the mountain to the next village, Batad.
Today I walked higher up the mountain to the spanking new bridge across the river.
There is no question of going into villages – I didn’t enter Batad, just turned round and headed back up the mountain. Today’s walk would’ve led, eventually, to a stunning village called Galincha, where I have had wonderful times in the past, once with my British friend Alison, once with my hostess Shalini and once alone. The villagers were super friendly, and we were given tea, and welcomed by everyone we met.
But in these terrible Covid times, I’m not even going to go anywhere near the village. There is too much (justified) fear, and as an outsider, I am nothing but a potential threat to the locals. Which I fully understand. I wear my mask when I pass anyone on my walks, and also wear it against the dust that is thrown up by every passing car – not that there are that many, to be honest.
This morning I saw dozens of lammergeier wheeling over the opposite side of the mountain. It was such a fab sighting, as I stood alone on a dusty Himalayan road gazing up at a deep blue sky with these majestic birds circling overhead.
I gave thanks – for finally getting to travel to be with friends, for being able to forget, for a while, the horrors of this pandemic, and for the sheer beauty of the mountains.
And yes, as I do whenever I am in the hills, I thought “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills…”
PS – Shalini & Dam’s lovely property is called For a While. And I realised, as I used the expression a couple of sentences ago, what an appropriate name it is.