Ladakh – A drive over high passes

I love this drive and have done it myriad times. Am doing it again this June with some friends – if there are others that would like to join us please call 9810184360 or mail :

I have copied below the descriptions I wrote years ago – this land stays the same and still touches the soul. This will be our itinerary:

22 June 2018: Arrive at Manali and stay with me at The Lama House.
23 June 2018: Day in Manali for acclimitization – a short hike through temple woods or a picnic and a relaxed day.
24 June 2018: We drive across the Rohtang Pass into Lahaul and stop for the night at Jispa on the banks of the Bhaga river.
25 June 2018: Drive on over the grand Baralacha la – and a wholly changing landscape to camp at Tsokar Lake.
26 June 2018: Tsokar to Tso Moriri – a lovely back trail through meadows filled with Yak herders to the beautiful lake. Both these lakes are breeding grounds for myriad birds and high mountain creatures.
27 June 2018: Tso Moriri to Leh. Hotels and hot baths and wander the shops.
28 June 2018: A day to visit some of the famous monastries, explore the town.
29 June 2018: We drive over one of the highest roads crossing into the Nubra Valley – where the terrain changes again and we see another aspect of these amazing mountains.
30 June 2018: In Nubra – exploring.
01 July 2018: Drive back to Leh.
02 July 2018: Fly out of Leh. ( If you are even thinking of coming book this flight – it can be cancelled but gets harder and more expensive as it gets closer)

No of persons on the trip 3 4 6
Costs per person 96870 89720 89780

I will send the details of what the costs include if you decide to come. Most of us don’t read so much in one go.


LEH MANALI DRIVE.
GRADE :MODERATELY DEMANDING

SEASON: JUNE THROUGH SEPTEMBER

This spectacular road through the highest mountains in the world is open for only 3 or 4 months in the year – from mid June through September – crossing the Pir Panjal, the Greater Himalaya and the Zanskar ranges, it reaches a maximum elevation of 5304m. Calling this a road, maybe conferring more than it’s due, that it is a drivable route: a grand testament of human endeavor is the truth. The 476 km journey over four high passes and some of the most awe inspiring terrain in the world starts from Manali, along the green valley of the Beas river, up the steep switchbacks of the Rohtang Pass at 3978m. The Rohtang forms the divide between the verdant Kullu valley and the stark expanse of rock and glacier, in the rain shadow of the Pir Panjal range.

From Rohtang, the road descends to the Chandra River and follows it to Tandi where the Chandra meets the Bhaga River, little villages with groves of poplar, willow, and potato fields irrigated by glacial streams dot the landscape. The road continues past Keylong (district headquarters of Lahaul) and the last town till Leh, 360 kms beyond. Following the Bhaga River through Darcha and past the pastures of Zingzingbar, starts the ascent to the Baralacha Pass (4892m). “The Pass with the crossroads on its summit” – this grand pass straddles the meeting point of gigantic ranges, offering passage down four different routes, along the valleys of the Chandra and Bhaga rivers and into Ladakh and Spiti.
A rough stretch of road descends to the pastures of Sarchu 107 kms from Keylong. Now begin the wide-open spaces, dotted with the amazing textures and colours of craggy mountain faces, the gash of the Tsarap river, with it’s mud sculpted sides. The awesome world of nature’s timelessness dwarfing Man.

Once across the Tsarap river starts the grueling ascent to LachulangLa Pass (5059m), 54 kms from Sarchu. The amazing shapes and colours as you reach the top compensate the hard drive, descend along a little stream to Pang. Beyond Pang, the road crosses the Sumskyal, a deep gash marking the edge of the great Kyangshuthang plains – a massive plateau at an altitude of 4500m. Across the vast expanses of this plain are chances to see the Kyang (Tibetan wild ass), the Nabu (Blue Sheep), lots of marmot, as well as the Pashmina sheep of the Shepherds of Rupshu.
We take an interesting diversion at this point, short of the Tanglangla Pass – at 5325m, the highest point on the highway. 136 kms short of Leh a dirt road east leads to the Tso Kar Lake. We camp at this lake and see the breeding Brahmini ducks, Grebes and Black necked cranes. From Tso Kar we take a little used dirt road past hot springs and meadows where yak herders and goat herds have their summer pastures and taking a circuit north meet the highway in the Indus valley, and onto Leh and the comforts of hotels and hot baths.

(Along the regular route, once across the plain, at Dibring, the road starts climbing across the snowy reaches of the Tanglangla and descends into more inhabited Ladakh, meeting the Indus river at Upshi. Passing the Monastries of Hemis, Thikse and Shey, The road reaches the Bazaar of Leh.)

Leh is located in the Indus river valley at a crossroads of the old trading routes from Kashgar, Tibet, and Kashmir. Its importance as a trading town slowed down with the partition of British India, and ended with the closure of the border in 1962 during the Sino-Indian war. Since the 1999 war with Pakistan, and the consequent development of the Manali-Leh highway, it has become a bustling tourist town, the sights to visit are the Palace and the monasteries, and a wander through the bazaar is essential.

We can do two trips out of Leh: to the Nubra Valley and the Pangong tso lake.

For Nubra we cross the highest motorable pass at Khardungla (elevation 5359 m or 17,582 feet). Khardong La is historically important as it lies on the major caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in Chinese Central Asia. About 10,000 horses and camels used to take the route annually, and a small population of Bactrian camels can still be seen at Hundar, in the area north of the pass. It is an area that has only recently opened to the world. Still only about 45 kms of the valley are accessible. It is a tiny bit of paradise, orchards and wild flowers, the bactrian camels, wide meandering river. A discovery, leading to the highest battleground of the world – the Siachin glacier.

Pangong tso lake: situated at a height of about 4,350 m (14,270 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and extends from India to Tibet. Pangong Tso can be reached in a five-hour drive from Leh, most of it on a rough and dramatic mountain road. The road traverses the Changla pass, where army sentries and a small teahouse greet visitors. The lake is spectacular, we spend the night in a camp on the banks, you get to see breeding Bar-headed geese and Brahmini ducks. If you are lucky enough to be there on a moonlit night and brave enough to weather the cold, there is magic there too, as there is all over these mountains.
wind sculpted

 

 

 

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A Paean to the Himalaya

High, high up in the mountains, camped in a meadow and it rains all night. The morning is dry, but shrouded in mist, we have come so high and the sights are unseen. But, we climb to the top of the ridge notwithstanding and pay obeisance to the Devi.

Sit and wait, send up a collective prayer and the mist only thickens, so we start walking down…. a gust of wind, a peek of the peaks, up the valley comes this beautiful wind and away blows the mist. The whole panorama of the Pir Panjal in all it’s majesty displays itself, still shrouded and mysterious, but certainly letting us know where we are – in the majestic mountains.

Even the sun makes a little show and all the flowers smile all the way up the hillsides, the heart just lifts out of your body and floats into the limitlessness.

A paean to all this glory seemingly rises from the very soul in an unsung outpouring of gratitude to the powers that create!!

THE AMAZING AFRICAN ADVENTURE

21st to 29th Sept 2010

Victoria Falls, Zambia White Water Rafting & Kenya Safari

I would like to invite you to an amazing trip. The magic of Africa, a swashbuckling river and a chance to see the wildebeest run!!

Please join me, we are going to have so much fun.

Write me as early as possible to confirm, it’s a runaway trip.

TRIP ITINERARY

Day 1 : 21st Sept : Depart Mumbai and Arrive Livingstone. Assemble at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.

Depart Mumbai on Kenya Airways Flight KQ 205, departing 0410 hrs to Nairobi.

Arrive Nairobi 0734 hrs and connect to Kenya Airways Flight KQ 724 departing 0825 hrs to Lusaka.

Arrive in Lusaka 1005 hrs and then on to Livingstone on Proflight- Zambia flight P0708 departing 1500 hrs and arrive Livingstone 1610 hrs.

(Total Flying time with layovers approx. 11 hrs !! Yes, we are GOING TO AFRICA!!)

On arrival at Livingstone Airport, you will be transferred to the hotel. Later, proceed for a

Guided Tour of Victoria Falls. Rest of the day at leisure.

The Victoria Falls is where the wide Zambezi River simply drops some 100 meters into a narrow gorge. The Falls lie across the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Called “Mosi-oa-Tunya”, (the smoke that thunders) in the local language the Falls are one of the seven wonders of the world and when you first come to Zambia Livingstone is a must visit destination.

Later in the evening at about 7 pm our river trip leader will pop into the hotel and pass out your dry bags and equipment and give you a rundown of your trip, what to pack, what to expect and introduce the guides.

Overnight stay at Hotel Zambezi Sun

Meals : None

Day 2 : 22nd Sept : Livingstone – White River Rafting on the Zambezi River.

Breakfast at hotel after which the river team will be around to collect you and transport you to the top of the gorge where we will pass out your high float jackets, helmets and paddles. From here we walk down into the gorge through stunning rainforest to the water’s edge. On reaching the river you will be given a thorough safety briefing and outline safety procedures such as how to hold onto a safety kayaker if you should by chance swim.

We get into our rafts and practice paddling techniques before we paddle across rapid 1. Here we have the option to carry the rafts up over a few rocks and float around in the”Boiling Pot” directly beneath Victoria Falls, the best start to any raft trip in the world. We run rapid after rapid such as the Midnight Diner, Gulliver’s Travels and the Mother where we can have a wonderful riverside banquet lunch whilst watching other rafts come through, Oblivion! 

We float on down to our camp at Rapid 23 called Bobo Beach where we will sample sundowners, a fantastic barbeque (vegetarian options are available) and a homemade apple crumble for dessert. Fall asleep in your tent or under the stars in your million star hotel.

Day one of the trip is approximately 20 kilometres.

Overnight on the River Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3 : 23rd Sept : White River Rafting

We awake to the sound of Fish Eagles in the distance and the smell of coffee and breakfast.

We load the rafts and paddle through our first rapid of the morning, Morning Shower: your wakeup call! The big bouncy waves send us into a spectacular part of the gorge where we start to see more wildlife. We reach Open Season, which we look at before running and then head down through the Narrows before we have a floating lunch aboard the rafts. As the gorge opens out we see the occasional crocodile and see our last (and best) rapids of the trip, Chamamba and Upper Moemba. After running these successfully, we camp between Upper and Lower Moemba overlooking the stunning falls where we will celebrate our successful descent with wine and cheese. Dinner tonight is Spaghetti Bolognese, garlic bread and our secret dessert!

Day two is approximately 27 kilometers.

Overnight on the River

Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4 : 24th Sept : White River Rafting – Livingstone.

After a relaxing night, we hike out of the gorge, where our porters carry the gear and rafts to our waiting vehicles (which will have cold drinks on hand), ready to take you back toLivingstone, through some stunning villages such as Mukuni Village and Songwe where you may like to buy some souvenirs. Reach the hotel before lunchtime. Lunch and dinner on own.

Overnight stay at Hotel Zambezi Sun

Meals : Breakfast

Day 5 : 25th Sept : Depart Livingstone/ Nairobi.

After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to Livingstone Airport for flight P0703 0930 hrs arriving 1040 hrs in to Lusaka and connect to KQ 702 1245 hrs arriving Nairobi at 1625 hrs. Arrive into Nairobi, met by our team outside customs and immigration halls and transferred to your hotel. Day at leisure.

Overnight stay at Nairobi Safari Club  

Meals : Breakfast

Day 6 : 26th Sept : Nairobi / Masai Mara.

Breakfast at the hotel, check out, introduced to your driver guide and depart for the world famous Masai Mara National Reserve. Arrive at the Lodge for check-in and lunch. Afternoon game drive around the reserve. Return to the lodge in the evening for dinner.

Masai Mara offers an absolutely unique variety of animals. The reason is that this hilly region is both humid and fertile, and is crossed by the rivers Mara and Talek, full of crocodiles and hippos, which carry water the whole year round. The banks of the rivers are covered in thick forest, which gradually makes way for bush and grassland. The abundance of water and excellent availability of food are the reasons why the Masai Mara, which in fact is a continuance of the Tanzanian Serengeti National Park, has the greatest population of wild animals in the whole of Africa. There is a particularly dramatic “spectacle” from July to November, the annual migration of huge herds of Gnus and Zebras. Predators such as Hyenas, Jackals, Leopards and Lions of course, closely follow these herds. Gigantic herds of over 200 buffaloes can also be observed. Plenty of food is available for elephants, giraffes, and the many species of antelopes.

Overnight stay at Fig Tree Camp

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Game Drive: Evening

Day 7 & 8 : 27th & 28th Sept : Masai Mara.

Full day spent in the Mara with Morning and afternoon game drives. Meals at the Lodge.

Overnight stay at Fig Tree Camp

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Game Drive: Morning and Evening on both days.

Day 9 : 29th Sept : Depart Masai Mara / Nairobi.

Breakfast at the Lodge and check-out. Drive to Nairobi, arrive in time for Lunch at a select

restaurant, then transfer to the airport for Kenya Airways flight KQ 202 1745 hrs and arrive at 0210 the next day back into Mumbai.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

COSTS::

Cost per Adult on Twin sharing basis : USD 2020 (Min. number of Passengers: 10)

If paying in Rupees, we will let you know the dollar rate prevailing at that time, any forex

fluctuations will be made up before trip leaves

Price Includes:

2 Nights’ Accommodation at Livingstone on Bed and Breakfast basis.

3 Nights’ Accommodation on Safari in Kenya on Full board basis.

1 Night Accommodation in Nairobi on Bed and Breakfast basis.

2 Nights White Water Rafting – local drinks, all mentioned meals, Sleeping Bag, camping and rafting equipment.

Domestic return flight Lusaka to Livingstone.

Guided Tour of Livingstone Falls.

Return Airport Transfers in Livingstone.

Return Airport transfers in Nairobi.

Extra lunch in Nairobi as indicated in the itinerary.

Park fees .

Transportation and game drives in Kenya in our Minibus with an English speaking driver

guide on a Private basis.

A 1/2 litre bottle of mineral water provided in our vehicles on safari in Kenya on

complimentary basis, per person per day.

Our Assistance.

Price Excludes:

International flights (approx. Rs. 39,000 ex-Mumbai, Visa fees (approx. Rs. 5000) and airport

taxes, vaccinations

Porterages, tipping and gratuities to staff and guides.

Extra meals, visits and activities not indicated.

Personal expenses like Telephones, Drinks, faxes and e-mail, laundry etc…

Any items not mentioned in the Price Includes.

International travel and medical insurance cover.

Cancellation Policy : Should you need to cancel, you must notify us in writing.

The following cancellation charges are applicable, if the notification for cancellation is received by us before commencement of the Tour.

45 – 30 Days : 25 % of the Total Cost of the Trip.

30 – 15 Days : 50 % of the Total Cost of the Trip.

15 Days : 100% of the Total Cost of the Trip.

Note:

Hotels and flights are subject to availability and Prices are indicative until time of booking.

International flight tickets would need to be booked by us to avail a group discount.

Yellow Fever Vaccination is Compulsory and has to be arranged on own.

Visas to Zambia and Kenya can be arranged by us.

Overseas Medical Insurance can be arranged by us.

Flights to/from Mumbai are extra, we recommend you book asap to get best fares.

IMPORTANT NOTES ::

There are no special requirements for the Zambezi River, except perhaps a sense of humour, and the need for adventure. The Zambezi is a large volume river and a huge amount of fun. We recommend that you exercise regularly: running, walking or swimming, at least a month or two before the trip, in order to maximize your fun on this amazing river. The minimum age for this trip is 16 years and there is no upper age limit providing you are in reasonable physical shape. Please let us know (quietly if you wish) if you have any medical conditions or allergies, or are taking any medications that you think we should be aware of.

Dress Code

The dress code in and around Livingstone remains fairly casual. Lightweight casual clothes are recommended during the day. On the river you will require little more than a bathing costume and/or a pair of shorts (which should be tied on WELL) and we do recommend a long sleeved shirt for extra sun protection. We also recommend a pair of Chaco sandals, or the like, that will stay attached to your feet should you make an untimely and somewhat ungraceful exit from your raft!

In some of the more exclusive hotels, the dress code can be one of smart, casual attire and some also require a jacket and tie although this is more of an exception than the rule. For any safari excursions, neutral colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants help you to blend nicely into the background and offer valuable protection from the sun and the mosquitoes at dawn and dusk.

AND FINALLY…

Please remember that things do change, prices go up and down, activities stop running or change format and weather can send the best laid plans out the door. We will do what’s best to provide what is described above but please take into consideration the nature of the journey that you are embarking on and the country that you are travelling in and understand that a certain degree of flexibility is necessary!

The Zambezi River is a classic whitewater trip and combined with the splendid location of Victoria Falls offers the ultimate in a warm, fun filled adventure holiday – See You There!

Money on your trip :As most aspects of your trip are taken care of, the money you will need to bring will be limited. You can pay for many items at this destination by credit card although we recommend travelling with a small amount of US dollars in small denominations. ($20, and $50 notes are good) Only VISA ATM facilities are available at this destination.

TRIP EQUIPMENT LIST ::

River wear:

A pair of Chacos or similar sandals. Trainers are also okay.

A pair of River shorts or swimming costume.

Long sleeved business shirt or lycra layer to wear under your life jacket.

A baseball cap for under the helmet to keep sun off

Wide brimmed sunhat

Sunglasses with retainers for ensuring they stay on your head

Nalgene or similar water bottle

Carabiner for fastening water bottle to your boat

Thermal Top. Medium weight – Heavyweight Capilene or polypropylene is the best.

Waterproof sunscreen and lip balm SPF50 minimum.

For evenings and around camp:

Lightweight long trousers – for the safari section also

Lightweight Long Sleeved shirt – for the safari section also

Fleece jacket – it can be cool in the morning and evenings

Ladies should bring a long skirt or sarong to cover your legs whilst in the company of locals.

Underwear

Glasses or Contact lenses. Disposable lenses are ideal.

Toiletries. Toothbrush, toothpaste, biodegradable soap and shampoo.

Forget the cosmetics and hair dryer! But we do suggest moisturiser

Hand wipes and hand sanitiser

A 3-season sleeping bag – only for the river section of the trip

Travel Pillow – only for the river section of the trip

Small pack towel.

Headlamp or head torch and spare batteries

Shoes or boots for wearing around camp and on hikes.

Insect Repellent

Any personal medication you may be taking and your anti malarial tablets.

Optional:

Your favourite book or a journal for recording your river memories.

Sketchpad

Photographic or video equipment. We recommend a cleaning kit as sand gets everywhere.

Bring a spare memory card or plenty of film.

Waterproof disposable for the “action” on the raft shots.

Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman.

An iPod or other music preferences. We have speakers.

The only money that you need to bring is for meals in town, souvenirs, DVD, personal items and the beer kitty for the raft trip if you drink.

TRIP PARTNERS

Trip Operated by: Aquaterra Adventures (I) Pvt. Ltd

Ground Operations by: African Quest

River Operations by: Water by Nature

A river rises and….

My home is a tented camp. I run very satisfying trips for myself and the people who come share it with me.They come holiday, have a break, raft some amazing white water, hike lovely hill trails, meet a culture and a people for whom time and distance have no measures. Like me they get a glimpse of a different perspective.Some have pure fun, some touch base with the earth and themselves.

Know that feeling when you stand barefoot in the shallows? One wave washes the sand out between your toes, and the stresses with it. The next embeds your feet deeper and that rooted calm seeps up. Most go home replenished and rejuvenated. Some don’t, “there’s creepies in the tent, beasts in the night and sand in everything!” Discoverers all of us, in some way or other .

Is life satisfying?

It wasn’t always so. I grew up loving the outdoors – swimming, sailing, riding, trekking, snorkeling, climbing. Walking through the fields, sitting by a gushing tubewell, fishing for tadpoles in the canal. If I’d been the son, I would have been a gentleman farmer, watching over my acres and seeing my crops grow. Quite content. A different story.

As it is. I married the right (very wonderful) man. I was a happy wife, became a good housewife, became a happy mother, I lived in a big house, ran a beautiful home. Entertained bankers and CEOs. For those around me, I had it all. It just didn’t seem like it to me.

I became a stressed housewife, an irritable mother; the ‘wife’ ceased to exist, the person ceased to exist. It was
a shambles. The way it was meant to be – wasn’t. How was it meant to be? It fell apart.

The only tenuously right thing, for me, I seemed to be doing was helping friends run an adventure tour outfit.
I opening a similiar one of my own, in partnership with a colleague. It limped along for me as I limped along, still trying to be the perfect homemaker & mother, fulfilling a preconceived notion of how it was meant to be. The task loomed like an unclimbable mountain.

Coming upto the river and camp, running a trip – was like coming home. I was happy, fulfilled, I felt successful. But the guilt loomed – like I was running away, should get home and face the responsibilities. That magical river seemed to be watching it all. Probably decided a sharply taught lesson in building and rebuilding, choices and decisions, and the inevitability of flow, was in order………

For those of us who live on the banks of the Ganga, she’s a friend, soulmate, provider and playmate. I lie on her waves and feel the most comforting sense of solace and peace. She not only washes away sins, but also fear, pain and sorrow. The same waves toss you playfully in a kayak and tumble a 20 foot raft like a handkerchief in a washing machine. She had always been benevolent and providing.

We woke one morning, after three days of incessant, unseasonable rain, to a swollen, brown river.
She’d risen some seven to eight feet through the night and was lapping just outside my tent. It was still raining and she was still rising visibly.

The people already in camp were evacuated. The group meant to arrive was stalled.

The staff and I started taking down tents closest to the water as fast as we could. Setting marker rocks to ascertain the rising water; praying and believing it would stop soon. We’d never seen anything like it.
She didn’t stop. All the tents came down, wet and heavy they were dragged and dumped from high ground to higher ground to still higher ground. The kitchen tent being located above what we considered the high water
mark, was left for last. The whole day had gone in manhandling gear into the forest above the beach. With dark setting in and no beach left, we clambered through the forest to the kitchen tent. Water lapped just outside, still rising. A raging torrent flowed past with piles of debris whirling along in it’s angry spread.

It was time to abandon it all. Pulling gear out of the kitchen with water lapping at our ankles we finally abandoned the kitchen tent to the river – it was too late to save it.

There was nothing more to do, it was dark, we were tired, wet and cold. We sat under dripping trees amidst our piles of semi salvaged equipment- beds, trunks, life jackets, potatoes and bread scattered through the forest
and along the path leading to the road. Every so often we moved higher and watched as she grabbed a tent, a pole, a crate of drinks that we were too tired to move.

She rose all night. We abandoned our camp to the monkeys and any life that chose to make use of it for that long rainy night and went to Rishikesh town. Wet and chilled with all our worldly possessions lying on the forest floor in the path of a wildly raging river.

The next morning dawned bright and clear. The monkeys had eaten all the bananas. The kitchen tent was wrapped around a boulder. The dining tents were buried under a fresh layer of flat white sand where earlier there’d
been rocks.

In two days the beach had appeared again. She’d lifted and flattened, added some sand here and taken some elsewhere. In a weeks time she was back to her sparkling green, lilting self and the only evidence of the
complete devastation was to be seen in the floor matting of the tents hanging in tatters from the tops of the trees above us.

Camp was dried out , up and running: it was hard work but it didn’t feel like it. It got done happily: the sun shone, the birds sang, tents got dried out and mended, kitchen got set up under the trees. It all got put together perfectly.

As I went about doing all this, the thought kept going around in my head – why is this so easy? From complete wipe out to rebuild with humour and cheer. No panic, no despair. The lesson needed to be applied to the rest of my life: choices that make you happy, not feeling guilty about chasing happiness; its not frivolous, it’s essential. Duty, jobs needing doing, responsibility all flow comfortably along.

A large home, a high flying job? Success needs to be an individual measure.

I am successful: I wake up and hug myself in glee, I do the same at night. My home is a tent on the river – if need be it will get bricked, mortared, thatched or tiled. My shopping and provision run is a twenty minute walk and a round drive of fifty two kilometres. I walk up to my jeep through the forest, new plants and flowers, myriad birds. I drive along a lovely hill road with beautiful views of the river and mountains. My suppliers in Rishikesh are friends, small town life has time. We catch up on news as my lists are checked and packed.

The power of dreams and the power of nature !
This is what I want to share with a host of us out there, whose dreams, much like mine, must be getting buried under a myriad humdrums and never become important enough! Please keep them and nurture them, it’s what
ultimately gives you that huggy, champagne feeling. The world becomes a great place to be.

Dreaming Dreams

(An article written for the Cosmopolitan, in it’s avatar of a ‘womans’ magazine’ the year it was first published in India.)

I’m a dreamer. I’ve dreamt forever about writing a story, but I don’t do it. I just imagine: best-seller, childrens story, romance, thriller. I plan plots, schemes, ultimate sex scenes and then get distracted – I stop to watch a bird, shadows on the hillside, stories in the clouds, the way the wind blows sand into patterns, sunlight on the water. I thought a wave broke in the same place everytime, some do, and some flow along for a distance. On the sea, the light catches one spot, until the light shifts. On the river, a gleam gets caught and sped along by the water.

Ethereal things, clouds, shadows, patterns in the sand, gleams and dreams – I found there’s reality to them.

For seven months of the year my home is a tent on the banks of the upper Ganga river. A magical place to live. I woke up this morning with an immense bubble of pure, joyful glee in my throat. Hugging myself and grinning at the leaf shadows dancing on the walls of my tent. I needed very much to share it.

One of my oldest dreams was to live some place that had both mountains and the sea ( as in beaches, surf, swimming, walks through the forest, mist in the valleys). Now as I look outside, there’s a huge beach of silver white sand, the blue green water of the river and early morning mist on the mountains. It’s not the sea, but it sure is very like my dream come true.

Another of the numerous things I dreamt about was learning how to kayak, properly. I can kayak, I know how to sit in it and keep it balanced. Also move it in the direction I want. But, I want to be able to dance through the water, be part of the river, currents, waves. I just haven’t pushed hard enough to learn. It’s that same questioning guilt thing – is it important enough, isn’t there more that needs doing, do I have the time? I don’t have a spray skirt, the waters’ too cold, my arms aren’t powerful enough!

Today the cracked red kayak sits before me on the sand, the sun’s sparkling on the water, there’s nobody in camp to feed my fears and the waves are inviting me to dance. I stop thinking, grab a life jacket, strap on a helmet, push the beautiful craft into the water and paddle away. I am headed for that little rapid upriver from camp. It has rained last night, the water level is up, but my fears and questions are gone. I am going dancing.

This cracked red boat slaps merrily through the little swells – a boil catches the tail, swings us into a perfect pirouette. The bow goes up, the stern dips gracefully, my heart does a somersault and we glide onward.

Hugging the shore, dancing from rock to rock we go, our aim to hit the top of the rapid for the final riotious waltz down. The occasional errant current catches us for a naughty frolic, but my cracked kayak and I make it.

We sit parked behind a rock, watching those fat waves curl and flip, gathering our courage.

Four swift paddle strokes, point her nose, angle slightly left, lean downstream and whoopee – that huge wave kisses my cheek, floods into my skirtless kayak and into that  wild waltz we swing. Spray  in my face, the waves spin me around and toss me up. That lovely wallowing, water weighted boat puts her nose down, swishes her tail, surfs, swims, swings her hips and down the centre we come in the most joyful dance of all time – the river, the cracked red kayak and one un-learned kayaker.

When I learn how to do it, I’ll probably do worse. Today I danced with the river. It’s a high. That bubble of joy still fizzes in my throat as I shower in my makeshift stall – it’s hidden in a gully, the pipe hangs off a tree, I’m curtained by a wildly flowering vine of red flowers. Purple shadows on the hills, silver river, birds coming home to roost, the lamp glow from my tent and the first stars in the sky.

It keeps amazing me how powerful dreaming and nature can be.