12 May 2013

Reflecting on the Natural Beauty in the Himalayas

The other night I couldn't sleep, and so I wrote about where we've had the privilege of living for the last month...

Goats wander about, munching. With bells on their necks, they bleat loudly with eyes closed when they realise they're tied with a rope to a post stuck in the ground. I find it fascinating to watch them eat, their tiny lips and teeth pull the grass up and mash together side to side, lips moving in opposing directions. They always grab a bunch of grass and then stand up straight, looking blankly into the distance. I wonder what they're thinking about. My husband is fascinated with my fascination. I think it bemuses him.


Wandering up and down the hills or standing around are the donkeys. They're much quieter, much more under the discipline of their masters, who use a combination of slaps with the hand on their hinds, whips with a stick and yelps to communicate with them, to control their movements as they are loaded up with tents, hiking sticks, foldaway tables, instant noodles, carry mats and sleeping bags, plus the trekkers' rucksacks. There's always a strong smell surrounding the donkeys, although you're never quite sure if its the master, the donkeys or a mixture of both. 

(Photo taken in Rishikesh, the foothills of the Himalayas)

Then of course you have the dogs. Ah, the dogs. They aren't exactly wild, but they aren't exactly pets. Sometimes they are given names such as  "Blackie" or "Timepass", and sometimes they're even fed, but mostly they are left to scavenge the garbage areas and open sewers lining the lanes and streets. They do love mucking about in those dirty smelly passages with the waste, tails wagging, noses down in the muck. Then of course they want to come and get some love from you, with that same nose, those same filthy paws, that same damp wagging tail. Beware ye who sits down near any dog in Bhagsu for they will immediately befriend you and much like the chai wallahs, shoe cobblers and henna sellers, they will remember you and greet you as often as possible. This includes barking and howling to you all night, every night, from 3am until dawn whereupon they will consider their job complete and collapse in the shade for a few hours. They are particularly fond of coming and lying under your table in a restaurant, but that's only if they are completely sure that the waiters don't mind, and they will pretend it's for shade, but really I think they like the company.

The eagles soar overhead, swooping down occasionally to catch their prey, down and around the widening Bhagsu valley, down towards McLeod Ganj, and onwards to Dharamsala. Their wings spread fully out, measuring several feet, catching the sun on their wings and the thermal breezes underneath them so no effort on their part is required. They are elegant and regal and many a happy breakfast is spent watching them cross the valley, falling further and further away from us.

Oh the butterflies! How I wish I could capture the beauty of the butterflies fluttering and flitting about. They move too quickly for the camera. Usually cornflower blue or white with black spots, they dance around on the wind, often in pairs, as they float from flower to bush to tree, never resting. On the rare occasion you see one on its own, they will sit in the sunshine warming their wings, and gaining sustenance from the nectar of a flower nearby.

The mountains in which we live are as ancient as Time. It is fascinating to be amongst such nature. The textures of the rock face, the stinging nettles, the prickly thorn bushes, the wild strawberries with their tiny white blossoms, the bright red rhododendrons, the salmon pink heather native to the Himalayas, all line the pathways and rock faces. 

The men break up the ancient boulders naturally lining the paths and rivers with hammer and chisel, so as to make bricks for building.  No electric tools here. To dig up the road to lay down a pipe, hammer and chisel and rocks are used to break up the Tarmac.

Watching, observing, not wanting to intrude, nor ask too many questions. 
Supporting, educating, absorbing, learning. Fascinating.

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