I finished hiking through India, to the Pakistan border a few days ago. I got to the town of Kargil, right near the India/Pakistan border. The border is also known as the Line of Control since it is an always changing point of contention. The areas near the border are heavily militarized with the Indian army and just a couple ridges away from K2 and Nanga Parbat (the westernmost 8000 meter peak) and the Siachen Glacier coming off of K2 is the highest battleground in the world, at over 6000 meters. In fact, many more soldiers have died from altitude and exposure than from the fighting.
After 2 days of bone jarring bus rides to get to an airport, a plane ride back to Delhi, a taxi ride to the Taj Mahal and back to Delhi to catch my flight at midnight, 23 hours of plane travel, 1 hour of train travel, and an hour and a half bus ride; I am writing this from the comforts and luxuries of a house with a refrigerator, tv, computer, sink, shower, and toaster oven. It is amazing and I am ready to join the ranks of the competitive eating circuit.
Here’s a few stats on the trip:
Nepal- Distance- over 1700km, Days- 47 hiking days (plus about 10 logistics/resupply days because of constant work and government strikes and dealing with getting permits), # of Permits- 13 or so, Cost – over $1500
India- Distance- about 800+km, Days- 19 hiking days, Permits- 0, Cost- $0…I tried to get permits to a couple of areas but I wasn’t even allowed to get them. I guess they didn’t want my money.
It is going to take me a while to process this trip. The last few weeks in India and the trip as a whole have been rewarding. I am not sure yet what I have gained from the experiences but I am definitely leaving with a sense of accomplishment and fleas. This was the hardest hike physically and mentally that I have done yet. Averaging about 25 miles per day and routinely doing 6000-7000+ feet of elevation gain were hard, but your body gets used to that. The hardest thing was “getting no satisfaction”. For 3 months I have been dreaming about certain foods only to never get them and not get anything satisfactory in town. When hiking in the U.S. or a lot of other countries every 4 or 5 days you get to a town and can satisfy that craving. I did have one of the better meals of the entire trip the last week or so of hiking. No it wasn’t the gummy pizzas that I found in one of the stores. I was walking by a shepherd’s stone hut a little after dark and he invited me to be his guest. He went and milked the goats and his brother cooked up a mean curry and fresh rotis (an Indian bread sort of like naan or pita) on the fire. In case you are interested fresh goat milk is lumpy and sour and more like a unhomogenized plain yogurt. In the morning I milked some goats myself and had some classic Indian salt tea (black tea, fresh milk, and salt). As always I prefer sweet over salty, but no complaints it is always good to try something new. And it was definitely better than the food selection that I saw a teenager eating in Nepal. I saw him chow down on a nice, dry cow pie he had picked up off the trail.
The last couple of weeks through India have been scenic and interesting. The flowers have been out in full force with fields of red, purple, yellow, and blue filling the meadows. The peaks and passes have been shrouded in snow and clouds as the winter snows have yet to melt and the pre-monsoonal moisture has moved in. The clouds, wind, impending doom, and some sort of weather came in every day. Every high pass I went over was a bit of an adventure, with the last 4 high passes of around 5000 meters and above turning into a soupy mix of white with no visibility and horrible maps. I am glad to finish before the full on monsoons hit which are forecasted for some time in the next week and the leaches come out to play.
The leaches would have sucked me dry since I have lost enough weight to throw me back to a weight I haven’t seen since middle school. I think I hit about 147 pounds. Definitely not ideal for a 6 foot tall person. I started looking a bit like ET with the sunken chest and you probably could have seen my heart glowing through my skin. I am excited to be home and move on to finishing my next projects, a book that I hope will be out sometime this summer, and a nice big salad topped off with some Phish Food.
Finally to all the doubters and times we heard “it’s not possible” from people in Nepal and India, “Yes it is! We just did it!”
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