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Himalayan Memoirs: Gothu-Panwali Pass


Very strenuous hike uphill. It was raining heavily and the forest path was infested with leeches. It was cold and I was soaked to my bones. There were just too many elements to work against: the cold, the rain, the inability to find sound footing, leeches trying to suck our oxygen starved blood and of course the gravity straining the lungs. Just one rule seemed to work in such situations. Whatever happens, don’t stop. Because if one does stop, the elements get you mentally. And once that happens, it will all be downhill from there. After endless climbing, presently the forests cleared and the meadows started. That’s when the first of the valley of flowers could be beheld. Would have been an ideal muse to Williams Wordsworth. The entire valley was covered with thousands of petite delicate flowers, all intricately colored swaying to the gentle mountain breeze. Panwali was supposed to be the place where we are going to stay the night and it was magically perched on top of rolling meadows and offered breath-taking vistas of distant snow clad peaks. Close to the peak, we came across a sadhu who was struggling to climb. He was a mendicant saint walking all the way from varanasi. We helped him with his small baggage. It was extremely cold. Old man tells me the worst is behind us. I needn’t worry as it is all downhill from here. That is until one reaches Gaurikund.

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