02.04.2013 - 05.04.2013 15 °C
Last time I was in a civilized place, I was in Kasol, on Monday April 2nd. The four of us, Tsach and David, Shmulik and Me, each pair prepared the whole previous day for the climb. They tell us the walk up there is tough, this morning we will put that warning to the test. Early in the morning each of us got his backpack ready, and said to meet in the center of town at a specific time, so that we could start the climb during daylight. At high noon, when the sun was highest, not a cloud in the sky, we crossed the bridge and headed west, on the northern bank of the river, toward our first waypoint, Chalahl. The beginning of the walk was easy, between the trees that provide shade from the hot sun, we stopped several times on the way, for drinks and pictures, resting on rocks, and listening to the rush of the river. When we entered Chalahl, we asked locals how to get to Rasol, not many speak English but they know what you mean, so they simply point you further down the path, so followed it we did, through the garbage, leaking water and cow crap, we skipped through town. On the way, we saw natural, clean water come out from the ground, flowing downhill in to the village, water you can drink, and that the village bellow use for their personal needs. After drinking and some more rest, we trod on. Just when we thought that everyone who warned us was exaggerating about this climb, the route started to ascend, in a steep, sometimes steady, sometimes less steady, incline. Uneven steps, big rocks and plain, old steep dirt paths that led us up, took us further toward Rasol. When we weren't really sure about where Rasol was, because we still couldn't see it, we noticed power cables, leading in the general direction, we assumed, of the village, and up the mountain, through the valley, and around a curve in the mountainside, and out of sight. The climb was slow, many stops on the way were made, for water and catching our breath, each time we stopped we were higher and higher, and before our eyes, to the south, looming and threatening, above the greener peaks, was another one of the Himalaya range. Every few minutes of steady ascent was rewarded by more and more of the snowy peak, revealed by two smaller mountains like an opening curtain. Around us were many trees, blooming in different colours. While we climbed we had to cross small, loosely put-together bridges made of wood and lumber, climb steep steps, and even wait for a porter and his convoy of mules and horses to pass, carrying goods downhill to Kasol. We saw women carrying huge piles of wood uphill, chop wood, herd cattle, and do most jobs performed by men in other countries. All over the place, wherever we drive in India, if we see any kind of construction or carrying, women outnumber the men. Some women were carrying even a big pile of bricks, while we were struggling to breathe, with our heaviest bag weighing 20 kg, they were skipping on the steps up toward the village. Late in the afternoon, we at last made our final curve/rock climb, and saw the first building in the village was a guest house. We unloaded our backpacks, and crashed on chairs, ledges, and whatever was in eyesight, at the request and invitation of the guy in charge at the moment. He gave us some water and explained shortly about himself and the village; his name is Weilon (pronounced Veilon), living with his girlfriend, Linnete, and running this small guest house. They both come from Goa in southern India, which means, that like us, they are outsiders in the eyes of the local villagers. This is where these villages around Kasol become tricky, because outsiders of any kind, foreign or not, were not allowed to touch any of the villagers, their buildings, and especially their temple. We became qeurious, so we took two rooms in Weilon's guest house, left our things in the room and made another small climb, in to Rasol itself.
The village itself is very old fashioned, wooden houses, and stockpiles of wood for the winter for each house can be seen easily. More common than any other resident of the village, are small kids. Hundreds of kids, from the age three to twelve, are in droves, running around the village, some performing menial tasks, like carrying wood for chopping, the chopping being done by the older kids, and by older I mean twelve or thirteen. We bought some things in the grocery store for dinner, and started to head back down again. On the way, these small children started to walk with us, offering us some of their own, hand made, jaras, some begging for some chocolate, which Shmulik gave in the end. At some point on our way down, one kid shot me in my ass with a bow and arrow, made by sticks and some loose string. Cheeky bastard.
As we walked through the village, the only constant, unchanging view is the snow-capped mountain to the south. Between all houses and buildings it can be seen, peeking through corners, watching us, and on the way down we all agreed that staying in the first building in the village, with no obstructions to the view, was a good choice. We settled in separate rooms, and sat, talking to Weilon and Linnette, and every once in a while, more and more people came up the path to village. Some stayed in our guest house, while others went further in to the village to look for other guest houses. The ones who stayed with us were Ori, Dor and Amit, two of which Shmulik already knew from previous encounters, earlier in their trip. To fit everyone in the small guest house, which had only three rooms, other than Weilon and Linnette's, we had to get creative; David, Tsach and I slept in the same bed, Shmulik in the fire-place room, with all three others, Dor, Ori and Amit, two of which were sleeping on the floor.
The days in Rasol were spent mostly enjoying the atmosphere. Weilon's friends came often, local Indians from the village, and we just talked, laughed, and some of us smoked. On our first morning there, we saw all the sheep herders, taking their sheep to the field, and asked one of them if they sell any sheep. So, we got the idea of buying a sheep, and making a big dinner out of it, now we needed to make it happen. We needed to gather as many people as we could, this way it'll be cheaper the more people who come, then we need to figure out how to kill the bloody thing. We started spreading the word among Israelis in the village, saying tonight we're buying a sheep, slaughtering it, and plan to make a feast. Planning is one thing, and performing is another. That afternoon, it started to rain, like every other day in Pravati Valley, as soon as the sun was behind the mountain tops, the temperatures started to drop, followed quickly by dark clouds, and then finally, to conclude it's point, nature brought rain, which lasted all through the night. In between rainfalls, one guy that was on board with us, and me, went together with Weilon to speak to sheep herders, see what prices we're talking about and to see what kind of sheep are for sale. Passing between cow/human crap, and plain old garbage, we skipped and hopped from one house to another, speaking to several farmers with Weilon as interpreter, we saw they weren't very eager to let one of their flock go, thus prices were very high to buy one. After several more farmers, and several more expensive sheep, we decided to retire, and get back to the guest house before total darkness, our plans only pushed by a day.
When we got back to the guest house, we spoke to one of Weilon's local friends, asking him for help, to buy a sheep. He agreed to help us, saying farmers here don't really like outsiders and tourists, that's the reason for the high prices, he will be able to get us a sheep more easily being a local. We gave him money, so that by tomorrow morning he will be able to buy a sheep before the farmers leave for herding. Let's hope everything goes smoothly, and that he won't screw us over.
The next morning, I woke up earlier than usual, because we had a healthy sheep! At 9AM we already had the sheep, roaming free in the field below the guest house, feeding on wild marijuana leaves. The guy went so early to buy the sheep, that by 7:30 he was already sitting and drinking chai in the guest house. So now we have a sheep, now it's time for the logistics. We split in to teams, each having it's own task, I wanted to play with fire, so I dug a small hole in the yard, put bricks on the sides, so that heat will be kept inside, while the fire is burning. We also had to acquire something, long enough, to shove through the sheep, and rotate above the flame. That took us to the roof of the guest house, where we found some old metal rods we can use, but we had to clean those first. We took a few with us, and went back to the yard, where the hole was dug, and started to retrofit the whole construction, with two pieces of wood on either side of the hole, to hold the rod, while someone rotates the meat.
When everything was ready, when all ingredients were bought, and fires were now brewing, the show can begin. One term Weilons' friend agreed to help us for, was that if he helps us, he also insists on doing the slaughtering of the sheep himself, if he doesn't he won't be able to eat from the sheep, out of some religious belief the villagers have, I didn't quite understand why. None of us knew how to slaughter cattle properly, so of course, we agreed to his terms, also because this way no one really needs to bloody their hands by doing it themselves. We brought the sheep forth, tied its horns to rope and pulled, to expose the neck. Today is clear, the weather right now, couldn't be more perfect for an occasion like this. We gathered round the yard, nobody spoke, not a cloud in the sky, and only the sounds of nature interrupted the silence. Birds, dogs, horses, sheep and goats in the distance could be heard faintly. Like the supposed execution of Buckbeak in Harry Potter, the executioner came forward, lifted his scythe, I pulled on the rope to expose the neck, and with one fell swoop, no pain administered, and without it realizing what's going on, the sheep was no more. Quickly we tied the carcass to a nearby tree, to let the body empty itself from blood, and started to work on the skin, cutting the meat in the desired places. This is where everything started to spiral down. It was still early in the afternoon, but like yesterday, as soon as the sun disappeared behind the mountains, the cold came too, chilling us to the bone, while we were trying to make this sheep edible. The concept of rotating meat above open flame didn't work. First off, no one rotated the meat on the rod. The flame was either too big most of the time, or the coals to cold, so the meat didn't get steady heat for proper cooking. After about two hours like this, it started to rain again, so acting quickly, we took a large piece of cover and we tied it to trees, rocks, logs and even the building closest, anything to hide us from the rain, and keep the fires going. After hours and hours hanging over open flame, the main part of the sheep was nearly, totally burned to ash. With no proper leadership, no one taking control of the cooking, and no one listening to each other, this whole evening turned to chaos. We could only salvage the ribs and make them in a different way altogether, in the kitchen, on a frying pan.
The rest of the evening, we spent sitting, talking in hindsight about what could have been done better, while eating what was left edible, around a fire that was lit by Weilon's friend, and ribs being served in steady intervals. When everyone that didn't belong to the guest house finally left, we could all retire back to our rooms, and call it a very late, disappointing night, for tomorrow, we unfortunately, leave Rasol, and head back down to Kasol.
Until next time, Live long and prosper.