India is incredible for so many reasons but among them of course is the opportunity to find yourself reveling in the site of ancient wonders. I’ll never forget the moment I stood at the top of Chadrishilah, 4,000 meters up in the sky. Sillouhettes of endless mountain tops in gradients of blue soft sky lining our 360 degree view of the Himalayas. It was around 7am as we laid down on the patches of green earth between the collection of rocks near the Shiva temple. The sun felt great on our bodies and our smiles were just as picture perfect. We couldn’t hide our happiness as we exchanged glances instead of words in hopes of preserving the sites calamity. You wouldn’t know by our glistening grins that we were all pretty exhausted.
We had started climbing the day prior at around noon, hitting summit right before the sunset. Our legs were tired as we arrived at the last village before the tippy top. Shacks with tin roofs stood side by side as a few of the local mountain men sat in front next to the refreshments they had available to hikers. We took turns ringing a gratifying bell that symbolized our summit before taking a peek into an active temple, where we received blessings in exchange for a few rupees.
Our plan all along was to camp outdoors but as quickly as the sun began to lower, so did the thermostat. In a semi-panicked frenzy we asked the monk at the temple where we could stay the night. He led us to a set of rooms in front of the temple and quoted us a hefty price. To my dismay, (I was already wrapped in the blankets when the boys told me) we would keep it moving to find a more affordable option. A few steps below us a mountain man offered his one room shack stuffed with 4 beds on one wall for the five of us at a cheaper price, we agreed unanimously asking him for blankets and closing the door behind him shutting out the breeze. The beds were wet having collected condensation from the varying temperatures at this altitude. We all shared a bottle of rum and whiskey and chattered the night away distracting each other from how inescapably frigid it was. Our host prepared us some dahl, aloo, rice and chapatis which were so delicious after having downed so many shots of warming liquor just before.
In a fuzzy haze we fell asleep on our wall of beds, sharing our damp blankets and neccessary body warmth. As our limbs got cozy and we sniffled and sneezed into a comfortable position, I remember thinking, how lucky I was to have such awesome friends who despite being in the freezing cold on wet beds we knew that this was part of the journey to the top and that we would rough it out together without complaining one bit.
Truth be told, I had only met these 4 guys that I was now having a bromantical sleepover with the day before. One of them, Bam, I had met through instagram a week prior. He’s an avid trekker and nature lover whose pictures of the Himalayas had me in awe. I left him a comment asking him where he shot a few of his pictures and the next thing I know, we’re hiking buddies. The trip had been a blast so far starting with driving the 6 hours from Rishikesh to our first camping spot at Tungarth jamming to their American oldies playlist as our car spiraled up the narrow curvy roads. There’s something about roadtrips, mountains and oldies music that brings light and joy to my soul.
Fast forward to the next morning, we had no choice but to wake up at sunrise. There weren’t any buildings blocking the sun, only brightly lit white clouds all around and direct rays into our shanty room. The good news was, the sun’s warmth was back, the bad news – I was so hung-over. I never drink which is why I hadn’t thought about how much harder the final stretch of hiking would be with whisky and rum sitting in my stomach. Nonetheless, we strapped our shoes and went at it. I was by far the weakest link and at one point I even considered telling them I would wait for them there and let them go up. Thankfully, we stopped a few times to rest and take in the view while my womanhood kicked in and I got up the stamina to make it up the rest of the climb.
I practically dropped to my knees when we finally made it. The atmosphere was sparse and stoic. Quiet in an epic way where you understood what was being said by the silence. I sat in meditation and felt the clarity of the space around me. No wonder monks would retreat to these heights of glory. When it was time to descend, I realized this was a memory I’d treasure for the rest of my life. I’ll never forget this trip. The day my romance and admiration with the Himalayas began. She’d kick my ass on the way up before letting me enjoy her beauty and elegance but without thinking twice, I’d keep want to come back for more.