Down Jacket- checked, Gloves – checked, Cap – Checked, Scarf – Checked, woollen socks – Checked, Snow boot – checked, Sun glass – checked, Camera battery – checked , Empty SD and CF cards – checked, Camera setting – Checked. My first on foot experience of Himalaya’s at 4200 mt altitude. I need to be doubly sure of everything as I tend to forget the things if I am bit over excited or over apprehensive. At that point of time I was both. Snow leopard was not in my mind as it was just first day and we have 6 days to go to think about it.
So pulled up Jacket, tied the snow boot laces and slide those cap and gloves, we all set. After crossing bit of Kibber village we came to a stiff down hill which was about a knee deep snow. My first walk in the snow, never thought will be so extreme. My first foot on the snow and my first step in Himalayas gave me a spark in my heart. I was completely wobbling and fell down couple of time to experience the soft and squishy feel of the snow. Seeing my condition Lara Ji, our guide came to my aid. With his help I glided through the snow and enjoyed it, though I was completely out of breath. Lara Ji, a perfect guide, an awesome person and now a great friend.
We reached to a snow filled road which was like a break through for further up or down depends on the sighting clues. Where we waited for Dorje Ji, our scanner, the best scanner ever. And saw him coming towards us bit upset as we were late, as he saw fresh marks of ghost in that area. But he too understood well, this is our first day in that high altitude and we need some time to acclimatisation.
Then he went to other side to scan, and we got some time to catch our much needed breath. I was completely overwhelmed with the beauty and harshness of the mountains surrounded me. I followed the group heading ahead on the same snow filled road. Suddenly saw Dorje Ji giving a strong sign from opposite side.
My heart skip a beat. I walk fast with all my strength but much behind. I never reached that level of endurance not even my toughest run. While I reach the point where I saw everyone is clicking frantically and I saw where they are pointing out. Rocks and Rocks everywhere. Some are snow capped some are without. Then suddenly my heart stopped beating. The grey ghost sleeping on the caved rock, curled around and having a peaceful winter slumber.
I was in no position for even lifting my camera. I just don’t want to let this moment of seer pleasure waste behind the lens. I just wanted to watch it and not sure when tears rolled out of my eyes…
Slowly it got up and swiftly it started to move leaving us awestruck and dumbstruck. When we got back to our senses, there was a spark of overjoy spread across the group.
Then again Dorje Ji started to call us from another ridge towards which it went. With an instant reaction with consensus we were drifted hurriedly towards it. I was lagging much behind due to my breathlessness. But the moment I reach there it felt that as if he was waiting for me.
As if he was waiting for us to show what true sense of cat walk, casting the spell on his every move. Top models in ramp will get dusted in front of this cat walk.
The very step shows the familiarity of the territory and proves that its his kingdom and he rules here. And the looks in-between tells us that we were accepted in his ultimate hospitality.
The strength, the vigour and the control was quite visible from the paw he stretches to take every step. How carefully nature had crafted this enigmatic creation of its.
Another one… Next day we went into the trail again. The hangover of the previous day sighting was fresh. We are quite content. Suddenly Lara Ji called out to a different ridge which was a bit down hill then stiff uphill. I was bit reluctant to go, though was not sure why everyone is rushing towards it. Thought, may be Himalayan Ibex. We really need to go??
As it’s said Oxygen is like precious asset in Himalayan high altitude, better spend wisely. And I already have quite a satisfying sighing of Ibex previous day. I was just occupied with the thought of, to be or not to be. Then suddenly I was swift away by Lara Ji as usual.
After spending much of oxygen from lungs, huffing and puffing I reach where Shreeram and Manish had already set up their camera over the tripod. I was quite sure it was Ibex coz it was utterly impossible to sight another one. Only if fortunate enough, u get to see the ghost and god only once.
But what I saw that was unbelievable to my eyes. Either its no more a ghost or we were blessed enough to see another one. It was enjoying its peaceful slumber in the morning sun.
It was sleeping in the same posture and occasionally lift its head to do some cat business..
After few hours, it decided to get up and search for a new place with proper sunlight. The morning sun has already been away as the afternoon was approaching.
And we are still enjoying its company seating on knee deep snow with way below freezing point. But there isn’t a single moment of dullness neither our eyes have moved away from it. What do u call it…?? Totally bewitched.. isn’t it ??
Well.. Since morning we were giving company to it. Now its way past afternoon and it decided to trouble us more and enjoy its peaceful siesta . Same routine continued.. lifting head a bit then take cat style deep yawn. clean the body a bit and then look at us for a brief moment and then again sleep. With its little movement Dorje Ji will continue his running commentary with binocular on. And on its slightest movement camera shutters would roar. Actually the shutters roared on basis of Dorje Ji’s commentary, even before one sees from view finder if its moving or not.
Then it decided to move a bit again to change the place. I too started triggering my camera frantically. But suddenly realised I missed and was missing something. Then I put my camera down and just enjoyed its graceful walk.
Little past 5 pm the wind was getting strong and temperature was dipping down very fast. The snow were started to fly all over. I was completely frozen. A sane mind would have been run away from that situation immediately. But who cares for that sound and sensible mind when the grey ghost is sleeping in front of u. We all are under the spell. Whatever it may happen we are not leaving it before it leaves us.
But thanks to Shreeram and Manish to break that spell and take a rational judgement of leaving that place right away. From far away from the trail we saw it just got up and started to vanish beyond the ridge due to the intense wind.
Hence this way I could fulfil my top-most wish-list. Few days back I couldn’t even dare to have this wish even if planned this trip to Spiti. I came back home but a bigger chunk of me still lying somewhere within those snow. But I brought back these stolen moment from the time. Life is slaves of time but these moments are liberated.
The Amazing Team
Initially my mind was full of apprehension about this trip. Its the longest time I was away from home without family. But I never thought it will be one of the best trip ever I had. This is one of the trip where journey was equally enchanting as destination.
The team immediately after seeing the snow leopard. The euphoria has caught it completely.
The happy team in Langza enjoying Lara ji’s hospitality, after sighting the grey ghost and running behind that notorious redfox. Also after eating the best Rajma and rice I would ever had, made by Lara ji’s wife.
Nawang Ji and Dorje Ji.. As I stated earlier Dorje Ji is the best scanner ever. And the hospitality of Nawang Ji made the trip really memorable. The yummylicious food we had in our trip, thanks to Lama Ji and Nawang Ji.. Couldn’t manage to get a picture of Lama ji. Coz he was as illusive as the snow leopard.
And finally the three musketeers, who lived this trail of grey ghost. Thanks is not good enough to convey my gratitude to this team.
This trip has completely changed my perception of life. But that I will bring forth in a separate blog. In this trip I got so many new friends and few old ones became best.