Monday, July 28, 2008


shimshal pass to shuwerth-----

we still had some walking to do to get to our campsite - but by the time we got to the two turquoise lakes that had elicited 'where are these lakes?' and got us here in the first place, Kamila and i had had enough of the endless walking. all the rest were long gone. we had come along at our usual leisurely pace, by now were pretty tired. Gul had read our minds - rather seen our pace - and brought two yaks to greet us just by the lakes. it was our 'surprise' initiation to tomorrows yak riding to Woolio.
at first it was a welcome sight - just had to sit behind the rider and be carried right across the plain - no more expending energy. well surprise it was alright. the yak is one benign looking and feeling animal, except it has a pretty wide back - sitting on which stretches those thigh muscles to places it has never been - at least not mine. as for riding doubles - if you don't 'stick' to the front rider, every step the yak takes is a hard bump up your you know where, not to mention if you don't hold on tight, you find yourself gliding backwards in slow bumpy increments - turned out to be a pretty miserable one hour on the back of a saddle less animal that just did its own thing - walking when he pleased, eating and drinking along the way, in no rush to get anywhere. no amount of 'hushing' and kicking would do it either. the shimshalis talk to their yaks in gentle wakhi phrases. never using harsh language, nor do they get rough and kick or hit hard, (unless its a race) this yak was simply spoilt rotten!
Kamila's yak and rider had somehow managed to move faster, which left our yak by himself - this the yaks dislike immensely, we were told later - so ours decided it just wont move. this was great for a while, enjoying the gorgeous scenery at crawl pace on the back of a yak - but an hour later those thigh muscles were screaming for relief.
off and on the yak Gul would get, to try and coax it to move. a few steps forward, then back to eating and drinking is all the yak did. finally after what seemed like eternity the other rider showed up to help us out of this 'impasse.' together they literally pulled and pushed, did all their hush hushing and shouted their wakhi sweet somethings, while i coaxed with every term of Farsi endearment i knew, thinking perhaps it was bored with the wakhi babble! by now it was two stubborn creatures testing each others metal - i wasn't getting off even if the gods came calling, and the yak wasn't moving even if i were to call it God.
poor beast - one stubborn yak got to camp at last, and i kissed its face with relief - i was finally off his back!!

it was a sweet feeling - a break from the daily walking - we had come to our first rest day and of course the much awaited festival at Woolio. after some well deserved rest and general lolling we headed out to the edge of the pass from where we could see the village of shuwerth below.
this is the summer settlement at shimshal pass where most families maintain a home, where their women bring the animals to graze all summer, make yak butter , yak cheese (Qurut) for the winter and weave carpets from their wool. in Oct women, children, goats and sheep all come down to the valley and the men and yaks take over for the winter. its a harsh life, but it is lived with such zest and joy you would think there was nothing more comfortable and enjoyable than herding animals at 4700 meters year after year!
this is where we were headed next morning for the start of the festival we had walked so far to attend. many of our porters had family homes at the village. their mothers, sisters,wives happily waiting to greet them.
Farman, Gul's brother in law to be, had his home down at the village. Kamila and i had met his sister and her friends sitting above the lakes while we were taking our leisurely walk to camp earlier on.

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