The rocky trail slathered thickly with whipped snow. There’d been fresh snowfall the night before. Hailstorm while dining on M.G Marg. Street below Pub 325 covered with tiny homeopathic globules of ice. No local food, only Chinese. Pubs slamming doors on beef-eager faces on the Eve of Losar, Tibetan New Year. Winter kept us warm, covering Mountains in forgetful snow, feeding a little life with smuggled alcohol. Nip in the air curled once about the winter jackets, and fell silent.
The papers had been prepared and authorized. Access granted for the first level till Chaangu. Then Baba Mandir, then Nathu-la. Awesome view from the top— advertised the driver. The sun was shining on the hills, shining with all his might. We sat temporarily blind inside the claustrophobic box on wheels. The boots and uniforms held up their hands in unison. Restricted area, military base.
“Please do not take pictures here. You can use your cameras when you get to Chaangu. Please sir, you have your jobs, let us do ours, this is our job.”
The rising voices of Babel.
—He is not wrong.
—These private photographs…social networking sites…real danger.
—“They” could use geo-mapping to get to the borders here.
—The civilians fail to understand the concerns of the military.
—It is for our own protection.
—Please sir, off with your cameras!
The military trucks rolled their heavy chained wheels over the sugary snow, grinding their way through serpentine trails, making way for the train of tourist vehicles, following at close heels.
“We have seen more ice in Gulmarg. This is nothing.”
How do you measure ice? It looks all the same to me, as cold as cold can be. Soft, brittle, white, melting, cold, frigid, frostbite on the palm. My snowman starts to take shape. Looks like the jolly naïve Olaf from Frozen. Passers-by wonder at a crazy woman playing with ice.
POOH! PAAH! I will HUFF and I will PUFF and I will BLOW your hills down!
The sun made us blind and the cold robbed our lungs of breathable air. So warm and sunny when it should be damp and gloomy. Expectation meets Reality only to shake hands and part. Not a match made in heaven there. More Snow. Yaks— Smelly furry giants with horns decorated in baubles fancier than those Hilton Heiresses. Dragging painful limbs upwards to the tip for a view of the frozen lake. In search of More Snow.
HURRY UP PLEASE, IT’S TIME.
The rising clouds and the falling snow. The falling clouds and the rising snow. Access denied to level two and three. Roads not safe for driving during snowfall. Thank the Almighty we started early. The trip was not a complete waste. Next morning the papers read: The Way to Changu-Babamandir-Nathula Closed Indefinitely due to Heavy Snowfall.
A sigh of relief on an “off-season” trip.
(To be Continued…)