Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Day 3 Part 1: For the love of the Kali Gandaki and Upper Mustang

The day began early with much excitement and a bit of tension. We were to fly out to Jomsom from Pokhara at 8 AM in a mini 15 seater flight in what is infamously termed as the 'vomit flight'. The plane will leave the Pokhara airport and quickly ascend to about 3500 mtrs to fly towards the magnificent Annapurna range of Himalayas where Jomsom is located. But the journey is supposed to be nerve wrecking and nausea inducing as the heavy winds of the Himalayas is known to like playing with tiny objects that take it upon themselves to fly in the sky. In particular, the winds are supposed to love the 'game of toss and catch' as they will try their best to hurl a flight this way and that. And in a bid to deal with this playfulness, the plane will bank to the left and right and almost brush the walls of the mighty mountains that it will fly in between as the plains give way to mighty mountains that rise up high high to the sky. If the weather turns a little bit bad and decides to rain (or pour or snow!), the wind will get nastier which is why there's a high possibility of all the flights getting cancelled.  Very much the reason for my 'tension' as we drove to the tiny airport at the outskirts of the town. I was all set to reach Jomsom by 11 and I didn't want no wind trying to play. No sir, not today.

Post the mandatory security check, we entered the airport at around 7 AM to the news that even the first flight scheduled to leave at 6 hasn't left. Uhuh. An hour of nervous activity followed as I tried to calm my racing heart with all kinds of meditation techniques I knew. I just couldn't take the possibility of not reaching Jomsom today come what may. Fortunately for me (a blessing really), a troupe of Tamil yatris poured in and filled up the otherwise near empty airport (sans for the few foreigners who prefer a flight to Jomsom instead of the trekking route from Pokhara). Forcing myself to come out of my 'tension' and keeping my nervousness aside, I struck up a conversation with the nearest aunty who seemed approachable. She was totally thrilled to discover that I speak Tamil and called over her husband to join our chat as well. The next 30 minutes flew by in a rush as we discovered our mutual love for pilgrimages. She regaled me with notes of their visit to Kailash Manasarovar (which they were returning from, with Muktinath being the last leg of their yatra before they return back to Delhi and then to their homes) as her husband spoke of the many blessings they witnessed while doing the Parikrama and Pooja at Manasarovar. I was thrilled to bits too. It was almost like meeting my granny after her yatra thirty years back. A sense of wonder and joy washed over me as I became involved in our talk and the inevitable turning of the conversation towards personal details and aspirations. So much so that I almost missed the check in call for our flight. Yay! The wind had turned benevolent and is allowing flights in the sky today! How cool was that. 

A quick good bye,  pranams, and exchange of wishes later, I boarded our flight (they were in a different flight with a plan to go up to Muktinath by Jeep the same day whereas we were to trek/hike up) and rushed to occupy the most 'prized' (or not depending on your flying consistency) seat - right behind the pilot and the open cockpit. Whoever called this a 'vomit flight' didn't like flying at all - either that or the weather gods were throwing out their grandest carpets as part of my welcome. I loved loved loved it. The thrill of seeing our flight's shadow following us all the way (ya I know shadows are meant to do that but then how often do you get to see your own shadow (or the flight's) from 3500 mtrs,  hmm?), witnessing the changing faces of the Himalayas as the green mountains slowly gave way to snow clad peaks, the panaroma of the ground beneath with tiny villages dotting the landscape here and there as civilisation became more sparse, and of course the rainbows and waterfalls down below. A magical stage performance really! No other words can describe the journey better. Oh, did I forget to mention the wonders of seeing the snaking Kali Gandaki river as she rushed far far below from Upper Mustang towards mainland Nepal? Magic, just magic.

To be continued.....

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