06 July 2005

got any camels?

This was the camel I rode when I went on a camel trek with my friends Kristin, Courtney and Kara in North India. It was an interesting experience. I was telling some friends that I was surprised by the humps--that rather than standing upright they were sort of flopped over and seemed like little pockets of gristle. They didn't like that description. During our swaying ride, my camel kept shaking his head from side to side and sneezing.

The place where we rode was in a deep valley, nestled right down amidst the Himalayas. It is the middle of summer, but it is still cold and somewhat barren, snow coming down softly on the high mountains that we had to drive over to reach the valley. Our small jeep almost careened off the road at one point our driver swerved to avoid a large military truck coming the opposite direction around a corner on the one lane gravel road. Occasionally we came upon groups of women bending over baskets in the middle of the road. Their job was to clear the rocks that slid down the rocky mountainside onto the road, causing accidents and flat tires. They wore their traditional tibetan dresses with large cardigans over them, scarves wrapped around their heads, and all day long every day their job was to pick up rocks on that road.

Diskit, the town in the valley, is almost impossible to reach during the winter months when the snows and cold trap its inhabitants indoors and make the road to the town impassable. They eat bread and thupka, a noodle soup with a clear broth, and fried vegetable wonton-esque things called momos. Everyone stays inside. I wonder if they sleep a lot more, become humans who hibernate 8 months out of every year.

The day we went to Diskit we drove six hours over the highest mountain pass in the world, stopped for lunch, rode camels for about an hour, and then got back in the jeep and drove back over that narrow road, arriving home exhausted, jostled, and smelling like camel fur. And it took seeing those women bending over their baskets of rocks to make me almost sick with my own inability to be thankful for the life I have. I guess it reminded me too that it's about the journey, and not about the destination.

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