Whilst I sit here writing, a butterfly sits on me, apparently bewildered by the flowery pyjama shorts she is trying to feed from! But I am glad of the company; especially so beautiful. “The Himalayas have come to greet you!” E told us upon our arrival in Almora, greeting us herself with a big hug. Apparently they’d been hiding under a thick blanket of mist and fog for the last few weeks, and sure enough there they stood: white, proud and defiant – but not at all like a band of English Defence League supporters!
Three hours ago we had stumbled out of our carriage and onto the platform at Kathogodam, our expectant driver all smiles. Ascending the mountains we left the twinkling lights of the tiny toy town down below. The stark outline of a mountain rose into the sky like the gnarled spine of some dormant beast; behind which the “rosy fingered dawn” (as Homer so aptly puts it!) was playfully creeping up on. We wound our way through towns and villages stretching, blinking, coughing – slowly waking up for the day. The air tasted different to Delhi, the sounds were different too; car horns and the calls of street vendors replaced by bird calls and crickets. Somewhere in the distance a cockerel crows: morning has broken.
After a delicious breakfast of home-made muesli and other such yummies we were off again on the so often spoken about and ominous “Walk”. I was looking forward to it and dreading it all at once. The guides are Himalayan boys; their mole hills are our mountains. We set off across ‘Cranks Ridge’ an area known for its lush vegetation and abundance of flora and fauna, seldom found in India. Butterflies flirtatiously waltzed between our feet, courting one another, as we struggled up the mountain path. Animals enjoy a good life here. The cows, cats, dogs and goats are some of the happiest and healthy looking I have seen in India. When we finally rested to take in the panoramic vistas they truly were (for want of a better word) ‘breath-taking’; nothing to do with my embarrassing levels of aerobic fitness.
Back at ‘The Blue House’ we made preparations for an impromptu fire pit-smoking-drinking sesh that went on into the early hours. Laying on our backs, staring into the abyss of stars we spoke of time, space and other things that we didn’t understand. Inevitably, as one does when a subject so much larger than ourselves is broached, we were struck by that all too familiar realisation of how transient man is – and how tiny our little brains are! The day’s physical struggles became mental ones and we strained to understand miracles that had transpired millennia before the first human ever decided to question them. The slowest of shooting stars dawdled across the sky – a firefly! I had never seen one before and it was magical! Like a real life fairy bouncing through the all-encompassing night. Elated, thoughts darted through my mind as I drew up non-existent parallels between my company and the Dylan’s, Ginsberg’s, George Harrisons et al, who had also once made “Hippie Hill” their home. The ridge gained the prefix, “Crank’s”, after Timothy Leary famously streaked across it in the 1960’s.
Apparently, and I use this word very heavily, the ridge lies between a gap in the Van Allen Belt, a “radiation zone of high energy particles trapped by the earth’s magnetic field”. This positioning may allow the creative mind to harness its powers to their optimum. Oh, plus there’s also a mountain full of freely available maal right on one’s doorstep. But never the less, I enjoyed re-living their imagined experiences myself, all be it fictitious. I can’t claim to have successfully harnessed my creative mind and reinvented myself as some sort of literary genius, but there is something very special about Crank’s Ridge. Whether it’s gaps in magnetic fields, the superlative variety of flora and fauna or simply because it’s that little bit off the tourist trail (not that far off!) it is a place where one can both relax and exert body and mind to the greatest extent.