10/16/04: 1430  Ramni to Jhenjhipani

                        Today              Total

Ascent              2,070               21,903

Descent            4,060               22,460

 

Beautiful all day.  After hitting the high point at 10,000 ft descended over 4,000 ft to jhenjhipani. Descended through more dense rain forests.  Occasionally could see some of the high Himalayan peaks through breaks in the trees.

On a steep section of trail looked down the hill about 100 yards and saw a small

 gathering.  On a dirt platform surrounded on one side by a two foot tall rock wall (that is because there was a 100 ft cliff on that side) was a classroom in session.  I ran down the trail to the school and asked the teacher if he minded if I took a picture.  He said ok, but it was obvious that I was a major distraction for the students.  Since I had spent most of my early school years staring out the window of the class room, I thought this would have been the perfect school for me.

 

 

 

 

Class in session.  I have some cost saving ideas for our financially strapped schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set up camp just outside of Jhenjhipani in a small field just down from the village.  As we walked by the village on the path to our camp I noticed a solar panel on a pole sticking up from one of the roof tops. This solar panel represented more that another curiosity, it represented hope. 

Due to our abrupt exit from the modern era (see India Journal I) I was unable to purchase an extra battery or solar re-charger for my digital camera.  I  did have a set of international outlet adapters which allowed me to recharge up until Ranikhet, but with out any more juice, the digital battery ran out on day three of the trek.  I had been depressed about this event ever since, so when I saw the solar panel I thought maybe there was a way I could hook up one of my adapters to the solar panel to recharge. 

I explained my plan to Raten and he grasped the goal.  We set off up the hill to the village and with the help of some locals found the residence of the solar panel.  It was a one room home that was so dark inside I could only see a few feet beyond the entry.  The front, and only, door was up a few steps from the ground.  The man of the house came out and Raten explained what I wanted to try.  The man told us that he had a 12 volt battery that he charged with the panel when it worked.  He brought two small wires out through the front door of the house and showed us how they sparked if you rubbed them together.  He had to do this maneuver three or four times before I could actually see a spark, but he was obviously very proud of the technology.

The entire scene was quite special.  The solar man, Raten and I sat on the steps of his home and hooked these wires in to the charger.  This process was turning in to a real town event.  Five adolescents sat themselves down across a small open patch in front of us to get a good view of the proceedings.  The solar man had four children and the two youngest (ages 1 and 2) stood half naked at the bottom of the steps playing peek-a-boo with me.  When we first arrived a very old man was sitting in the front yard sorting wool by hand. 

They don’t sheer sheep here.  The wool is collected either by picking the fibers off bushes where the mountain goats shed or combing it from their fleeces.  In Kashmir a much more luxurious wool called pashmina  is collected by hand from bushes twice a year.  The goats that shed this wool only live above 14,000 ft and the wool has to be separated in to its fine pashima fibers and the courser fibers by a pains taking process.  The pashima fibers are supposed to be 1/6th the diameter of human hair and when dyed and woven in to scarves or knotted in to carpets can be very expensive.  I only know this, because when we were half brain dead from flying for 36 hour and had been sleep deprived for about 48 hours, we went to the Cottage Industries Kashmir Rug House in Delhi and bought one…or was it two?

The products produced from wool in the region we are in are also supposed to be of high quality, but do not have the reputation of the Kashmir products.

The old man never looked up, but just kept picking the strands of wool apart.  After about 30 minutes he moved to another blanket on the ground and began picking pees off a pile of vines that were set on the blanket.  A couple of woman and young girls arrived along with the man’s other two sons.  Tea was brewed up and everyone was enjoying themselves.  As much as I wanted the battery to charge just a little bit so I could capture this scene, my will power combined with the solar power was inadequate to generate a charge sufficient to bring the camera to life.  I staged a couple of shots for their enjoyment and then Raten and I walked back to camp.  Later Mo and I walked back to the village and gave the solar man a couple of small gifts for his young children.  We still had several toys, school items and warm clothing with us for gifts.  We selected a small stuffed teddy bear and a 4” high plastic smiley face ice hockey player for the kids.  Their gratitude was either a display of their usual good manners, or they were truly thrilled with the gifts.  Zambonis are scarce in rural India, so it was questionable that they knew what the guy with the hockey stick actually represented.  Unlike football players in America, it is unlikely that the hockey player will have a chance of becoming a god in India.

 

I am now sitting in my Therma-rest chair talking to Ramesh.  Ramesh is a local kid who found my writing in a journal fascinating.  I told him I would write a story about him, so here it is. Translated via Raten.

Ramesh is a grade 5 student and is 13 year old.  He has two sisters and two brothers.  Ramesh likes cricket.  He likes to run.

I read this back to Ramesh and he seemed quite pleased.  He continued to sit next to me as I started reading a suspense novel I had brought along, “Speaking In Tongues”.  He really enjoyed me reading out loud even though he didn’t understand a word of it.  I read a passage involving the father telling his daughter that he really wasn’t her father because her mother had had a an affair with the husband of her dying sister.  Then the brother had committed suicide…. Etc., etc..  Ramesh was completely absorbed by this, periodically nodding his head in understanding and smiling at all the wrong places.

 

10/16/04: 1837  Evening in camp at Jhenjhipani

Just before sunset I went on an exploratory walk from camp.  About a half mile down the trail I saw off to my right on the uphill side of the trail what I though was a house.  When I got closer I realized it was a house sized boulder with ferns growing off a ledge about eight feet off the ground.  This line of growth created the impression of a Hansel and Gretel type roof.  Just past the boulder I discovered a small trail leading up the hill.  As I rounded the back of the boulder, it was obvious that this chunk of rock, as well as several others, had calved themselves off of a cliff further up the hill some time in the ancient past.  This geologic event had help create an absolutely enchanted community of fern covered boulders.

I wandered further up the trail and came to a small Hindu shrine.  I was staring at the shrine when I noticed out my periphery that branches in a near by tree were suddenly moving with out the assistance of a breeze.  When I shifted my attention to the tree and its surroundings I became aware of troupes, possibly a 100 or more, languor monkeys leaping from branch to branch and tree to tree.  In addition there were numerous monkeys on the ground scurrying about.  I know languor monkeys are vegetarian, but just for a moment I had some Michael Creighton vision of previously harmless animals being altered by some mutation that had turned them in to an organized pack of hunting carnivores.  In spite of this pleasant fantasy, I stayed and observed their acrobatics until the woods were getting dark enough that a retreat back to camp seemed wise.

 

10/17/04: 1216  Jhenjhipani to Pana

                        Today              Total

Ascent              3,040               24,943

Descent            1,110               23,853

 

We left camp at Jhenjhipani about 8 AM and headed down in to the valley where the Barandi Ganges River runs.  We crossed the river on a suspension bridge about 400 ft above the river.

 

 

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