The Human Landscape

Thursday, December 8, 2011

One Night One Day Trek near Bangalore 3-4th Dec

Post-trek Write-up by Bhavana

I wish I could write about the moonlit boulders on that mountain that night and how they seemed as if Paul Gauguin had spent years sculpting the mountainside—the smoothness of the edges, the curves evoking complex primitive moods all at the same. I wish I could write about the gentle morning mist and how they lifted like a beautiful bride lifting her veil or about how the sun looked like the moon that foggy morning. I wish I could write about the excitement of seeing water, even if it looked soapy—of how trekkers rushed to dip hand and feet and some sipped. I wish I could write about that delicate jasmine flower near the waterfall, so utterly alien to its surroundings and yet proudly fragrant or about that beautiful yellow wildflower, arrogant and vibrant in that mountain corner. I wish I could narrate how the heaven romanced earth before me. And I wish I could describe how in the silhouette of the brilliant cooking fire, the CTC team visually returned ancient memories to the shoulders of Kaurav Kunda.

I wish I could quote some exquisite verses from Wordsworth or Byron or maybe a Kannada poet. But I cannot. All that perches on my typing fingers is a verse from Yeats:
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”

For me, a CTC trek is never about the mountains and wildflowers and bugs and beasts—the trek first and foremost is an intense inner journey through the valley of fears and anxieties. I do not know if the moon looked beautiful that night at Kaurav Kunda or how the landscape looked as we walked across her. If you took me back to the same spot and called her Pandav Kunda, I will not correct you for I remember nothing.

Nothing more than the footfall of the guy in front of me and his footwear and the voice of the guy back of me and if he was an expert trekker. Nothing more than the tall grass on my way, or that shrub that I held on to as I climbed, or that thorny bush that I never could avoid effectively. I can describe the stones on my path—their texture, their colours and when they almost betrayed me. I can describe the limestone edges—how narrow they were and how I was amazed that I could actually climb over them. I can describe the field edges when we crossed them or the unending little boulders when we climbed down or all the little stepping stones on the stream. I can describe my excitement at seeing gently moist soil indicating water was nearby or the changing smell of the landscape.

For me the trek is a very different experience. It is breaking through years of self-belief that I can never climb and that I would most surely fall, if I tried. So more than the natural landscape I see human landscape. And this I can describe more vividly. I note the moment when Claudy taught me how to cross a boulder gap or when Ritesh taught how to shymie up a smooth partially-vertical boulder. Or when I got trek gear advice from Arun or helpful tips from Vijay. For I have to retrain this human body to doing something more than walk and sit.

So I watched in amazement as the mountain goats in the team effortlessly swung from boulder to boulder, rapelling down (no ropes of course), slithering up, reaching edges that I can 
only dream of—Sunny often seems to fly and land like the characters you see in Matrix and Santhosh seems to an Indian version of Tarzan. Agasthian does not seem to get tired. 
Look at the girl Keertana—dear Mother, what a bundle of energy she is! I watch and watch as the human landscape spreads itself--like an infant eager to walk in a world full of walking people! Yeah, I want to be like them!

And like an infant who gets extremely frustrated when she falls, I too suffer when I fail. It is at these moments, the gentleness and sweetness of others goads you on. It amazes me that a rugged mountaineer-crazy and wild in so many ways like Ramjan should be able to show such care and concern for individual trekkers. “How are you doing?” A simple question that lifts my spirits up. Or Ritesh’s vibrant—“you  can easily do it.” Or when Claudy says, “do you have the right shoes on?” or when Arun stands and quietly and firmly guides you on.

So the trek ceases to be a commune with nature, an exploration of a stream in Kaurav Kunda and instead becomes a community and an exploration of stream of friendship through human hearts—of the Pandav in all of us—of learning and of growing.

And even without knowing, without even trying, the natural landscape implants in your psyche— the setting sun between the mountains, the red soil on that road, the grape vines in that farm,  the sound of water, the red ants that bit, the trail all the way back to the foggy morning, all the way into the shivering night, to the moonlit mountain side, to the night lights of the village, to the open ground where we shared food, to that endless road and the sudden levee, to that bus stand at Chikkabbalapur, to the bus that we almost missed, to the trek that I almost missed...........all the way to this moment, staring at my scars—I breathe and say: “Glad I went.”

Gratitude to the entire CTC team—the leaders, the sweepers, the middlemen, the quiet, the energetic, the sunny, the boisterous, the photographers and the friends. Thank you!



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