Monday, May 19, 2008

If you ain't got no money get your broke ass home

That was close... down to Rs. 600 in cash and unable to find a bank machine that would take our debit cards. I thought I was going to have to pack my shit up and drop my last rupees on a bus to Delhi and go home.

But no. We found a money-changer. No problems, no heartbreak.

This would have been an especially terrible time to run out of money. There's only 1 day left in my Dharamsala countdown! Tomorrow night is my hideous 14-hour bus ride from Dehra Dun. It takes a hell of a place to deserve a 14-hour bus ride on a North Indian government bus, but I think Dharamsala might be that kind of place.

My mom points out via email that I haven't updated in a while. I thought I mentioned that I was headed for a week to Gangotri to do a trek to the source of the Ganges at the Gaumukh glacier. Apparently I didn't.

Well, that's where I was, and it was even cooler than it sounds. I'm taking my sweet time this afternoon uploading some photos, so those of you with facebook can check it out. I'll email the link home as well.

The Himalayas are really something. I'd love to give you more detail than that, but I can feel a teenager's arsenal of hyperboles creeping in. I guess I'll stick to the facts instead.

Gangotri is a small town in northern Uttaranchal which is regarded as the spiritual source of the Ganges. There's quite a temple there. It's about 12 hours from Rishikesh by bus. The physical source of the Ganges is the Gaumukh glacier, which is about 19km past Gangotri. Gangotri is surrounded on three sides by rather large snow-capped mountains from the Himalayan range, featuring Shivling Peak and Bhagirath I and III (all around 6500m). We did a 3-day trek to Gaumukh, resting at the end of days 1 and 2 in the hamlet of Bhojbasa, which is really just a guesthouse and an ashram in the bottom of a valley. We stayed in the ashram. You meet interesting people in those. The kind of interesting that you put in scare quotes.... 'interesting.'

The glacier itself is retreating, now, hundreds of metres per year. As you walk along the trail out to it from Bhojbasa, you pass rocks where people have marked "Gaumukh, 1935," "Gaumukh, 1966," and it's really shocking. When the town of Gangotri was founded (meaning within the last 3500 years), the glacier reached its edge. That means 19km of retreat in 3500 years. In geological time, 3500 years is a heartbeat. That's a mind-blowing amount of change. Additionally: if the markers are accurate, it seems that the vast majority of that retreat has happened in the last 150-200 years. Hrm, what happened 150-200 years ago?

Shameful, and painful. As we sat in the snout of the glacier, we could hear the ice cracking deep in its heart, ripping out through the crevices. Periodically, slides of ice and rock crashed down the side of the ice face. Really surreal.

Anyway. Some difficult travel later, we're back in Rishikesh, and having a recovery day before leaving for Dharamsala.

Up next: Dharamsala blogging!

Free Tibet indeed.

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