Monday, June 27, 2005

Over the high passes

Overlooking Dharmsala and the Kangra valley in Himachal Pradesh lies Dharamkot (7,200ft/2,195m), home to the butterworths whose family have lived in India for many generations. The area is renowned for wildlife. In recent years a leopard killed the butterworths' chickens! But besides leopards, there exist black bears, porcupine, various types of deer and mountain goats, langur and rhesus monkeys, jackals, pine marten. The bird life is fantastic, ranging from a host of brightly-coloured small species to parrots, griffon vultures, lamagier, eagles and different types of forest pheasant. Home to the Gaddi people who live a semi-nomadic lifestyle, the village walk takes us through the valleys that lie between the Dhaula Dhar range of mountains and the Kangra valley. It is an enchanting region of heavily wooded glades of pine, oak and rhododendron trees, green meadows and shrines dedicated to the Goddess Durga.
Over the high passes - Christina Noble
Grabbed a copy at the BCL and started reading on Saturday. Christina Noble spent a year in the Indian Himalaya and the plains of Punjab, with the nomadic Gaddi people and their flocks, following them and living with them as they moved from the plains into the Himalaya to their high pastures. Exhilarating and refreshingly optimistic, her narrative tells of the people with whom she lived and came to know, and of their adventures together among some of the roughest mountain terrain in the world. Well written, this book helps us understand that other ways of life are as good as our own, and that the adventures we seek are just the stuff of daily life for many people in the world.
The Gaddi shepherds migrate annually with their small flocks of sheep and goats in search of grazing areas, a search that will entail covering mountainous terrain and crossing high passes for six months of the year. A proud and hospitable people, the Gaddi shepherds are superstitious and devout worshippers of the Goddess Durga, whose name they invoke for protection against evil spirits and to ensure a safe journey over mountain passes.
This is a very pretty walk in an unspoilt part of the Himalaya. You are unlikely to see foreigners. The village children do not beg and locals generally love having their photo taken. The spring walk enjoys a wealth of rhododendron: the locals collect the petals to make jam.

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