A HIMALAYAN JOURNEY

By: Osman Bakhiet

This is arguably what most Sudanese people perceive of India; this marvelous piece of architecture is surely a world wonder backed by a beautiful story. I was, and still am, the kind of person looking for thrill and adventure wherever my travels take me. Consequently, visiting Taj Mahal was not my top priority. In fact, my first visit to the Taj was during my fourth month in India. The coming photographs exhibit what I consider India’s most thrilling natural wonders, captured during several trips.

Amidst pristine snow-capped mountains and lush greenery, lie the mesmerizing Indian Himalayas. Feeling the grandeur of Allah’s perfection in creation, one can only utter the words; subhan Allah, glory be to Allah. I remember that day, when I unintentionally ignored trekking back down before sunset. It got dark quickly, and a bit of moonlight was the blessing that kept me steady. To make things worse, while descending I felt uneasy due to an episode of food poisoning the day before. While progressing at a slower pace, I swore not to attempt a two-day trek in one day ever again. I finally made it back to town at 10:30pm and called it a night with some medicines.  An adventure I would never forget.

This charming hill-station surrounded by pine trees and flattering scenery served as my favorite getaway station from the hustle and bustle of New-Delhi. The hill-station enjoys a cool climate that is both refreshing and rejuvenating, and the panoramic views of the Dhauladhar mountain range never fail to captivate. The town exhibits a cultural mosaic of Indians, exiled Tibetans and tourists amidst British colonial influenced architecture. McLeod Ganj has been the hub from where most of my adventures stemmed.

After pleasant moments of peace, my friends and I were on our way back to town, when the group of four split into two. With no network coverage in the area, I lost track of the others. Being the only one with previous experience in the area; I couldn’t help worrying about the others making it safely downhill and following the right route back to town. My only comfort came from trusting in Allah and the support of a friend. When we finally finished our climb back down, there they were, in our hotel room back in town.

Situated at a conflict zone bordering China and Pakistan, Kashmir and Ladakh were not the easiest places to plan a trip to. Traveling by Jeep on the Srinagar-Leh Highway was a breath-taking experience, yet exhausting and quite dangerous. These majestic and extremely high mountains block the monsoon rains from crossing beyond, hence marking the end of lush green alpine forests.

The landscape changes dramatically after crossing Zoji La, a high mountain pass on the Srinagar-Leh Highway. Little rain travels beyond, and the Himalayas are reincarnated into unique splendor that justify the majesty of its creation, and the Creator.

Passing through treacherous roads and mountains that have stood the test of time and erosion while still maintaining their beauty through naturally carved rock formations, I came across a settlement that is popularly described as the second coldest permanently inhabited place on earth after Siberia.

There and then, I witnessed Allah’s description of mountains of varying colors in the Quran.

Do you not see that Allah sends down rain from the sky, and We produce thereby fruits of varying colors? And in the mountains are tracts, white and red of varying shades and [some] extremely black. 35:27 أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ أَنْزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجْنَا بِهِ ثَمَرَاتٍ مُخْتَلِفًا أَلْوَانُهَا ۚ وَمِنَ الْجِبَالِ جُدَدٌ بِيضٌ وَحُمْرٌ مُخْتَلِفٌ أَلْوَانُهَا وَغَرَابِيبُ سُودٌ

The Indus River flows through this barren landscape cocooned in mountains and adds a thick brush of vibrant turquoise paint. Despite having to pass through several military checkpoints on the road to Leh and register my details as a foreigner every single time, the picture-perfect views prevailed over the hassle of the journey.

Welcomed by a dazzling contrast of warm autumn colors and snow-capped peaks, I ended a two-day trekking road trip crossing several mountain passes by Jeep from Srinagar to Leh. This high-altitude valley offered unmatched scenic landscapes accompanied by the warmth of the Ladakhi people.

It was early autumn, but a sudden snowfall kissed these flowers with winter love signaling its time. My hands almost froze and I could barely move them while I was trekking uphill, not even gloves helped at this altitude. I was relieved when I found some lit candles surrounded by monks next to an old palace.

It was as if we traveled back in time. This is the middle of an old trade route connecting parts of China to Central Asia passing through the world’s highest mountain range. Houses are still being built using stone, timber, and mud. The Ladakhi sustainable lifestyle continues until now, with substantial prevalence in architecture and farming.

I was dominated by the desire to experience winter trekking. The slippery snow-covered route was risky; consequently, we periodically used our hands to attain stability. A few minutes before reaching the camp, I lost track of my friends, again. They had grown afraid of the snowy trail and decided to take a dangerous, steep but snowless route. Finding them stuck on a cliff, I had to call for help from the camp to get them rescued. We spent the night in a shack and hired a guide to help us trek downhill. After careful consideration, I decided to skip sliding down, lest I slid off-course and fell off the cliff.