Don helped me get integrated into the group in Kullu. But it didn’t take long before he was ready to let me go explore (2 days really) with other members… Turns out im kinda social.
The first person he set me up with was a guy named Bert. He is a doctor who works 3 months of the year, he was a member of doctors without borders and he really is a genius, and a humble one at that.
I met him just as he was coming down from being sick for three week. He wanted to do a little hike as he didnt want to push himself too hard.
We took off after lunch (2pm), and he took me on my first bus ride in India. The bus was crammed with people. Every time it stopped i though there was no way anyone else was getting on the bus… I was wrong, and i ended up almost sitting on another person, who paid me no mind.
After a few kilometers, i was more then ready to get off the bus. To dismount, was somehow smooth and quick despite me having one foot on a tiny ledge, on foot over a hand railing and an unknown about of bodies pushed up on me. I grabbed the frame of the door, pulled myself out towards it like i was doing a pullup, and slid out the door. The pusher (man who opens the bus door, pushes people into the bus, and collects the fee) looked at me, gave me a smile, wink and a nod then whistled at the driver to continue driving as he jumped onto the side of the bus.
We crossed a rickety bridge that seemed like it had seen better days, and i could feel it bending under our weight. I mentioned the structural integrity of the bridge in a jokingly manner, and Bert sent a joke my way about how cars use the bridge. Har Har. Turns out he wasn’t joking..
Luckily i didn’t notice the vehicle crossing the bridge until i was at a safe point, as im not sure i would have ventured across the bridge with oncoming traffic that seemed to take up the whole bridge (people stand on the sidewalk and let the car scrape by…. dont see the side walk? its that inch and a half wide metal support).
As we traveled up the side of the mountain, I figured the “Ive been sick for three weeks” could not have been true, the guy seemed to float up the side of the mountain. He has this magical way of walking up a mountain while holding a conversation without taking a breath.
As we got further up the mountain and i had him stop a few times for pictures or water breaks (out of breath? Me?? no never. Ijustneed… totake.. picture). As we passed a mountain man he invited us over for tea. He really wanted us to drop by, but Bert explained that we couldnt (i had no idea what was going on). I pointed to my phone and to him and he nodded. Bert snapped a few shots of us together. Bert explained to me that he invited us for Chi, but refused. He told me that if you ever accept you get stuck drinking tea and eating everything they offer until its dark. Besides he said, its more of a a sense of offering rather then an actual invitation. Its better to say “Thank you so much, absolutely next time! Thank you, thank you”.
Im not sure Bert knew what he was doing, but he taught me to say “I pray to god and to you” in Hindi.. As i walked, I shouted NAW MAS-STAY!! To everyone. I made quite a lot of friends that day and got even more smiles and return prayers.
In the end we walked further then was planned, and i had a great time. What a guy this Bert was. Oh so it turns out, he was sick for three weeks and his pace with me was slower. I was introduced to the extreme hiker Alan who is very competitive, trains for the ski season (He gets helicoptered to glaciers, his house in the west is on blackcomb, and his house in india is half way up the mountain) by hiking up mountains at speed waling pace. When i explained to him that i went for a hike with Bert he said. “That guy?! He’s inhuman.”. Story goes, at the last few km of the hike, Alan was speed walking, when Bert decided to run passed Alan and continue running up the side of the mountain and the rest of the way home.
I experienced a little of Bert’s magic 2 days ago…. but ill leave that post for another day.