Thursday, March 13, 2003

Sometimes the only way to get over homesickness is to embrace it in all it's glory. I realized this the other day, when I decided that the Great Adventure angle I had been pursuing for this trip just wasn't working out. I mean, really, it's one thing to head off for the Himalayas with a raft of sponsorship cash and set about a 180-degree survey of the Nanda Devi sanctuary, and it's quite another to scrape together plane fare and a few hundred bucks in savings and plunk yourself down in some backwater and wait for enlightenment to strike. It won't -- and sometimes that can be a come down, especially if you have even just a few expectations about what the world owes you.

Fortunately, if you drop the "Great" from your adventure, and remember that even a storytelling fella like me is really bound to live on a simple, basic human scale, it's easy enough to get grounded again. So that's what I'm aiming for. Which is not to say that I am not going to keep chasing adventure. I am single-handedly inspiring a generation of Indian mountain bikers up and down the Kali River Gorge simply by taking my afternoon exercise. And I am planning on heading out to look for tigers and more wild elephants in the next few days. Hopefully, I will also have a chance to tackle some holy whitewater -- rafting the Ganges, anyone -- and am thinking that at the least I'll make tracks up 2-3 of the major Kumaon trekking routes before the spring is out.

Despite these promising plans, being back in Dharchula has not really been all that easy. The town really is pretty shifty, with plenty of short-term interests, including the local dam contractors, road-builders and a host of military installations heightening the all but overwhelming sense that the flux of this particular place -- at the meeting point between the Tibetan plateau and the great Nepali ranges -- poses so many threats to the natural world, and a whole way of life, that it's almost beyond articulation. Ultimately, it's tough to think as the mountains where we currently find ourselves as much of a backdrop to the adrenaline sports that have been my lifeline for so long.

It's a perspective I'm sure I'll continue to wrestle with....

These are just some thoughts I've been having as I get ready to mount my next set of conquests, of course; it is tough to see such desperation so up close and personal for so many weeks and days without being touched by it. It makes fodder for other stories, but not the ones I had planned on telling. As I writer, I've been trying to develop my sensitivity to these differences -- and I hope that you, my readers, will abide some of this meandering of the mind while I sort this out.