Today is a big day for our group. Under the cover of high clouds and cool temperatures, we’re heading out into the wilderness. Many of us have been looking forward to this day for the entire trip, as it really is a unique opportunity to experience a pristine Himalayan jungle. Even for those who haven’t been excitedly counting down the days, this portion of our grand adventure will stand out.
The wilderness of the Assi Ganga valley is pristine – raw, natural, lush, and full of so much life that it feels, as Reed Grim put it, like another planet altogether. But it is also uniquely connected to the people of this region. Our guides from Agora know it like the back of their hands because they spent much of their childhoods exploring it. The Gujjars, nomadic water buffalo and cattle herders, know it as their summertime refuge from the heat of the plains. And some of us in this group know it for the access it provides to world-class fishing and awesome animal sighting potential. It’s a place you enter to feel alive in a animalistic sense but also where there is comfort in knowing that thousands of humans have navigated it before you.
We’re going to hike today today to one of the 16 Gujjar settlements in the valley, where we will set up a base for two nights of learning about the Gujjar lifestyle, exploring the steep valley, and testing the waters to see if the trout have returned. The Gujjars will share chai and fresh milk and help us know which of the many paths to take through the jungle. We’re the first group ever to stay with the particular ones we’re visiting and they’re probably as excited as we are! It will be a really powerful way to get even the smallest taste of the lives these incredible humans live traveling from place to place with their animals, using traditions and incredible skills to evade tigers, leopards, bears, and other obstacles.
We’ll return to Agora on the afternoon of the 17th and send updates of pictures and stories then. We might even be able to send quick updates from the jungle, as 4G internet continues to penetrate deeper and deeper. But if you don’t hear from us until then, don’t fret. We’re going to be well taken care of.