I awaken to the cacophony of birds and to patterns of stained glass light on my face, my bedding wooden pews and the stones of this old Himalayan chapel, now converted to a dormitory for campers and backpackers. My companions, total strangers until last night, are already up and getting ready to leave. The hint of coffee on the bracing mountain air jolts me out of my sleeping bag, into my hiking boots. I roll up the bed tightly, rinse my mouth and face at the water pump, fill the water bottle . . . then gratefully take a roll of hard bread and the scalding sweet black coffee in the enamel mug.
The others are silent, no conversation as they busy themselves with last minute chores, and cleaning up the chapel before they leave.
I sit on a stump to drink coffee and eat my roll watching the light within mix with motes of dust dancing through the firs and spruces, for a moment I see a crinolined lady coming up the path and when I look again it is just the local washerman with a bundle of clothes. The fire doused, billycan cleaned and backpacks saddled on we are ready to move towards the next climb.
We are accompanied for a little by the sheep of the Gaddi and the tinkle of sheep bells.
the potters wheel
spinning dusk into
Note: The Gaddi are a tribe living mainly in the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.