“As I pass by a nearby house, camera in hand, a woman still holding the cord that held a grass bundle moments before comes up to me and points at my camera, then at herself. Two of her friends laugh and move away, seemingly self-conscious, but I smile and gesture for them to all stand before the stone wall and snap their picture, three weathered faces staring straight down my lens. A young girl wanders nearby, grass-cutting scythe held over her shoulder, seeming lost in thought. “ “We’re gawked at as we walk through the village, decidedly a strange sight. We weave through the small cluster of houses, dodging cows and mounds of manure, and then traverse the mountain slope on a dirt track until we arrive at the next cluster. I pause for a moment to watch a blacksmith hammering away at what seems to be a tool of some kind. A shaft of sunlight illuminates him as he works, each blow producing a metallic clang that rings out across the valley.” “The houses here all seem to look unique, bearing differing colours, wall textures and structures. It really feels as though I am peeking into a different time altogether, and the villagers certainly look at me in a way that confirms my strangeness to this place, though not with harshness or malice. It is just blatant curiosity, and in my time in India I’ve noticed it isn’t considered rude to stare. I smile at a baby peeking out of a doorway. Pass an old lady sifting through golden grain on a rooftop, a bright sun spread before her, bearing patterned furrows from her deft fingers. A woman knits in the sun on her roof.”
“More mountains. More bends. More near-death almost-collisions. God knows how long we’ve been in the car already… It’s mountains all around us, the slopes of which look like giant green staircases from a distance due to the extensive terracing that’s been carried out over god knows how many years. Little rivers line the valleys, and these oddly shaped dried grass heaps decorate the countryside like chubby spindles, some of them up in trees or even randomly distributed on house rooftops. I assume it’s fodder being gathered and stored for the winter months.” “The villages we pass become more and more remote until we finally arrive at a road we simply cannot pass in the jeep. Half of the rock face has crumbled away and there’s no way we can safely go any further. From here, we walk. Other than an old bulldozer clearly attempting to do something about the road, there’s no real sign of civilisation nearby… just the odd dilapidated stone or wooden house in the distance. The path is rocky and at some points treacherous, little more than cattle tracks on the mountainside, and winds up and around, displaying more of the landscape around every hill. ” “We arrive at a first cluster of brightly coloured stone houses and pass right through, the villagers staring at us unabashedly, completely stunned. I start to wonder whether any white-skinned foreigners have ever ventured here before in their lifetimes. Hunched-over women trudge by us, slumped under enormous mounds of dried grass that they stern-facedly transport up the mountain, beads of sweat dripping from their dirt-stained faces. A little boy herds two cows from one terrace to the next, pulling at their tails and tapping their legs absent-mindedly with a stick. We overtake an old man wearing dress pants and an ancient-looking vest, wheezing heavily as he climbs. Two more villages come and go and I feel more and more far from home.” “The surrounding homes are mostly made from stones stacked carefully on top of each other, held together (it would seem) by cement, with old wooden door frames and roofs made from corrugated iron, wood or stone. A few of the rooftops are covered in the same fodder mounds, which we’ve already seen the women transporting up from the valley terraces. The air smells like cow manure and wood-fire smoke, as water is heated for our tea in the small kitchen area. “Show More..