Walking the Himalayas PDF Book by Levison Wood


Click here to Download Walking the Himalayas PDF Book by Levison Wood English having PDF Size 17 MB and No of Pages 286.

Without warning, a man burst into the internet café, pulling down the shutters behind him and plunging us into near darkness. He was desperately out of breath and shouting something in Nepali. As my eyes became accustomed to the dingy light, I made out the anxious face of the skinny white teenager who’d been sitting next to me.

Walking the Himalayas PDF Book by Levison Wood

Name of Book Walking the Himalayas
Author Levison Wood
PDF Size 17 MB
No of Pages 286
Language  English
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Clearly just out of school and on his first solo trip abroad, his loneliness all too apparent, he was now trembling. The screens of the twelve ancient computers, the only gateway to the outside world, flashed and the roar of computer fans filled the room. Dust sparkled in the sliver of light that crept in through a high window.

Outside it was eerily quiet. The man forced a smile and walked a little closer to the weather-worn woman who ran the café. She and her baby were both shrouded in the faded, thinning silk of her sari. All eyes were on him, as he stood there sweating in his white string vest and an old pair of grey suit trousers.

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‘Army, police, they coming now. Shooting, killing. You need to leave, now, go.’ I looked across at the boy next to me. He hesitated nervously, wanting to move but paralysed by fear. I got up, but the man gestured in the direction of the door. ‘Wait. Stop, too late. Not now.’ As he spoke, there was the unmistakable rattle of gunfire somewhere in the street outside.

It sounded close, but it was impossible to tell, as the din of a hundred shouts grew nearer. I had no idea if it was the police or the army, or just another angry mob. ‘Riots,’ whispered the man. ‘Stay here for now, too dangerous outside.’ I tiptoed towards the front window and peered through a crack in the shutter. The noise outside was deafening.

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I couldn’t see much in the blinding sunlight, except people shuffling past. Some were running and some waving big red flags. ‘Who are they?’ I asked the man, who was busy attempting to reassure the nervous mother. The child remained fast asleep. ‘Protestors. They no like government. Maoists.’ I’d heard about the Maoists when I arrived in Nepal just a week earlier.

There was already a curfew in the streets after nine o’clock in the evening, but most people in Kathmandu seemed to pay lip service to it, particularly in the backpacker enclave of Thamel. I certainly had, walking alone through labyrinthine alleyways back from a boozy tavern in all my teenage irresponsibility.

The newspapers were full of warnings about these communist insurgents, but until now they’d been confined to the countryside and mountains. In more recent months, the Maoists had spread to the towns and cities, causing mayhem. The government had cracked down and violence was on the rise, but I was not prepared for this–a fullblown riot outside my shabby hotel. Walking the Himalayas PDF Book

This was turning out to be a rather unusual gap year. A civil war had been raging in the hills of Nepal for six long years and hundreds of people had been killed. In the months before my visit, dozens of policemen, soldiers and government officials had been hacked to death by angry mobs and many more had been victims of improvised bombs hidden in cars and haybales.

Over three hundred Maoist insurgents had also been gunned down. Some had been executed without trial by the security forces in revenge for the chaos. Since 1996, the Maoists, or members of the United People’s Front of Nepal, had taken up arms in protest at having been excluded from the political process.

They launched a ‘people’s war’, fighting against the government and monarchy, employing communist guerrilla tactics of torture, assassination, bombing and extortion in an attempt to gain power. By 2001, the insurgents numbered in their thousands and were active in fifty of the seventy-five states of Nepal. Walking the Himalayas PDF Book

At the time though, I was blissfully unaware of the political situation; I was just there to enjoy the Himalayas. ‘Oh, I almost forgot, this is your man,’ said Martin, as he barged a customs official out of the way. Meekly trailing behind Martin was a small, thin man with an ageless face. He was old, I thought, or at least much older than me, but I couldn’t be certain.

Weathered, with deep-set creases around his eyes that betrayed a lifetime of laughter and smiles, I liked him at once. ‘Malang?’ I asked. As with Martin, I’d only ever had phone communication with this diminutive Afghan and had no idea what to expect. I’d spoken to him once after a friend had said that he’d make an excellent guide.

I knew that he was a Wakhi tribesman, a shepherd from the mountains of the north and had been selected as a porter for a mountaineering expedition a few years before. He had impressed the Italian climbers so much by his indifference to hardship, that they had insisted he join them on the next trip to the summit of Mount Noshaq. Walking the Himalayas PDF Book

The successful expedition, summiting Afghanistan’s highest peak, made him the first Afghan in history to accomplish the feat. Since then he’d become a famous man in his country, appearing on the news and even being flown by his European mentors to the French Alps to receive formal training.

For a man who, until the age of twenty-nine had never left the sight of his own flock of sheep, this could all have been a touch overwhelming, but my first impressions of Malang suggested that he took everything in his stride. ‘Salaam Alaikum,’ he said formally, with an iron handshake.

It turned out he wasn’t meek at all, just respectful. He was wearing a salwar kameez, the long robe-like shirt with a woollen waistcoat over the top, and a black and white checked scarf wrapped loosely around his neck. His hair was fiercely black and receding slightly, but under the beads of sweat that were forming on his domed forehead, glowed the most piercing set of silver eyes I’d ever seen. Walking the Himalayas PDF Book

At first glance I sensed intelligence and humour, and an indefinable madness. I knew right then that he would make the perfect walking companion. ‘The car’s this way,’ said Martin, as he led us through a maze of bomb- proof concrete chicanes, security barriers and checkpoints. The heat was phenomenal and within seconds I was drenched in sweat, my khaki shirt clinging to my body like a wet rag.

Now I remembered why the Afghans wore their jackets and coats. Dressing down was futile. You may as well cover up and at least look respectable. Malang helped steer the laden trolley between bollards and down illplaced kerbs as we entered a car park that was packed with every kind of vehicle. We passed row upon row of swanky white Toyota Land Cruisers.

Some were unmarked and others were plastered with the logos of their respective aid agencies: United Nations, Save the Children, Halo Trust. Some had national flags emblazoned on the bonnet or rear doors. Norwegian, Danish, Romanian, Canadian, British. Sand-coloured American Humvees dominated the space with their colossal chassis and aggressive forms. Walking the Himalayas PDF Book Download

We came to a halt near the exit of the car park, where a tall white pole displayed a flaccid Afghan flag. There was no wind today, just a still and powerful heat. Everything seemed scorched in the unrelenting sun, which, even though it was barely breakfast time, was high and punishing.

Two hundred kilometres to the south lay the infamous ‘line of control’ separating Pakistan from Indian-controlled Kashmir. The border has been officially closed since 1947, so I only had one option–to try and reach one of the passes and see if it was possible to enter ‘semi-officially’. If not, I would be forced to make a thousand-mile detour, all the way to Lahore and the Punjab.

I decided it was a risk worth taking. The Punjab used to extend the whole way across the scorching, verdant plains to the south of the Himalayan foothills of Kashmir. The ruling British officers could gallop freely across and nomads, villagers and pilgrims could walk from the banks of the Indus down to Delhi if they chose. Walking the Himalayas PDF Book Download

But by the early twentieth century, dissent was brewing: the Indian independence movement was calling for an overthrow of the British Raj government. Encouraged by the great strategist of nationalist sensibilities, Gandhi, and after years of rioting and mutinies, the campaign had gathered enough momentum to be offered dominion status by the British.

On 15 August 1947, Lord Mountbatten, Viceroy of India, relinquished the region from the control of the British Empire, but not before drawing a line on a map to create India and Pakistan. This partition did bear existing religious populations in mind–a Hindu majority in India, and a Muslim majority in what was now Pakistan–but creating two nations out of what had formerly been 650 princely.

States was an impossible task. Partition divided families, tribes, villages and fields. Both sides were soon overrun with refugees, desperately fleeing across the border in the hope of religious majority; an estimated fourteen million people were displaced in the largest human exodus in history. With its location, north of the Punjabi plains, Kashmir was now in a critical position. Walking the Himalayas PDF Book Download

The Maharaja–a Hindu whose subjects were chiefly Muslim–voted to remain independent of both Pakistan and India. His attempts at neutrality were soon scuppered though, when Pakistan sent fanatical tribesmen to invade the capital, Srinagar, to reclaim what they regarded as their own.

The terrified Maharaja fled to Delhi, where he appealed for military support and signed away the state to Indian control. During the war that followed in 1948, the Pakistanis seized back land. A heavily militarised line of control was established, wherein the Indians held approximately 65 per cent of the land, and the Pakistanis the rest.

The barbed wire that went up, guarded by countless AK-47-wielding soldiers, has forcibly segregated the two sides ever since. In 1965 war broke out again. Tank battles raged and aircraft took to the skies. As bombs rained down on both sides of the valley, whole tribes were forced to escape their homes and hide out in caves, the only place where they could be safe from the sky falling in. Walking the Himalayas PDF Book Free

War came and went and came again. In the summer of 1998, heavy artillery fire broke out across the line of control, with huge numbers of civilians caught in the crossfire; the death toll was an estimated 30,000. Both nations were atomic powers and there was talk of a nuclear war. Luckily it never came but the fighting raged on until the snow fell.

The following spring, after the annual winter ceasefire, the Indian army returned to their territory in Kargil to find that numerous outposts had been infiltrated and occupied. The Pakistanis blamed it on rebel ‘freedom fighters’, and so the hostilities escalated and yet again, missiles were fired on the mountains below.

‘I ate an arm, a human one, ten years ago. It tastes like salty chicken.’ She laughed. I glanced at Binod. The Aghori are condemned by most Hindus for their unsavoury practices and I could tell he was uncertain about being here. I think he must have regretted offering to show me the ghats. ‘Come tomorrow night,’ she said. Walking the Himalayas PDF Book Free

‘He will return. Bring whisky.’ At that we left. All the next day, as we finished our preparations for the next phase of the journey I couldn’t help but think of the cannibal. Out of sheer curiosity I wanted to go back. ‘Let’s not bother,’ Binod said, eager to avoid the place. But I felt compelled. After meeting all sorts of monks and princes, I didn’t see what harm one more could do.

We returned the following evening, just as the sun was setting, to find the little stretch along the Ganges deserted. The shack looked empty and Binod and I put our heads inside. ‘Hello?’ I shouted, even though it was obvious nobody was inside. But I noticed the ashes of a fire were still smouldering. Someone was around.

‘Namaste.’ I looked around to see the monk standing there. He was a fat man in his early forties wearing a dark-maroon toga. His skin was almost black and he looked more African than Indian, especially with the nest of matted dreadlocks that was twisted up in a bun around his skull. On his forehead was painted a bright red tikka. Walking the Himalayas PDF Book Free

He grinned and walked past us and sat down by the fire. Out of a pouch he handled some powder and threw it into the embers causing flames to magically roar up. With a stick he prodded the fire. ‘What do you want?’ he said in Hindi. Binod translated nervously. I sat on a filthy rug opposite him, the flames lapping my bare feet.

I handed him the whisky we’d brought for the occasion, which he took without a word and pocketed. What I really wanted to ask him was what on earth possessed him to eat dead bodies. But I thought it more prudent to see what advice he could offer about my walk and how it might compare to that of the other holy men I’d encountered. ‘I am on a journey. I am walking the Himalayas and have reached the halfway point. Do you have any advice?’