MOON Circles (kendama)

 Superb Moon circle variations in Sanapur during hot season, global and national lockdown. 

Moon juggles

The last Hippy of "Hippy Island"

The Last Hippy of “Hippy Island”
We were having palak and roti at Jez's cave on Hampi island and what a treat it was. The palak (spinach) such a rich dark green and ‘baba roti’ which tasted much better than a normal chapatti made with proper wholemeal flour. It was brilliant. I'd been a bit drained from climbing all morning so was hungry but now felt hugely better as the ‘baba power’ from the feast started to refuel my wasted muscles. “Full power” was all I could say in between stuffing my face on this super-meal from baba heaven.
Jez and I had known each other for 15 years. I knew him only briefly in Newcastle as we shared some of the same friends but in my first year in India I seemed to meet him everywhere. First, in Hampi, we sat around at Cosmic Cave for days on end just drinking chai and talking. Then, a few months later after a ten-day trek through Zanskar in the high mountains of Ladakh, I got to a remote and tiny village. Who was sitting there in a chai shop eating momos? Jez, of course.
At that time, he had been over a year in India but still looked and acted like a westerner even though he confessed to me then that he was desperate to stay in the sub-continent for longer. He always struck me as a very spiritually aware person. Indian culture made allowances for him as there is such a strong tradition of acceptance of foreigners as well as wild ascetics like naga babas. He seemed so happy with his life and relieved to have made the break. India was his real life now. He already spoke in Hindi and couldn't return to his own culture and what he saw as the soulless, materialistic and mundane existence of England.
It was another couple of years before I met him again and I'd been travelling around Asia working in Singapore and Japan but not Jez. He hadn't even left the country (except Nepal) and looked more like an Indian sage than someone from Newcastle upon Tyne. He really looked and dressed like a sadhu with his long dreadlocks and holy markings and had done a superb job on one of the old Rishi caves of Rishimuk. He had completely flattened the floor and finished it with the highest quality of local cow dung, then put in a perfect doonie - a beautifully designed and very holy fireplace. A few good holy markings on the walls and some pictures of his deities and the place looked amazing. I was really jealous but for me it was not possible to keep just one cave as I needed to stay more mobile to explore and climb.
He really loved that particular cave in the shadow of the imposing Rishimuk Hill. It's a legendary mountain in Hinduism made so by Rama and Hanuman. He is the much loved monkey god of India who was actually born here. When they went to Lanka to save Sita from the Demons Rakshasa army and the fierce Ravanna, Hanuman was there to save the day. Nowadays, the story, called the Ramayana, is the most popular and loved in India. ‘Rishi’ is another name for seer, saddhu or sage, someone who has chosen a spiritual path renouncing all worldly goods. In the years that followed, Jez came back to that same cave every year. It was as though he had become the Rishi of Rishimuk. Every year I would always come to visit him a few times in that cave.

Suicide – or murder?
That day in January we were sitting in Jez's cave as usual, eating and drinking chai, but today the subject we were thinking about was our friend Robbi. He was an artist from New Zealand who liked Hampi so much that he had stayed for the last 20 years or so. With no valid passport or visa, he had never left India making just enough money from his paintings and printed t-shirts. He kept the crash pads for us and was a friend for all the climbers who came through. He always seemed fairly happy and everybody liked him. It was perfect as his house was really close to the rocks and he had an Indian wife and two kids which meant he was always there.
He was not there now though as his dead body had just been recovered from Cosmic Cave just the week before I arrived. Many stories were going around as to the cause of his death but they mostly came back to suicide by jumping from the top of the high bit of Cosmic Cave. Nobody could prove such a thing, of course, and the more people I spoke to the more it seemed that this was not the case as the body was in the wrong position and place for this to have happened. The problem was that his body had been discovered a full five days after he was last seen walking across the island. That’s a long time in Hampi heat and his body was so decomposed and eaten by termites that the people who carried it down had to have a stiff drink first to do it but still vomited, mostly due to the smell.
So what actually happened? Poison, snake bite, overdose, murder, suicide? I posed the question to Jez and he made a long ‘sssssss’ sound and shook his head slowly. It meant he didn't know either and he didn’t write anything. But in my own heart and mind I thought that he wouldn't have committed suicide. He loved his life and family too much. I was confused.
It was in that moment when Jez and I were sitting quietly feeling a bit sad when Jez picked up the small sketch book that Robbi's grieving wife had given to me. It had been empty even though I'd meant to use it for climbing maps so I'd left it with Robbi the year before but now it wasn't empty. On the first page, Robbi had done a colourful sketch of a beautiful balanced boulder we call the ‘Dali stone’ that we climb on sometimes and the words underneath…
I looked at Jez, "so if life is beautiful why choose to end it?" I said. Jez was staring at the picture for a very long time then he took the pen and turned to the next page. It was empty. He wrote these words.....
Dear Robbi, I'm still here but you have gone, to a better place where you belong.
It actually sent a shiver down my spine so I put the book away and tried to change the subject. Jez didn’t speak anymore as six years before he had taken a vow of silence as part of his meditation. It’s something a lot of people do for a 12 year period to get over the constant ‘inner dialogue’ which spoils the concentration of meditation. He didn’t mind if you spoke though and always acknowledged what you were saying. Today, as I hadn’t seen him for a while, he seemed happy with me just wittering on most of time. It was always obvious when he’d had enough and it was time to leave. I started to talk about a great area of rocks that I’d discovered in the ‘wild area’. Because of his enthusiasm and hand gestures it was obvious that Jez wanted to come with us next time as he felt like having some time away from his own cave. He didn’t climb but I was just imagining the tasty baba snacks and chai in the cave between climbing sessions. It would be great for everybody.
Jez was always happy with good vibes and could hardly get on your nerves as he didn’t speak. If he REALLY wanted to say something he would write it down which was not that often. I promised to collect him on the way to the wild area and he agreed that when I did he would be ready to go in ten minutes. Perfect! I said goodbye and wandered off across the island. I loved visiting Jez in his cave but this would be the last time.
Bandit and killer
Born in a nearby town to Hampi, Nagendra had been a trouble-maker all his life and could not return to his home town since they had tied him to a tree and taken turns beating him for six hours. It was then he started going to rob foreigners as he found it was easier and more lucrative. His classic trick was to hide behind a boulder then surprise his victim with a handful of chilli powder in the eyes then hit them on the head with a coconut knife. By that time, most tourists would just let go of their bag and away he would go. But his strength was his ability to hide and once he disappeared behind Matunga Hill nobody had a chance to get him.
The locals told me, "Nobody knows the rocks like this man." It was a daunting thought but I didn't worry too much as he always seemed to strike on the Hampi side and never crossed the Tungabadra river which is border of jurisdiction for the Bellary district police. At that time, I had a room in Jungli village away from touristy Hampi island or Hampi village and was mostly miles away in the ‘wild area’ developing bouldering areas so I wouldn't meet him anyway. More to the point, I never carried my valuables with me so there wasn’t much to steal. When they eventually caught up with him it was not in the rocks but in a town 60km away spending stolen money. He was given only three years as the witnesses had all left the country already (tourists) or were dead - an Indian woman’s body was found in one of the caves behind Matunga Hill where he used to hide. On 21st January, he was released once again but nobody knew or was warned about it.
Exploring the wild area
It was time to go, me and a friend called Squib from the Isle of Man decided to leave and go for a few days to a wild new bouldering area beyond Jungli village. We had to walk out there with a week’s worth of food but were late and disorganised with the shopping and planning. Eventually, it was after sunset when we finally got going. It was only coming through Sanapur, the last village, that I remembered Jez. Damn it! He really wanted to come and I'd never seen him so keen about anything. Too late. At that moment, it would have been a huge detour to get him so I kept quiet thinking that if I reminded him Squib would force us to go back and collect him. I was a bit stressed but kept walking into the full moon night feeling a bit guilty that we had been so forgetful in the beginning.
It was a superb few days in the rocks with both of us finding quality climbs and enjoying the perfect unspoilt area miles away from all the rice paddy, villages and tourist ghettos. There, it’s just rocks, monkeys and trees everywhere. It’s very refreshing but when you have to come back it can be hard and this time it was even harder. I was feeling amazing on the walk back with energy zipping through my body with every barefoot step, avoiding thorns and spikes with ease.
It was after Sanapur, on the way through the island, that a bad feeling hit me first. For some reason, the energy of the place felt terrible at that moment. I tried to put it down to the fact that we had been away for a while but it was even worse than normal. We rested at Vijaynagar guest house where there seemed to be a huge argument starting up between an American friend and the owner Rangaia, also a friend, about money that had gone missing. Why did we have to come back to all this? I looked at Squib and he felt the same thing, but still nobody told us any news. He collapsed in a hammock and I crossed the river in search of energising treats. I went direct to the juice shop and met Chris Sharma, Nate Gold, Katie and the super-hero American climbing film team. I wanted to ask them about quality boulders they had done or found but, before I had the chance, they told me the news. An English sadhu guy has been stabbed near Rishimuk they said. “Is it Jez?" I asked. "I think so," said Chris, "did you know that guy?" He said.
Death and reality
On the 25th, somebody or two people had followed Jez to his cave at Rishimuk. The next thing anyone knew was when, in the middle of the night, Jez managed to stagger down from his cave to the next habited place, which was Meera’s cave house(a Belgian female saddhu who had lived there for donkey’s years) with a huge wound to his neck. He was actually able to speak a few words at that moment and told Meera he’d been attacked and after a struggle had lost his baba belt with 3000 rupees (less than £50) in it. At that time, he was bleeding very heavily and in a terrible state. Meera did her best to help him and they got to Bellary hospital but he needed a good doctor and surgery really quick. They didn’t have any money with them and it had seemed like he didn’t get a proper doctor or surgery to save his life.
He died the next night.
I cringed to think that maybe he didn’t get treatment because of money but so many people had told me in the past about Bellary General Hospital. You don’t go there to get better, they said, you go there and die.
It seemed ironic and wrong that with all the tourists and so much money hanging around Hampi and the island he chose Jez who had less than anybody. That’s if it was actually him. But even though I was almost sure, other people had doubts. It was only three or four days later that it all struck me, not about Jez but about Nagendra and the future but for a very good reason.
After climbing on the island, I wandered up to Cosmic Cave at sunset where I met Peter and we were chatting especially about Jez and the whole story. He was also sad about Jez but wasn't at all worried for himself or family and seemed sure it would not happen again anyway. It was just then talking to Peter that I really felt it.... the truth of the matter. The opposite of his view. That it would indeed happen again as it has every other time Nagendra has been released as he just keeps on going until capture. He can’t stop. If Jez’s murder was not his doing then surely he'd know he would be blamed instantly if he did any other violent crimes.
I explained to Peter but he was having none of it, it was a one-off event and he was sure about it. We sat and watched the sunset before he wandered off back down so I sat alone for a while staring across the boulder fields towards Rishimuk. As always, from wherever I am, the sight of Rishimuk helps me relax but I had an uneasy feeling and sore feet from walking around the rocks barefoot.
Bent on revenge
It was when I start to wander down across the plateau, looking always up at the mountain of boulders where he stays that I got it. The glimpse of him just as he hides behind a boulder. I'm being watched from about 50 metres away. I've never been watched like this before and I've never had this strong feeling before that I felt at that moment because I knew that it was him. I just knew it was Nagendra so started to think really fast. At that moment, I am without any knife or stick whereas he has a big knife. He also carries a small sharp knife and maybe has his friend with him also. I can’t go after him now as there will be too much risk. Then I look up again and get another glimpse of his dark-coloured form quickly going to hide behind a different boulder a little further away to the left. It seemed like he wasn't going to risk going for me then but I started to walk really quickly towards the other side of the plateau until I was on the last bit down to the road.
I didn't stop and kept going to the other side of the river until I was in the small street where my room is. He is staying in the caves just a few hundred metres from Jez in the same ridge/hill but he didn’t kill him? I just couldn’t believe it. Who was telling me this nonsense? I was really psyched now! The whole thing had just become very real and close and the adrenalin was flowing! I was thinking about how we would trap him in the rocks and which type of weapons I would have for the strike.
Death strikes again
Then I’m back in Hampi and suddenly it’s my friend Rakesh standing in front of me, tugging at my arm. He's saying, "Pil, please come and help. I not understand what to do." I had that feeling again and knew that something was very wrong but I just stared at him for a moment speechless. "Please Pil, you’re English very good you will find what happens" he says then he was pulling me into his hotel on down the corridor and I saw a few Indians with their very worried faces milling around door of the last room. Rakesh just pushed them out of the way and pulled me quickly inside the room.
On the floor but with her head propped up was a girl but her eyes were open and blank and there were red lines on her neck. She was freshly dead already, I could tell. She looked young and Japanese or Korean. This is nothing to do with Nagendra as I’ve just seen him but sitting on the bed is another foreigner and he is American. I start talking to him and he explained, "She was just hanging by her neck from the door frame when I got back," he said, "I'd only been gone ten minutes."
When I really thought about it, looking at his emotions at that moment and the height of the door frame, I didn’t think it was suicide. We agreed that it was too late to save her and I turned to Rakesh who was still fussing and gibbering about ambulances and police so I told him not to bother about the ambulance as it was too late. The American guy seemed happy that I was there at that moment as the Indians had been not helping his state of mind with a panicky vibe going on around the hotel but then something occurred to me. The police would most surely arrive soon and if I was here like this I would be involved in the whole blah blah investigation. I asked him if he was okay one last time then I was out of there and down the road. Just in time. Five minutes later, the cops were there and a huge crowd of Indian onlookers had massed at the front of the guest house all holding their necks, pointing to the room and talking excitedly.
Plotting the payback
It was all becoming a bit much for one day. First, seeing what I was sure was Nagendra skulking around probably looking for targets. Then, five minutes later, that dead girl in the room. What type of freaky coincidence day is this, I thought? I went on the roof and tried to calm down. Even though I had been the first other foreigner at the scene, I couldn't afford to get involved in that hanging suicide/murder thing as I was much more concerned about Nagendra and who would be his next victim.
Even though I knew Jez was on a spiritual path and probably not a ‘deadly revenge’ type of person himself I felt like one now. I was very upset about his murder, pumped up and wanted revenge. I wanted to catch him even if it meant killing him. He certainly wouldn’t surrender quietly and would use his weapons against me. I knew Squib would help but he was unsure about the outcome and possible repercussions if somebody ended up dead. But I knew we would have to catch him actually in the act of a violent robbery. Squib also wasn’t as sure as me that Nagendra was responsible for the murder as there were doubts floating around Hanumanali (the closest village to Jez and Meera.) Anyway, we should have to catch him red-handed first of all.
My mind was working overtime as now I KNOW he is there on the island right now just 1 km away waiting for the right moment to strike. But when he goes in to the cave system of the mountain it would be insane to go after him. He knows every tunnel so it would be a simple job for him to kill anyone who follows him in there. The trap must be out on the plateau for it to work but there must be some bait. A rich-looking, weak-looking girl tourist who is loaded with cameras and cash would be perfect. But who will do that? She would have to be very brave. I knew an English girl who would have done it as she was a friend of Jez but she wasn’t in Hampi anymore.
In the morning, I go to big town Hospet 12km away and get myself equipped with some excellent weapons. I get a strong thick bamboo stick fitted with a sharpened spike and nails on one end and thick for beating with just a couple of nails on the other and a separate smaller but much sharpened coconut knife. I was fully psyched and really pleased with the stick. It was perfect and would give me a good chance against the knife-wielding maniac. Just have to get the bait and make the plan.
Nagendra strikes again
But things were running a bit faster than the plan. It was already too late. Even as I arrived at my room in Hampi, an Indian is telling me, "I think something has happened on the other side of the river." I got that same sinking feeling again but couldn't get any details so I just locked my room and set off across the river.
The first person I saw on the other side was my friend the large and rather jovial Rangaia, the boss of Vijaynagagar hotel, and he is full of the news. "Nagendra strike today!" he booms. Then he's holding one hand flat and making chopping sawing motions into it with the other hand, "Morning time strike!" He bellowed, sounding his normal loud jolly self which was not really in keeping with what he was trying to tell me. It came in bursts of short phrases but I was putting it all together. "Israeli girl fighting," he continues, "Israeli girl very strong!” He looked at me for some response. "Very best army training, even for ladies!", I explained to him. Then I asked, "Did she beat up and catch the Nagendra?" I was hopeful for a second. "Oh no, Pil, not like that, he is going to her without knife and grabbing her from behind thinking she is only a mere woman so she throws him off but when he takes his knife and goes to her she is grabbing the knife blade.” He repeats his chopping, sawing motions this time speaking slowly and more seriously, "Knife is hand cutting, fingers offside hanging, bag and money losing!" It was getting worse all the time, "450 dollars and very nicest camera taking", he exclaims matter of factly as if that was really the most important thing.
It was ten times what he got from Jez and he would almost certainly disappear for a few days now with that much. I felt bad, like I had missed a good chance. The Israeli girl would now kick up a huge storm in the police station and lodge a serious complaint. Something was going to happen and from a higher level. The next day everything changed and the chances for us to catch him were drastically reduced.
Shit is fan hitting
So I had been right and now what would happen? Huge amounts of police everywhere on the island looking tough, waving sticks around, demanding free food and drink from every restaurant and arresting people for things they don't have. When word started to get around all the tourists were leaving also. One day I saw the police at the top of the ridge where you can enter the complex of caves inside the hill where he was staying. They were firing rifle shots into the mountain blindly and pointlessly as they were too scared to go inside. He was probably in some unknown bar/restaurant a hundred km away by now I figured. He’d have to be crazy to stay in the same hill when everybody knew he was there even if they were too scared to actually climb into the cave system.
Now the slippery Nagendra would always know where his pursuers were. Standing on the highest rock in white shirts or green uniforms shouting at any passing tourist or climber, "Don't come there! Very danger! Go back!", "We will search the rocks and most definitely catch him!", one of them told me. I wished it was true but calculated that it was a virtual impossibility for this motley crew of fat, red-eyed bumblees to get anywhere near him never mind catch him and impossible for us to have a plan without them getting involved in it. It would be a huge mistake and probably dangerous to be involved in any plan with them. They wouldn’t allow it anyway. Too risky for them.
Sex energy
It seemed only right he would strike climbers sooner or later as they are such easy targets. It’s like this, put down bag, walk 20 metres away, turn back on bag, face the rock and concentrate 100% on that small area in front of your face. Too easy and so it as to be at the Cosmic Cave. Four climbers all together staring at the same piece of rock only a few metres away from where they left their bags and he outwitted all of them in a few seconds collecting two of their rucsacs and escaping. They were jumping around like mad with thier sticks between the bushes and boulders beneath the dark North facing side of Cosmic cave but couldn't even spot him. One of them had some ‘sex energy’ pills inside the sac and he may have liked these a lot and taken some before the next strike.
On a day when there were 40 or 50 police people supposedly looking for him on the island and Hampi, he caught a German woman near the top of Hanuman temple hill. She wouldn't let go of her precious video camera so he repeatedly smashed her face with a big piece of granite. He was masturbating at the same time as beating her but she was screaming and people came running from the temple. She didn't lose her camera but she did lose some teeth and he escaped again. Then he actually got caught at the far end of Hampi bazaar. As he was being marched back towards the main temple and police station he squirmed out of their grasp and ran for it. He quickly got to the rocks and none of the 'out of shape' police had a chance. The ultra slippery Nagendra escaped again.
I was right, of course. It would be a long time with many victims and for the rest of my stay in Hampi I adopted the mentality of the psychopath himself. That is, super paranoid, just trying to look after myself and people walking with me outside in the rocks. That's all and NOTHING else matters.
After all, I just want to climb rocks. It’s not my job to catch murderers or psychopaths even for a 5000 rupees reward. I was avoiding Hampi Island anyway where he had been living as it was crawling with police. I didn't feel afraid for myself as I got the feeling like he wasn't going to attempt a strike on me for some reason (maybe the special stick). But it was the hot season now and the climbers were drifting away so I was mostly alone in the rocks and all the time looking, looking, looking.

Squib’s story

Jezz was the first person I'd met living a true 'baba' life. He'd taught me yoga, yet never uttered a single word. I remember always feeling better when I was in his company as anyone who met him would – his energy and positivity were contagious. He was a genuine man, living an honest, simple and spiritual life, which demanded respect. He also made the best chapatis I ever ate. But what has happened? We had heard mixed stories, Pil and I, since coming back from a trip in the rocks.

“Gangavati Hospital, alive but serious, some sort of accident”
“On his way to Bellary Hospital, has been attacked”
“Dead, murdered”

But which was it?

Shivani, a rich Indian lady who lived nearby, gave the correct version as compassionately as she could. Jezz was dead. It was hard to believe. We had planned to take him into the rocks on our last trip but a last-minute decision to walk in the cool of night, under a full moon, had changed the plans.

So off to Bellary, in a Jeep full of red-eyed, bamboo-carrying police with none of Jezz's good vibes. I was glad Meera, his cave neighbour, was with us. Collecting his body, cremating him and bringing his ashes back to put in the holy Tungabadra River where his 'home' was, that was the plan. But I wasn't prepared for what that entailed.

Firstly, collect his body. At the mortuary, I was beckoned into a room full of small square doors. They opened one and pulled out the tray. There lay Jezz, or at least his empty body, eyes open but dull, staring at nothing. His chest had been split open, from his neck to his navel with less than delicate surgical tools and coarsely stitched back up like a rice sack. A few lengthy seconds passed as I just stared, trying to catch his gaze. But he wasn't there. I tried to close his eyes, but it was too late for that – he'd been dead too long and his muscles had stiffened. We put him into a body bag, picked him up and put him into the back of the already full jeep with us.

Next, take him to the crematorium. But what's that – the electric burner is broken. OK, so old style. We must go and find some wood to buy from the other side of town. I never realised how much wood you need to burn a body. Resilient things bones.

Back across town, through the bustling streets to the crematorium, a bleak concrete-walled compound on the dry, dirty outskirts of a dry, dirty town. Some graves of non-Hindus in random order filled one corner, headstones haphazard, half collapsed. This is not going to be Jezz's resting place of that I am sure.

The wood is stacked up. Four of us place him on top, his eyes still open, looking nowhere. We perform some sort of ritual, appropriate for someone living a saddhu life. I'm following instructions in a daze, circling his body, smashing clay pots and making 'puja' with coconuts, flowers and incense. I light the kerosene-soaked kindling. The flames rise and lick around his body. I watch his hair begin to catch but then my vision is blurred, tears distorting my sight. I hadn't felt them coming, but now there's a steady flow down my cheeks. No-one seems to understand why. It's like they all know something I don't. That this isn't a sad occasion, that he has gone to a better place. But the gulf that divides our cultures, stops me from being able to understand this. How can this possibly not be sad? Such a pure soul so brutally extinguished.

As the hours pass and the flames slowly eat his body, I understand why we bought so much wood.
The red-eyed police are getting bored now. They've drank all the chai they can and want to leave.
But the job's only half done. His skull, pelvis, spine – I can still see them all. “We're not leaving yet, not until it's finished.” I don't give them an option and they're not happy about it.

More wood, more burning. Some more hours pass.

There's a lowly worker whose job it is to stoke the flames. He can see my pain. He seems to understand. He sees my concern and won't stop until it's finished but it's getting dark now and we have to go. Ashes, or at least bits of bones from each of his shakras, are put into a tin and given to me. The rest of him will continue to burn until only ashes remain. The worker has promised me that and I trust him.

We set off, but I get the Jeep to stop as we're heading to the gates and run back to the worker. I can feel many red eyes following me. We duck behind the flames, out of sight, and I give all the money I have with me. More than Jezz was murdered for and some months’ wages, no doubt. He'd never been anywhere outside of Bellary before he'd told me earlier. I never wanted to step foot in Bellary ever again.

“Go somewhere new, take your family”, I told him. He looked frightened. “Tell them 50 rupees only giving,” he said. I nodded. “Make sure it's finished,” He nodded.

He would, I knew it.

Some of Jezz's good energy had been passed on. He would have liked that.

The journey back was a blur, but the next day, with the correct Brahmin and holy man present, myself and Pil said goodbye to Jezz as his remains were cast into the river, close by his home in the rocks, which he loved so much.

Injuries, creativity and videos

Shoulder injuries have kept me from climbing so I've been using juggling as an alternative creative activity for brain stimulation.
It seems there are strong similarities, problem solving, hand eye coordination and forearm endurance. Creating new problems has become creating new patterns but just like before gravity usually wins the game!

Video - Nutrient dense BURST and INVERTED snack


India road accident - small motorbike vs Very big tractor.
The tractor had it's lights on full beam and did not dip them,  (excuse; always has to be the other persons fault right?).
First impact was my hand hitting the side of that vehicle then the bike going somewhere else while I went over and directly head planted the gravel road. Unconscious for a few seconds I thought then a few minutes sitting wondering what had happened before a car stopped to see why I was sitting with blood pouring steadily from head and face at the side of the road. 
A German friend who is a 'Paramedic' and almost everybody was trying to make me visit a hospital and get 'surgery' to prevent permanent damage and infection.  I had to refuse just on gut instinct and the feeling that 'everything was okay really'.

Infected cuts around various points especially next to nose/eyes were the main concern but I managed to fast completely (no solid food) and sterilize everything including my bloodstream from the inside out making it unlikely or even impossible to get the dreaded infected cuts straight through to the bone. Downside - malnutrition and extreme toxification. I would pay for that later.
 I had so much turmeric on my face that it was always stained yellow like jaundice beneath the scabs. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory and anti-septic also. I would snort it then do a 'chaser' which meant putting a whiskey coated finger quite a ways up my deformed fractured nostril and inhaling sharply and deeply. The infections I had been warned about by so called medics and 'doctors' didn't have a chance.
  I hadn't taken any solid food for weeks and the lacerations and fractures were healing bit by bit. My bloodstream felt like it was almost entirely made up of disinfectant (alcohol). It also felt like any infection cells couldn't exist in that type of 'half-blood' environment.

I wouldn't recommend that course of treatment to everyone but somehow it worked well for me. No surgeons, no doctors, no anti-biotics and no painkiller tablets. Only the whisky bottle. But it wasn't in a bottle.
 A tetra pack box with a picture of a whiskey bottle on it. It's 8pm and costs 1 Euro for 180 ml (one quarter) in the village I was staying in (Anagundi).
When you stop after 6 quarters a day for some weeks without food you will feel like 'Dethwamdoop' 
6 weeks later the only permanent damage seemed to be one nostril 80% blocked from the fractures and the finger which can never properly straighten or fully bend closed again.

Juggling with 3,4 and 5 balls is much more positive and helpful for recovery,
New juggling patterns and siteswaps

Chota Shigri - Info

This place should not be missed by anybody staying in Chota Dara for more than a few days. September and October is the very best time. It's a beautiful area in a superb situation at 3900/4000 metres altitude. There are a lot of good boulder problems already with more to do. Any time is okay during summer but for prime conditions and ease of access September and October until early November weather permitting.
There is now a wire bridge near where we used to wade across the main Chandra river just up the road from CD. A glaciologist camp (half French,half Indian) come every year now and have fixed that wire permanently meaning you can go in the summer as well. Once you've crossed the river walk back downstream to cross the much smaller river from Chota Shigri glacier to reach the main boulderfields which are directly over from CD itself.
Detailed topos of routes and logistics of the place link -   ChotaShigriMaps

The first time Chotashigri was reached as a bouldering destination it was walking from batal via Bara Shigri. I got drawn up the gully towards the glacier looking for a place to sleep or cross the ChotaShigri river. A good place to cross then a superb area presented itself especially an immaculate white and black streaked wall which is where I would sleep. I woke up in the morning to try the wall and it was climbed to give the first real classic problem of the area. It's a 'see and must do' type of wall.
 Chota Shigri Wall - 7a+  Gully area no.3
 In the gully area there is a beautiful collection of boulders in a setting which is so serene to be almost beyond words. After that out on the main plateau are 3 main levels of boulders then over a shoulder is the grassy meadow with it's own superb collection of stones. The whole area has a very different feel to Chotadara mainly because there is no road.

Bara Shigri and Chota Shigri in English means big glacier and small glacier.


 Inside Out 7b

Mr.Twister 7a+

Main river in October
6c Mr.Twister area no.14

 Lost at Sea 7c, central area no.3
 Glacier area 7a

Cracking 6c in the gully area

I knew that after the end of September when the temperature really drops it's possible to wade across the main river so get to ChotaShigari in just half an hour from Chotadara instead of a 17 km walk in from Chatru or Batal. My Spitian freind Kesan from the dabba had already told me there is a place to cross which is only waist deep when the water level drops.
The reason it's possible to cross is because the 'small glacier' stops melting and Bara Shigari (big glacier) stops melting so they stop spilling huge amounts of water into the main Chandra river. As Kesan told me, it's only possible after the middle to end of September but you will take care he warned as the river floor is uneven slippery stones so any mistake and you could end up in Pakistan. Not just that but you must choose exactly the right place to cross. “Yes I will attempt it,” I told him knowing that I would as I want a short cut to that majical area.

Crossing Main Chandra River for the first time

The next day I'm standing at the river trying to decide the right place to cross. I decided to try it first without the pad so if anything happened it would be easier to swim back to the side. I chose the place and started across feeling the way with a stick but it was sandy and not slippery stones like Kesan had said. This is much better I thought as you can't really slip on the sand. It was going well until the very middle of the river. Suddenly it went from waist deep to chest height and I could feel the fast current start to move me off my feet. I tried to back track but it was hard and my feet were being pulled from the river floor. I managed to force my body back to the waist deep section, find my feet properly and get back to where my pad was sitting. I was super gripped and realized that if that current took a hold it would be have been hard to get to the side again when my body was moving so fast down the river. It was simply not the right place and really I should have known as Kesan had said there were slippery stones underneath not nice grippy sand. Of course the current will make a deep groove in the centre of the river if it's just sand! I had been so impulsive and stupid trying to cross there.

I walked 15 metres upstream and checked out the other places. I looked at the place where it's slightly wider and yes there are only slippery uneven stones on the riverbed like Kesan said. This is the place, it must be, I thought or somewhere around here anyway. So I started over on the stones, waist deep, keep going, still waist deep but now to pass the middle, the crux. In barefeet the stones felt like ice cubes but I pressed on and it stayed waist deep just getting a couple of inches higher at that crux centre point and I reached the other side. But this was a test run my pad was still there on that side. The main difficulty was to avoid slipping on the smooth uneven stones which have been worn by so many years of rushing water and ice.

 Next try I pushed my way across with the pad and arrived at the other side totally elated, I'd done it! The freezing cold stones seemed so slippery and it took some commitment but I was so happy now as the short cut to ChotaShigri is in the bag. Now I can come here any time on day trips from Chotadara and get some more problems and projects finished in the last month and coldest time of the season. I might have had to cross 3 times today just to work it out but at least I'd gained some important information for the next time. Now after watching the place for so long from CD I've got the huge new bouldering area at my finger tips.
The only thing to worry me slightly was that the water level rises slowly all the time during the day.

Fully psyched after the tension of crossing I went straight to an undercut overhanging corner which looked good. I pulled on stared up at the break and dropped off, it seemed so far away and couldn't see if it was a good hold. That's when I went to the top to look down and check.Then next time I got my feet just right committed to the throw and caught the break, superb.
 Into the Void 7b

Nowadays of course all the stress about long walk ins or crossing the main river is gone with the permanent fixing of the wire bridge. This actually makes Chota Dara and Chota Shigri seem like one big area with day trips possible at any time of year. Even though so many have come to Chota Dara no boulderers ever venture over there but now with the wire in place this should change. If you are the first to make the trip try to report your findings, new problems and repeats. 


Zanskar Sumdo - Rain shadow area - Info

Zanskar Sumdo circuit

A hidden valley near Zanskar sumdo with those clean slopey high altitude boulders like in Chandra valley. Great for an in between trip in monsoon time as I noticed much less rain than Chandra valley, Kulu Manali or Sangla. I never lost a day because of rain or snow. It's high and a steep sided valley which gives a different feeling from other Himalayan areas I've been to. 

  Zanskar Sumdo was the last place on the Shingo la trekking route coming from Darcha before crossing the river and starting the steep climb up to the pass. Or the first place if doing the trek the other way Lamayuru to Padum to Darcha. When I say place I mean it was one teashop/dhabba and a campsite where all the trekkers stopped.


   Now the trekking route marked should be a kind of motorable road so you can drive all the way to Zanskar sumdo even to Shingo la pass. There are no boulders on that route until after the pass where you can find an area of sorts from a landslide. The map below and instructions below will bring you to the bouldering valley.

Darcha to Zanskar sumdo to Dali to the bouldering valley
 You can get to Zanskar Sumdo by road now then you head up the valley on foot instead of crossing the river on the bridge as if you were going to the Shingo la pass. After 2 or 3 km is a couple of lakes and a steepening at a place called Dali. There are few yellow and black boulders and shepherd camps but it's not a proper area. After walking up the steep hill a gully with a river is on the left. This the valley with the bouldering. 

 They decided to build a road the whole way from Darcha to Padum mainly as a route for miltary vehicles to get up to the army bases in the border regions of Kashmir and Ladakh. It's a huge project but maybe ready in 2018 so will run all the way to the pass from the Darcha (Lahaul) side.. It will be dangerous way even in a jeep but they will keep improving it for trucks and buses.

 What are friends for?

 An old friend in Manali who knows what bouldering actually is and does a lot of guided treks gave me a tip off about boulders in the region so I decided to check it out. After 2 or 3 hours you will get to a sharp steepening then a side valley with a river on the left. The only people who go are shepherds and some looking for some precious stones or shilagit. That hidden valley is full of boulders he said, just like Chatru/Chotadara but without a road he told me so off I went to check. I was well psyched and thought if there are no good boulders I will just collect precious stones and silagit which I so love much anyway. 
 Silagit is great stuff it gives vital energy for climbing, high trekking and other things also.

Like that shilagit?

 It had changed a bit since I'd trekked that way 15 years earlier because of the road project. A few km before Zanskar Sumdo was the labour camp at Palmo and there was a lot of workers there for the project. It wasn't that great except for the super friendly Nepali family running the dhabba so I stayed with them for one night then carried on to find Zanskar Sumdo just a tea shop with another nice family also from Nepal running the show.

The final reward

 Fully rested I pressed on up the steepening and located the side gully I'd been told about and I was so glad to finally see some proper boulders and more and more going on up towards the glacier. The valley has some great rocks in an excellent location and I stayed for the remainder of the season finding loads of good stuff. 
 If any body is passing nearby with bouldering intentions they would like it as it's good quality clean stone and such an atmospheric place.


The American film team with Pete Takeda, Jason Khel and Abby Smith had headed up there but never made it getting tired and disheartened so going back just before the turn off left to the valley. I think they had walked all the way from Darcha 30 km or so it's no wonder they were really tired. But then they turned back only 1 km before finding the bouldering valley. Shame as they would have liked it and could have done the things which were too hard for me. Having said that they found a really nice looking area over in Mya valley later so all was well in the end and they even got a banf prize for the film which was well made with good editing. To open a totally new area is obviously better movie material as well and it's great to watch their experiences and what they did. High V12's at 4000 metres or above is hardcore. If you want to repeat those problems I'm sure they would give info and positive motivation if contacted. 


 If you head up there you will easily see these problems on boulders as they are all in the centre of the narrow valley. Some absolute classics and more to do. The friction is good as the high altitude nature changes things. Such wrongness sickness strong people could do all these problems and whole bunch of harder things in a 2 week long trip but I was there the till the end of the season. I liked it and could easily pop back down to the dhabba on rest days. 

 Suprised that it felt only 6b or 6c thought it would be harder, so good.

  Z RAMP 6a So good rock near to the goofa at the start of the valley

Spring board 7b

The right hand hold is a very poor open handed thing, the left foot hold is a hardly to notice little smear.. The top felt hard to catch and stick. Excellent.

  SKI SLOPE boulder 6c

Catch the clean arete and rock on through on superb rock.6c (above)

Otherwise the arete direct and pull through 7a (left).

Man must burn 7a+
The rock is great but just 2 or 3 moves and topout. Longer with low start might be for the super strong.

Confusion corner 7b+
What looks like a straightforward but powerful sitstart turns out to be much more awkward and then a funny mantle onto the sloping ledge up right. The arete straight above will go as well (not done)

Left arete of confusion corner boulder with a nice warm up. 6a


Great boulder from standing it's a classic 6 but the sitstart I'd give 7c which took some struggles over a few days. It was worth it in the end. It's on the same boulder as 'suprised 6c' to the left. 

   Good boulder with a classic 6b (above) and another on the left wall and again the arete to the right giving a 7a (below) 


So clean boulder and every single hold on this sitstart was an almost impossible sloper. Close to the goofa up the hill. probably fell quite recently hence the name. 


SANITY REIGNS 7b  It's also nearby the basecamp goofa and traverses the ramp right to left before finishing up the left arete (below) with the help of that sloper. Like this boulder. Straight up on the right also.


 From standing 

6c. The altitude means you get pumped more quickly but have good friction.  

This is one of the highest rocks up the valley I got to. Puffing and panting after just 2 or 3 moves with such less oxygen. Well you certainly get fit up in this valley if Zanskar Sumdo is at 4000 m  then this place is a few hundred metres in excess of that.


Superb sit start on that perfect white rock leads to grapple out on the slopey arete.

I met nobody except some shepherds and shilagit/precious stones gatherers who were staying about 2km further up the main valley. There would be no real treats and perks except the gratification and pleasure while climbing and the extreme connection with nature that climbing boulders at high altitude can give you. 

  SECRETS are EVERYWHERE 7c Snatching across the crimpy rail then up the overhanging arete made for a classic problem. Standing start is also great.

GOOGLY the perfect rock on this 7a 
another good problem on the left also.

  Just over the river from the goofa was this boulder with a satisfying problem but the groove to the right may be even better (not done yet)

 Sistart laybacking up the groove to spaced out good holds rightwards to the top.
 classic bumble be 7a
 The big white wall to the right with a perfect slopey groove is still to go ! ***

 The end of Zanskar Sumdo and Shingo la as a trekking route.

  It was a strange and slightly sad feeling when I did my last shopping run walking down to Palmo as usual when I saw they were breaking through the last rocks to get the road to reach Zanskar Sumdo. I realized it was the last year people would ever walk that way any more. I felt sorry for the Nepali family making a cafe at that place but tried to look on the bright side, not as far to walk to the bouldering area. (selfish?, anti-progress?, nature liker? anti-coke?) Not sure if that many people are using that road yet but it could be a crucial military supply line  which is why they are building it. To have an alternative route to get to Kashmir Pakistan border more quickly.
  It made me pause and think though, for so many years people have been walking that way and now it stops. 
 Vehicles will now take the place of the footpath.
 If the Rohtang pass is the 'pile of a thousand dead bodies' this new Shingo la road (1000 metres higher) could be the 'pass of a million lost souls' if a ground war with Pakistan ever starts.

The 2 year old who also stayed the whole season at what was the roadless Zanskar sumdo. 

The super friendly Nepali 'girls only' family who live for the season at Palmo, they are 'nails'! and will supply you with everything you need for your next 10 days bouldering.

Left - 3 stright up problems on mostly smooth slopers and the classic traverse 7b. Good boulder. Very clean and friction dependant.

 Right - I found a boulder with 6 classic problems and projects. I refer to it as the 'super nugget' 

looking from up like in the pic.
Secrets are everywhere 7c L side
Confusion corner 7b+ R side
Classic jump 7a to see
numerous classic 5 and 6's 

All on this rock

 Secrets are everywhere 7c is on the left wall of the super nugget

 If somebody has interest for bouldering and 'in the area'  they will love this valley and there is loads still to do as I pointed to, and more which I didn't.

 If you finish THIS problem (below) she'll be happy and They will get you a drink.

 I tried it once then named it the 'Days of destruction project' because of 'you know what' but what a great line. I didn't get around to trying it again but I don't think it's that hard.(watch your fingertips)

 Chai it is then.

 Love to explore!

Base camp