Over the long weekend, we decided to finally head over to Lakegala in Meemure, a sort of remote village somewhere in the knuckles range. It’s pronounced Lak-gala, apparently. Indi managed to think it was Lake-gala (lake-rock, literally).
A bus and a van journey later, we wound up at Meemure village near the temple where we would spend the nights and paid off the peeved off van driver who hadn’t come this way before and was complaining that his van was all busted up.
The locals are really great and offered to cook our meals for us. It was pretty delish. Everyone we met from teenagers playing cricket to the shopkeeper told us we shouldn’t go up to the top because it’s raining/windy/too hot, and to just go up near the peak, then return. We found out after we came back down that the whole village has some creepy deal in place where they dissuade everyone they see from climbing the thing, to prevent injury and/or death by stupidity.
We started the ascent in the morning. About fifteen minutes later Himal and Raisa decided to turn back due to grievous injuries of the nonexistent kind. I kid, it was more like ten minutes.
After a few kilometers through jungle, we finally got to the base of the proper “peak climb”. There was a nice rock pool with cool water where we filled up, and made mental notes about how exactly we’d relax in the natural jacuzzi on the way back down. Getting to the peak is gradually more difficult, starting off with a short climb over a diagonal(thirty-five degrees or so) slope of what looked like cooled and hardened lava. It felt like we were climbing up a frozen river of chocolate. I didn’t try licking it.
After another stretch through some annoying bushes, the whole way to the base of the peak was loose soil sparsely populated by bushes and rocks which will stab you in the back and steal your wife if they could. Sitting there looking all stable and then trying to murder you when you step on them. Tch.
Finally, we got to the big prize. There was only a 100m or so left to the top. Unfortunately this last bit required us to climb along the equivalent of a butt-crack on a near vertical rock face. You so funny, nature.
I was undecided on whether to actually get up there since I was already feeling dead enough after what felt like a hike up a giant ball of cotton candy, but the guide said we’d need to take our shoes and bags off before proceeding, which would make it a lot easier. Note to self: Don’t take anything up a mountain if it can be avoided. Water and minimal food should be enough for most.
Halfway up the wrinkle on the rock, our guide tells us to stop and goes a bit further up to get the rope in place for the last bit. There was already a length of rope put there by a group who were just ahead of us, and the guide wanted to tie our rope to theirs. It was sent up. There was much talking. We (literally) hung out on the side of the rock, clinging for our lives and trying not to look down. Our friend from the village below decides this is a good time to ask us what religion we are. We answer. We also wonder how much your life expectancy is lowered when you get up here. He starts chanting pirith.
I get images of buddhist funerals with oil lamps and smoke billowing around in the wind, with someone chanting things in the background. I try not to pay any attention to it.
Eventually the group ahead communicate that they don’t want to go the remaining 40m or so because it looks batshit crazy. The guide recommends we go down as we don’t want to leave it to them to secure our rope, which is only just long enough to complete the climb if you’re clinically insane. I accidentally look down. I wonder if this is what having vertigo feel like. Indi’s at the bottom of the line, followed by Kirigalpoththa, myself and then Halik just below our guide.
We carefully claw our way down the rock, a task considerably more difficult than climbing it, and head back down, disappointed. Getting down to the lava river was a sea of bruises since the plants decided to get back at us for chopping our way through them on the way up. I even kept slipping and falling on my ass thanks to the loose rocks. A quick dash down the lava-looking thing and we were back at the pool.
After soaking in it for a bit, we headed off back down to the village before it started raining and made the whole trail back a mudslide.
Hopefully we’ll get back there soon, with a length of rope more suited to rock climbing duty instead of pulling-water-out-of-the-well duty.
Pictures will be on facebook soon, along with an ST post(really!). Till then, there’s this flickr set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/indi/sets/72157629402568568/with/7056719387/