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Seasons of the Himalayas – Spring, Summer, Monsoon and Winter

When you live in the city the passing of the seasons are distant, almost irrelevant affairs that technology hasn’t managed to control yet. You dress sense changes, your mood is affected and various sports seasons begin and end. The weather affects how much time you spend in the park, there are holidays and a vague sense of growing older.

When you live in the city the passing of the seasons are distant, almost irrelevant affairs that technology hasn’t managed to control yet. You dress sense changes, your mood is affected and various sports seasons begin and end. The weather affects how much time you spend in the park, there are holidays and a vague sense of growing older.

It was only really when I came to live in nature that the weather began to determine the pattern and perspective of my daily life. India is a largely tropical country but the mountains have a character all of their own. The sun was as relentless as anywhere else at that latitude but the air was crisp and dry at 2000 metres. There were days when the winds hurled through the valley like air elementals and the weather could change in five minutes.

In the spring the river in the mouth of the valley ran strong with the voices of melting snow. The air was cool on the back of my throat as I climbed the stone paths and the wind chilled the sweat off the back of my neck. Buds formed on the apple trees and by April the Apricot trees burst into flower. Nepalese porters carried firewood down from the forest up top that was partially destroyed in a thunderstorm years ago. They asked me for cigarettes when we met on the path.

With the arrival of summer the Indian tourists arrived on force to take their family vacations of honeymoons. The ostentation of their fancy clothes jarred with the simplicity of the Himalayan village and they arrived in noisy jeeps, dropping litter out of the windows.

The days grew so hot that it felt stupid to be carrying a shawl and jacket in your bag but once the sun slipped over the western mountain ridge you remembered why. The apricots came into season and I’d get pissed off each morning when the local boys came round to shake the branches of the tree near my house. The lizards went into mating frenzy, jerking their heads up and down perhaps to impress the females with the lengths of their chins. On really clear days I’d go with friends to the waterfall an hour’s walk away and gaze at the rainbows cast in the spray and remember what a magical world I lived in. The stars guarded the valley at night like a host of angels and I slept out on the balcony until the sun turned the peaks of the mountains pink at dawn.

The monsoon rains were really put your mountain spirit to the test. The rain came down on my tin roof so hard at times that it was impossible to maintain a conversation above the din. The road to Delhi washed out for a fortnight and the power went off for days at a time. Better hope you remembered to buy candles and batteries for your torch.

The monsoon in the Himalayas was definitely a season with personality. At times it had an almost British punctuality, arriving every day at 3pm on the dot and you shaped your day around it. Then it might rain every night for a week, causing you to wake 4 or 5 times to take a piss before it would switch to raining all day and leaving the stars crystal clear at night. So just when you had got used to the idea of going nocturnal it went into a couple of weeks of almost 24 hours a day rain. You looked up at the sky and asked yourself: How is it possible for so much water to be up there?

The monsoon was incredibly monotonous for everyone living in the village. But for those with a house in the Himalayas up on the slopes the storms arrived with all the grace of dancers drifting through the sky. The clouds blended with the forests on the opposite slopes in a shifting collage of black and white. It was like Japanese poetry in the sky. With the summer sun cut off behind the rain it got to be too cold to wash and I’d just hang out in my house until I became to smelly to sleep with myself. Then I’d crack and run down to the village to wash in the temple baths and buy cinnamon rolls in the bakery.

Although the days of grey seemed to rob all colour from the world, after the rains the slopes glowed a vibrant green and dense brown mushrooms sprouted up from the forest floor. Monkeys came down from the heights and whilst I was scaring them away with rocks I’d be stunned by a sudden emigration of birds so red it almost hurt the eyes. Flowers bloomed over night and vines grew along any surface they could, gaining inches by the day. The air was pregnant with aromas ad nothing you put on your washing line ever got dry. I drank ginger tea and worried about fungus between my toes.

With autumn the valley prospered. The coolies hauled 70 kilos of apples at a time down the slopes and I dreaded to think what would happen if they fell. The village roofs were layered with corn and barley and everywhere was the smell of wild marijuana. The leaves fell and a hundred new views opened up between the orchards. The cold began to creep in again at night. Old women sold tasteless roast corn by the roadside. The first snows began to appear on the peaks and I got to eat the apples I’d been watching grow all year for breakfast.

Before winter comes everyone begins to chop wood. Every family is entitled to a tree each and they prepare for when the valley turns white in the space of a couple of hours. Pieces of the sky fluttered down on a land that never knew change. The power cut out and if it wasn’t for the temple baths you’d never have gotten warm again. I wore plastic bags around my feet to keep them dry. We got into snowball fights and then regretted them for the rest of the day as we trudged around in wet clothes, trying to dry them on the wood stoves of friends and succeeding only in filling out lungs with wood smoke. Friends up on the hill got stranded for days. One told me:

“Man, I was stuck for ten days. I couldn’t even find my way to the outdoor bathroom. I had to shit in plastic bags on my balcony and then throw them off the edge..”

Huddling around wood stoves as you melted snow now that the water pipes had frozen, it occurred to you that wouldn’t it be a great time to go to the beach in Goa