I mentioned in DEF LEPP – Part Three that I’d tell you how something extraordinary blew me away, something that defied human imagination …
Luti, my dog, was neither pet nor wild animal but she was an animal I could walk around with. She was an ideal companion and protector on long walks in the mountains, and visits to remote areas where dogs patrolled village perimeters, aggressively challenging strangers who arrived unannounced. Walks together in the spring and in summer, before the monsoon season drowned the valley in an unbelievable quantity of water 24/7, were wonderful experiences. I realised quickly that the best policy was to allow Luti to take me for walks. She led me into valleys that seemed impossible to reach; she found passes between mountains I thought were inaccessible; she saved me from getting completely lost on numerous occasions, always insisted I began my return journey with enough light to follow the paths back home to Vashisht and literally saved my life on two dramatic ocassions. She took me to extraordinary places I’d never have found without her sense of adventure or her geographical knowledge of the area. Luti was my guide-dog. Though obviously not blind, (I’m sure she questioned that fact several times as I stumbled clumsily around the valley following her), I was in serious need of guidance and protection.
She’s in this picture – somewhat camera shy, bless her.
Luti ran up the stairs to my balcony one Spring morning, barking furiously. She careered up and down the balcony, knocking things over then standing by the steps, wagging her tail and looking back at me wild-eyed. She’d obviously found something and wanted desperately to share it. I hastily grabbed water, bread, my staff and a jacket, and followed her through the village onto the steep path which led to Adrian and Jamie’s house. She was delirious with excitement, running round and round me, barking crazily and nearly tripping me several times.
“Luti, calm down. I’m coming. What have you found?”
She jumped up against me, her paws on my chest, licked my face, and ran off again down the path. When I caught up with her she swerved off to the right into a spruce wood. She vanished for a while and the next time she barked, I could see her high above me, standing on a rock overhang. I couldn’t find the way up to her so she ran back down the steep slopes and guided me up through the dense woodland. Although, with the welcome arrival of Spring, most of the snow had gone – on the higher slopes and in the shadows of trees and boulders, it still lingered stubbornly. It was a slippery path, the climb proved more difficult than it looked, and when I emerged from the wood onto the top of a spur, I was exhausted and bruised from numerous tumbles on packed ice.
Where the spur joined the mountainside, high cliffs rose on each side of it and Luti stood at the narrow entrance of a small gorge which sliced through the cliffs. A river torrented out of the gorge and within a few yards poured into a massive fissure in the rocks, disappearing from sight. I looked out over the edge of the spur and could see the river re-emerge from a cave several hundred feet below. Still barking insanely, Luti leapt into the gorge and disappeared again. Intrigued, a little apprehensive, but more excited than anything, I followed her through the split cliff-face. The sound of rushing water was deafening – a thunderous roar which was exhilerating and unnerving. After a hundred yards or so the narrowl gorge opened out into an open circular area of flat ground, two hundred yards in diameter, surrounded on all sides by more towering cliffs. What I saw ahead of me literally took my breath away.
In my wildest imaginings I could not have invented the natural phenomena I witnessed in that extraordinary place. The sun, directly overhead, bathed the open circular area in brilliant sunshine, but the brooding cliffs around me were cloaked in deep shadow created by overhanging rocks all along the cliff-tops. At the top of the cliffs, directly in front of me, two large boulders funnelled a cascading deluge of water out over the cliff edge. A graceful arc of foaming white water curved into the air and fell a hundred feet into a large water-pool. Around the pool water-soaked grass and flowers sparkled in the sunlight. The waterfall, also illuminated by the sun, shone dazzlingly white against the shadowed cliffs. Nature at its most glorious can always provide astounding surprises. In that enchanted arena she bestowed one of her most astonishing. I had never seen anything like it before and have seen nothing like it since. As the white water plummeted down to the rock pool the descending droplets of fine spray, falling steadily on each side of the waterfall – turned into snowflakes.
Under a perfectly cloudless sky – it was snowing. Above the snow-covered rocks in the pool and the snowy banks around it – dozens of iridescent circular rainbows shimmered in the billowing spray.
I lay down on the warm grass, mesmerised by the falling snow and the rainbows. Luti – content now she had shared her discovery – stretched out on the grass, rolled onto her side, and yawned. She wagged her tail, yawned again, rested one of her front paws on my leg and closed her eyes. The sun moved slowly across the bright circle of blue sky above me. Features on the cliffs behind the waterfall slowly appeared as details were illuminated – florescent pink and magenta flowers growing out of glistening moss growing on the spray-drenched cliff-face, banks of white flowers dripped with water and unearthly colours were revealed. The cliffs behind me grew darker as shadows deepened. The shadow of the cliff-top crept across the grass towards me. The pounding of the waterfall seemed to recede, to become a distant roar, a soft drone, and eventually it disappeared altogether. I drifted into a soundless world where my vision was charged with an intensity that was almost hallucinogenic, and where everything appeared to move in a surreal liquid slow-motion. I floated, hovering between sleep and wakefulness where reality and imagination blur.
After a couple of hours Luti barked. It was the bark which meant only one thing – it was her command to take me home.