The animal life in Chitkul is quite different from that of lower altitudes. There are lots of donkeys, no snakes and I didn’t meet one single cow wandering around the village, as they do lower down in India.
I was trying to think what was so different about the buildings, aside from the fact they’re a different shape, when it finally dawned on me – there are no bars on the windows. Hah – no monkeys! You almost need bars to keep the insect life out at night time though. We watched that many moths, etc, do a kamakazi act into the candles that we lost count. But several times a bat (who we decided shall be hereonout christened ‘Sadie’) flew into our veranda room and did several sweeps up around the ceiling before exiting again. My partner tried to tell me tales about bats loving to get tangled up in blonde hair, but I wasn’t falling for that one. Besides, after my imaginary snow leopard scenario the other night, a little bat certainly wasn’t going to scare me! Funny how men remain boys in some ways.
I listened to the donkeys braying on a regular basis – almost every hour, on the hour. Village News or security force? “Nine o’clock and all is well. Squeek-haw, squeek-haw.” I realised that that noisy part of their braying is when they inhale. The squeek comes out upon exhaling. They’re not overly endowed with dignity in the first place, but this really blows it out the window for them.
One day, we were sitting outside the little tiny grocery store, when I saw a sheep that seemed to wander round the village quite regularly. A mountain dog nearby wandered up to it. I tensed a bit, as the dog was quite big and no one was guarding the sheep. But the sheep and the dog sniffed each other for a little while, then the dog started licking the sheep’s underjaw and grovelling at it, the way a beta dog will grovel to an alpha dog in the pack. The sheep lorded it over the dog for a while, then wandered off on it’s way again. This sheep must have been hand-reared and grew up thinking it was Alpha Sheep. The things you see when you’re doing the shopping.
I took a photo also of one of the bumble-bees living in our veranda room. They’re a bit smaller than our New Zealand bumble-bees, and have cute little fuzzy red backsides. I had a bit of a chat with them about the fact that we were paying rent and they weren’t, but they didn’t seem phased by this one bit. So we came to an agreement – I wouldn’t stand on them and they wouldn’t bite me. There was one, however, who was obviously a bee of little brain, and thought it would be okay to live on the floor. I carefully picked him up and put him on the table, but he stubbornly crawled to the edge and tumbled back down to the floor again. So I just made note of where he was and got on with my crossword. After a little while, something started tickling me – he was now crawling up my foot. So I just stuck my whole leg out the window, shook it around a bit, and off he flew into the wild blue yonder. In the process, however, I managed to confirm to our fellow house-dwellers that I was completely and utterly mad. From down below, they couldn’t see the bumble-bee – only my leg waggling out the upstairs window. I wonder if any of them have cancelled their plans to visit New Zealand…