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Bēhance

  • Hemkund Sahib, in the middle of the Himalayan Mountains in Uttarakhand, India, is one of 5 holy Sikh sites. It's accessible only by foot for 4 months of the year, from June to October, when the snow has receded enough to make the trek possible. Located over 4,300 meters above sea-level, it takes 3 days to complete: a winding path of uneven and rough terrain that's made substantially more difficult by the decreased oxygen levels at such high elevations.

    The people who live in these mountains rely, annually, on these 4 months of pilgrimage as their only means of income for the entire year. Juice stands, tea stalls and restaurants provide much-needed fuel, and warmth, to the pilgrims. Local men carrying woven baskets on their backs carry either luggage or people who are unable to independently climb on foot, and hundreds of brightly decorated donkeys are available for hire. Women can be seen collecting wood along the way that can later be sold as fuel for fire, and children often go to work with their parents to help make as much money as possible for the year.

    If it weren't for the spectacular views and the encouragement of complete strangers pushing each other to go further, this would have seemed nearly impossible to complete. I met a young man in his mid-20's who had ditched his group of friends to hold the hand of an 80-year-old woman slowly making her way down the mountain when he saw that she'd been walking alone. Actually, I met a number of young men who were doing the same thing. It was this kindness of strangers that stood out most.

    This is a documentation of my 38+ KM journey, and the people I met along the way.