Face Off With a Ladakhi Wolf
Inadvertently I had pitched my tent in the Wolf’s territory. The question now was, how accommodating is this Wolf going to be? He was strong and emanated a powerful presence. Pointed ears, a long bushy tail and big eyes. But all that apart, his most dominant feature was his long snout and powerful Jaw. Here we were just me and him.
I was on a solo 1000 km ride through the Himalayas and it had been raining for the past few days now. Everything the eye fell on seemed drenched. The mountains, trees, bushes, rocks. The sun had been totally evasive and the partly dark clouds spread till the horizon. I was close to Spiti Valley, somewhere between Keylong and Jispa. Alone. My rain poncho covering me, I pedalled briskly up the mountains on my way to Ladakh. I had been pedalling the whole day, hoping that sunlight and warmth was just over the next bend. It was now twilight and I just wanted a dry bed to rest on.
Night was approaching faster than I expected and I had to pitch the tent before dark. I had packed a meal from the last town, Keylong. Pedaling up the mountains, my eyes scanned for a place where I could pitch tent and I quickly settled for a patch of grass which lay below the desolate road, towards the valley below.
Tired and wet, I hid my bicycle between some rocks and bushes, pitched my tent, got in, opened by meal box and was all set to satisfy my hunger. Thats when, something in me told me to look out the tent while having my meal.
Just like how in the cities we watch television and have our meals, I watched the mountains. The rain had turned into a drizzle and was making a rhythmic pitter patter on the tent. Another ten minutes and it was going to be dark. Thats when, out of nowhere, I sighted a large wolf, not more than 50 meters away from me, on the mountain, looking straight down at my tent.
I may have missed more than a couple of beats, my fingers stuck in the meal box, my jaws open and my eyes riveted on the wolf. A barrage of questions passed through my mind,
Is he looking at me or the tent?
Can he smell the food?
If I keep my food outside, probably it could be a substitute?
Each question as irrelevant as the previous, I didn’t care for any of them and kept my one pointed focus on the wolf and its next move.
Inadvertently I had pitched my tent in the Wolf’s territory. The question now was, how accommodating is this Wolf going to be? He was strong and emanated a powerful presence. Pointed ears, a long bushy tail and big eyes. But all that apart, his most predominant feature was his long snout and powerful Jaw. Here we were just me and him.
And then my mind said — “Not just you and him, probably his family and kids too. You know, a mother wolf can be very dangerous!”
My mind had managed to get my attention. I lifted my riveted gaze from the wolf and answered — ‘Yes’ if the Wolf is not a he and a she, and with kids, it could probably be more dangerous, in which case keeping my meal box outside may not be enough to keep me safe.’
Having said this, I looked up again to where the Wolf was, but she wasn’t there. It was nearly dark and my eyes scanned all around as quickly as possible to find the wild beast. There were big rocks and trees all around me and she could be anywhere, ready to make the kill.
Thats when my mind said — “Her cubs may be hungry too!”
It didn’t sound the least bit funny to me, but was reassuring at some level, that the last thought before I die will be something as nice as “I fed some cute hungry cubs”.
It was pitch dark now. The night couldn’t probably get darker. I wanted to step out and flash my torch around the tent, but the constant drizzle deterred me. I rather sleep dry and be devoured by the wolf in my sleep than be wet and cold through the night.
I hardly slept that night. Whenever I heard something threatening outside, I would flash my torch. Once or twice I risked my hand by flashing the the torch outside the tent. I hoped the Wolf would confuse the powerful light for my might.
It was a long night, that night. The Wolf didn’t devour me. If anything, the most difficult decision that night, was whether to sleep with the head towards the Wolf or the Leg.