How often does one get to ascend to the home of a god? How often do people succeed? Throughout all religions, whether religions gone by or contemporary ones, god’s abodes all share one feature. They are all upwards. Upon the tops of mountains, high above the clouds like the Greek gods sitting upon their thrones atop Mount Olympus. Yet some live even further up, nestled between the glistening silver light of the twinkling stars whose beauty has captured the imaginations of countless civilizations. Shiva's cave is no different; located high above the clouds at the top of the valley where I'm living in my little tin shack. Unlike the builders of the Tower of Babylon I succeeded! However at that moment, all thoughts of success were smeared by the realization that all things that climb high, leave a long descent below. There was a very real risk of falling; and I was long way up...

The day was hot when I set off. I strolled up through the village, (which was my home for 3 months), towards the back of the valley, following the twisting road. I walked for half an hour and after crossing a bamboo bridge and greeting the locals with a cheery "Namaste" I reached my first stop, the house of my good friend and work colleague Gopal Dhital, from Gopals house. After which our perilous journey to the cave above the cloud would begin. After some light refreshment from Gopal's family we began, Gopal singing a merry Nepalese song as we walked.    

Another twenty minutes and many stops to chat to the locals, we reached a white temple at the bottom of some steps; and by steps I mean rocks cut into the side of the valley wall. The temple signified the start of our accent, a winding path of 'steps' snaking through jungle and clouds, forever heading towards the heavens above. So after a nervous glance upwards we began. One foot after another. Up we went, step after step. Half an hour went by and still we climbed. The muscles in my legs beginning to burn from lactic acid build up. Even Gopal had stopped singing his merry tune, replacing it with labored breaths as we marched upwards.

Another half hour went by and then we were in the clouds. I could barely see 10 meters in front of me all I could see were the steps. The never ending steps. Always upwards, always climbing, always rising. The cloud was so thick I couldn't even see Gopal walking in front of me. The clouds and the jungle had engulfed me in their chilling claustrophobic embrace.

"GOPAL!" I screamed "GOPAL!"

I looked around frantically searching for my friend but all I could see is the white and green of cloud and jungle. There was only one thing for it. Keep ascending. Keep moving. Keep stepping upwards. The fire in my legs was a burning cascade of lava pumping through my veins. Still I walked and eventually I came out above the clouds into the warm light of the sun and into the beaming rays of Gopals cheeky smile. So after a fist bump and a swig of water we carried on, little did we know we were about encounter Shiva’s Guardians; for one cannot walk into the home of a god and expect it to be easy.

We began the last leg of our journey with renewed vigor. Our destination was close and we thought the worst was behind us. How wrong we were.  Only a few minutes went by before Gopal's scream broke the silence of the mountain. I glance up to see him bending over and pulling something of his leg. Suddenly I feel something tingling on my shin and I look down to see a huge fat red and black leech sucking the life out of my leg. Even as I write this my shin has begun to tingle with the memory of it. There is something incredibly repulsive about them disgusting vampires sucking your blood. I screamed and thank god we were above the clouds where no one could hear me, because it was not a manly scream but a scream only a teenage girl would make while watching horror films alone in the dark. I wrenched the leech of my leg and threw it into the jungle. The next forty minutes we climbed the steps wading through a never ending assault of leeches, they covered our boots and legs, wriggling and squirming trying to get to our blood.

Eventually we reached the top, blood streaming down our shins and all over our hands. We stood catching our breath at the mouth of the cave, staring into the black entrance. After some refreshment we fixed on our head torches, got our flash lights out and descended into the blackness. It was cold inside, damp and cramped. Shiva's weapon the Trishula stands at the entrance as a warning to those who enter. We explore the god's home for a good while before deciding it was best to leave and begin the decent before the rain came.

Down we walked, back through the mine field of blood sucking leeches, back through the damp, vision restricting, claustrophobia of the clouds. Step after step we descended. More than once Gopal and I slipped and fell, rolling down the steps banging our arms and legs only to land in the grass and stand up covered in the blood sucking monsters. Despite the trials we made it back the bottom, bruised and bloodied, but no one said visiting the home of a god should be easy but it was defiantly worth it.

Written by Jonny Fairclough,

Edited by Chris Riches 

If you want to read more of my adventures on expedition or Chris and I's efforts to stay healthy visit our blog at https://candjactive.wordpress.com/ 

Published by C&J Active