"I've been living in some caves in the Indian Himalayas for the last couple weeks," Justin Alexander posted on Instagram, including this photo of the inside of his cave. The baba is/was suspected to have knowledge on the fate of Justin. Others were drawn to what his adventures represented: Alexander was minimalist but not rejectionist. However Alexander’s journey ended, something happened at Mantalai Lake. Types Of Photography. Police won’t arrest them; even for murder, which happens I’m told.” Alexander felt a growing fascination with what sadhus represented and how they lived their lives—solitary and untethered—and he had come to trust Rawat. They come to sit where the Buddha achieved enlightenment under a bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya; they come to wander Rishikesh, where the Beatles spent weeks in an ashram in 1968 penning songs; and they come for the Maha Kumbh Mela, believed to be the largest religious gathering on the planet, where in 2013 an estimated 30 million people congregated in a single day. The technique is to grab and release branches to gradually slow your fall, but Alexander missed some, rag-dolled the last 20 feet, and slammed into the ground, narrowly avoiding cracking his skull on nearby rocks. It had been a month since he was supposed to have returned. “I felt we lost the last thread of hope of finding Justin and finding out what truly happened.”. Just weeks before, Gapon had also trekked to Mantalai, a cluster of pools murky with glacial flour at the source of the Parvati River. Reeb stops short of revealing some of the things “that were on his mind and heart” but says her son was searching for a deeper meaning behind all his years on the road, and what lay ahead. He’d packed the bag neatly with some souvenirs, his motorcycle insurance, and his passport. “Initially, my notion was that he had taken some drugs and gotten lost,” says additional superintendent Nishchint Singh Negi, who has dealt with many of the cases in his green-walled office in Kullu. In the first post on his travel blog, Adventures of Justin, he wrote: “I am running from a life that isn’t authentic…I’m running away from monotony and towards novelty; towards wonder, awe, and the things that make me feel vibrantly alive.” He spent the next two-and-a half years on the road, backpacking through South America and Asia, and driving his motorcycle around the United States. “When Justin got lost, there was so much effort to find him,” says Negi, adding that the police had never before used a helicopter to search for a missing foreigner. His large green backpack, containing most of his belongings, was collected at Om Shanti Guest House in Kalga, where he’d stored it before his trip with the sadhu. In the Parvati Valley, this desire compelled Alexander higher. As a teenager, McElroy remembers, Alexander wanted to live a near-mythological saga. Was he pushed? “It was smaller and leaker [sic] than I hoped, so most mornings I hiked an hour down the mountain to sit in the sacred hot springs of Khir Ganga to warm up.”. “It’s very easy to have accidents in that area, no matter how conscious you are.”. Every dollar you contribute goes to writers and publishers who spend hours, weeks, and months reporting and writing outstanding stories. It’s possible Alexander found what he was looking for: a dreamlike revelation while sitting near the source of a holy river, listening to the minute motions of nature, that showed him the way forward. Lee had been in the Parvati for three months, and the pair now traveled up the valley to Kalga. At his center in New Delhi, Sunil Mittal, a consultant psychiatrist and director of the Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, sees about one foreign tourist per week that he would describe as having India syndrome. At around 13,500 feet, the icy moraine produces no trees for either shelter or firewood. In December 2013, at age 32, Alexander announced his retirement. He never retrieved his motorcycle. He carried the clothes on his back, a sleeping bag, a machete, and a few other essentials, but no tent or stove. Suzie Reeb needs your support for FIND JUSTIN ALEXANDER SHETLER. The travelers who feel drawn to the Parvati Valley, more than a full day’s bus ride north of New Delhi into the Himalayas, quickly settle into a pace of life common in this remote corner of India: a blur of weeks or months spent meditating, practicing yoga, and consuming copious amounts of hash grown in clandestine plantations or from plants that sprout wild along river and road. She knew he would’ve called at the soonest opportunity. They can bless or curse. When Young brought Alexander, a promising survivalist, to the New Jersey school, the teenager arrived with starry-eyed idealism and befriended 22-year-old instructor Tom McElroy. Andrey Gapon, a 47-year-old Russian man, had spent three months on a self-made spiritual retreat in the Parvati Valley, deep in the Indian Himalayas. In 1996, Ian Mogford of the UK disappeared in the Parvati Valley after reportedly telling his father over the phone that he had befriended a sadhu. One of his favorite books growing up was Joseph Campbell’s 1949 classic, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which the author presents an archetypal “hero’s journey.” The first step is a feeling or call to adventure, Campbell writes. Some arrive with an emotional or psychological issue in their life and succumb to a heady mix of culture shock, overwhelming unfamiliarity, alluring exoticism, and, in most cases, drugs. Skeels was struck with the man’s gentle character, his compassion, and his adventurous spirit. Above the drawing, scribbled in black pen, Alexander had written, “Happiness comes from the freedom and capability to dream a life into reality.”. Reeb was devastated. WHAT WE KNOW: Justin Alexander Shetler is missing… As Harley Rustad reports at Outside, it’s also known for a plethora of missing and (presumably murdered) Western adventure tourists. He was surprised to find Rawat sitting in his hut. Disenchanted and restless, he sold the majority of his belongings, packed a backpack, and took off. Nearby, they also found a black waterproof backpack cover, a gray scarf, and a red butane lighter. Justin had not eaten in two days, but seemed determined to make the three day trip. “Maybe he was a great person, but there was something that was very hard and very aggressive with this spirit.” He warned Alexander to be careful. Police apprehended and interrogated the porter but released him, his story aligning with Rawat’s revised version of events. Before leaving for Mantalai Lake with Rawat, he joked to Gapon, “If I die, write something nice about me on Facebook.” Alexander mentioned that one day it would be nice if there was a website where peoples' digital trails could serve as a eulogy to their lives. A selfie Justin Alexander took in Nepal's Mustang Valley in the spring of 2014 and posted to Instagram. The sadhu gave a different version of what happened at Mantalai Lake than what he had told Lee in Khir Ganga. McElroy thought of his friend’s legendary survival skills. The mist fades, and Rawat appears through a cloud of smoke, in his hut, smoking a chillum. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google, Thanks for signing up! Carrying a flute that he had turned into a walking staff, Alexander headed northwest to the capital of New Delhi, where he bought a used black Royal Enfield Bullet 500 motorcycle and named it Shadow. Landscape view near the river between Manali to Leh Ladakh in India. “I’ve heard stories about the magical powers of these Babas,” he wrote on Instagram on August 15. The sadhu was short and slim, wore a saffron dhoti (a wrap around his waist), and had long, matted dreadlocks characteristic of Hindu ascetics. our entire suite of free newsletters here. We wanted to give you an update with all the information we have at this point. There, Alexander met a dreadlocked foreigner who played a bamboo flute and said, in a thick German accent, that he had been living in India for the past 20 years—“a simple life, with few possessions,” Alexander wrote online in admiration. On one occasion, Alexander told his followers online, shortly after he arrived in Khir Ganga, a sadhu named Sat Narayan Rawat beckoned him into a smoky, stone-walled hut just below the hot springs. But the country has a way of taking hold of the spiritually curious and turning innocent idealism into devoted fervor. A spate of missing trekkers (the latest being American national Justin Alexander Shetler) in the upper reaches of Himachal Pradesh has become a matter of acute embarrassment for the External Affairs Ministry. According to the accounts of the hikers (whom he knew and met on the trail) he had not eaten in 2 days and was severely underweight & physically depleted. We want to dramatically increase our story fund this year, but we can't do it without your support. Many gravitated to his stories of climbing the Brooklyn Bridge at night, partaking in a shamanistic ritual in Brazil, undertaking a monk’s initiation ceremony in Thailand, and helping build a school in earthquake-wracked Nepal in the spring of 2016. Alexander led Gapon to his cave, a four-foot-tall hollow hidden above the camp on a forested hillside. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. We need some clarity. GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. — A 26-year-old man reported missing over the weekend has been found safe. The day after he drove into the Parvati Valley, he posted on Facebook his plan to hike into the upper valley and live for weeks in a cave, emulating the lifestyle of the sadhus. He felt compelled to help search. Others were drawn to what his adventures represented: Alexander was minimalist but not rejectionist. Strapped to the back of the motorcycle, with a white star painted over each ear, was Alexander’s helmet. But this time was different. “Eventually he pushed the limits a little too far.”. Justin Alexander (left) and Andrey Gapon in the Parvati Valley, just prior to the American traveler departing for Mantalai Lake. Three days after Skeels and Reeb filed the report, police and a small search team that included Skeels landed by helicopter along the trail below Mantalai Lake. But he assures me that he is the real thing.”. Rawat divulged that a third person, a porter he’d hired, had accompanied them to Mantalai. I want to see the world through his eyes, which are essentially 5,000 years old, an ancient spiritual path. Some of the missing are presumed murdered; in 2000, a British man, his fiancée, and her teenage son were brutally attacked while camping above the Parvati Valley. I’m going to put my heart into it and see what happens... Maybe Baba Life will be good for me.” In his gray daypack, Alexander packed a kilogram of rice, some oats, nuts, raisins, tea, sugar, and flour. He arrived in the city of Varanasi, one of the country’s strongest spiritual magnets, where Hindu pilgrims bathe in the holy Ganges River to have their sins washed away. Moved by the efforts of a 65-year-old American woman trying to find her son who was missing in the Parvati Valley, Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on Sunday offered the services of a government helicopter in the search. Midway through the trip, on July 22, he entered the Parvati Valley. The valley’s hillside hamlets and postcard mountain vistas attract tens of thousands of tourists every year, but those who come here are different from those who speed through the Taj Majal on a Golden Triangle tour or backpack from vibrant temple to sparkling beach as the mainstay of India’s tourism. However Alexander’s journey ended, something happened at Mantalai Lake. Few countries on earth draw spiritual tourists in such zealous droves as India. The Parvati runs fast near its source, especially here, where the valley forces it together into a narrow pinch, and especially in summer. One Israeli man lived in the valley for decades, growing and dealing hash, getting married and having a child, until he was arrested for overstaying his visa. Mountains rise up one side, and cliffs drop precipitously down the other, often hundreds of feet to the Parvati River below. It’s a narrow track—roughly paved in parts, washed-out dirt in others—along which rattletrap buses swerve and screech to a crawl with inches to spare as they pass. Somewhere in the high reaches of the Parvati Valley, he disappeared. Alexander didn’t have a stove or cooking fuel, so Gapon pressed something into his hand, a fitting parting gift to someone who valued both practicality and minimalism: a red windproof butane lighter. In the September 3 photograph taken by the hikers, Alexander is wrapped in his gray shawl. Police won't arrest them; even for murder, which happens I'm told.". Following her friend online, Tracy Frey had noticed a shift in the tone of Alexander’s photos and writing. To all of you who have been concerned with what may be happening to Justin, this is a message from his Mother: Thank you to all of you who have expressed concern. Help fund our award-winning journalism with a contribution today. “For India speaks to the unconscious: it provokes it, makes it boil and sometimes overflow. On August 22, the Russian man walked his new friend through the orchards in Kalga to the trailhead above the river, gave him a red butane lighter, and said goodbye. After two hours, the police flew back to Kullu, leaving Skeels to continue on foot downstream to Khir Ganga. Find more newsletters on our. At the trailhead outside Kalga, a village of guesthouses and orchards where the road fades to footpath, Alexander handed Gapon his iPhone and asked him to take his picture to mark the “beginning of a spiritual journey.” The men hugged, and Alexander walked up the path into the forest. The long list of those adventurous travelers who go missing while exploring off the beaten track places. “P.s. Now Alexander was embarking on a three-day trek to a holy site called Mantalai Lake, where he would camp under the stars with few supplies. a plethora of missing and (presumably murdered), Friends: We Need Your Help to Fund More Stories. He once called himself reserved and a self-proclaimed loner who found solace in nature, but others knew him as someone who thrived on human connection. "I've been living in some caves in the Indian Himalayas for the last couple weeks," Justin Alexander posted on Instagram, including this photo of the inside of his cave. The space was cramped, but Gapon remembers Alexander was keeping it “forest clean.” He had collected wood to keep his pit fire rolling each night and had candles to read by in the evenings. 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