Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sumit's Homestay, Raithal

A 90 minutes drive from Uttarkashi took me to Raithal, one of the most fertile and prosperous villages of Uttrakhand. Trekking for the famous Dayara Bugyal (meadow) begins here. The twenty four hours I stayed there were engaging, exciting and breathtaking.

I waited for my host Sumit at the entrance of the village. A large clearing, a friendly policeman and a helpful passer by who offered me his mobile phone to call Sumit have already won my heart. The moment I started talking to the shopkeeper to buy some snacks, (like---- in the movie My Fair Lady) he asked me if I belonged to the Pauri region of Uttrakhand, because I spoke garhwali in a particular accent.

Sumit knew all the people we met on the way and greeted them with due respect. It was nice to talk to them. The basketful of foliage was neither fit for fodder nor for fire. They told me that they spread it on the floor of the basement rooms where cows are kept . It keeps them warm. It is removed after a couple of days along with the cow dung and stored in some place in the fields. Within a month or so the organic fertiliser is ready to use.

Landmark in the jungle.

First there was a little snow and then snow all around!

Woods are lovely, indeed!

Goi Bugyal, (4 km from the base) The group has left the camp to trek to Dayara. Only seasoned trekkers can reach Dayara in a day. I took another trail to reach Naag Devta temple.

Frozen pond on the way to Naag Devta temple.

Naag Devta temple, gram devta of raithal village. 

Food n fire in the forest when I was hungry and cold after a really long walk.

In full bloom! These flowers should bloom in March, but the high temperature and no or late rains is the culprit.

It was dark by the time we reached home and this was the first thing I saw in the morning.

Thank you Mrs Raturi for the warm hospitality and sumptuous breakfast, dinner and packed lunch

The grand temple

Happier and healthier than his counterpart in the plains.

Spacious, warm and comfortable room with a view.

Famous Rajma of Raithal and daal nuggets (Bari)

On the way back to Uttrakashi.

Raithal was never in my bucket list, now I wonder why it was not? Now I know why it is called Homestay and not Housestay. Thank you Sumit for the wonderful time and lovely stories you told me while climbing down. And Baronmasa What are you going to offer me next?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hey, This is the Way to Say Goodbye

Call it a split-up and not a closure or goodbye
because you were  fooled and left high and dry.
You were caught in a trap
when you were naive and shy.

Curse yourself for each rendezvous,
for holding hand and kisses too.
Shed tears of blood if you can
and flush the humiliation in the drain.

Regret the time and money you had spent
on someone who was no less than a serpent.
You betrayed your educated self
by not having reason, logic and sense!

World is not fair even to Gods
for Krishna, Rama and Christ, the lord.
Give solace to your burnt heart,
take a shower and part from your past.

The choice you will have to make,
if you want to live in peace.
Burn every memory and move on
Or keep the virus alive to turn it into disease.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hemkund , Hospitable and Homely

Two roads diverge at Ghagaria, I am happy that  I could travel both. The one goes to Valley of Flowers and the other to Hemkund Saheb, the holy pilgrimage of Sikhs. Gurudwara Hemkund Saheb (4633 mt) is in Chamoli district of Uttrakhand. The holy shrine is associated with the tenth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He came here for meditation and later wrote his experiences in his autobiography.

Baaronmasa, an agency, headed by three young IITiens, arranged the  eco tour for seven of us, who  came from different states of India.The journey began from Dehradun to Joshimath. After the night stay we drove to Govindghat. The 13 km walk from Govindghat took us to a place called Ghagaria. The next day was booked for Valley of flowers. The day after, which was 15th August'17 we were on our way to Hemkund Saheb.

The trail was ascending from the beginning to the end.Steep, but it was broad enough. The trek comes under moderate to difficult  category, as I was told. It welcomed us with a scenic waterfall, not very far away.

In the beginning the place looked crowded, but slowly we got scattered as every one has a different pace. People walking all alone is a common sight.It was nice to be greeted 'Happy Independence Day' by fellow trekkers and people riding on horses and ponies, as it was 15th August.

 I walked slow, and took few stoppages. I preferred to stand and rest rather than sitting.
Scenery was awesome, so just standing and gazing at the mountains, clouds, flowers and glaciers was a quick relaxation.

Even after walking for 3 to 4 hours there was no trace of the destination. The short cuts which looked very tempting were not easy to climb.This is what I had thought but  not my 'Buddy'  Sasi, who in spite of a little AMS overtook me by taking shortcuts. Bravo!

Flowers on the way were as amazing as we saw in the Valley. Flowers here looked compact, firm and brighter than the Valley flowers.My guide told me it was because these plants get a good supply of manure as so many mules and horses commute throughout the season, whereas animals are not allowed in the Valley. I found more variety here than in the Valley itself. I could spot a Brahmkamal also.

'Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing' .so I kept climbing. The only annoying thing throughout was that there was no milestones. If we ask locals around, they would say,"only little is left'' in a patronizing tone.

Had lunch in one of these Dhabas.

 There was a stretch when I felt like a snail.Just moving very slow.

                                  This glacier had mud and and grass along with, beautiful sight indeed!

                   What force and speed!

1100 in all

Finally, the Gurudwara!

I chose steps to a long road to reach the top. 
Even after the flight of innumerable stairs, 
there was still some climbing left.People 
were on their way back advised me to walk 
faster to get the prasad. 

I met my group mates who had reached there hours before.and were ready to go back. The Gurudwara people were winding up their work. Some of them washing vessels and keeping them in order.I was not surprised to see their devotion, we all know about that.
They close the Langer at 2. But I could reach only by 2.45 pm. so no Prasad for me. Prasad, which means a lot to us, Indians. I asked them if I could take a pinch of prasad from the big empty pot./boiler kept there. They stopped me and told me to wait. Just in a while they brought a big , clean bowl of steaming Rajma-chawal for me.They must have prepared it for their own lunch. I was so touched by their gesture. 

The main hall of Gurudwara was locked. Just a little request, and they opened the door for a few of us who could reach late. The place was heart warming. We were allowed to click pictures. But the place was too pious to post its pics on FB.

Going back was comparatively easier, but not easy. My companions were faster so they had all gone. Two boys ran past me, exactly the way my brother and I did while climbing down from our village in Rudraprayag during vacations. I felt like a lady Bhishm Pitamah , the great-grand old man of Mahabharat. The guide was with me so I was not tensed. Climbing down was the same endless trail. It was normal till it was not dark. After  that moonlight helped. The guide told me that there is no problem except sometimes Bhalu (bears) come out from the jungle and may attack. The bhalu part was a bit scary for me.

To the relief of my friends, I reached the base by 8.30. I was told that they had already chosen a pic of mine to be put on the posters to search me. All in a lighter vein , of course.With bhalus around, they were really worried for me.

 With this I put a tick mark  on one of the destinations in my bucket list.

Next: Badrinath and Mana, the last village on the India -Tibet border.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Valley of Flowers, a Walkothon to Remember

pic: Vivek Negi
Day 1, 12th Aug
It's not about the destination. It's about the journey to get there. This was the line that was flashing in my mind while I walked long trails and climbed steep mountains during a week long trip to Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Saheb.
The journey started from Dehradun to Joshimath, a nine hour long bus ride with a group of fun-loving people organised by Baaronmasa. Throughout the ride the bus movedalong the river. We meet four out of five Prayags, confluences. The fifth confluence is ten km north of Joshimath at Vishnuprayag.

The confluence at Devprayag is amazing. Even though you are sleeping through the journey, you must wake up and have a look.

Joshimath is a lovely little town. Street food and a few tourist attractions can be explored to keep one busy for the evening. Hotel Auli-D offered us a comfortable stay. Next morning we drove to Govindghat which was 20 km away and took us less than an hour. The names of the places which were just the words in the itinerary were taking shapes. As a habit I don't google before any trip to retain the surprise element, as I am always with reliable people who would never leave me in a jungle where bears roam around.

Govindghat to Ghagaria is 13 km walk. A long walk indeed, but later I knew that this was easiest of all the treks in the trip.We walked along the Laxman (Ganga) River. There were many small and huge waterfalls on the other side of the rivers. There were food and snacks stalls at some distance throughout. They sold boiled Channa with onion, chilli and lemon, Pahari cucumber, which was juicier than the one we get in plains and neembu-pani. I can't imagine eating all this back at home from roadside stalls, but there was something in the fresh, clean and dustless surrounding that I couldn't resist.

Took the signboard too seriously and followed it till the end and it surely didn’t disappoint me.

We were asked to be with at least one member of the group.So in case of emergency one is not alone. The person is called Buddy.

After walking 13 km for around 7 hours we reached Ghagaria. Colourful tents at the campsites can be seen from the distance, giving the relief that we are almost there. As we reached the hotel Holiday and had tea and pakoras we got a feeling that our stay is going to be comfortable and friendly.

Day 3 Valley of Flowers

Ghagaria is the starting point for Valley as well as Hemkund Saheb.
Valley is around 3 km away from the starting point. The trail is not as smooth as we had treaded a day before, from Govindghat to Ghagaria. It’s rough and boring at times. It’s a long long way.

As you think it’s boring, something interesting comes up.

Shades of Green

Suddenly appears a glimpse of the valley.
And then the Valley!
Pic: Ashish Kundalia

I chose to go to Joan Margret Leggy’s grave. She had discovered the Valley of Flowers in 1885.She died here in the valley while visiting it for the fifth time. The other way lead to a riverbed.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence commeth my help. -Joan Margret Legge.

It is advisable that where ever you are in the valley you should should start walking back as soon as the clock strikes 2, then only one can reach Ghagaria in time. We were lucky to have clear sky. Rains would have made the walk difficult.

Who would not envy him. What a place of work!

A picture speaks a thousand word, then how many would a video speak? An amazing video by Ashwin, a fellow trekker.

Day 4: Hemkund Saheb
To be contd...