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.

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