Day 5 & 6 – Lost in the Land of Shiva

It was 5:40 when we finally took off from Rishikesh delayed by an hour as per our original plan. While in Rishikesh we satiated some of our hunger pangs and conversed with taxi drivers outside the bus stop, enquiring which roads are open and how far we could go.

Not planning exactly where we were heading, we took off to Tehri. Again, the road was good and bad in sorts as the work was on and the previous night showers and snow in upper regions had created chill. I thought the coming days were going to be spent in extremely cold conditions, nevertheless I was geared and prepared.

Reached Chamba around 8:15- it was deserted, dark and in a way chilly. But the star gazing was amazing! These two lads representing the younger generation dressed up and ventured out for star gazing for 5 minutes and came inside shivering. We had 2-3 wraps of quilts, blankets besides the warm clothes we were wearing. Did not feel like changing. The distance and travel time would have been shorter had I come from Dehradun via Mussoorie but then I was duty bound to pick my co-travelers.

Day started a bit early. The atmosphere was full of panoramic mountain views and bright sunshine. It was chilly despite the sunshine – the best nature could give you.

We sat in the car and started the onward journey to Tehri and from there to Gangotri. The first padao or halt we assumed would be Uttarkashi where we thought to have some grub.

We began the journey appreciating the mesmerizing view of the peaks. We were delayed by half an hour by our set time. The objective was to appreciate nature to its fullest and have as much of pure air in our lungs as could be inhaled.

However, the locals were out braving the chill. Little kids were heading to schools and the elders to work. There was not much hustle and bustle though.

We hoped that the weather and the road be on our side and if that be the case we shall have dual layered fun. We could safely assume to be the only tourists in the terrain and this feeling really mattered.

The FM stations were not working and it being an early morning by the hill standard…Bhajans is what we wanted, tried all the DVDs and MP files we had and luckily found 2 having bhajans in them. Most had gone out of order. By the way the DVD culture is totally wiped out and here we were possibly listening to music aided by something which has become thing of the past.

The drive was very mesmerizing with a view of Tehri dam on one side and mountains laden with trees on the other.

We halted at Chham for breakfast.

Omelet and slice is what we ordered and the guy did an excellent job of making the same to satiate our hunger and taste buds both.

We crossed Uttarkashi, wanted to withdraw some money to be on the safer side. However, the two ATMs we spotted and wanted to withdraw money from, we could not.

We had cash by our side, no matter how much digital but you need cash in all these places.

En route encounters – Khedi water Falls and Pilot Baba Ashram

Pilot Baba’s estate seemed huge and enticing

We drove around 40 kms towards Barsu village from where the Trek to Dayara starts.

It was a very nice drive to the hilltop. You could see the women folks with all the fodder loads for the cattle and walking at double the speed that You and I could imagine.

We exchanged greetings with them, despite load filled backs they were very pleasant and welcoming, some of them who belonged to a nearby village even offered us tea. We ate and distributed lots of Glucose biscuits to the locals. It was a great binding factor and worked like a fuel – the biscuits on physical and the gesture on our mental stature.

The very first view of snow clad peaks and glaciers were so enthralling that we forgot everything else for the moment. I wanted to click every bit of it in my eyes so that it lingers for life and stays with me, however as stated earlier, being mortals, the physical energies were dwindling and we had to capture some moments in our cameras.

As we progressed the view stayed with us changing faces with each passing kilometer.

On our way someone wanted to hitch hike – this was a father and a schoolgirl duo. The girl had missed her cab. Good time for us to show humanity. I was feeling glad that I could make some contribution there at that point in time. I applied brakes and made the duo settle in the car. It was a blessing of sorts for me for I could strike a conversation with the father. Was amused to find that a sense of containment prevailed with him and with others as per his narration.

Soon we reached the spot – the school where they got down and with folded hands we were thanked! They offered tea to us as a gesture of thanksgiving. We thanked them and moved ahead without having the tea.

We had covered a few kilometers and on our way to Daryala Bugyal we had other guests. It was Shivaratri and all the locals were visiting the temples to offer jal..the holy water to lord Shiva.

A group of ladies sought lift…understanding how much they go and do on a daily basis I wanted to make every one of them sit, a king like thought but had a space constraint so I said only two could be made to sit. The elderly showed a great gesture and made the two youngsters sit- to be dropped to the village which was some 6-7 kilometers from there.

Now this was to have more perspective from locals, the youth wing. They were not shy and in fact sounded very informed. A sense of contentment prevailed in them. They asked us why not you also offer the prayers and seek blessings. Being in land of Shiva and not thanking him would prove detrimental hence we agreed to offer jal with them.

Sukhi Top was the place and Rishi kund was the temple. Innocence, love, trust, peace seemed to be the key possessions.

Imagine the road to temple-it was a road made with stones that had to be walked down and it was snow laden. The two young guys with me took full advantage and hurled snow balls at each other.

I stepped into the snow after many years. After visiting the temple felt more relaxed and assured. Assured that now I have God’s blessings hence will have uninterrupted onward journey. Trust me it proved that ways.

We wanted to explore the Dayara Bugyal, there were few lakes enroute.

It was 2:30 in the afternoon and we decided to trek. The locals said that it takes them 1 hour to climb. Being a marathon runner in my school days I thought I could closely match these guys. The place had few houses from where the ascent begins. Some local guided us on which trek to take. The others said that we should have asked some local guy to accompany. As we started our ascend we realized it was not what we thought it would be. Yes, our lungs were panting for air. The heart was beating against the chest, we were tired and had climbed hardly 600 meters. Soon few barking dogs blocked our way. Got slightly scared that if one of them bites us it would be a trip gone wrong. After few minutes we spotted a local walking down. He suggested the place is some 5kms and we may not reach before it is dark and that there was snow at the top.

We thanked the Dogs and the man who sounded rude at that moment, but later showered all praises for they saved the day. For had we ventured ahead don’t know what would have happened, for we had no food, no shelter arrangements, or even enough layers.

We were advised that we should have spoken with locals and taken a pony and a porter and rather should have planned the stay in advance. We realized that we were making a folly and hence decided to come back and reach the car.

The dilemma continued for some time and I even explored and made an attempt if we could find horses for they would be faster and we would have a guided tour of the place. Enquired with few locals there- they said could be arranged but it is late now also the charges they asked per person were 1500.At first instance, the price appeared too exorbitant but subsequently I realized it was called for. Any way we dropped the idea and convinced self that we have had some feel of the place…Bugyal the meadow is something that I had experienced previously also. We had a place to reach.

 

 

Day 4 – Of Memories and Moments

Went to lakshman jhula more with the intent to have a stroll, see the swarg ashram may be from outside and most importantly B’fast at chotiwala…

Had a walk from lakshman Jhula till Ram jhula …2km each side rain gods graced the day and greeted my way.Saw lot of firangs as cited by Mr. garg.

 Spotted Chotiwala now there were two Chotiwala’s adjacent to each other, got into dilemma which is original.Soon went to one of the local shops and inquired, was told can go to any of the two both are brothers and equally good.this syndrome of division I also observed which I will talk in subsequent writing. How orchards are becoming smaller by the day.

The food I would rate 8/10 but hygiene was poor especially the utensils not of the standard we are used to in terms of grease free etc. and no way close to what the local dhabas on hills serve you in.

The choti wala guy the clone that they use , to advertise was also having his grub….

Now the time was to meet greet the family folks and hence started my journey to Dehradun I would rate the landscaping and greenery one amongst best when it comes to plains. Ultimate pleasure surely somethings money can’t buy.

Stayed in Dehradun the first leg ends much ahead of what I had planned, less adventurous than I would have wanted but still it had its moments of truth and the memories still linger though it has been a month of sorts or rather 3 weeks

Day 3 – Rendezvous with Nature

Started at 11 from Khirsu towards Pauri. Pauri being some 16 kms from Khirsu, 4 kms prior is a road that leads to Nag Devta Temple. 2km ahead is the Kandoliya Temple…the same road leads to Dev Prayag.

Hardly any traffic…awesome weather, cool chilled natural water. On the way to the temple encountered a stadium. My advice is go to these shrines and temples even if you are an atheist…they will give you new highs..for they are on heights. The views from here are marvelous be it the mountain ranges the deodar forests or the drive itself…you will definitely  gain more. The captivating views are bound to linger with you for ages, I am sure. The names will not for just like me the memory for you may have started fading.Signs of aging at 44…poor memory makes loose count of good things done or visited.

Now let’s get back to the temple trail. The temple is Kyunkleshwar Temple ..it is an 8th century temple. Encountered something interesting ..are laws of nature changing or say animals have started staying in harmony. At first spotted  few langoors and monkeys at a distance of 20 metres. My prudence suggested they should not co-exist…on my return saw monkeys chasing langoors, unusual but may be nature is changing as well may be we are ill informed.

Saw few locals at the parisar. Next day was Shivaratri hence the temple management was busy decorating.

The child’s innocence. A small child insisting his parents to give him the grapes offered by some devotee there to the lord and parents convincing him.I suggested as this is Prasad they may just pick and give the lad the grapes.

En route to Dehradun stopped at Teen Dhara where an amazing food was waiting have it as much as you can For INR 40. Variety galore Jai Ho India.

The onward journey begins @ 4:25. Checked in at Hotel Chanakya…Rishikesh- Badrinath Highway, Shivpuri, Distt. Good bargaining with off season is a big pay back and I made a good use of the same. Got a secret price deal from the manager.

It was my B’day as well. The day was Sunday the place was Rishikesh and yes the day I was actually born was Sunday and the Place Rishikesh. The life had come a full circle. Was feeling good and contented don’t know why. The feeling itself mattered to me.

About the hotel

Checked in at 7:10 pm room number 106 repeat of Kaudiala. The manager Mr. Garg is a nice guy. I had to capitalize on my affinity to Place Rishikesh.

Good deal undisclosed price…Bargain power be honest and upfront for it is an off season for them and people don’t mind earning something on a flat day. Told him I am on a Budget travel and that I needed to economize. People listen you they trust you but then you have to be honest.

Bargain failed at two properties but paid off in the 3rd one.

The manager got curious and wanted to know the purpose of my visit. When I told him that I am on an exploration trip he opened further and started sharing few valuable insights about the place and the tourists…

March to June as per him is the peak when Indian travelers dominate. The Foreigners are aligned from September to February.

Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula have hordes of visitors in February.

Foreigners are in for Yoga , Aarti, Parmarth Niketan, Panchkarma and meditation and they become the key attraction points..

#Maggi seems to be an all pervasive food guys this was the start and till the end the dear Maggi was everywhere filling tummies and satiating hunger. It is on the menu list right from corner street #Dhaba to restaurants there.

As the expansion work is on full throttle….certain road discipline is expected of drivers. I saw a great civic and road sense prevalent minus few of My Dilliwala’s and HR numbers who wanted to jump the wagon and reach first.

Come on guys respect the serenity and values that larger people depict here.

About Nature, Walks and childhood

 

Queen of Hills it is….Mussoorie is the place. Well it happens to be the place I spent my childhood and youth. The desire to feature amongst successful people pushed me to Delhi.Rather it was a personal choice and coveted. In pursuit of worldy pleasures I sacrificed the small little things that nature offers and became a Dilliwala.

This June I got lucky, no fortune discovered but it was no less a feeling. Not that I haven’t been to Mussoorie all these years. After all I have a house there but of late I have been an occasional visitor and that too confined to few kilometers in and around the mall.

This time I thought to rewind the childhood and on the itinerary was to take my kids and recite them all stories associated to the places I wanted them to go with me. On the agenda was my Alma mater St. George’s college, followed with Dhanaulti , George Everest , Bhatta Falls and clouds end.

As chance would have it, of all the places planned I could manage to just go to George Everest. Well if I take a positive view I got a second chance to visit the place.School visit did not work out for the holidays were on. Dhanaulti was ruled out as someone known passed for heavenly abode.So I had to be contended with the solitary outing. The Everest House is located at a distance of approximately 8 km from Mussoorie and is a short drive away.

I really had to figure out the approach road to Sir George Everest Hill.Well being peak season in Hills the infrastructure is overloaded and with it comes its own challenges the biggest being traffic snarls.

I packed my car with 9 people including self. Mainly kids… my own, nieces, nephews. Drove from Camel’s back road to library to reach the Waverley gate. Had to halt there for around 20 minutes on account of Jam.The term Jam takes back again to school when we used to have combined Jam sessions with Waverley girls on their Fete.

Reached Hathipaon post driving for 8kms…but missed the cut to George Everest rather drove further.Had to come back.The road was not great for Motor commute but good to walk. Drove car to some distance say .75 kms, but thought walking would be a better option. Next 1.5 kms or so was covered on foot as the terrain suited SUVs and I was on a sedan.Kids enjoyed some of it… the walk and complained on certain patches. It took us some 40 minutes to reach the spot.

Photographs and picture session continued during the trail. There was lot of visitors, beyond imagination. The place seems to have caught the fancy of Youth who were in hordes as friends, couples or whatever.

Activa’s dominated the parking of sorts. The weather was perfect and complimenting but yes the mist and fog caused us to miss the view from the Top of the hill. We struggled to enjoy the complete view but the walk, the green surroundings and more natural sights relaxed me fully.We ate in the local shacks the Good maggi and teamed with some Tiger Biscuits.

Though much of the Building has been in shambles but you shall be assured of Serenity the Views that could be expected from hills and which you don’t find in Town anymore especially in Summers due to maddening crowd.

 

Khirsu…The clean green destination…

After witnessing the origin of Ganga it was time to move further.

Under the guidance of a local who was sitting on a roadside vend idle gossiping I decided to take the route to Khirsu via the Srinagar rather than first go to pauri via satpuli.

I was told that this is a better route and that I shall encounter Khirsu first and subsequently Pauri. Khirsu being more beautiful, lesss explored made more sense for me to follow his advice.People are so kind that you will not need the GPs , further it is a good way to strike conversation with locals, after all we have grown the hard way.

I turned towards the guided route which was via the Srinagar.

The drive to Khirsu was so pleasing and I bet my Kids Ananya and Lakshay it was similar to what you experienced few months back while we traveled to Kasauni…the K word.

Pine trees, Cone laden roads, and the view…the view I am sure is fresh in your minds.

Around evening we reached khirsu …and withcent percent surety I could say…Shanti hai, Vyawhar hai, Vishwas hai…insaniyat hai…Na jyada guest houses na jyada commercialization…

We decided to find a good boarding point where we could stay and admire the snow clad peaks from.Didn’t have to search much.The first preference was the GMVN but the guy was not very keen to have us with fixed rates (very economical but still higher than what private parties could offer) we just saw the hut priced at INR 1400 and moved out not empty handed but I bought the book Uttrakhand “The Abode of Gods” to brush up and fine tune my awareness and knowledge of the place.

Had interesting encounters en-route came across the little Joshi’s and the uniyals with whom I had grown.Reminiscent of my walking from school in Mussorie from barlowganj to my house.

I started the conversation with these little dear pahadis “what time does your school get over” 3:30 came the reply. Dittoo for us I said to myself. Soon the 3 guys fitted in the back seat of my car with few bags accompanying them.They started shyly whispering amongst themselves.There whispers still echo in my mind and I posiibly could translate some bit of it for this is what exactly we did when we were their age….

 

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