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A Trek to the ABODE of GODS                                             Jayant Doshi                                      ...
importance in Hindu religion. However, with                                                        the melting of the glac...
destination was Tapovan, the land where                                                      rishis, sages and seers spent...
rocks, but at the top we had a wonderful view                                                        of a clear aqua blue ...
walking at those heights, and we all agreed to                                                        change our plans. We...
decided to sleep on the uneven floor of the                                                        hut rather then in the ...
differences, we had good times on the trek, and each one expressed a desire to repeat theexperience in the near future. I ...
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Trek to abode of Gods


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Trek to abode of Gods

  1. 1. A Trek to the ABODE of GODS Jayant Doshi I have fallen in love with the Himalayas; its beauty and majesty is so enchanting that I had to do another trek. This would be my fifth visit to the Himalayas with some trekking involved, and I hope that I will be visiting the area again. This time I chose the Himalayas on the Indian side. For Hindus there are four important places of pilgrimage – Hardwar, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Janmotri, and all these places are accessible by car. I selected the trek starting from Gangotri going up the Himalayas. After my trek to Everest base camp, interest in such trekking was expressed by many, and this time we had a mixture of youth and age in our group. We were four in the group, two from India and two from London, and the ages ranged from Vicky (27), Monik (33), Chetan (44) and myself. Two of us from London arrived in Delhi on 31stAugust, while other two came from Mumbai. We spent a day in shopping and sightseeing. Westarted our trip on 2nd September, driving down to Hardwar in heavy rains. Our guide joined usfrom Hardwar. The guide and the driver were very friendly and jolly, and the long journey in the carbecame pleasant with their jokes and talks. We passed by the huge complex built by the worldrenowned Guru Ramdev, and visited the Patanjali centre. Spread over acres of land, it is built in amodern fashion with huge gardens. The centre has become known for its yoga teaching andayurvedic medication. We saw hundreds of poor people coming to get advice on their problems. Next day we drove to Uttar Kashi. It was a lovely clear day with blue sky and hotsun. As we had begun our ascent on Himalayas, the scenery en-route was beautiful. On the waywe stopped to look at Ananda Spa, which is located high on the mountains. A palace has beenconverted to create a luxurious spa for the discerning ones. Ananda spa gives a holiday from thehustle bustle of our daily lives, and midst the pure natural air of the mountains with all the facilitiesfor a relaxing time. Besides the spa facilities and massage services, it has built a gazebo on top ofa hill for learning and practising yoga. We also passed still being constructed Tehri dam, which will be the largest dam inIndia, and will create a lake of 45 square km. We reached Utter Kashi in the evening. We allwalked down to the shores of Bhagirathi Ganges, dipped our feet in the ice cold waters, and sat inthe dark appreciating the moon, the stars and the clear sky, and the river surrounded by mountainscovered with trees, and gushing waters of the river making a musical note that blended with thatsilence of the night. Our hotel rooms had balconies overlooking all this. Next morning we drove to Gangotri, the last drive before we start our trek. As wewent up, the scenery became more stunning. We passed by the river waters, and falls. Somemountains were being dynamited, and we had to stop while the roads were cleared. We stopped tosee the huge turbines throwing waters andwalked down an ancient bridge. The roadswere rough with pot holes due to recentheavy rains, and our car got damaged on theway. We took the opportunity to bathe in hotwater springs on the way. We stopped atHersil where river waters flow over largeboulders. Water was very cold, but wemanaged to dip our feet in the waters. Wemet a large group from Rajkot who were on apilgrimage in this area. Gangotri is where RiverGanges started flowing from a glaciercenturies back, and that is why it has such
  2. 2. importance in Hindu religion. However, with the melting of the glacier, now the Ganges starts further up from Gaumukh (literally means cow’s mouth – that is how the glacier at that point looks where the river starts). Legend goes that there was a King Sagar who had one thousand sons, who were killed by a rishi when they stole rishi’s horse. The King went and apologized and asked for his sons to be revived. The rishi said that only by bringing River Ganges from Indra Lok (heaven) they can be revived. King Sagar prayed for years but failed in his mission, buthis grand son King Bhagirathi succeeded and King Indra agreed to send Ganges on earth.However, if Ganges came directly onto the earth, the earth would split, so the fall had to becushioned. King Bhagirathi prayed to Lord Shiva and asked him to catch Ganges in his hair andsoften the fall. Lord Shiva agreed and this is how Ganges came down to earth, and that is why theriver has such reverence and religious importance in the lives of Hindus. All Hindu legends refer tothe Himalayas as abode of Gods, and that is where rishis went to acquire knowledge. Our car journey ended in Gangotri, and we prepared our bags for trekking, leavingall extra luggage in the hotel, and packed what we might need for the trek. The rains from Delhi toHardwar had seeped through our bags, and we had to take out everything from the bags and try todry them the best we can in that cold weather. We left Gangotri in the morning, leaving behind allthe temples and thousands of pilgrims who visit this beautiful place at the base of Himalayas. Westarted our trek along the river Ganges, surrounded by mountains, greenery and valleys. It wasgradual incline, and steep in places so the walking was reasonably comfortable. There were a fewtrekkers on the way, more like pilgrims, but compared to the Trek to Everest Base camp, thenumbers was a trickle. We stopped at Chidbasa for lunch. We were dreading rain, which could benasty in cold weather, but luckily we did not see much of that on our trek. While it was cloudy andsunny all the way, temperatures were getting cooler. We camped for the night at Bhojbasa. Eachtent would sleep two. There was no place to change clothes, and tents were too low to try that. Wedecided to sleep in the same clothes. It rained in the evening but for a short while only. We woke up in the midst of the valleys and mountains without any lights. Ourcamera batteries lost power, and there was no bath to be had from today onwards. We got readyand left at 9.30. Compared to Everest trek, where we had only 30 minutes to get ready, it wasleisurely getting ready in the morning. We managed to do some yoga in the fresh natural air in themountains. In the bright sun, we managed to wipe our bodies and change our under clothes, hadour tea and breakfast, and managed to have a change of some clothes. We started our trek toGaumukh. The glacier at this point looks likethe mouth of a cow and hence it got its name.The trek to Gaumukh was comparativelyeasy. On the way we heard about two touristswho died in Gaumukh the day before. In theirenthusiasm to feel the glacier at its mouth,and where the water starts coming out, theymust have gone down the valley right to themouth of the glacier, and the ice hangingabove must have collapsed and killed thetourists. Our guide very clearly instructed usnot even to try to go down to the river level. Once we had taken a goodview of the Gaumukh, and lots of photos, we started to walk over the glacier. Over the centuries,the glacier is covered with rocks and soil, but ice underneath keeps melting, and at any point theland could collapse or one can face a gaping hole in the glacier at any point. We could see thewater seeping through the ground, and muddy patches in between the land. We were asked towalk carefully and watch our steps. We all crossed the glacier without any mishap. Our next
  3. 3. destination was Tapovan, the land where rishis, sages and seers spent time meditating and acquiring knowledge. Tapovan literally translated means the forest where one goes for meditation and “tap”. Over the centuries, many wise sages and seers came here and acquired the knowledge that we have inherited from them in our culture. We were faced with a steep hill in front of us, covered with rocks of all sizes and shapes, and dry soil. It looked daunting. We had to climb this to reach Tapovan. Up tonow I was mostly in front of the group in walking, but this steep hill caused me problems. I had tostop after every few steps to recover my breath. Loose stones and dry soil meant that feet keptslipping. While I was walking with support of two sticks, I still had to use my hands to hold on to bigrocks to climb up. Perhaps this was the most difficult climb I have experienced during my treks. Iliterally crawled up the mountain on my feet and hands. Others went ahead of me even thoughthey also were finding it difficult and struggling. On the way we met some pilgrims, including a 73year old man in normal shoes, some ladies and a small child. Talking with the old man inspired me.I thought that if he can do it, then I have a few more years to do more trekking. From that point onI was ahead of the group, and reached the top well before everyone. Others were struggling, and Icould see that. I reached the top, and others who were already there clapped when they saw mecome to the top. It was a wonderful feeling to see everyone appreciating my efforts. We camped in the midst of mountains, and a river flowing in the valley, andsurrounded by snow covered peaks. It was amazing and beautiful. My three colleagues were downwith headaches and a feeling of nausea, and I pointed out that this could be possibly altitudesickness. Luckily everyone recovered by evening. It was sunny and pleasantly cool but not cold.We had planned bon fire and barbecue for the night but everyone was not up to it and we decidedto postpone that programme. Next morning we woke up to sunny blue skies, and doing yoga in that atmospherewas ecstatic. We were camping at this site for three nights. Today we were walking up to KirtiBhamat, one of the peaks in the Himalayan range. It was a difficult incline, but a pleasant walk.Two stopped halfway, while other two walked the whole way. We met a young Japanese person,dressed in orange clothes. He had made a flute like instrument, but much longer, from teak woodwith a hole in the middle, and he would play this instrument to very good effect on the mountains.At our request he played the instrument with us, and it was just ecstatic. The music blended withthe winds and the sound of the gushing waters of the river. During our day trek we passed twopeaks, namely Shivling and Kala Patthar. It was my turn to have headache and nausea, though it did not last for long. Thatafternoon we played cards in the hot sun. But the hot sun suddenly turned into cold and cloudyweather. By evening the clouds started descending down, until we could see the clouds coveringthe valley, and obscured the surroundingmountains from our view. After dinner, acamp fire was made when it was dark andcloudy. Porters and the guide joined us andpresented some wonderful singing andjokes. As time passed by the clouds driftedaway and we could see the clear sky, thestars and the full moon throwing its gentlelight on the snow clad peaks at a distance.The scenery was beautiful and theatmosphere was ecstatic. I had good night sleep, andwoke up feeling fresh. It was a cloudymorning, but we did our yogas in the openair and got ready at leisurely pace. We started our trek at 9.00. We were going higher up to see alake and then proceed to a Meru peak. The initial climb was up a steep slope with lots of loose
  4. 4. rocks, but at the top we had a wonderful view of a clear aqua blue water lake. Jay and Chetan decided to stay there and appreciate the view, and later walked up to the lake. Monik had resolved that he would like to go and touch the snow. Everyone, including the guide, laughed. According to them snow was not as near as it looked and it would be impossible to reach up to that point. Monik, who had not been brilliant at trekking so far, was determined. With one porter to show him the way, he decided to try and I agreed to join him as far as I could go. The walk was over a knife edge narrow path on the cliff. Supportingmyself with two walking sticks, I had to walk very carefully as even a minor slip could mean slidealong the cliff slope. I walked for three hours, and I could not keep up with Monik who was walkingvery fast. I could have carried on for much longer but I decided that I do not want to over exert andjeopardise my trek for the next day. Monik carried on and he surprised everyone by walking up tothe base of the slope covered with snow. While he did not manage to touch any snow he did feelthe ice at the base. I made my way back on my own. The porter had told me that I should come downthe slope and then walk down to the valley towards our campsite. The slope was covered withhuge rocks and boulders, and making a way through that was challenging. From the top it lookedas simple and easy, but the actual walk was difficult. I had to keep changing my route to avoiddifficult boulders, and try to work out my own path as there were no tracks to follow. After somedifficult walking, I reached the valley. While I could see the camp site from the top, I lost sight of itwhen I reached the valley level. I was tired and panicked. I saw some people and asked them andthey pointed the direction. The valley had lots of river streams criss crossing, and I had to find away of crossing at points where my shoes and feet would not get wet. At the same time I did notwant to go too far as I was tired. Our camp site was hidden behind a small hill, and I almostthought that I was lost. I crossed the river at the shallow end, but dipping my shoes in water, andwent up the hill, and to my great relief I saw some people who pointed to my camp site. Over sixhours of difficult walk over the rocks and down the cliff had tired me. Monik walked quite fast and covered lot of distance, but his body was not used to itand when he came back he was in bed with fever and headache. Some rest and medicines curedhim and he half recovered by evening. We had a fire lit before our dinner, and Monik with hiscooking expertise concocted a wonderful sauce and roasted some potatoes on the fire with thatsauce. That was the most delicious barbecued potatoes any one had ever eaten. The guidecommented that it must be first time ever in trekking history that, at a height of 4300 metres, abarbecue was done. It was full moon light, with a light breeze and temperatures cool but pleasant;we supplemented our barbecue with some dinner. A music player entertained us with some lovelysongs, and later complemented by others joining in singing and dancing. Sky was almost clear,with some clouds floating around, covering the mountains and then moving away to display thesplendour of those peaks; the stars weretwinkling; the far off mountain tops withsnow clad peaks were gleaning in the moonlight. Words fail to describe that evening butthat was the best evening of our trek, andperhaps of all my travels. Chetan and I were wellprepared to face the cold weather, andused to the cold also, but Monik and Jaywere not well prepared, nor used to facingsuch cold weather. Our plan was to moveon to Nandanwan, and from there walk toVaishukital. Monik and Jay were very coldat night and were not too eager to continue
  5. 5. walking at those heights, and we all agreed to change our plans. We decided to walk down and trek at lower levels. Next morning we packed our bags and walked down to Chirbasa. Climbing the steep slope to reach Tapovan was difficult enough, but coming down seemed much more difficult. After my Everest base camp trek, back in London, I had slipped and broken my wrist while playing golf, and that had instilled a fear in my mind. Coming down this slope, that fear dominated my mind. The slope was slippery, loose rocks and the dry soil would not hold and the shoeswould slide on the slope. All the time I was being extra careful to avoid such an eventuality. Most ofthe way I came down sitting on my buttocks. While everyone was down the slope, I was stillstruggling coming down. Of course, I was not the only one doing this. Even the guide came downsitting down on his buttocks at times. But my experience and fitness were beaten by my age. Mythighs became stiff and sore. After coming down the slope, the walk was straight and easy, but mythighs were stiff and painful for the day. We camped at 4.00 in a valley surrounded by mountains, lots of greenery with snowcovered peaks visible at a distance, and the river Ganges thundering nearby. It was a wonderfulsite for camping. We had come down halfway from the mountains so the temperatures had risenalso. After our morning routine, we started our walk at 9.00 to go to Gangotri. On the way westopped for a tea break in a roadside shop. There were quite a few people, and at a distance I sawa Japanese old man in orange clothes and looked like a Sadhu. He was at a distance but as helooked at me I smiled and greeted him. He smiled at me. Later, a man came and gave me hisphotograph with a write up. On reading the same I found out that his name was Akash Giri, and hehad been following yoga since a very young age. He had perfected the yogic science to the extentthat he could levitate (float in the air) and the photograph showed him doing so. He also could, asper the paper, stop his heart beats for some time. I was surprised that out of so many peoplearound why he decided to send me the photo. I went there to talk to him, but he could not talkeither in English or Hindi. We stopped for lunch and then waited for a taxi to take us to our next destination.However, it took us long to find a taxi and we had to stay at a local rest house after a few hoursdrive. I later learnt that the porters had arranged a visit to a local fair with cultural dances, followedby some local dishes for dinner. However as we were delayed this was all cancelled. We perhapsmissed a wonderful opportunity. We stayed at a rest house in Bhatwari; at last we got a chance tohave a shower after so many days. Next morning we drove to Barsu, and left our extra luggage there. We started ourtrek to Barnala from there. This was totally different from our previous trek. We were at much loweraltitude, which meant it was warmer and I was sweating as if drenched in rain. The surroundingwas full of greenery – trees, shrubs and greengrowth everywhere. My companions found itlong and tiring walk but I enjoyed the walk inthis environment. We camped near some localhuts, which are used by local people for grazingtheir animals during summer months. Ourdinner was cooked in those huts. After lunch, others decided theyneeded to rest, but I took a porter with me for along walk. He took me to where skiing takesplace in winter, and where perhaps a huge skiresort is going to be developed in the future.The gentle slopes covered with green grasslooked stunning. The walk was pleasant andinteresting. The porter was quite educated and he gave me lot of insight into local life and customs.After a three hour walk in the mountains, I came back rejuvenated and refreshed. At night, many
  6. 6. decided to sleep on the uneven floor of the hut rather then in the tent. We stuck to our cosy sleeping bags in our tents. Next day we followed the same trek, but I still found it enjoyable to walk in that greenery and fresh air. After a while my colleagues dropped out but Chetan and I completed the full walk of over three hours. Since it was cloudy we missed the sight of snow peaks. We could have walked further to explore the future skiing resort but decided to turn back. When we came back our other colleagues had already left to descend downto Barsu. After taking our lunch, we started our walk at 1.30. The guide missed the regular route,but we decided to continue on what happened to be a longer route but a different route withdifferent vegetation and scenery. During our trek one thing we dreaded was rain, and thisafternoon it started raining. But it stopped before we got too wet. However, the ground was wet andslippery. The fear of slipping and falling was always on my mind, but so far I had escapedthat. Today, at one point I lost balance, but just managed to control myself and regain my balance,but then I lost balance on my other leg and I fell down. However the fall was not severe, and Istood up immediately and could not see any damage to the body. Later I realised that the fall hadstiffened some muscles in my thigh and calf on my right leg, and the ribs were sore. The pain didnot last for more then a day and I was glad that I had not done major damage to any part of mybody. This route took us over a water stream; and we had to climb on to a low wall and walk overit. We reached Barsu where we were supposed to camp; but Monik and Vicky had changed plansand decided to proceed to Utter Kashi the same day. We followed the plan, and we reached UtterKashi by that evening. Even though tired, I washed some clothes and sorted out my bags. We drove from Utter Kashi to reach Rishikesh where we were going to stay for twonights. Rishikesh literally means the abode of “rishis” or sages and seers. Our hotel on a steepslope was nice, and claimed to have facilities, but after inspection we found them not worth usingthem. After settling in our rooms, we walked down the local bazaar and crossed river Ganges onLaxman Jhoola. We had dinner on a balcony of a restaurant, overlooking river Ganges. The candlelight dinner was more an invitation to insects to spoil our enjoyment, rather then usually consideredwonderful romantic dinner. Next morning we went for rafting. The full rafting season had not started, and wewere restricted to a short simple distance on the river. But we had great fun. Splashing water ateach other, and then throwing each one in the river Ganges was hilarious and adventurous. Up tonow we had not dipped in the holy river, but on this day we bathed and swam in the holy river, andenjoyed it too. For lunch we had some snacks and drinks in our rooms, and later we walked in thetown. In the evening we attended the arti on the river Ganges. Hundreds of priests fromSwaminarayan temple were present, and with hundreds of divas the scene was wonderful. From adistance it would appear as if the water was covered with starlets. We packed our bags and left for the long drive to Delhi. On the way we stopped inHardwar at the residence of our guide Sandesh,whose wife entertained us to a delicious homemade lunch. We were honoured to be guests athis house, and to meet his family, and it waseven more pleasant to eat the local dish. Thatnight in Delhi we organised a special celebratorydinner. We had food and drinks and werecounted our trek with some pleasant memories.On our last day in Delhi, we visited the wonderfuland recently built Swaminarayan temple in Delhi.Built on a land of ninety acres, the temple is sowonderful that it is being termed as the eighthwonder of the world. In spite of the age
  7. 7. differences, we had good times on the trek, and each one expressed a desire to repeat theexperience in the near future. I was experienced in trekking; for others it was first time. They allcoped fairly well during the trek, though I felt some did not have the liking and love for trekkingwhich is essential to enjoy and do more such trekking. Compared to the Everest base camp, this was a much shorter trek; but it was totallydifferent and much more entertaining and enjoyable.(photos of the trek are on OFOTO website – email to who will send the link.)