“My Year 2017 in five Stories”
It’s January 2018 and as I sun bathe on this cold winter day, i am reminded of my various experiences (both warm and cold) of the year 2017. I did not travel as much as I would have liked to the previous year. But travel I did, and these travels enriched my body, mind, heart and soul. Met some really lovely people, got frustrated, got drenched, shivered in fear, shivered in cold, experienced bliss, experienced hell, cried in desperation, cried in happiness and encountered the best of what the Himalayas has to offer.
So today, I share with you some of those experiences in the form of 5 short stories. Hope you like them as much as I did experiencing them.
In the month of May, group of us 9 went to this extremely isolated alpine pasture deep in the Himalayas. The trip lasted for a week and we totaled a trek of some 80 Kilometers. We started at 1500Meters and maxed out at around 3700 Meters. While some of us had a tent, most of us slept under a huge rock for 3 nights and made some beautiful, beautiful images.
While returning back, and crossing a dense forest, thinking that finally we can rest, nature took the ultimate test. As we were crossing this dense jungle, it began to rain and hail incessantly for 20 minutes. We stood under a huge tree , praying all the time, not to be hit by a thunderbolt! The hail finally stopped and though thoroughly drenched, we were relieved.
Our happiness was however very short lived. Because of the hail, the forest was blanketed in white and we could not find our way back. For the next 30 minutes, 4 of us scanned (rest had already gone ahead) and climbed desperately some precarious and steep slopes, hoping to find a way to our campsite. There was no mobile connection and we desperately shouted in all directions for our friends to find us. It was almost sunset and we were sure we will have to spend that chilly night out in the open, with Himalayan Black Bears. Fortunately one of our friends came back for us and we reached our campsite safely. That evening still sends chill down my spine and this image of where we camped reminds me of that unforgettable trip every day.
Death in Paradise
This trip to Gorson Bugyal was unforgettable. Me and my brother(Gaurav) decided on an extremely tight budget trip. We carried our own tent, sleeping bags and packed Aalo ke Parathas, some butter and Bananas for the entire three day trip. There is a road from Joshimath which goes to Auli, but we skipped it and trekked all the way up the dense forest to Auli and then ahead to Gorson. Considering it was the peak of rains, we had considerably clear weather for two days. The Bugyal was lush, I mean really lush green with grass and inundated with multi-colored flowers spread over several hundred meters.
We witnessed a Cow dying due to hunger in this piece of paradise and although we tried two days, we could not save him. Also, we witnessed the hospitality of the shepherds, who on the last evening fed us proper food without charging a penny. We aso cleaned our tent as the cows came and dumped their dung over our tent several times. Spent our days and evening laying on bed of flowers and shooting images all the time. A trip that I can never forget.
So Tungnath!! what can be said about Lord Shiva’s abode. Except that it has given me a very good friend Arvind. Arvind, who is my hotel waala cum guide cum brother. So again in rains I found myself at his hotel, gave him 1500 rupees and said“ Whenever this money ends my trip ends” . A trip wherein I saw several herds of Himalayan Tahrs, one group which had not less than 80 Individuals. A trip where I was able to finally make one good shot of Maa Nandadevi .
Where I met and made friends with 4 research scholars (2 Boys, 2 Girls). Played cards in lazy afternoons, discussed and debated about their research at breakfast, lunch and dinner. How it rained very heavily one night, and how I gave my room to the research scholars because their roof was leaking water ( and because I am a true gentleman ?).
Still remember my last evening at Chandrashila. Not a single soul to witness the most beautiful cloud formation I have ever experienced in my travels. How can I forget that I skipped the bus (deliberately) and trekked(10Kms) all the way down from Tungnath to Taala (the first village on the road) through dense forests praying all the while that no leech to stick and suck the life out of me.?
Rains, Rains, Rains
The only place in Himalayas that I am really really biased towards. The only place which makes me feel right in the lap of lord Shiva is the Divine Pastures of Panar and Rudranath. So as you might know, I am an intuitive guy, and the day before my travel, my intuition told me to postpone the trip by some days.
I am also stupid ?, so I didn’t listen and continued with my trip. The bus which was supposed to take me to Sagar(Village Name) was cancelled (that day) and I had to travel sitting on roof of a Sumo for more than an hour. Now sitting on top is normally fun and adventurous, but that day there was no sun. So by the time I got down from the roof of the sumo, I was frozen.When i finally squeezed myself between 3 guys in the middle seat of the sumo, that feeling was nothing less than divine that day.
I had planned for 3 night stay at Panar and Rudranath in total and was completely convinced of making shots. But nature (remember my intuition) had another plans. As soon as I reached Panar the first evening, it started raining. That rain did not stop for the next 50 hours or so, it did stop intermittently but the sky was all but cloudy. I cursed myself for not listening, and spent most of my time either sitting in front of the fire or trekking between Panar and Rudranath.
In Rudranath though , I met a Yogi who was meditating in a cave some 8 Kilometers ahead of Rudranath. He was an extremely educated and learned man, and he enlightened me with priceless gems of information on spirituality, religion and Moksh. So the third morning, the weather did clear (not completely though) and I made some satisfactory shots.
Hoping I would get one more evening to shoot, I extended my stay by a night. The last evening was washed out too. It was only the next morning that the weather cleared and I was able to make some decent shots. I was wet and drenched from head to toe during 50% of my trip. And to top it all, after the day I came back, there was not a speck of cloud for many days in a row.?
Shivered to Death…Well almost
There is this Small temple called KaaliShila, which is situated on top of a mountain, right in front of my house. It’s at an altitude of 2400 Meters and it receives decent snowfall in winters. My Younger brother (Yogesh) visited me in Jan of 2017 and we planned a one night trip to the temple. Now this temple has a very small ashram. 1 Sadhu (Male), 1 Sadhvi (Female) and one of their disciple stays here all throughout the year. The temple also has a 5 bedded Dharamshala, for people who might want to stay here.
I have been to this place 2 times before and on one occasion had stayed the night in the Temple Dharamshala. This time too I assumed that we would be able to stay in the dharamshala and carried no provisions for the night. It had snowed 2 days in a row and we were pretty excited ( My brother to see the snow, I to shoot the snow?).
The trek is a steep climb of some 4 to 5 Kms , wherein we ascend around 1000 Meters. By the time we reached the temple it was almost dark, we were pretty tired and just wanted to have some food and sleep. We were sure the hard part (trekking) was over and we would have a peaceful night. Turns out, our wish was not going to be fulfilled.
So, as we sat beside the fire talking to the Sadhu and Sadhvi about our night stay, the first thing they told us, was that the temple Dharamshala was locked, and they did not have enough space for us to stay with them.My brother looked at me, as if asking a question, NOW WHAT?? . It was snowing when we reached the temple and the temperature at night was sure to drop below -5 Degrees. The fire place we were sitting, was the only place where we could sleep.
Now let me describe the fire place. The fire place was a small hut around 7 feet tall. It had a thatched roof which provided total protection from rain or snow. It was however, only walled on three sides, but the wall was barely 2 feet in height !!
The fourth side had some rocks to the corner and there was no door, only a hanging blanket, which acted as a door. So to put in simple words, the hut was open from all sides, and the fire was the only reason that one would sit there(it was extinguished at night?).
They told they would give us blankets for the night, but we doubted if that would suffice. We had dinner at around 8 P.M and we piled up atleast 4 to 5 blankets each, to brace for the cold. The blankets were exactly 6 feet in length and around 4 feet wide. So they barely covered us from head to toe. As soon as we would move in sleep, the blanket would come open from some side and a chilly cold wind would sweep inside the blankets. It was so cold , that we shivered for atleast 15 minutes everytime, before we regained some warmth. This happened all night, and at one point we were unsure if we would be able to make it to the morning.
The area is also rich in Himalayan black bears, and we were pretty sure if the cold did not, the bear would definitely kill us tonight. Around 4 A.M. a mouse started scrambling around the kitchen for some food. In that silence (and in our fear), that mouse sounded like a mammal and we literally spend the next hour looking desperately in darkness for the source of that sound. It was only when it began to dawn, that we thanked god for keeping us alive that night. All this however, did not deter us from building snowman and playing with the snow in the morning.?
So there it is, 5 stories from the year 2017 that I will always, always remember. It is these experiences that make me feel alive, and irrespective of whatever the troubles, these make me fall in love with the Himalayas all over again.
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