Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Roopkund - Tales from a Distant Land..

Aug 24
Its the road today. We are off early. Our bags hauled up into the TATA Sumo..
Its hot!.. Sultry! :(
Long long journey.. We stop for tea and breakfast and keep moving..
The Ganges and her tributaries journey with us along the way.
We reach Rishikesh in the evening ..Stroll around to the Laxman Jula..
I would love to be back and explore this place again.
Bianca heads to the bus stand to see if we can get tickets.. We get some sort of semi reservation by paying a token amount. We take the bus at 10:30.. Chandan gets off at some spot close to home..
It has been wonderful being part of this team.. Am going to miss these people :)
The journey is fairly comfortable and I sleep a bit

Aug 25
We reach Delhi early and take an auto to the airport. Three people sitting cramped with all our luggage :). My flight is not until 5:50 PM. I see if I can get an early ticket. Theres a kingfisher flight at 9:30 am told. Its a lil bit more expensive.. Do the mental math and decide I would spend that much if I stayed back at the airport.
So I cancel and rebook my flight.. Am reaching earlyyyyyy :)
Say good bye and am off.. Buy a few books and Cds at Landmark.
The first sight of the Bangalore Airport ...and am soooo happy..
Take a cab back..Am Homeeeeeee!


Monday, August 24, 2009

Roopkund - Tales from a Distant Land..

Aug 23
Wan --> Loharjung
I can Call!! :))
On our way from Wan Village
A Waterfall in Wan
Local Children dressed in traditional Dresses
We climb down to Loharjung Today. From there we take the road.
Am going to miss Wan.. The sight of this picturesque, neatly spaced, beautiful Himalayan village..the children with sing song voices ..

The 15Km stretch is fairly straightforward. So all you need to do is keep walking. Am lower in energy levels today..Don't feel like myself..
The group spends a lot of time taking pictures of birds...
We keep walking and we finally reach GMKV. The Kitchen has been wound up for the trek . So Lunch and Dinner is at the small shop round the corner.
We exchange addresses and repack our bags. The first thing I do once I get here is call.. :))
This is something I really really missed.
We are almost home. Tomorrow we leave early to Rishikesh by Road.
Our bus to Delhi is only later in the evening. Just hoping getting tickets is not as chaotic as last time.
Go to bed to early :)


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Roopkund - Tales from a Distant Land..

Aug 22 Bedni Bugyal --> Wan

The Luxuries of a Hot Bath!

Closer to Home.. Today we cover the 12km stretch from Bedni to Wan..
The trek through the forests was with the rains by our side during the way up..This time around its with bright sunshine..
The morning gave me the opportunity to photograph two wonderful people I met during my stay at Bedni. One was the doggie who lived at GMKV.
The Doggie of GMKV :)
...And He Wanted to Play
.. He was in the mood to play.. But we were short of time
The Old Lady whom I came to love. She would arrive with our daily supply of milk and an inexhaustable list of ailments :)
The other was the old lady who lived down the hill. Her raspy voice smells of the mountain air. She was very curious to see what the picture on the camera would be like..
Trekking down to Wan
Upma and hot tea for breakfast and we're off. If uphill is hard on the lungs, downhill is really really hard on the legs..especially the knees.
Loads of pics. We reach Wan and make our way to GMKV. This time getting the room is not a smooth affair ..Finally the caretaker relents.. We lug our bags in.. :)
Fauna of the Himalayas
On our way to Wan

Wan from a distance
The white sheets and the neatly covered beds look so inviting that I just want to dive in and sleep..
How can I forget, after close to a week, we have the luxury of having a hot bath.... My hair feels matted... Tangled and messy... Feels wonderful to be clean again..
Am glad I didn't choose to snooze, cause Lunch was something to remember. Kadi and hot rice. .. Was fantastic..
Nap I did, but post lunch. Tea and snacks , conversation through the evening .
Its time to hit the bed :)


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Roopkund - Tales from a Distant Land..

Aug 21
Bhagwabhasa --> Bedni Bugyal
We're going Home .. :)

Our Descent starts today.. Am so excited.. Really missing the city now.. Especially my Bangalore :).. The night was really cold with temperatures falling.. Could have even gone down to minus something judging from the frozen drops on our tents.
Yesterdays climb was the toughest I've done so far..and for the first time I had a painkiller.. Didn't sleep great..didnt sleep badly either.. But woke up with this feeling of elation :)..We had done Roopkund and now it was time to head back home..yaaaay! :))
Hot tea greeted me..Used wet wipes for a pseudo bath.. That felt so god..Mental math on how far away I am from washing my hair. My appetite is gone. Have some breakfast and we're off..
Brilliant sunshine.... It was raining all the way on our way up .. So really welcome the sunshine.
The trek is wonderful. The views which were all fogged out last time are bathed in sunlight.
We stop at the Kalvinayak temple.. The little shrine of last time has been transformed into a world of activity.. The locals are doing some sort of reconstruction though I can't tell how big the final structure will be by looking at what they've achieved so far. Its amazing to see how much has changed in the last two days.

Stop for pics. And then move on..Still carrying the energy bars and chocolates that I got from home. So that makes the meal for our next break.. We walk on..
The view of Bedni from this height is spectacular.. Green as green can get..
I don't have to worry about making my battery last as we've already seen Roopkund. So get loads of pics.
Suddenly the lake jumps into view. We are here.. Bedni feels more like home.. :))
The green magic spell is so strong that I just want to keep looking.

I try to make a call from the satellite phone in GMKV. But the signal isn't strong enough. So decide to come back after lunch. Hot kichidi and we retire to our tents. Rearrange my bag and decide to have a nap..Just as i doze off we hear the phone ring in a distance ..Quickly run outside to make a call.. It Works!..What a relief. :)
The evening is a celebration of hot tea .. The old hag who lives down the hill has come by with a supply of buffalo milk... Such a stark difference between that and milk powder that we normally use... You can instantly tell apart the real thing..
That and mineral water.. The real mineral water..The ones from the stream ..Has a taste to it that can never be recreated in the bottled impostors that hit the market.

Stroll around with my camera..The sun sets over Bedni..What a breathtaking sight..The silhouettes of cattle moving.. The hills in a distance.. Retiring for the night..And the sun on her way out to another world..

Dinner and we call it a day.. Tomorrow we move down to Wan.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Roopkund - Tales from a Distant Land..

Aug 20
Bhagwabhasa -->Roopkund(5029 m)

Who were these people , Why were they here??

Today is the day..! :)
Morning arrived quickly... Voices from our neighboring tents made sleep impossible. Sleep lingers on, and with irritation I realize that its impossible to control the decibel levels of the voices outside. Tea at 6:00. We gulp it out and head outside.
Layer myself. Hate wearing thermals. But it has to be done. As am putting them on I wonder if something so thin will actually keep me warm..Well - I just have to give them a chance.My appetite is almost gone.. But have some breakfast. We setoff

The View of peaks  from our Camping spot
The road from Bhagwabhasa is Rocky.
The landscape is not very friendly. The trek gets trickier. Steely greys stare out of every corner. Am told that the stones could tumble over and very easily cause a landslide. Teh climb gets steeper. At this altitude we tire easily. I decide that I wont be taking any pics as I might loose momentum. Thanks to Chandan maintain a steady pace. We walk past fellow trekkers. This really tests the limits of my physical endurance. At one point I tell Chandan I'm going to stop.. Its just around the corner he tells me..
The Lake in Roopkund
The last part is the hardest..And all of a sudden, its there.. The lake emerges into view. Ice glistening on the corners , an aura of mystery hangs in the air. The rest of the group get there too, a couple of minutes within each other..
Strewn everywhere we see Bones.
Human Remains on the Banks of the lake
This lake has been the subject of a lot of research.. Who are these people and why were they here...
Hair and Bone analysis was done on several of the corpses here (600-700 are believed to be buried here) and they reveal that they most probably perished in a landslide around the 9th century BC. The people there were also believed to be related...
As we walk down to the glacier that feeds the lake, Dr Kelkar explains What the bones are all about and what kind of conclusions can be drawn from them.. Tells us that some of these people were really tall cause the Bones seen were unusually large.
More Human Remains
Kind of creepy!!
Close to the source of the lake we see a huge piece of flesh... Flesh on the corpse..Eeeeeeeks!..This really freaks me out..
Am half expecting some green hand or something to emerge from the mud!
Human Remains on the Banks of the Lake
Since the weather is unpredictable, we start climbing up. Don't want to be caught in a white out. Really slippery track.
Finally we reach the top. Quick lunch and head back.
Fantastic feeling to have reached here. Bianca says the group last year couldn't go beyond Bhagwabhasa as the area was covered with snow. So this is the first time shes seeing the lake herself.
We keep moving. The trek downwards is every bit as tricky as the one uphill.. The rocks are slippery and its a challenge to keep balance. The Weather has been kind to us.
We keep walking and we reach the camp site at around 1:30 PM. Record time :)..
Now that we've trekked Roopkund and back , we feel a lot lighter.

We wonder about the incident at Roopkund that had caused so many to perish. There are references to this in the songs sung by the Gujjars(Shepherds). One theory is that, It was the king of Kanaugh and his subjects who perished there. Whoever it was hair analysis has indicated that they were deficient in Iron and Vitamin C. National Geographic featured Roopkund in an documentary 'Riddles of the dead'. I mentally decide to You tube the documentary once I get back.
Kind of sad to think so many died. Death frozen in Ice...
The locals do not allow trespassers to take bones or any of the skeletal remains with them as they believe that they are their ancestors. This has helped preserve whatever is left there.
View of the Lake as we climbed down
Feyn Kamal - A Flower found only in the higher reaches of the Himalayas
Who are these people, Why were they there?
Some questions might always remain a mystery...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Roopkund - Tales from a Distant Land..

Aug 19
Pathal Nachooniya --> Bhagwabhasa
What is this place?
Wild Himalayan Flowers
Today we leave Pathal Nachooniya to Bhagwabhasa. Hardly slept the night.
Tent was pitched on a slope...

After a quick breakfast we leave early. The greatest height gain would be today. Bhagwabhasa is at a height of 4667m and is our penultimate stop before Roopkund.

The Kallu Vinayak Temple
The Kallu Veinayak Temple
The walk along the way is beautiful. even though the height gain is significant the gradient is gentler than what we encountered on our way to Bedni. The total distance covered is close to 6 km. We keep running into mountain folk along the way. We are told there is some event of significance going on as a result of which a lot of people are heading to Roopkund.
We reach the Kallu Vinayak pass.
We stop here and have a snack of apples and cheese.
There is some speculation that the idol might have been got from people not native of this region, maybe the ones who were know to have perished in Roopkund.
Our stay for the night , this is where we camped in Bhagwabhasa
From here on its level land. But the Landscape gets Rockier. The paths laid are with sharp stone to make them last. A drizzle starts. The winds are merciless. Grass gets scantier and new flowers appear. The Bhram Kamal is seen widely at this altitude. Its structure resembles leaves rather than our idea of what a flower would be like (Coming from the plains :))
We suddenly walk into a place that resembles a ruin... Just as am wondering if I should take out my camera, Chandan announces that we are here. We have reached our destination. Am a little shocked. How are we going to stay here? , am thinking to myself.
We identify places to pitch our tents. First comes the kitchen tent. Then our tent and a little higher the four man tent for the guys.
Our tent is perched on a semi stone enclosure. Chandan explains that these stony structures were built for shepherds, to camp for the night. The roof normally is covered by tarpoline, something that the inhabitant is expected to carry if he lives here.

More Pictures of our Camp Site

Suddenly it gets too cold. So i run into my tent and sit there. My socks are drenched. Change to warmer clothes. But the chill is everywhere.
Just as we are settling in two more parties arrive. One from Bengal- about fifteen people!, created quiet a ruckus on their arrival. The other - just locals who are participating in some kind of temple reconstruction of the Kallu Vinayak we are told.
They are not exactly welcome. We are already cramped for space and this means a lot less privacy.

The Mules on our team who abely carried our luggage to great heights
Just as am changing , I notice a tiny visitor. The mouseeee...Eeeeks..
The cute little thing doesn't know his way out and he seems all set to get into the tent.. I call out to Bianca and somehow, he manages to scurry away.
The Mice in these places don't have tails. Some sort of adaptation to the environment here.

The Stony structure right upfront is where our tent was pitched..

I don't like this place too much. After Green Bedni, stony Bhagwabhasa is not very appealing..

I ask Bianca if we can trek Roopkund Tomorrow instead of the acclimitisation we had planned for the next day. Luckily the group has the same thought. Since we have a consensus we go ahead.

We lunch and do a short acclimatisation walk in the evening. Loads of flowers (Bhramakamal) strewn along the landscape. Am really in no mood to take my camera out.
Am beginning to really miss home and am glad we have decided to cut our stay in Bhagwabhasa short by a day.

As the clouds clear , the sun comes out and the peaks emerge into view. Its a captivating sight.
We retire early Tomorrows climb is going to be a challenge, especially at this altitude. As we make our way to our tents Bianca points to the night sky.. Spectacular!... Have never seen so many stars. This is how it is up in the mountains I'm told. The milky way spread out... I so wish Amma could have seen this.. Something she truly loved...

We get into our tents. But Somehow am freezing. The shivering doesn't stop for a while and on Bianca's advise i breathe deeply. Finally we settle in. The stones below are ice cold and it seeps in somehow. Just another night here I tell myself.
Am excited about the day ahead...


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Roopkund- Tales from a Distant Land..

Aug 18
Bedni Bugyal --> Pathal Nachooniya
Warm Sunshine..Such a welcome change.
Woken up with Hot tea. Morning Luxury. Five star treatment up in the mountains.
Today we Leave Bedni Bugyal. We climb higher and reach Pathal Nachooniya. Legend has it that an angry goddess once turned a king and his camping party after a night of revelry into stone. The boulders seen around the place are believed to be the dancers in the court of the king.
Before we leave, I decide to make a call back home. Not sure when I will have a phone connection again.At 9:30 , we are off. Breakfast in record time. Feed the doggie some toast. Such a sweetheart.
The Lake beside our camping spot in Bedni
Cattle Grazing
The Famed Himalayan Blue Poppy
..The Blue Poppy
We climb a little. Bedni looks spectacular in the morning sun. The lake by her side. Cows grazing. Stopping to take frequent pictures I somehow don't fall into rhythm and find the initial uphill stretch a little hard. Stop and start over once again. This time it works.Lots of flora and fauna....And then we see the blue poppy! :)..
The colors seem to have faded a bit.
For the first time since we started its not raining. Its wonderful walking in the sun..
Trekking to Pathal Nachiniya
Wild Himalyan Flowers
Wild Himalayan Flowers
We camp in Pathal Nachiniya
Pathal Nachnooniya
Our Tents :)
We are there.. Its 12:00 noon... Pitch our tents. Just in time. The drizzle begins again. We have gained a height of about 300 m. hot Kichidi for lunch. This place is really windy .
I'm beginning to miss home



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