Sunday, February 17, 2013

Agoda to Dodital (Ganges/Yamuna trail 3)

Ganges Yamuna Trail

Uttarkashi and Thalan (Ganges/Yamuna trail 1)
Uttarkashi to Agoda (Ganges/Yamuna trail 2)
Agoda to Dodital (Ganges/Yamuna trail 3)
High altitude meadows of Himalayas (Ganges/Yamuna trail 4)
Lost in the leopard territory (Ganges/Yamuna trail 5)
Lost in the mountains again (Ganges/Yamuna trail 6)
Arrival in Hanumanchatti (Yamuna Odyssey 7)
Dinner in Hanumanchatti (Yamuna Odyssey 8)
Yanuma Dreams (Yamuna Odyssey 9)
Hanumanchatti to Kharadi Falls(Yamuna Odyssey 10)
Yamuna in Barkot (Yamuna Odyssey 11)
हम भी मिले थे कभी जमुना किनारे. (We met by the river Yamuna) (Yamuna Odyssey 12)

I am very humiliated because Dharma claims that because of my fluting his cows didn’t give milk in the morning. His cows are very-very upset, he adds insult to injury.

Agoda
I bring out my backpack and come downstairs; all 4 cows are staring at me. One black one is trying hard to hit me. I wait for Dharma to say him goodbye and ask him about how much I owe him. I gaze at the views. To my right are the huge mountains that form Bandarpuch range and snow stays there permanently. On the west side of this range, the snowmelt forms Yamuna river and on the east side it forms Assiganga that is even bigger than Yamuna but it stays quite unknown river because after merely 10 kilometers it confluences with Ganges near Uttarkashi. That is the reason that this area is lush green with dense forests and grassy meadows near the top of mountains.
Dharma comes with syringes and somehow retrieves the milk and I offer him money but he refuses to accept the money.
“I though you wanted to stay here?”
“Yeah, but ….”
“You can stay here for as long as you wish.”
“Ok.”
“But you cannot play flute here.”
“But I will play it in the mountains and will not play it here.”
“OK, then you can stay.”
I bring back my backpack in the room upstairs. I pack up my small day backpack; I always keep soap and loincloth for my waterfall and river bathing. This time I put my precious flute also in the pack. I am very close to learn the art to play flute. I feel that last night was a milestone; I got a solid grip on the principles of fluting. Today I will resolve the remaining problems by practicing. Practice makes a man perfect. Hopefully Dhamra’s cows may give double milk tomorrow because I heard that music makes the cows emotional too. (I intend to play flute at night but in my bed covered with the thick rajai so sound will not get away.

I take the trail to the main path leading to Bhewda. There I ask at a tea shop to prepare aalo parothas for me. I see a couple of herbs in the shop, one I can identify is Berbaris and other seems like carrot. I ask the shopkeeper about both and he says they use these in their cooking so I tell him to put both herbs in my parothas. Parothas are delicious, berberis give a tang to the taste and junglie-gazar adds some spicy flavor. I ask the shopkeeper to pack me 10 parothas because I may not return to village at noon and I may reach at Dharma’s place late in the evening and there is no bazaar in this wilderness except these couple of villages.

Before Agoda
After this fill I walk towards Dodital to find some solitary place to practice my flute. I walk further 2 kilometers, all stern ascend. Then I take a path going up on the mountain and walk up and up. Here comes talc-stone area, since no road comes here so this precious commodity is still unexploited. This soapstone/talc-stone (also called Selkhadi in Hindi) is of greenish color, due to the presence of copper. Copper is present in Uttarkashi area and at several places samples were evaluated but not enough concentrations are found to be of any commercially feasible mining operations. Talc or shellac is the powder of soapstone. Good quality soapstone is used for body/baby powder and colored ones are used as powder lubricants (as we use it on Caram-boards etc) in industries. Soapstone is mostly Hydrated Magnesium Silicate. At around 11 AM, I am in the pristine dense deodar jungle. Dodital area has these pristine deodar jungles, many trees are huge and hundreds of years old. These trees were saved from commercial logging by Chipko Andolan.
Since I haven’t seen anyone in 2 kilometers and I am way up in the mountains so now is the time to practice fluting and cover another step on the way to master it. So I start my practice. After 2 hours I hear laughing sound. A group of women are in the forest, they are gathering grass for their animals. 2 women make fun of me by first making hands like playing flute and then shutting off their ears by their hands. They give me faces and I give them faces.

Greater Himalayas
I walk away from them and walk further till it is no more possible to walk. At a brook I take my bath. It is 2 PM and there I eat 4 parothas and drink brackish snowmelt carrying shellac powder from a waterfall. I take up again my fluting that is getting better by each hour. I return to Bhewda at 5 PM and now whole village knows that I am into this fluting business. Small children ask me to play flute and I oblige but they shut their ears. Women and girls laugh and make faces at me. I walk to the shop where I had parothas.
I ask for a cup of tea and warm up another 4 parothas on the wood fire. Shopkeeper asks me about my fluting (now he also knows) I tell him that it is getting better. I offer to sing a song on it but he says he only loves to listen to music in leisure. He is cooking food for a 20 people group from New Zealand. Air is getting cold and sun is about to set, I sit near fire in the shop for sometime and then leave the comfort of fire at 6.30 because I have to get back to my room. On the trail I practice my flute; I only stop fluting at where Dharma’s home becomes visible. I don’t go in his home because they blamed me for their cows giving no milk but I shout to the boy for not to send me any food. I don’t want him to hear my flute playing so not to create any more conflicts further. And also I need some rest because my cheeks are now hot, red and paining.

Near Dodital
I keep walking in the potato and rajmah farms on the dangerously steep slopes to get to my place of stay. When I arrive at my place, Dharma is not here. It is now near night and there is no kerosene in the lamp and I have no flashlight so in a rush I change my clothes and rush to brook to wash my face and feet. Then I come upstairs and kindle the fire of the liquor-still and fix myself a drink from the red bottle that I prepared with buransh flowers. All the concentrated alcohol is gone so probably Dharma won’t come again. Probably he milked the cows around 4PM. I know there were some potatoes lying in the corner; I place 3 largest ones over the fire as a backup plan, if I get hungry although I have six parothas left. I place the liquor bottle, water bottle, my flute and remaining 2 parothas under the bed since there is no table or any other furniture except this bed.
As drink hits me, I am getting strong urge to play my flute. I cover myself up with 2 quilts to muffle all the sounds and I begin playing it. All goes well and hopefully cows are not listening to it. Hopefully Dharma & Company will not pay me any visit. I keep practicing for several hours over the drinks and cold parothas.
Then I don’t remember when I fell to sleep.
Dharma wakes me up, again he is very angry because his cows again didn’t give milk and he has to inject them with same injection to retrieve the milk. Injection is not cheap and also neither cows nor Dharma loves injections. It is raining brutally but I pack-up my belongings in the utter humiliation. When I look for my flute under the bed I find it broken in 3 pieces, probably in my drunken state I stepped over it at night. Tears are running out from my eyes like Ganga-Jamna. I pick up the pieces of my flute and … what to do with this my beloved’s remains. I make up my mind to immerse it in the Yanuma at Hanumanchatti where local people immerse final remains.
Dharma also sees my broken flute.
“You got another?” he barks.
“No,” I reply in utter helplessness.
Dharma begins dancing and chanting, “Jai Ganga Mai, Jai Ganga Mai.”
I leave the place in the rain and he shouts and I stop.
“You need not to go, you can stay here for as long as you wish.”
Well I need to stay for as long as rain does not stop. Walking in the rain can be very dangerous on the paths so I comeback.
I still have 2 parothas and also those potatoes I placed on the fire are also somewhat edible. I and Dharma share both things.
“This idea never came to my mind to place potatoes on the fire of the liquor-still.” He claims.
Dharma makes 3 bottles of liquor with one bottle of concentrated alcohol. He gives me three bottles; one is for me and other two I have to drop off at two tea shops. His bottles sell for 100 rupee each. Otherwise there is no alcohol available in the mountains. In Uttranchal alcohol is available only in Tehsil Headquarters but local people have their own parallel network to arrange it. He leaves for his home in the rain.
Rain stops at noon and sun comes up. I leave the place because I have no flute and my mission is dead. I walk towards Dodital that is now 14 kilometers from Bhebra. The trail climbs steeply for 4 kilometers to Dharkot. It takes me two hours to walk these 4 kilometers although yesterday I already did this half of the way before climbing to the mountain for my flute practice.
I catch my breath at the top and have a cup of tea with noodle breakfast at a shop in Dharkot. It is a gradual climb to Dodital after this, and the views are becoming more and more striking and scenic with every step. The village of Manjhi, a cluster of houses and tea shack comes. I have another cup of tea here. The trail becomes very amazing after this as the mountain transforms into a vertical cliff, and the Asi Ganga looks like a thin thread zigzaging through its course in the valley below. The vertical drop of more than a thousand feet presents an etched in your mind sight.
Now I have to descend to Dodital. Tea shop of Mr. Negi arrives where I have to drop off the bottle. I have another cup of tea here at this last tea shop before Dodital. Views are stunning from here. I ask Mr. Negi for accommodation, he says that he can put me up in his shop whereas he himself goes to his village at night. I can return to this shop for night stay, he closes it at 7PM.
A final descent and the presence of famous deodar trees declare the approach to the Dodital lake- known for the Brown Trout, and its religious significance. Dodital is at the height of 3,024 metres (9,921 ft).
The trees around the lake add to its charm, as the mixed Deodar, Oak and Rhododendron forest presents amazing colors depending on the time of the year you are here, it is quiet peaceful here and one feels like meditating. The lake is surrounded on three sides by forests and steep mountains, with a breach towards the Asiganga valley, with a magnificent view of the Dayara Bugyal area, across the valley. Dayara Bugyal can be accessed from Bhatwari. Or one can trek from Dodital to Harshil en-route Darwa Pass (1 day) – Darwa Pass – Bingad (1 day) – Bingad – Kanatal (1 day) – Deodamini (1 day) – Kanatal- Bamsaru Khal (1 day) – Bamsaru base (1 days) – Base – Chupkantidhar – Songad (1 day) – Songad – Sukki – Harsil (1 day)
In this way one crosses the massif of Bandarpooch and arrives in the village of Sukhi near Harshil. Glaciers at the other side of Bandar Pooch form the Yamuna River.
Sukhi is my favorite place for spending some days each year. Whole village and also the village below Sukhi is Jhala at the Ganges, that village too, all are my friends.

Dodital area
According to the legends, Godess Parvati used to bath at Dodital and Shiva cut off the head of Ganesha here in a fit of rage. Here stands a temple of Ganesh. Tent accommodation is available here and depending upon season and also people provide accommodation in their homes but not many people live here. It is a village of few homes. Dodital is exceptionally scenic place and as one arrives here, one is simple stunned and spellbound.
A route from Dodital ascends to Darwa Bugyal (8 kms from Dhundital) and then descends to Hanumanchatti (32 kms from Dodital and 24 kms from Darwa Bugyal).
Dodital has a small Parikrama (circumference trail) of about 1.5 km around it and pilgrims traverse this trail in respect to the lord Ganesha. A couple of streams downward from the Darwa Bugyal feed this small crystal clear lake full of trout fishes. It is still sunlight so I have a refreshing bath in the near freezing water of lake. After bathing I visit temple and ask the priest if there is any flute that I may borrow or purchase but there is none. Sigh!

Dodital
I am not interested in staying in tent so I walk back at Mr. Negi’s tea shop, I am lucky to catch him because he was locking his shop; he unrolls bedding for me on the floor. I tell him that I will eat buns and bhuzia from his shop as my dinner.
He asks me if anything else he can do for me before leaving for his village.
“If somehow – someone can bring me half a dozen of flutes by tomorrow noon?”
He is very confused. He cries, “Why a half dozen?”
I explain to him that flute is a very delicate thing so I want at least half dozen for my practice so not to lose my valuable time.
But he is not convinced; he thinks I need flute for some illicit purpose like transporting ganza or charas in the flutes etc. Ganza and Charas are abundant here and jobless youths can be seen extracting resin of cannabis plants after rains by rubbing the leaves in both hands. That resin is called ganza.
He is now double minded to let a smuggler stay in his tea shop but he loves the money too that I am paying him.
He leaves.

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