Monday, February 18, 2013

Ancient Pilgrims Trail in Himalayas Part III

We began our walk at 10 AM. Our numbered lock hasn’t come back to us so we let it go. First part of the journey was a continuous steep climb for 16 Kilometers and then it was brutal descant for 8 km. Local people can do it in a day. Pehalwan also claimed that he and we will do it in a day. We (I and Harish) had no intention to do it in a day. We were enjoying our vacation; we were not in the struggle to win some wrestling competition to buy some buffalo, but anyway doing it in a day even for Pehalwan was not possible now because we started our walk very late.
Village women relaxing after a long day’s work
Three porters who were caring some dowry things for a marriage party also began the long walk with us. It was amazing to see how much load those fragile poor men carried on their backs. One was carrying a double bed tied together; other was lifting a new metal wardrobe, and third was carrying a couple of other furniture items. They were drenching with sweet but walking steady and slow. First village of the route was just 3 km and was visible from Budha Kedar and we walked there in one hour, there we had a tea at a tea stall at the end of village. After we left Budha Kedar, we didn’t see any punarnava herb. It grows only in the warm areas. After that village, next village was at 6 km, most of the way passed through dense deodar jungle. At noon we arrived at that village. Punarnave parothas made us very hungry but there was no food available in the village. There were 2 tea shops, one at the beginning of the village and other at the end. We ate everything except toffees, those shops were selling. We ate all the biscuits, all the buns, all the cream rolls and all the baked wafers. We cleaned the both shops.
A view from the trail
Pehalwan Ji was panting badly. I guess his body was build for wrestling but not for mountain climbing although he himself was a mountain man. We were wet with our own sweat. A brook appeared near our path and we all went down and took a long bath in it. Pehalwan did his pushups there. Next or third village (that was last) on this route was now 4 kilometers, a very steep climb. It was not far away but it was high above us. There were all cultivated stepped farms and mostly all apple orchards. Village was above 9000 feet msl.
A view from the trail
We arrived at that village at 4 PM. Air was now cold and crisp at this height. This was the largest and last village on this trail. There was a small market in the center. Porters also caught us up when we were taking our bath. This same village was their destination too. As we arrived in the market, a commotion occurred in the village and people were shouting to each others, doctors came – doctors came. Many people gathered around us saying us to check their horses first. This was the village of horse keepers and breeders. There was some sort of very contagious equine influenza spreading in the mountains and thousands of horses were turned back from Kedarnath. A team of doctors was scheduled to visit this village to check if any highly contiguous strain of flu is present here; so then to quarantine or cull the horses. Village folks thought we were those doctors and Pehalwan was our compounder. It took us great effort to convince the villagers that we were not doctors and they were very disappointed. They were still very suspicious that we were doctors but were on some secret mission. Culling their horses was also the rumor so doctors were either scared to visit these villages or the visited in secret. And then Mr. Pehalwan was a very large man. Villagers were very curious to see that hulk of a man. We were a motley’s crew. All together we looked like a comedy circus. I and my friend with backpacks and big hulk Pehalwan with his airbag (that looked so tiny on his huge shoulders). Moreover Pehalwan’s mustaches were quite unbalanced, right side markedly longer than left side. He messed his-own moustaches while shaving in the dark in that hotel in Budha Kedar, and we didn’t mention this to him.
Villagers thought that this team of doctors has a Pehalwan compounder so to grab the horses to facilitate its medical examination. That made sense.
Rainbow appeared after short but heavy rain.
A Youngman, his name was Vikram and he was the pradhan of the horsemen union. He owned a small tea shop in the village and that same shop served as his office too. He offered us boarding and lodging in his newly built home, at the outskirts of the village. We gladly accepted his offer, Pehalwan Ji also decided to stick with us without any resistance. Vikram took us to his home, it was a never ending long path high above the village; we were already very tired. Finally we came to a level meadow where several horses were roaming, running and galloping free. After the meadow was his home but his family was still living in the village so this home was vacant. We parked our belongings in the very neat and tidy room, and Pehalwan Ji collapsed on his bed, he was all blue and red due to this stern high altitude walk.
Stepped farms on the trail
Suddenly sky became black and thus begun a very heavy thunderstorm accompanied with very large sized hailstones. Initially it felt as this storm will last forever but as with other mountain storms, this storm was over in an hour and crimson evening sun again appeared in the west. I and Harish left our dwelling to see the village. Now we were well known in the village because of that misunderstanding that we were veterinary doctors and horse specialists.
One old man shouted at us from his window, “Kiskoo bewkoof bana rahe ho. Hame sub pata hai ki tum dungar dakter ho.”
I smiled and mischievously blinked him.
He replied back pointed at his head, “Dekha! Dekha! Banwari Lal nae dhoop mai baal nahi safed kare.”
Almost everyone was inviting us in their home. We kept walking in embarrassment. Village was traversed by two paths, one that we came and were to follow further the next day, and other crossed it in the center of small market. We took that path to far away to the village. After thunderstorm, sky was clear and a vista opened up. We could see far away mountains. I never saw a endless layers of mountains one behind the other. We chatted with a man, he told us that 4th mountain was Binak Khal, where we could see the faint lights of the village, about 8th or 9th layer was Ghuttu. Probably around 15th was Triyuginarayan and so on. Snowy peaks were not visible from this area they were in the north but a large Eastern corridor was visible to the amazement. In the west was the great wall of a mountain that we had to pass to get to Uttarkashi. Moon appeared in the east behind the endless mountains. We could see countless stars in the unpolluted sky. We returned to the village, we were extremely hungry and understood the state of poor pehalwan. Due to the misunderstanding in the village we were so embarrassed to eat from those shops because almost everybody wanted to discuss with us about the health of their horses.
Water fall on the path
A huge rainbow now appeared in the mountains. Vikram’s home where we were staying; was near the water cistern. A brook passed thought the village but it was full of filth as it happens in all over India. Nobody trusted on the quality of that water so village folks brought drinking water from that virgin spring that was near this house. That’s why many women passed in front of our room carrying water on their heads. Village folks brought us homemade liquor and we enjoyed our evening. Pehalwan didn’t drink liquor but asked for milk, only mare’s milk was available and that too in little amount so he sipped horse milk with us.
To be continued.

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