Monday, February 18, 2013

Ancient Pilgrims Trail in Himalayas Part IV


From Budha Kedar We trekked to the village where Mr. Bikram the horseman gave us a room.
It was very cold at that height and our feet were cold and wet so we entered in our beds. In these modern times, still no electrical power arrived in these villages. It was suppose to come soon hence all new homes had electrical wiring but village hadn’t seen any power yet. Some people had cell phones but signal was very week and they charged their phones from solar panels.
“Views
A Village
Village folks visited us in our room, they all sat around us on our bed and we chatted. I asked them about their horses who were still wandering free in such a cold weather. Most of the village youths were gone to the large cities of India to work; they visited their villages once or twice in an year. Village folks told us the difference between horse, donkeys and mules. Horse is a very intelligent animal and very frail too. Horse is very happy in cold and horse loves to wander alone. When horse gets tired, that is it, it must be given rest. It cannot be forced to work. Whereas Donkey was reverse. Donkey loved hot weather and can work only if forced. Horse can be trained to do its job without any guidance. Many village folks had trained their horses to go to Budha Kedar or Kumud alone. They tucked the list of goods to be brought under their saddle and sent them on their way. Then horses returned alone with the goods. There was one risk; poor animal was helpless if something fell off from it or any mishap occurred and things on his saddle damaged or just unbalanced. Locals tried to correct this situation anytime they saw a horse with unbalanced goods.
Meadow behind Vikram’s home
Main problem was that horse gets intimidated with people whom it is not in acquaintance. On the trail we saw a couple of horses walking alone with the load on their backs but we assumed if the driver of the horse was near by. All construction materials like bricks, sand, cement etc.. horses brought it alone. Horse may graze the grass on its way or may get down to drink water if it is right on its way otherwise it never strays. Whereas donkeys and mules were different. Without supervision they will mess up everything.
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Views from the trail
Then there was a surprise at night. Vikram’s little sister and brother came and brought us our beloved numbered lock. They said that Budha Kedar people handed this strange lock to someone who was coming in this direction. Finally he traced us in that village so our lock came back to us. But another cycle began. Now these two kids wanted to open it, and all others too got very curious with this lock. It became a game or puzzle for them to resolve it. First I taught the little girl to open it, as she gained mastery to open it in five minutes and then little boy learned from her and then others. Finally lock want away because kids wanted to show it to their other siblings. At about 8PM, Vikram brought us food from his home. Rice, roti, toor daal and a curry of some local green herb, it was delicious. We were very hungry so ate everything that was brought to us. We didn’t leave our beds at night for a night walk because it was very cold and also it was dark and ground was dangerously slippery. People also advised us not to leave our room because when horses see strangers at night they get intimidated.
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Another village
We woke up at 7 in the morning, Pehalwan Ji was snoring loud and and also woke him up. It was very cold and frost was present on the ground outside. We packed our belongings and I and Harish went down to village. Vikram was in his shop and we had tea. Then we told him that we will be leaving. He offered us to stay in his home for some more days but we had to go. We asked him the amount we owe him for the boarding and lodging. He was surprised and refused to accept any money saying that we were his guests. We insisted and persisted but in vain. He gave us more tea and biscuits. He even didn’t accept any money for tea and biscuits at his shop. After tea we shook hands and said him good bye at his shop. We returned to our room, Pehalwan was also ready. I placed some money and my watch under the pillow (Vikram loved my watch and was looking at it for long time at night). We carried our backpack and begun walking towards the pass that we had to cross to get to Kumud. We had to climb 4 brutal kilometers to get to the mountain pass and after the pass it was 8 kilometers of steep descent in the jungle to the village of Kumud.
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A village on the trail
We were told that there were a couple of tea shops just before the pass. We were climbing and panting. Scenes were breathtaking. We were passing through high altitude jungle. There were mostly oak, fir or deodar trees. After 2 kilometers we saw first tea shop.
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Views from the mountains
They had tea, biscuits, buns, eggs and noodles. We had omelets with sweet buns there. From here it was snow everywhere. We resumed our brutal climb and near the pass there was another and last tea shop; we were drenched with sweat in that cold. We sat on a rock at the tea shop and had tea. Pehalwan was again black and blue; we rested there for half hour. Shop was right on the pass and views of both sides were visible from the ridge. We loved Budha Kedar valley so much that our heart was breaking to leave it. We kept gazing the last memories of our that Budha Kedar visit. Finally we said good bye to the miles of vista and hundreds of layers of mountains those were visible in the east.
Views
Layers of mountains
That mountain ridge was the border between Tehri district and Uttarkashi. We began our walk towards Kumud, in the Uttarkashi district. It was a steep decline in very dense and beautiful jungle. Snow ended after a kilometer. Then the path was very soft due to moss all over. Time and again we stopped to watch the beauty of the valley. Only Kumud valley was visible and not much vista but lush green area was itself very beautiful. When we were resting in a grass meadow, two horses walked past alone towards Kumud.
They had no burden and that was not unusual because most of the provisions to the village go from the road-head. Only some farm produce in the harvesting season goes down. On the way Pehalwan became very emotional and told us the story about this buffalo he wants to buy badly. He needed 35000 rupee to buy this buffalo from someone in his in-law’s village.
“A very good and obedient buffalo”, he said, “Very beautiful and smart”.
This guy committed him to sell this buffalo and luckily some days ago this buffalo gave birth to a female calf. This guy was committed to sell him both mother-daughter pair for 35000. Pehalwan can arrange only 23000 and top prize in that wrestling competition was 12k so he must win that competition to buy the buffalo, he fall in love with. Pehalwan was a small time peasant with little un-irrigated land dependent upon rain and on the side he did car driving for some taxi company in Tehri district. He had a wife and 2 daughters. He loved his family very much and he wanted to buy them this buffalo.
“This daughter of buffalo will also give birth and then will give milk in 3 years and if another female buffalo is born then I will start my own dairy farm.” He added, “Buffalo and her daughter will eat 3000 rupee a month and will give 6000 rupee milk, we will drink half of milk and sell half.”
I asked him, “Bhim Saab, since when you begin self induced vomiting?”
“Just this time Master Ji, because I must win my buffalo. Otherwise who wants to do self vomiting? Do you think I love it.”
I tried to convince again that it was a bad idea. I am not a doctor but studied lots of medicine, but he brushed aside all those concerns saying, “With due respects, Mr. Highly educated Master Ji, I am not convinced with your theory. I know more about buffaloes and milk than you.”
I was more concerned about his deteriorating health and I believed that the self vomiting was the cause.
I asked, “Pehalwan Saab, how you came to know about this self vomiting concept.”
“Some another Pehalwan in my area suggested me and it makes sense also.”
Well, I stopped arguing with him. Wrestling competition was at Sunday, and Today was Friday. As far as I knew that Uttarkashi was famous for its milk. There were plenty of diaries and good milk was available. Pehalwan was looking forward to it.
Views
A village near mountain pass
We resumed our trail in the beautiful and lush green terrain. This valley was blocked by the mountain in front. Road from Kumud to Uttarkashi was visible at the other side of a river in the valley down us.
To be continued

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