Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lost in the mountains again (Ganges/Yamuna trail 6)

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 and Briana are lost in the leopard territory in the mountains between Ganges and Yamuna River. We left Dodital in the morning and in the last of the evening we are still lost and wandering in high mountains.
In the dark, we see a last flash of crimson light that a snowy mountain mirrored and now Briana declares that she has spotted the hut. Anyway her senses are sharper than mine so I believe her and keep following her. Where there is a hut or no hut but is at least one kilometer far and five hundred feet high from us.
Now we can see the tall shadows of mountains spreading and increasing by each second and this great real life drama is over in five minutes. We are in no mood to witness this grand splendor of the creation.
Amphitheater is now dark.
It is now dark. She stumbles upon a rock and fall down and at the same time I step into a hole and fall down.  I stop here and take out match-boxes and my book from my backpack and start burning pages one by one. Luckily wind is gentle yet.
We keep walking while burning pages and matches to find the way.
Alpine meadows of Himalayas also called Bugyal in local language
All I am hearing is the pounding of my heart because I am carrying her backpack.
When we arrive – it is indeed a hut. The polythene piece on the roof probably reflected the light that she spotted. We reach at the hut and find nobody is around.
She claps and screams with joy, “Hurrah!”
behind the hut is made a perimeter of thorny branches to store animals for protection. This perimeter is touching the snow and mounting is a big granite massif after this point.
It is total dark and I collapse on the grass.
There are all the symptoms that animals live here, I see the droppings of sheep, goats and mules. It is night and no animals are here.
I guess, Gujjars are nomads anyway so they are not coming here tonight.
Hut has just a curtain and I light a match to look inside, all symptoms of habitation are there but nobody around.
It is unusual.
Saturn is in Zenith a bright yellow star shining at the top of us. It is very distinct in the moonless night so I was correct after all.
“Hey Briana, I think you got sharp eyes. Look at that yellow star. Do you find it oval or find any ring around it,” I say to her to amuse her but I know that IT IS SATURN.
“It is oval all-right, don’t see any ring around it.”, she says, “Hey – is it Saturn?”
“Yes it is Saturn.”
“Is it good or bad?”
I reply, “You got a home for yourself here so take a wild guess.”
She is cheerful after many hours, “Yeah. Now, neither we know where is Darwa Pass, nor we know where is Hanumanchatti.”
“Don’t worry, tomorrow I will buy you a grand dinner in Hanumanchatti.”
She says, “And I am very thirsty, we got no water, this hut got no water and last water we saw is a mile away and a mile below.”
I am lying in the grass, it is near freezing, a pointed rock is biting me but I have no strength to do anything about it. I am also very thirsty. In the frenzy to find this hut we didn’t drink water from the last brook that we passed, neither we filled up our bottles.
This idea never came to our mind, we though water is guaranteed here between two holy rivers: Ganga and Yamuna.
I don’t know if I will ever stand up.
I want to cut and drain my blisters at my both feet but I have no strength.
Alpine meadows of Himalayas also called Bugyal in local language
She looks at the sky and closes her hands to Namaskar. “Jai Saturn.”
“Yes, Jai Shani Dev Ji.”
I say to her, “Tomorrow I will throw your backpack from some cliff and make it look like an accident.”
She replies, “I will throw your backpack from some cliff and make it look like an accident.”
“Take out parothas first. We need lunch. Tomorrow I will buy you a spectacular dinner in Hanumanchatti.”
“Eight we ate, eight we will eat tonight. Four will be left.”
“Make sure to count all four before throwing my backpack. You don’t have to make it look like an accident.”
Saturn delays but brings one to the destination; well may be or may be not.
Somehow I pull myself together and change my mud filled clothes. I take off my shoes and scrape off all the sticking mud over me. She provides me a pair of leather boots that is two sizes smaller than my feet, I struggle to put those shoes but my feet are badly swollen and look double the size.
Since she is an orthopedic surgery intern, she checks my feet, does about a dozen (extremely painful for me) maneuvers and declare me fit as a horse.
She says, “Something has gone seriously wrong with my own right foot.”
I cry, “God bless my soul.”
I make some light with matchsticks and with a small scissor in my Swiss Knife I cut off the top of the blisters on my both feet so to enable me to walk again in the morning and she offers me an antiseptic ointment.
She says, “God knows – what you would have done without me?”
At 9 PM in the moonless night and wind is chilly. White mountains are still visible under the stars. It is very cold.
We are in the hut but still hesitating to settle down there for the night because we don’t know who owns it. Our backpacks are still outside. We have no water and no strength to heat up parothas etc.
Then we hear dog barking. We rush out of the hut and sit outside but nothing is visible. After a while we see a dangling light. One dog arrives running and is consistently barking at us then goats and sheep arrive followed by two huge sheep dogs. We don’t see any man yet. Now two men appear with two mules and they are very surprised to see us. We tell that their uncle Feroz sent us there and tell us our story.
We ask them for shelter and they plainly refuse saying that they have no extra bedding and moreover they cannot give shelter to a woman. They are also genuinely worried about us. I tell them that we will hang around their hut at night and light a fire and they have no objection to it. They say they will give us food and we are free to use their firewood. Then I offer them the amount of money that they cannot refuse and they agree to share their roof with them. They let us come in their tiny crammed hut and make room for us so we all can fit in the narrow place our shoulders touching. They give us water that they brought on their mule in a plastic container. They have just one plastic mug so we take our turn to drink it. They give me 3 jute bags to use as blankets, bags smell of cattle urine and dropping but they are more than I ever expected. Each bag is about 2 feet X 4 feet. I thank them and thank God for everything. Elder man is Alam and younger is his cousin Hasib. They have 350 sheep and goats. Their buffaloes and cows will arrive in June because it is too cold yet especially for buffaloes. I take out both jute bags and shake off the goat and sheep droppings.
Dark is now very thick but sky is full of bright stars so we can still see snowy mountains around us. Sky always shines with stars at such pollution free places.
Sagittarius is now on the zenith and Saturn in Virgo is now shifted to the West where we have to go. Big dipper (Saptrishi star constellation) is shining on the sky and north star (Dhruv Tara) pointing towards the north. But in the day we can only figure out roughly east or west depending upon the position of the sun; and only if it is cloudless.
It is very cold at April 28th.
Outside both men cook rice and a stew full of herbs and greens that they gathered from the meadows and forests. I sit with them by the fire and they are very private and avoid talking with me. Intently they are talking in Garhwali and I can still understand a bit of it. They are talking about their uncle Firoz and leopard who killed the dog and sheeps. They are talking about me with the gori and they strongly disapprove about a woman roaming around in the mountains alone without her close relatives and without any purda and hizab etc. I gather that they dislike me also but badly needed money that I offered. Allah may forgive them because they never asked for it but it came to them and they had no choice.
They tell me that they arrive late by 2 hours because they had to avoid a jungle where they believed two leopards were lurking and it was the same jungle that we crossed. They had to go around the jungle for several kilometers so they stay in clear meadows.
High Altitude Meadows
Himalayan Meadows
We eat rice with watery but very tasty stew. After food is over Alam and Hasib go to take care of their animals in the dark. One sheep is giving birth. They move animals in the fence enclosure and wrap around jute bags on the week and smaller animals. They bring all lambs and baby goats in the hut. They put several babies in the baskets and cover them with jute bags. Since there is no room on the floor so they have to hang these baskets to the beam that supports the roof made of tin and jute bags (Some of those bags are now my blankets). Outside we see the noise made by sheep and goats and inside the noise is made by their babies.
We all retreat and take our places to sleep. I am apprehensive about not enough cover for night so I wear my both pants and pajama and both shirts and kurta and then my light jacket. Briana is laughing. She offers me various scarves, two jackets, socks and a shawl etc. We all lay down touching each other. Alam touching the cold wall, Hasib and then I and then Briana touching the other cold wall but she is in her comfortable sleeping bag. I use my loincloth and bed sheet as a liner to the stinky jute sacs.
Now it is all silence. There is no sound made by humans. Hut has only a curtain of jute bag. We all go to sleep and I don’t feel any cold. At 5 am animals wake up and lambs and baby goats also respond to the squeals of their mothers and we also wake up. Alam and Hasib are again very busy to tend their herd and we pack up our belongings. Gathering herbs is also a part of routine for Alam and Hasib, I buy some rare herbs from them and pay them generously.
Alam says, “There are two ways to Hanumanchatti, one is easy to follow and other goes in the jungle. Easy to follow will take you to another pass and then to the bottom and you will spend additional 5-6 hours. The Jungle one is pathless and you will reach Hanumanchatt in 5-6 hours.”
“Then we will take Jungle one.”
We bid them goodbye and leave the hut and enter in the pathless jungle.
Alpine meadows of Himalayas also called Bugyal in local language
Now Dodital is far away and Hanumanchatti is near.
Now I have detailed instructions given to me by Alam and Hasib for our path to Hanumanchatti that is about 15 kilometers; now a quite manageable distance even if we make some mistake and again lose our way. We have enough time to return. Since there is no fixed path and many sheep path crisscross. We pass vast meadows and then birch jungles alternately.
Near a brook we decide to stop. We gether firewoods and make a fire and heat up the parothas. After parothas we make tea. Banafasha is growing around so I some of it and also some of the other herbs that now I have and result is just stunning. Briana begs me to make another batch of tea and then another because we have good firewood.
We begin walking again. After two hours We arrive at another Bugyal called Seema and chat with a Gujjar gentleman there who is with her sheeps and goats. He has tea making arrangement and makes tea for us. He also offers us goat cheese (panir) I am not a fan of anything that is made of milk but Briana loves it. Place is breathtaking beautiful so we spend some time here. At 10.30 AM we resume our walk and descent through the forest to a place named Kandoli, an abandoned village having a few ruined huts. Later on I learn that those huts are used in the late summers when buffaloes arrive.
Hanumanchatti is now just 4 hours away and there is no chance to getting lost. Now terrine is full of deodar and pine trees.
Yamuna ValleyYamuna Valley
The next landmark that I believe will come on the path at our right, there would be an opening in the birch trees and actually that opening is the ridge and we have to walk on the other side of mountain from that point. The ridge was to come after 2 kilometers and we keep walking and looking for the ridge. After 2 hours I believe we walked more that 6 kilometers but Then Mountain people’s one kilometer always turns out our 3 kilometers so we keep walking. Now here is no water available at this mountain and I am noticing that there are no animal tracks. Now we struggle to find a passage on the dangerous slope in the dense woods.
Briana says, “Please admit that we are lost.”
I don’t know where I am going and also I lost all the sense of direction that my friends always amaze upon.
I admit, “Yes we are lost.”
She sits down, her face in her hands and again begins weeping.
She says, “We have walked down several thousand feet and we cannot even go where we came from. That place is too high now, we have no strength left to climb again. My feet are hurting me.”
“I will buy you a nice dinner tonight in Hanumanchatti.”
She screams on me, “I won’t be alive tonight.”
Sobbingly she says, “I am going to die here at this strange place. I saw the life of poverty and then somehow I made it to medical school and … and…. I will die here before I or my parents see any happiness.”
I laugh.
I have been in similar situations many time. During my walk from Ritha Sahib to Haldwani, I had gotten brutally lost. Elephants tried to trample me, one leopard attacked me. I had to cross a river several times to make my way. My feet were so much swollen that I feared to take off my shoes because I won’t be able to insert my feet in those shoes again. At that time I had only three choices, fall to sleep, fall to unconscious or fall permanently so be done with this life. Help came from unexpected source and I was not seeking that help either. I only wanted to pass away.
We stop walking because we cannot go any further. We stop under a cluster of thorny Holly trees.
Briana screams at me, “What is here to laugh?”
“Calm down, I will buy you a nice dinner tonight at Hanumanchatti.”
“Hah!” She uses her same sarcastic script, “You already owe me several dinners in Hanumanchatti. Hah!”
“Several dinners then.”
“Let’s make some lucky tea. Tea always brings us luck.”
I say to her, “I say let all worries go to hell, What about Holly tea?”
This makes her laugh.
We sit under the holly trees. their bases infested by the ganodarma mushrooms. Holly trees are rare in India, these are found in high altitude in Himalayas. Some holly trees are in Gangotri and nearby villages and some I have seen in the old Manali village. Holly trees are all over in Northern USA. The name Hollywood comes from this same Holly tree. This tree makes a cone and leaves are thick and thorny at the edges. The berries, though eaten by birds, are harmful to human beings. This is a very slow growing tree and that is the reason it is getting extinct in Indian Himalayas. Its wood is a good quality and can be used for carving. Some people consider these trees sacred and some consider these evil. Many tribes use the leaves of these trees in witchcrafts.
Holly Tree leaves
Some words about Holly Trees
Common name: Himalayan Holly
Botanical name: Ilex dipyrena Family: Aquifoliaceae (Holly family)
Synonyms: Ilex dentonii
Medicinal uses.
Natives chewed berries for colic, indigestion. Leaf tea for measles, colds, flu, pneumonia; drops for sore eyes. Externally, for sores, itching. Chewing only 10-12 berries acts as a strong laxative, emetic, and diuretic. Bark tea once used in malaria and epilepsy.
The liquid obtained from boiling holly leaves in water can be used to reduce fever. It is also used as a remedy for bronchitis, arthritis, and rheumatism.
White holly seems to have been used in the past primarily as a means of cleansing the system by promoting the proper elimination of waste products from the body.
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Fruits considered mildly poisonous, inducing violent vomiting and are dangerous to small children. Use under medical supervision. Most holly plants are considered to have poisonous fruits to one degree or another. Caution should be taken where children are concerned.
Ganoderma is a genus of polypore mushrooms which grow on wood, usually of Quercus variabilis Blume logs, and include about 80 species, many from tropical regions. Because of their extensive use in traditional Asian medicines, and their potential in bioremediation, they are a very important genus economically. Ganoderma can be differentiated from other polypores because they have a double walled basidiospore. They are popularly referred to as shelf mushrooms or bracket fungi.
Ganoderma lucidum
Several species of Ganoderma contain many bioactive compounds (~400), such as triterpenoids and polysaccharides.[citation needed]Moreover, G. lucidum contains the largest variety of cellulose-, lignin-, and xylan-digesting enzymes, which are being used in biomass remediation and industrial sludge processing. Collectively, the Ganoderma species are being investigated for a variety of potential therapeutic benefits:
anticancer effects
immunoregulatory effects
antioxidant activities
liver-protecting effects
hypoglycemic effects
antibacterial effects
antiviral effects
antifungal effects
reducing blood cholesterol
GanodermaGanoderma, Courtesy:
Well anyway Ganoderma is not given any importance in India but it is a very potent mushroom. One of my friend’s son has down syndrome and only ganoderma works on the small boy. He was spending lots of money to buy it and then I taught him how to harvest it from the nature.
To be continued.

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