Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mystery of Shilajit; Kedarnath Valley Part II

As I wrote in my last post that along with others I harvested and purified shilajit in the Kalimath temple premises. My share was one third, and I lost that shilajit. But a priest gave me a small bottle of it that was from the same batch that we made.
I began my walk form Kalimuth to Guptkashi. It was a ten kilometers of walk in the wooded territory. A 1000 feet climb in the pine and deodar woods. On this trail one can get lost in miles and miles of green valley views.
I arrived in Guptkashi after 3 hours, panting badly and very hungry. Also to let you know that … about my broken heart, I was grieving for the loss of my beloved black, stinky shilajit that I had no courage to even kiss.
View from the trail to Guptkashi

View of Ukhimath from Guptkashi

There was some relief that I still had some shilajit. Fruit of my labors and my backpack smelled it. May be one day I will .. kiss .. my beloved shilajit.
Guptkashi had some historic traffic jams at that time. Too many vehicles coming or going to Kedarnath and road was very narrow at many places; barely enough for one vehicle to pass and …… it was traffic jam for miles. Traffic jamed in between Rudraprayag and Agustmuni and then traffic jam between Guptkashi and Kedarnath. And a big crowd of stranded vehicles in between the only town; in Guptkashi
View from the trail to Guptkashi

View from the trail to Guptkashi
So I planned to eat a hearty lunch in a dhaba. A crowd of pilgrims was waiting outside for their number. Luckily I found just one alone empty seat and parked my backpack in my legs and ordered Aaloo Gobhi and Tandoori Roti. My fellow companions stared at me in confusion and finally one gentleman asked: Hey man you are smelling. Then others too were anonymous in their judgment and restaurant owner was summoned.
He also declared: You smell. You leave.
But I had to eat my food so I brought my aalo gobi and roties out and ate on the road.
After food I searched for room to park myself but all hotels were full in Guptkashi and there was no room available for me. Thousands of people were just stranded there. And moreover I was stinking, my clothes were stinking and my backpack was stinking.
First thing I did was to remove that Liv-52 bottle. It was leaking already in my backpack. I wrapped it up in several layers of polythene bags. I scavenged for as many clean polythene bags as many I could found.
Second thing: I had to wash myself and my clothes and no room for me. River was 1000 feet below. Nearest waterfall was 9km towards Kedarnath, near the village of Phata. Gauri Kund (29 Kms) is the last place where road goes.
I hit the road again on foot. Anyway it was a historic traffic jam; never seen and never heard before in Guptkashi. In Ukhimath my window and door both faced towards Guptkashi and I used to look at the town for hours. Guptkashi is on the opposite mountain of Ukhimath and in between is the Mandakini valley. I was first time in Guptkashi but felt like I know this place because I watched it from 15 kilometers away for hours. I knew all the bends in the road.
Scenes were breathtaking. More peaks are visible from the Guptkashi than Ukhimath. A huge theater of white peaks and blue sky. Pine and Deodar aroma were adding perfume in the air and then I was also smelling cow urine. A bull that was following me for some distance suddenly changed his mind, now he meant business, and now he charged upon me so I ran towards Kedarnath and he ran after me.
Two young girls started clapping their hands to encourage the bull.
But I am not new to mountains …… when I run; I run.
Road to Gaurikund
Views from the road to Gaurikund
So I left Guptkashi, town was packed up with thousands of people and no room was available there for me. I walked towards water fall that was 9 KM from Guptkashi and Gaurikund was 20 km further. It was historic traffic jam on this route; that was never seen and never heard before. Shilajit in my backpack leaked and its stench was overpowering. This smell I was carrying from Kalimath, it entered in me, my hairs, in my clothes and then insult to injury, bottle of shilajit leaked. I badly needed a bath and also a wash up of my all belongings to get rid of this cow urine smell.
In the morning I already walked 15 km and climbed 1000 feet and again I was now walking from Guptkashi. Time to time I saw hotel or rooms available and I asked but no room for me. First: All rooms were full and second: that overwhelming B.O., third: after 4 hours of walk I looking like a bum because good people don’t walk in these days.
Traffic jam was not in that area where I was walking, it was before Guptkashi and around Gaurikund so road was empty but all rooms were taken up in advance by stranded crowds of people. Even roofs of the homes near road were rented off to pilgrim parties.
Another view from the road
Just out of Guptkashi towards Gaurikund
Road was traffic less, Only locals were using this road on their scooters or bikes.
In the futile hope of getting some room, I reached at the water fall in 3 hours. No biker gave me a ride because of the smell of cow urine.
Views from the road
Road to Guptkashi near Phata
At a village shop I asked for a bathing soap and shopkeeper he looked at me from my shoes to my head.
“Are you peeing in your pants”, he said.
I stammered, “Nnnn No, it is na na naaaat mine b bb bb but several cow’s … .er … er …”
He pointed towards his home where cows were enjoying their meals, he mused, “We got cows and they don’t’ take trouble to come to pee on us.”
I changed the subject. Can I have 2 Lux bars.”
“Hey Man, you need some Rin bars. Lux won’t work on you.”
So I bought 3 Rin bars and continued walking.
Waterfall where I took bath
Waterfall where I took bath
It was 3PM then. It was a small waterfall a little away from the road and I took a bath in the frigid cold water and also washed all my clothes including my backpack. Then I spread out my clothes on the bushes in the sunlight. I only wore my loincloth and waited for my belongings to dry up in the sun that was already on the verge of going behind a mountain. It was getting cold.
I heard that shilajit is a warmer so I took out some of the goo with a twig and tried to lick a bit of it but was unable to do so because of the foul smell of concentrated cow urine hit my nose and almost vomited.
Views were overwhelming from waterfall. Valley of Mandakini was way below and most of the trees were Oak and Deodars. A corridor of snowy peaks was visible in the direction of Kedarnath. Terraced farms were now mostly replaced by Apple orchards. It was the beginning of alpine terrine.
Near Phata
Views near Phata; Phata where Helicopter ride can be booked for Kedarnath
Sun was now set behind the mountain and air was now crisp and cold. Only my night suit was dry because that was the lightest fabric that I had. So I wore my night-suit. I packed up my backpack again, whereas everything was still wet.
A gentle man from the local village also stopped at the waterfall to have a drink from his liquor bottle. He was returning from a wedding and brought his unfinished bottle because guests there prevented him to drink more because he had to return to his village at Triyuginarayan on his bike. He offered me a drink and I gladly accepted.
I was obliged to reply for his courtesy so I offered him some shilajit on a twig and he gladly accepted it saying: “Aaj raat koo too dhamaka hoo jaygaa. Ek nahi balke kai kai.”
He smelled it first and his nostrils started doing some fan like maneuvers.
He said, “Yaar tumne to sara mood kharab kar dia.”
I meowed, “Bade bhai maaf kardoo.”
“Per cheez zordar lagti hai.”
I proudly said, “Maine khud banai hai. Ismae kum sae kum bees cow kaa moot dala hoga. Maine khud.”
He closed his nostrils with one hand and with other hand licked up the twig and then threw it away. Then with single suction he swallowed about the quarter of the bottle of his Bagpiper.
I was looking at his face. His eyes were bloodshot and his face was in some sort of torments. He went to water and did many kullas.
We fell into conversation. He laughed when I wore my night-suit and packed my wet backpack. He was going to Sonprayag and gave me a ride. He was drink and I had no choice. He offered me to drive his bike but for a two wheeler, I wish I could because he was drunk and I had no choice but for a two wheeler I can only drive a bicycle. I took my chance. He drove like crazy on the beaten down mountain road full of mud and debris.
We arrived at Soneprayag at 4PM. Scenes were now breathtaking and now River was not much below us and we could hear its thunder. Traffic jam already started 3 km before Sonprayag. All vehicles and occupants were stranded for the miles in confusion. Life was deadlocked from before Sonprayag to Gaurikund (the end of road). No vehicle was able to come out of it. Many vehicles were stuck in the mud. It all happened due to the lack of the coordination from govt and also due to undisciplined nature of drivers.
Sonprayag to Gaurikund
Sonprayag to Gaurikund
Sonprayag to Gaurikund
Sonprayag was full of people. It was like a festival there. There was no sense in finding a room because people were making their beds just anywhere they could park themselves. People were arranging beds on the roof of their buses and jeeps. Each room was already auctioned off to the highest bidder. One gentleman agreed to give me a shabby room for 2500 and I said no. I had a cup of tea and fresh pakodas and shop owner assured me that I will definetely get a bed on the trail to Kedarnath after Gaurikind. It was already 6PM and I begin my walk again to Gaurikund because road was full of stranded vehicles. It was bumper to bumper. Anybody whomsoever wanted to get to Gaurikund or wanted to get out; there was no other way. There was no other way to get to Guptkashi except on some bike.
I was very tired. First I walked in the morning from Kalimath to Guptkashi a steep ascend and then 9 km walk to waterfall that too was uphill road. Now I had to walk several kilometers to Gaurikund. Dark was falling.
As I was walking to Gaurikund and was about 1 km from Sonprayag a man shouted at me, “Hello Bhaisaab, jara rukoo”.
I turned and looked back. A man laughing and waving at me.
I vaguely felt that I have seen this man before but I was not able to recognize him. I went to him and he said that he was the driver of the people who stole my shilajit. He was laughing because I looked like a circus joker, wearing only a thin western night-suit, walking in the cold with my backpack. Actually that’s how he figured me out.
He told; he saw me at Kalimath where we were making shilajit. He also knew that they stole my shilajit because on the whole way they were laughing at the whole episode and boasting their talent about how they stole my shilejit in such a way that it looked like a trade. He said that they were 20 people traveling in his Tata Sumo meant for 10 only and he was stuck because they owe him money. We had some chat and then we exchanged sympathies towards each other.
I shook hands with him and I kept on walking on the steep mud filled road full of other people walking with me and also full of stranded vehicles in a several kilometers long haphazard ugly queue. At many places vehicles were so placed that it was very difficult and dangerous to walk because at the one side was steep wall of mountain and other side was the deep gorge leading to the river.
I though: If I still have a hope to get back my Shilajit …. I don’t think so.
Mystery of shilajit is not over yet….

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