Sunday, February 17, 2013

Uttarkashi to Agoda (Ganges/Yamuna trail 2)

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)

In Part I
I decide to learn playing flute in Uttarkashi. Hotel owner gives me an ultimatum – either to stop playing the flute or leave the hotel. I decide to leave the hotel.
My friend (hotel owner) suggests me to play flute in Dodital area; where nobody will bother me.
I started packing because it was a long way to get Sangamchatti and then to get Agoda on the way to Dodital. I had no time to waste. Since I will be walking and fluting from Ganga Valley to Yamuna Valley so I must pay my respects to Ganga Mai, so I stop at the ghat and take a bath in the bubbling frigid waters.
I leave Uttarkashi and hang behind a loaded jeep going towards Bhatwari and get down at Gangori village, that is 3 kilometers from Uttarkashi. At Gangori village, Assiganga River makes a spectacular confluence with Ganges. Road from here to Sangamchatti is extremely scenic and beautiful. I plan to spend my night in Sangamchatti provided if someone will give me night shelter. I eat breakfast at Gangori and then instead of waiting for transportation to Sangamchattin (10KM) I begin my walk, hoping to hail just any vehicle towards upriver. After 1 kilometer first and last tea shop comes in extremely serene surrounding under the deodar trees, there I have another cup of tea. A jeep is there and driver agrees to take to another 5 kilometers.

Assiganga


I resume my walk where driver leaves me. Area is extremely beautiful and at my right, Assiganga is roaring and bubbling and at my left are lush green moist rainforest. In this area I always fill my pockets with Tejpatta (bay leaves) that I use in my tea at next stop. This is a rare area in India where Mistletoe (Viscum) grows. Mistletoe is a famous homeopathy and folk remedy.
http://homeoint. org/books/boericmm/v/visc. htm
VISCUM ALBUM
Mistletoe
Lowered blood pressure. Dilated blood vessels but does not act on the centers in the medulla. Pulse is slow due to central irritation of the vagus.
The symptoms point especially to rheumatic and gouty complaints; neuralgia, especially sciatica. Epilepsy, chorea, and metrorrhagia. Rheumatic deafness. Asthma. Spinal pains, due to uterine causes. Rheumatism with tearing pains. Hypertensive albuminuria. Valvular disease, with disturbances in sexual sphere. Symptoms like epileptic aura and petit mal.

Viscum Album. Courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MistletoeInSilverBirch.jpg
Since this area is completely devoid of humans so I bring out my flute and resume my training.
I sing “Mere Mitua mere geet song” many times even my cheeks are paining, inflamed and burning but I have this inflaming passion to learn fluting and I am mastering on this art very fast.
Then hear someone shouting at me from behind and I turn.
Two men are approaching me fast. They order me to stop making this ‘karkash’ noise.
They give me a lecture that people come to the mountains for peace but I am making rogue noises with my broken flute.

Assiganga near the confluence with Ganges
For the time being I quit fluting and wait for them to move ahead. When they are far away, I resume my fluting. But at a turn I find them standing and waiting for me where road crosses Assiganga Bridge. Their eyes are bulging and their both hands are pressed against their ears. They threaten me for dire consequences, they also mention that in this wilderness, no one will ever know about what happened to a noise maker.
Well, I swallow my pride. I can easily beat 3 people and they are just 2 but beating people are not the ethics and attitude of a flute song singer.
I try to put mind in the nature.

Assiganga Valley
This area of Uttarkashi is very beautiful. It is unbelievable that alpine terrain is just 10 kilometers from Uttarkashi. Here one can see many varieties of trees altogether those are rare in Indian Himalayas. Some trees to name are – Beech, Holly, Dogwood, Bay leaf tree (Cinnamon is its bark), Black Walnut and Birch etc.
After some turns Sangamchatti arrives. Here are some shops and it is now noon time. Either I rush to my walk to Agoda that is 7 kilometers but some stern ascent. It may take me at least 3 hours to get there but Sangamchatti area is so beautiful that I want to spend some time here with the sangam of two happy bubbling rivers. One is Assiganga and other is River Dodigad that comes from Dodital. Dodigad is coming like crashing along the steep trail that is leading towards Dodital.
I ask a shop to prepare lunch for me and back trek half kilometers where river calms down and is not dangerous for bathing. There I have my long bath in the river. Then I lie over warm rocks and dry myself. I return and lunch is ready, it is simple daal and rice.

Near Agoda
I ask for staying arrangements at Sangamchatti and a barber here agrees to put me up in his shop for 100 rupee. But he tells me that night say around Agoda is more entertaining as well scenic too. This idea suits me because I must practice on my flute and at Sangamchatti it may not be possible, people are insensitive to good music here.
OK then – I brace myself for a steep 7 kilometer walk. Initial one kilometer is along the waterfall like Dodigad and then rivers stays in ravine but path gets even steeper and views open up. Gradually I ascend up and up while panting. At 3 PM. Air is getting colder and Agoda was still 3 kilometers and then I have to find Mr. Dharma there, God knows I may need to climb another mountain to get to him. I am told that he has a home in the wilderness where he keeps his cows and also he makes there illicit liquor from sugar. A cottage in wilderness (shared by cows) and also liquor buffet – both things suits me very well in the current circumstances when I am only inches away from being a flute maestro. It is April and rhododendrons are at its full bloom and I keep chewing its flowers because I love this taste. They make a sherbet with the flowers by boiling these and then adding the sugar as preservative. People say, it is a remedy for women ailment as well a good tonic.

Near Dharma’s home
It is called Buransh here. Once a while I pass amidst hundreds of sheep and goats and Gujjars are going up on the highest slopes of Himalayas, so milk is in plenty in the mountains at this time. Dodital becomes a base camp for Gujjars in the summer months.
Finally scenic village of Agoda is visible from a kilometer and I take some rest. It is already 4PM and sun is about to set behind the mountains.
In Agoda I am told that Mr. Dharma can be found at Bhebra, 2 kilometer further. So I take a cup of tea at Agoda and resume my walk. I reach in Bhebra at 6PM and sun is fully set and dark is descending. Near Bhebra is running a crashing and gushing mountain stream. Stepped farms growing potatoes, beans and the famous Rajma are now all around the village. I am extremely tired. I not only walked from Sangamchatti but I am walking from Gangori ( 3 kilometers from Uttarkashi) except for the five km that a jeep gave me ride, I walked atleast 17 kilometers and it is all ascend. I climbed at least 3500 feet today that is more than a kilometer hight.

After Agoda
I ask someone about Dharma and I am told to walk further 1 kilometer and then I will find a home where his wife and numerous kids live, they will tell me where to find the Boss. So I walk another kilometer and find a lonely home about 200 meters away from the path.
This home is usual mountain village home, at the ground floor live cattle – some goats, some chickens, 2 cows, 2 oxen and above I hear a crying child. I take the exposed dangerous stairs without any railing and enter in the door-less home. A candle is lighting and a woman is tending a crying baby. There are 3 more children in the home.
I ask, “Dharma?”
Lady is suspicious of me but I tell her that I am sent by a drinking buddy of Dharma. She asks me if I have any flashlight; and I don’t; never carried one in my life. She asks the eldest boy (about 10 years old) to take me to their other cattle shed that is further half kilometer in the deep mountain. I follow the boy in the moonless dark. Shining stars in the sky are emitting some light. I am very tired and at the dangerous paths my legs are trembling. We come up on the main trail and then we further climb and after half hour we arrive at a rundown cowshed amidst stepped potato fields.
Below are the cows and above is just a one room suite, a usually Uttranchal home of a very poor family.

After Agoda
Dharma is there, a man of my own height and weight but with huge moustaches. I introduce myself saying my friend’s name. He gives me a big hug.
He orders me to make myself comfortable. I unload my backpack and ask for water to wash my face and feet. He orders the boy to bring me water but I follow him down to a small brook and wash my face and feet in near freezing snow melt from the mountain.
In the room Dharma is ready with a Patiala-Peg, we make toast and I begin sipping. He tells me that only I will be staying in his garib-khana.
Place is smelly and also beds are very smelly. Smell of dung and also smell of rotting and fermenting gur (jaggery) is overwhelming, but it is ok. I am here on a mission. I will only mind my business of mastering the art of flute playing. Hope insects won’t bite me but at this height there are not many biting insects. He takes me to the corner where his illicit liquor is being distilled behind a curtain.

Agoda area
On a woodstove a earthen pot is simmering and above the pot is another pot full of water so to cool the condensate, condensates drop in a tin.
“Whenever you have time, keep the fire running but not too high; and liquid must not come to boil,” he says, “Samjhe kya?”
“Samaz gaya,” I tell him and to assure him further I add, “Main khud Bhatinda sae hun. ”
Dharma has a bray of laugh because Bhatinda is famous for illicit liquor and also drunkards.
His final instruction to me is that to keep an eye on condensates and keep filling the bottles.
“Samjhe kya?”
No problem. I will keep filling’em up.
“You drink a lot?” he asked in suspicion.
“No,” I lie.
He finish up his drink and grab a sack containing full plastic bottles and bid me goodbye saying, “Boy will bring you food but don’t expect too much because we are very poor people. Samjhe kya?”
The liquor he served is almost pure alcohol and it is burning in my stomach so I add more water. I wait him to get away and then bring out my flute and begin playing my songs. I am now immersed in the music and don’t know when boy comes with some roties and pickle.
He says, “Mai to dar gaya tha, maine socha ke koi janwar cheekh raha hai. ”
I explained to him that I am still learning and getting better but he does not believe me.
It is a moonless dark night and path is dangerous so he leaves immediately and I resume my riaz.
My peg finished and as I am refilling myself another drink, an idea comes to my mind. Why not try making rhododendron (buransh) liquor. I had buransh flowers in my pockets and I hang those flowers to be in the way of distilled alcohol and soon it is red colored distillate. Over the second peg and second stage of riaz, I am getting much better. Now my fingers move on the holes of flute automatically with the rhythm.
Now I play all the songs that I remember; one by one.
Suddenly all cows, oxen and goats begin making noise at once down there and I look at my watch, it is 1 AM now. Flame from kerosene lamp is flickering because of no more fuel. I move the distilled batch into the bottle and put off the lamp.
I fall to sleep.
Morning brings me some heavy-duty humiliation. Dharma wakes me up at 7 AM, He is extremely angry and shouts at me, “Cows didn’t give any milk today? Why shout at me?”
I am angry at him to wake me up in the cold of the morning, I say, “If cows decide not to give milk today, then what I can do?”
“It is your damn flute blast; poor animals are scared of that screeching sound that you made for hours last night. We could hear it from our home there.”
What can I say now? I am a guest in his home and I am so ashamed. It is not my fault and I doubt it was my flute music but somehow it was a coincidence that I was there and they didn’t give any milk.
Dharma rushes back to his home to bring the injection to make cows give milk. He may still retrieve some milk. I begin packing because my insult is bigger than a mountain although it was not my fault; it was not the doing of my fluting.

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