Sunday, February 17, 2013

Yanuma Dreams (Yamuna Odyssey 9)

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 the monring before we go to Jankichatti, I take the pieces of my flute to Yamuna and submerse these in the happy roaring waters.
Jeeps may arrive from Barkot about or after at 10 am. We go to a dhaba for breakfast and parothas are always ready.
No Sir! No more parothas for me.
“Then what?” lady at the dhaba asks.
I shout in anger, “Anything that is not parothas, which does not resemble parothas, which is not similar to parothas and which is not identical to parothas.”
“But I want to eat Parothas,” Briana pleads sweetly.
“OK then we will eat parothas,” I roar.
A Man got to do what A Man got to do.

No jeep or bus yet so we begin walking towards Jankichatti.
We begin walking from Hanumanchatti towards Jankichatti and no jeep or bus arrives from Barkot due to landslides. I am carrying my small day use backpack containing just my loincloth and a soap, but Briana has filled it up to the capacity with her things.
I remember that I visited this area back in 1990 when road came upto Hanumanchatti and remaining road to Jankichatti was under construction. At that time this area was lush green and scenic but now after the road is built and trees on the mountains are poached due to the accessibility to transportation and area has become unstable. Ravine is narrow and wall of mountains beside the road are barely the boulders of rubble. Road is all broken up due to persistent landslides.
We do see some apple orchards and clusters of trees by the road. It takes us hour and a half to reach the village of Phoolchatti. The only street along the river is full of hotels and most are close at this time because yatra is about to begin in another week. At a tea stall I ask for tea and I add some bay leaves those I plucked on the way, in the boiling water. Jankichatti is now barely 2-3 kilometers on this steep road.
Hanumanchatti area
After a kilometer road diverts a bit from ravine to make some hairpin bends and climbs up in the beautiful apply orchards and behind the orchards are the green slopes. Behind the slope are the mountains those we walked yesterday. All peaks are icy here. Bandarpooch massif is towering at the east side and closing the valley. Yamuna forms from this mountain glaciers and icy lakes. We keep walking on the dangerously unstable road.
After passing a brook we see a small tea shop and a young man there begs us to have tea. We don’t want tea but he claims that we will love his tea. Poor man needs money so we drink tea there also. While he is making tea we sit by the brook that is coming from a water fall on the mountain. He comes running with two cups of tea. His name is Gopi.
We drink tea by the roaring brook and then We return to his shop with empty cups and ask him about the herbs he has added in the tea. He shows us the local herbs and tell us their names in the local language.
We resume our walk and cross the Yamuna. Now we see lots of snow lying around because it is still April. After few more turns we arrive at the ugly settlement of Jankichatti.
Jankichatti bridge to the ancient village
It used to be a very beautiful place and in 1990 I spent a night here with a friend. In those days it was 7 kilometers walk from Hanumanchatti and area was lush green. Yamuna used to flow in between two large rocks and we jumped across the river several times. But Jankichatti now is a ugly mess of structures and rubble. Yamunotri is a 4 kilometers steep climb from here.
Air is feeling dry and chilly here. Since we walked slowly and made many stops so we arrive here at noon. Only parothas are always available at the only ugly tent restaurant here but I order daal-bhat. We walk towards Yamuna that is now contained in concrete barriers to prevent more land erosion. Area is very dirty so we return to the restaurant and wait for our lunch.

Best place to visit around Jankichatti is Kharsali village that is on the opposite side of Yamuna after crossing the river. Kharsali is the winter seat of Yamunotri. Deity of Yamuna is brought and worshiped here in Yamunali temple after Yamunotri temple is closed near Diwali. Traditionally Kharsali brahmins are the Purohits of Yamunotri temple. Whole village is full of ancient wooden homes and also a strange and mysterious looking Shani Devta Temple. Whole village is set up in an extremely scenic landscape. This village deserves a couple of full posts.
One can trek from Kharsali village to Dodital. Actually when we got lost at the first day from Dodital, we were mistakenly on the trek to Kharsali Village. However after Darwa Pass, one needs to cross another pass called Sonpara Pass. Gujjers who gave us shelter were very close to Sonpara Pass. This way is totally deserted and no villages fall on the way.
Ancient Village near Phoolchatti
Half kilometer before Hanumanchatti we saw a hotel in the serene surrounding. Briana wants to stay here because the stretch of the road before Jankichatti was very beautiful. OK no problem with me.
Since it may take at least another half hour for lunch to be ready, we walk back about half kilometers to ask for a room in that hotel. Price is 700 rupee for a day and Briana haggles and brings the room tariff down to 250 rupee. Our belongings are all in Hanumanchatti.

Hotel owner Pratap Singh assures us that he will send a message to our hotel at Hanumanchatti that we will not be returning tonight so manager there won’t think we are lost in the mountains. We don’t even remember the name of our hotel there but it is not a big deal for someone to find it out once there. He also tells us in advance that there is neither electricity nor running water anywhere in Jankichatti. After snows electricity and water lines are repaired and that hasn’t happened yet. One water fall is just in front of the hotel and we can use that water.
Ancient houses in village near Jankichatti
We return to the ugly dhaba and swallow some tasteless lunch. Then we walk to our room to fetch the day-pack because I want to take a bath. Going to Yamuna at Jankichatti is out of question. Whole area and especially banks of river are very dirty. We begin walking back towards Phoolchatti, to near Gopi’s one room tea shop because I saw several waterfalls there. Gopi’s shop is closed and we climb over the rocks and follow the brook away from the road. Now we get to the area in the apple orchards but no one is here. Briana decides to bath in the brook there in the privacy and want to bath under the waterfall.
A temple in the ancient village
As I am taking a long bath, after half hour I shout to Briana for the soap and she says that she lost the soap in the gushing water. She used it and then placed it on the rock and then it slipped away.
Well, no soap for me then. After bathing in near freezing waters we are cold. Briana is feeling colder because she washed her long hairs also. We again want to drink Gopi’s magic tea but unfortunately the shop was closed. We hear the shouts and Gopi is coming running to us from far away from the direction of Jankichatti.
Temple near Jankichatti
We wait under the sun for him to reach and it is already getting cold. He comes and prepares another grand tea and I pay him for all the trouble he took for us.
An idea comes to my mind and I ask Gopi, “Can you cook us dinner tonight?”
He gets very sad, tearfully he says, “I have no money to buy anything for you. My kitchen is empty.”
I give him money and he runs to Phoolchatti to buy grocery.
We hang around in that area and come again towards that brook and in the apple orchards. We walk in the orchards till mountain begins. Sun is about to set behind the massive mountains and air is cool.
We sit on a rock there to enjoy the last moments of sunlight.

Icy wall after Jankichatti
After half hour, we see Gopi coming running from Phoolchatti. It appears that he always runs.
He brings provisions and begins cooking and it is cold and we also sit in the shop near wood stove.
He uses little provisions and spices but the way he is cooking I am assured that this is going to be some super-duper supper tonight. He is cooking a mixture of the daals and a aalo-palak subzi but he is also adding some wild green leaves that looks like watercress. He also adds strange herbs in the food that he himself collects from the mountains. Then he adds a fresh herb leaves that smells like garlic. Later on I discovered that herb is Bear Garlic (Allium Ursinum). The leaves of A. ursinum are easily mistaken for Lily of the Valley, sometimes also those of Colchicum autumnale and Arum maculatum. All three are poisonous and possibly deadly.

Bear Garlic, courtesy: Wikipedia
Its smell is the only way to identify it.
At this height everything is cooked in pressure cooker because water boils at only 87 degrees at this height of 10,000 feet. He readies supper in just one hour but at 6PM it is too early for us to eat.
We ask him to wait for another one hour and we leave to take a walk to Phoolchatti. Air is very crisp and cold now and Briana’s hair are now dry by heat of the hearth but she is not carrying her usual long coat. I give her my light jacket because cold only makes me uncomfortable but does not sicken me. When we left Hanumanchattin in the morning, we never knew we will stay in Jankichatti that is near 10,000 feet high.
It is now dark and moon is about to appear so we return to the shop and eat the food. I have no words to explain the taste of the food that Mr. Gopi prepared for us.
“It was again a sinful dinner,” Briana declared.
“I owe you more great dinners.”

Jankichatti to Hanumanchatti valley
Food was simply heavenly. After dinner we begin walking towards Jankichatti but now Briana is scared of utter dark in this wilderness. However lights are visible in the Phoolchatti but Jankichatti area seems dead dark.
I decide to walk to Phoolchatti and take a room there. We return to Gopi’s shop and I give him the key of our room in Jankichatti. I tell him to return that key to Mr. Partap Singh or hand it to someone else going in that direction.
“I know Partap Singh, he is from my village,” Gopi claims.
I give some more money for his further trouble and also to make parothas for us in the morning. Got to eat those parothas.

In half hour we reach Phoolchatti but no electricity there either. The lights we were seeing were the candle lights.
Brook near Gopi’s tea shop.
Briana again takes the charge of finding a room and she does a tight bargain for a nice room for just 150 rupee. We only need it for the night.
We walk more around Phoolchatti, I ask around for if they have any flute that I may buy, rent or borrow? But none is available here.
We drink another cup of tea and then come to our room.

Briana is very happy that my bottle is in Hanumanchatti and it was worth paying for 3 rooms but staying in just one that is away from the bottle.
She does not know that the bottle has the purpose for my broken heart while remembering my beloved flute.
In the morning hotel owner provides us 2 buckets of cold water since there is no running water and electricity yet, pending repairs. Anyway I love bathing in the river and Briana is also getting addicted to this concept. From the time we arrived in Hanumanchatti she has learned the art of bathing while wearing full cover as she saw other women doing at Hanumanchatti.
We walk again towards Hanumanchatti to find Gopi-the-Runner because he promised us breakfast. We walk and take a 2 kilometers steep ascent to reach Gopi’s shop but it is locked and we wait outside in the morning sun. Bare and snowy mountains in our north and west are now shining like gold and valley below is shinning like emerald. We can see patches of smoke from cooking fires and everything combined – creates a mystic dreamy scene of some far-far away country. We walk towards the waterfall and then brook on the top of it to find some firewood to assist Gopi and bring two dry log, only that much we could carry in a trip.
Then as usual we hear a shout from the area of Jankichatti above us and it is Gopi. He is coming running. He is at least one kilometer far yet, near the last bend of Jankichatti where we had hotel that we didn’t use. He comes and we both give him a big hug.
He starts his wood stove and since it may take him at least an hour to prepare parothas so we take another hike in the apple orchards. Then I remember that I didn’t use soap at my last bath, I borrow a cloth-washing soap from Gopi because that’s all he has, a tiny piece that he used to wash pots. I also find a clean piece of cloth in his shop that I can use as loincloth. Meadow begins just behind his shop and that leads to orchard and brook passing at its edge from where we dragged two wood logs. We come to the bubbling brook and water is very cold at this time and water is frozen at the edges of the brook, but it is fun to bath in the rivers.
Briana walks around in the apple orchard and I take a bath and I am already missing this place because after breakfast we will walk to Hanumanchatti and will not return here again on this trip. May be some other time in some other year – if I am still alive and you never know. I bath in the stinging cold water and then let the sun to do the drying. I lie down on a rock and face to sun to have some warmth. Luckily it is not windy yet so sky is azure and Bandarpooch peak is visible as if we can touch it.
Gopi comes running with tea in two steel glasses. That is so nice of him. I take one glass and he shouts to Briana, she is in the apple orchard. She starts her run to have hot tea and Gopi also runs towards her and they meet halfway under the apple trees. Gopi goes back to his shop and Briana joins me and we drink herb flavored tea. Gopi is indeed a magician.
We sit near the brook and under the mountain for another half hour and time is just frozen and we don’t want it to come to an end. Below us is running and noising Yamuna Mai.
Gopi shouts us for the breakfast and we walk back to his shop and eat magic parothas sitting by the fire. Then he serves another cup of tea.
It is the time to leave Gopi-the-Magician. It is the time to leave this magic area. My heart is heavy and Briana is also tearful. It is just 9am.
We begin walking down the road towards Jankichatti. Briana is very concerned about Gopi but he assures us that he’d be OK because from next week pilgrims begin arriving and his show will cater them. We walk past Phoolchatti and then to Hanumanchatti effortlessly because it is all steep descent. After Phoolchatti we can see villages on both side on the mountains.

In Hanumanchatti, we enter in our hotel and Manager is happy to see us.
A paper is sticking on the hotel main-door that says in pen:
डाक्टरनी कल आयेगी
I ask Manager about that paper sign, he laughs and says that patients were coming whole day to see your friend lady doctor so I posted the sign because you were not coming and I was getting tired to tell people that daktarni is not here.

He tells that he got the message that we will be staying in Jankichatti but then he got another report that we were seen walking around Phoolchatti at night so he was confused and worried.
Today is the laundry day for me because all my clothes including shoes, soaks and backpack are dirty. I go out and buy RIN soaps and then wrap up everything in my loincloth to wash it all on the river. I also take a bucket and mug from the bathroom. Briana also follows me with her laundry list. We take a path to the river and there are 2 other women washing clothes. I negotiate with the women to wash all Briana’s laundry for some money and both are very happy with the offer. But it will be our job to put the clothes on the bushes to dry. They are washing faster then we can make a run to hang the clothes on the bushes.
We take our shoes and soaks away from the holy river to wash with water in the bucket. Our laundry project is over in just half hour and we take bath in the river as we wait for clothes to dry in the crisp dry air of this high altitude. I walk to the market wearing my loincloth to buy some mustard oil to give myself a massage. My skin is all dry and powdery due to this high altitude. Briana is also repeatedly applying moisturizers all over her. Our legs are also paining or rather her legs are paining more that mine. Pain is in our calves of the legs due to steep descent on the trek.
On the river bank I give myself a grand massage and Briana is very envious of me.
Two women who are here to see Briana for medical advice anticipate her desire and ask me to to tell her that they will give her massage.
Briana shouts in anger. “But where?”
“Here,” I tell.
“I’ll love to, but you and your chauvinistic god dammed India will be mad.”
Both women efficiently create a curtain around Briana, with a saree and give her a massage. Or rather a grand massage (I guess because I walked away wearing my loincloth to have another cup of tea.)

When I return, Briana is playing with water and is very cheerful. Both women are gone now. I gather our cloths. Most are dry and some heavy ones are not dry. Our boots and my backpack are still wet. We leave the wet there and bring dry ones at our room.
It is now 1PM.
I buy vegetables from a shop and give these to the lady at the restaurant. She already has toor daal and rice. We relax in our room and a kid informs us that lunch is ready.
This lunch is also a smashing hit. A record breaking for the taste buds. Woman added local herbs and spices and also lots of bay leaves in subzi.
“I am seeing all colors, tastes and cultures of India, with you.”
I sing her Delar Mehndi’s song: Sade naal raho ge tae aish karoge, zindgee de sare maze cash karoge. (If you stay with us, you will have lots of fun, you will cash up all the joys of the life)
We walked for several days and we decide to give ourselves rest for the evening so we retreat in our room.

But no rest in our room because a horde of patients are coming straight in our room.
I pay the manager for another day but he is not happy for the low price of the room that we are paying.
I ask, “But why you gave us room at this low price to begin with.”
“Your friend is so beautiful; I gave her room on her price to have her around here. She is like a flower.” Manager says innocently.
I reply, “Yeah I agree, but deal goes sour because this flower is with an ugly thorn.”
Manager has a bray of laugh but he returns the balance whereas I offer him 100 more rupees. It is my principal to make friend, friendship brings many rare comfort in the life. When I return to the same places my friends welcome me. I feel respected and dignified. These friends reply us for our small gesture of friendship in many folds.

I open the room and I still have one full bottle left. I bring this to manager and he accepts it and he is extremely happy. He is the manager and his salary is very low and once a while he loves to drink but he cannot afford.
We come out of our room at 4PM because area is so beautiful and sitting in the room is a wasting of the time. We again walk back towards Barkot for several kilometers till the village where I met Zung Bahadur. We find him sitting in a tea shop but I don’t want bottle. Enough is enough for the time being.
My grieving is over anway.

Here the road makes a huge loop and we can see Hanumanchatti and then far-far away this same road going towards Barkot in the lush green pine slopes.
Below is Yamuna Mai, the most beautiful river in the world.

We buy a pack of chocolates, because we met many children on the road and this time will make them happy too. We want to spread our happiness. We walk back to Hanumanchatti and give chocolate to children. Near Hanumanchatti, we recline down on a slope and watch the huge bend of the road that is spreading several kilometers and crystal clear, bubbling and roaring Yamuna. We watch it and watch it till the pleasing sunlight is no more.
We hit the road again to Hanumanchatti.
हम भी मिले थे कभी जमुना किनारे.
We are sad; Hanumanchatti dream will come to a blunt end tomorrow.
On the mention of leaving this place tomorrow, Briana has tears in her eyes.
Now she loves Yamuna.
Now Yamuna is her deity.
She says from now on she will worship Yamuna.
Because creation and creator merge here at Yamuna.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...