Sunday, March 3, 2013

Harsil Diaries 1

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Harsil Diaries 1
Harsil Diaries 2
Harsil Diaries 3
Harsil Diaries 4

Whenever I ask myself: What are the most beautiful places in the world?
I reply to myself:
Number one is Harsil area near Gangotri
Number two is Vancouver area in Canada
Number three: Hundreds of places fall in Number three.
And this time I will do it. I must do it. I have promised since the day one from I have this goddamned thing that one day I will be no more messing with it. I hate shaving. I simply hate it. I thought this time I will grow a beard. It is like a smoker’s promise that they will quit. I promised myself several times but at 4th or 5th day it begins biting me. Biting becomes intolerable and I find myself opening my shaving kit. I hate to carry shaving kit and it is just a burden of half kilo that I am carrying with me since the day one – this bitchy thing came to me.
View from Sukhi Top

I even have gotten rid of my shaving kit this time. Yes Sir, I have gotten rid of this unnecessary burden. Naa rahega baans naa bazagee bansuri.
Well bansuri reminded me of my other expedition when I committed myself to learn flute but ended up being rodeo and fell in love all because of bansuri.
This time I will do it. This time I will surrender to the initial torture and then will reap further rewards of life time. No matter if people call me bhalu or kachalu – who cares? I will have beard and once a while I will trim it with scissors and that’s about it. That is the beauty of having a beard. I envy all people who have beard.
This time I want to cope with this biting at some serene place where all my attention is diverted in the scenes. I shave at each third day so fourth day I survived in Uttarkashi. Well survived because I slapped on my face at least 3 times at night when I though an insect is crawling on my face.
Day 4:
I am scared to hell. I feel I have a beehive sticking on the face and bees are crawling and busy in their laborious errands. I pack form my hotel and want to go where hermits go and want to take this suffering as a meditation. I catch a jeep going towards Gangotri. I decide to start my beard growing meditation at Jhala village where my friend Mr. Parkash Ratela owns a hotel.
Why Jhala – because there I think I may not find any barber at Jhala village.
Day 5:
I have itching at my face and it is red because of my scratching. I am trying moisturizer, talcum powder (that I borrowed form a lady in the bus).
Jhala Village
Road from Uttarkashi passes Bhatwari and then Gangnani hot water springs and then it climbs a very unstable mountain to the village called Sukhi Top. Actually I fall in love with this area beginning from Gangnani hot water springs. I used to spend some days at the springs at the hotel right by the springs but no more. Area has become filthy and ceaselessly loud music is always being played by vendors selling audio/video CD etc. Well I am here and hot water bath soothes my face and as I am out of water I again feel fire ants crawling on my face. A gentleman is giving himself a massage with Dabur Lal tel. I ask him for a little and he gladly give me, I apply it on my face and it cools down but after some time feeling is even worse. With soap I remove the oil. Now I borrow someone’s mustard oil bottle but it fails, coconut oil fails, cooking oil from dhaba fails. Badly burnt and blackened pakoda oil works but after half hour it fails. I want to slap myself and actually I do it because several times I simply fell that it is not the beard but some real stinging insect about to commit some serious business on my face.
Sukhi top
Before Sukhi Top, I always wonder why road climbs for 7 kilometers and then descends another 7 kilometers on this huge mountain to again at Ganges level, I even asked several people about it whereas this road could be built at the other river and out of 14 kilomters, 13 could be saved. This mountain is an extension of the Great Bandarpooch massif. Once a year, people from this village, take their Devta to Yamunotri temple. They cross whole Bandarpooch massif and glaciers. May be one day I get lucky and join them.
At Sukhi village, at the army fuel station, I restrain myself from borrowing kerosene or diesel or petrol or motor oil or transmission oil or brake oil or machine oil or grease although everything is available there. I really believe if I ask them for any such thing for my face they will happily give me some drops for free because nobody wants to miss a tamasha. I have problem all-right and I don’t want to make it tamasha.
Gangnani hot water springs
Some adventurous people trekked from Sukhi Top to as far as Dodital. First pass on the way is call Bumsor Pass. I met a trekking party and they said:
“The track was never very clear and at times disappeared entirely. Villages which were marked on the map did not exist, and a 14,000-foot pass which did exist was not marked.
For a fair preparation of the next three days we might have thought we were lost, but for an occasional shepherd who seemed to think that Sukhi Top lay somewhere to the north. We emerged at the right place, however, and are still puzzled as to why for so many miles we saw no signs of the track.”
This trek was used 1815 by James Baillie Fraser to find a short cut from Jumnotri to Gangotri for pilgrims. At that time effects of height seemed very alarming, and possibilities of acclimatization do not seem to have been realized. The natives of Jumnotri attempted to deter Fraser from this route by saying that ‘in crossing a high hill, with much snow, there appears to be a poison in the air which so affects travelers, particularly those carrying loads, that they become senseless, lie down, and are perfectly incapable of motion’. ‘They cannot account for this phenomenon, but believe it to proceed from the powerful perfume of myriads of flowers.
Sukhi Top
James Baillie Fraser (June 11, 1783 – January 1856) was a Scottish traveller, artist and author who illustrated and wrote about Asia Minor and India. Some of his water colors made in the picturesque style represent early views of India and Persia.
I had no idea that height of situation could have so severely affected the strength and chest. … It was ludicrous to see those who had laughed at others yielding, some to exhaustion, and others to sickness, yet endeavoring to conceal it from the rest. I believe I held out longer than anyone; yet after passing this gorge every few paces of ascent seemed an insuperable labor, and even in passing along the most level places my knees trembled under me, and at times even sickness at stomach was experienced.
Considering whether any of the high peaks had ever been climbed, he writes: ‘The natives consider it as an impracticable undertaking, and it is hardly credible that in many ages there should not have been one man born of sufficient curiosity to make the attempt, if it were not so.
From: Journal of a Tour through part of the Himalayan Mountains, by J. B. Fraser, 1820

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