Sunday, March 31, 2013

Motley’s Crew (Gangotri-Kedarnath Trek 3.)


1: Trek preparations
2: Arrival in Gangotri
3: Gathering of Motley's Crew
4: Out of Gangotri
5: Beyond Bugyals
6: Trapped over cliffs
7: Auden's Col crossing
8: Trapped in the Khatling Glacier
9: Lucky to be alive
10: Back to the ices
11: Mayali Pass Crossing
12: Arrival in Kedarnath

In the morning we visit Sri Krishna Ashram and there we look over the town of Gangotri in the golden morning while having tea. Swamiji admits that jokingly he told Baba about our walking to Kedarnath via Icy Mountains because it is a dream of that Shivnath Baba who calls himself Sri Sri 1008 Shivanath Baba Avadhoot and lives in a cave above the Gangotri temple. He is one of the few people who stay in Gangotri even in the freezing winters. Swamiji is not even a bit skeptical about Baba being able to cross Auden’s Col.
“He can live in freezing temperatures without food and water for several days.”
My dilemma is that Baba may cross Auden’s Col but this only shuts down my own escape route because on the slightest indication from Briana that life is now difficult, I will tell her to return.
But then another surprise is waiting for us in the temple. Swamiji sends a boy to call for another person who arrived in the ashram last day and was asking for some serious trekking routes.

The notch is Auden’s Col

As we are on our second cup of tea in the Ashram premises, Mr. Biswas Mahajan from Calcutta comes. We shake hands and Swamiji introduces us all. He is about 30 and a bit short height than average Desi. He says he is a Pharmacist working in a medicine manufacturing factory. His family owns Kiryana stores and Bangali Sweet shops in Calcutta and in his free time he helps his father and brothers on the shops. Each year in September he takes off for 2-3 weeks and does some hard tracking or mountaineering.
He asks, “Are you going to Kedarnath via Auden’s col?”
“Well, yes and no,” I tell him in Hindi to avoid Briana to know what is going on. Then I explain him that doing some adventure is not my goal of life but I am in this difficult situation that I will be going there. However we will return if going gets tough.
Biswas tells that he is prepared with all the rations, tent and sleeping bag etc. He is carrying the provisions for a week that he can stretch it to a couple of days more. He is thinking of either going to Kedartal or to Badrinath but his life long dream was to cross Auden’s Col and then walk to Ghuttu. He has learned that this trek can only be done by well equipped and well supported teams accompanied by guides who are familiar with this terrain.

Around Bhoj Kharak
Briana jumps in the conversation and order us all to speak in English and now Baba also arrives jumping and singing. Mr. Biswas is very excited with this whole setup and he decides to join us on this expedition and Briana cheers up and claps.
Now Briana and Baba both dance and sing and Biswas also joins them. I have no choice but to participate in the celebration. Now it appears that we all will be walking in the hell for several days. Biswas will be with us for the more than half of the journey till Chowki bugyal, there he will split for Ghuttu. He say he is carrying 25 kilo weight.

The way.
At the afternoon I try searching my friend Murari who gave me a nice shave two year ago. He was only 9 years old at that time and my shining face was his triumph. After asking several people I find Murari on the ghat by the Ganges, he is now an apprentice of a barber who shaves heads to perform Mundhan ceremonies. He is not busy at this time and we sit and talk, he says that he is an apprentice for the namesake only because of his small age nobody trusts him as a solo barber so he is under someone but most of the work is done by him. He offers me another shave on the face or on the head for free but I decline.

Along Rudugaria Gad
Now we are in our room attending to our ever growing monstrous backpacks.
Briana suggest, “We should do some rehearsal and carry our luggage and make a round of Gangotri town from one bridge to other.”
This triggers a cold chill in my back, my mouth goes dry and I feel dizzy and about to faint.
I grunt, “Tomorrow.”
“We must do it now, just in case if there is any weakness in the fabric or seams, I want it to tear down now so we can do something about it.”
“No, may be it fall down on our foot and then we won’t be able to walk tomorrow.”
“Are you crazy.”
In the evening Mr. Biswas and Sri Sri 1008 come to our hotel. Both are excited for this journey that we are going to undertake tomorrow. Baba whispers in my ear that he got 3000 rupee that he saved by selling gunza. He also says that he will be carrying his sattu powder so we need not to worry about carrying any food for him.
I whisper back the we may find Sadar Bazar near Auden’s Col to spend his 3000 rupee and he gives us a bray of a laughter.
I ask him, “What about tent?”
He shouts, “बाबा तारों की छाँव में सोएगा और बाबा की जिम्मवारी भोलेनाथ के उपर है.”

Way to Auden’s Col.
Biswas says his tent is narrow but Baba is most welcome but what about sleeping bag.
Well, anyway I am not serious about this conversation anymore and we are now a motley’s crew. Now what happens happens. We arrange 5 liters of kerosene and we are all set to hit the trail to the peaks tomorrow. Since I am aloof and indifferent to this mission so Briana and Biswas are putting their heads together to think if there is any gap in the preparations. 1008 is self assured and will not carry anything. He also made it clear that he will not carry even our luggage if a need arises. And I want something to go wrong so we return and enjoy some days of our life in Gangotri.

Crevasses before the Col
However 1008 finds a great friend in me.
He gives me a bear hug.
Handing me his smoking cheroot he shouts, “ले नारदमुनी खींच गांजा.”
And I obey.
He is calling me Naradmuni because I am taking them to Kedarnath on the route used by Naradmuni.
Baba says he will be carrying about half kilo ganza with him, more than enough for two of us. By the time we reach Kedarnath I will be also an addict. Or may be I will return to Gangotri with 1008 and find some cave for me, Today when I visited 1008’s cave and I didn’t find it suitable as per Vaastu Shastra. I may have to dig my own cave because all existing ones are occupied.

Other thing I love about Sri 1008 is that he often says – मैं सिर्फ अपने एक श्राप से किसीको भी भसम कर सकता हूँ. पर मैंने आजतक आपनी शक्ति का कभी गलत इस्तमाल नहीं किया.
That is so nice of him that he never misused his shakti.
My initial plan of sneaking out of Gangotri without taking 1008 with us is now collapsed. Now Briana, Biswas and Baba are ganged up and I am no voice in this affair.

The passage
I and Briana have dinner in the Ashram and then return to our hotel at night, Biswas comes to our room to discuss about the maps of the route etc. I show him some hand drawn maps and some notes those I prepared myself after reading a couple of travel journals from the internet. Most valuable are the pictures those I got developed to identify the peaks and the Auden’s Col. Upon seeing this all meager guiding resources, Biswas is very angry and now want to pull out of the expedition.
“I thought you have some professionally prepared topological maps like I brought with me for the Kedartal and Badrinath route.”
“Well this is what I got. I believe route is straight forward, we walk to Rudugaria Gad and then walk along the Rudura Ganga ravine to the ice shelf and there we will identify this goddamned Auden’s Col from these pictures and then make that depression in between two peaks as our target and follow it to the top and then we come down there to Khatling glacier.” I tell him, “This simple.”
He shouts, “Not this simple, this is suicide. We will die there without proper maps.”
He pursues us to go to Kedartal because he has all the maps of that route. I tell to Briana that I don’t mind going even to Kedartal if she agrees but she refuses.
She screams at me, “You promised to take me to Kedarnath. A deal is a deal.”
Then Biswas asks me that he want to speak alone with Briana and I leave the room.
I take a walk towards the temple in the freezing cold of night and then see Biswas coming out of our room shouting that we are crazy.
When he approaches near me he shouts at me, “I don’t know what she is seeing in you. You are taking her straight in the death trap. Don’t you know about Khatling glacier – I know about it all.”
I calmly reply, “Well, she is a free citizen. If you want to pursue her again, you are most welcome and be my guest.”
Angrily he walks away from me.
I go back to our room.
Briana tells me, “Biswas says that you are crazy and are leading me and Baba to a definite suicide. He asked me to come with him to Kedartal or even to Badrinath without you. He was badgering me.”
“Well, may be he is correct.”
She says, “I told him to go away. I told him that it is not your’s but my dream to do this trek.”
“Well he is out. What now?” she asks.
“Good riddance. And hopefully 1008 also leaves us.”
She puts her hand on her eyes and mutters, “No – no – no. God No.”
“Oh yeah! Misery loves company.”
Tomorrow morning we are suppose to carry all our luggage to the Sri Krishna Temple first and there Swamiji said he will do pooja and prayers for our safe passage. Actually tomorrow we will be carrying our entire luggage for the first time because so far we haven’t carried it as whole.

To Auden’s Col
Then Baba 1008 comes to our room and he says tomorrow morning he will take us to his Shiva Pindi he says our journey will start from there.
Form his personal Shiva Pindi to the Baba Kedarnath Pindi.
“और ख़बरदार जो तुमने मुझे छोड़कर भागने की कोशिश की. मेरा श्राप तुम्हे भसम कर देगा.”
I shout, “बम बम भोले.”
He shouts back, “बम बम भोले.”
“ले नारदमुनी खींच गांजा.”
Baba hands me his pipe and I suck it deep and then return it to him.
I say thanks to him because this time I really crave for his pipe.

Along Rudugaria Gad
As we are going to sleep and now lights are all out because Gangotri town is given electricity power for just 2-3 hours at night by a generator in the temple.
Briana says, “Under no circumstance we will leave Baba behind.”
“Where will he sleep? Our tent cannot take 3 people and it will break. And he smokes Ganza day and night.”
“We will figure something out.”
Who knows what will happen in the days ahead?
It appears that tomorrow we will be leaving Gangotri.
Gods are all set to punish me for my past karma.
It was all my fault, I invited this trouble – आ बला पकड़ गला.
Or may be tomorrow morning I should run away.
From what?
From whom?
One cannot run away from oneself.
बलि का बकरा तयार है.
But then an idea comes to my mind.
Tomorrow when I will see Baba, I will inhale a large dose of gunza from his cheroot and -
चारों खाने चित.
This will scare away Bryana that Baba, his gunza and I don’t mix together.
When I am enlightened I start shaking my legs.
She says, “What happened to your legs.”
“Well sometimes these go automatic.”
“No, I know you are very excited for this journey. Anticipating tomorrow, these are in warm up mode.”
I yelp, “Could be.”
Now I understand the saying: Behind every great man there is a great woman.

Along Rudugaria Gad to Auden’s Col

Auden’s Col

Guess where is Auden’s Col

Grows wild in the bugyals of Himalayas.

Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
Ovaltine, Bournevita etc are made of its roasted roots. The roots are baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute and additive. It is also added in the coffee to enhance its taste.
It is used as a tonic and as a treatment for gallstones, gastro-enteritis, sinus problems and cuts and bruises. (Howard M. 1987). Chicory contains inulin which may help humans with weight loss, constipation, improving bowel function etc.
Due to its high demand, it is cultivated Kemloops (British Columbia) Canada and also in Mediterranean countries.

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