Sunday, March 31, 2013

Out of Gangotri (Gangotri-Kedarnath Trek 4.)


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

Day 1:
We are in Gangotri and ready to set towards Auden’s Col although my heart is not in this expedition.
I wake up at six and curse myself for being here to see this day, Briana is still snoring. I go out and check the quality of parothas at many shops and then at one shop I order 15 aalo parothas, 15 gobi parothas, 15 onion parothas and 15 plain ones. I tell the man to pack the assorted parothas in four packs so to distribute the burden.
So today is the scary day when I or rather we both will be putting over selves to severe torture by carrying more than 25 kilos each.
When I come in the room with two cups of tea, I find Briana packing up her backpack. With reluctance I pack up and arrange my own belongings. Our backpacks are bulging full to the bursting point, our sleeping bags are tied on the top and sleeping mats are tied on the bottom. Then we both tie one kerosene container to the sides of the backpacks. I go out and bring the plastic bag full of parothas. Damn – it is heavy, at least six kilos. Also he gave us lots of pickle and chilies.

Bhagarithi Peaks

We arrange parothas in our luggage. We help each other to put our humongous backpacks on our shoulders. We walk out and take a descent to the bridge near the main temple.
So far so good although my shoulders and back are already about to buckle.
After the bridge several steep steps lead to the Sri Krishna Temple and after three or four steps, I am seeing black circles but I continue going and stop at the temple. There I collapse on the floor and it takes me a while when my panting is under control. I get rid of my backpack and walk to the railings to see where is Briana. She is resting below. Boy brings me tea in a steel glass and it takes another five minutes to Briana to join me.
I say to her, “Give it up.”
“I can’t.”
“We’ll see.”
“We’ll see.”
Biswas also shows up walking while being crushed under his backpack. His load is bigger and greater than ours.
He says, “I am sorry about last night?”
“Why sorry,” I ask, “anyway what made you change your mind?”
“After I left your room I planned for Kedartal trek and opened up my maps but I was unable to comprehend those contours. In the morning I took a small walk on the trail with my map but everything looked totally different than the map. Now I have realized that common sense is better than these maps. Now I know the value of your handwritten notes and picture of the peaks.”
I say, “Well, Man, let’s hope those notes and pictures guide us.”
“If not then I have the maps for the region up to Auden’s Col,” he says.
I ask, “What about Khatling drop?’
“That we will see from the ridge of Auden’s Col, I will take one day at a time.”
“Man, what did you eat, you turned into a philosopher overnight.”
“Well, it was my dream to be on the Auden’s Col. This much is simple so I am in the game till Auden’s Col and then I will access the situation.”
“So we are all set to hit the road.”
Along Rudur Ganga
I ask him about why so heavy backpack and he replies that since his family owns stores and he is used to carry heavy weight as he moves around sacks of things in the stores.
Okey with me, if he collapses on the way under his own bori, I will simply bolt and order Briana to return.
She also whispers me about his bori saying me to do something about it but what can I do anything about anything. Her main concern is that Biswas may collapse or get hurt under his own load and then we all may have to abort our mission.
Then we hear “Bum Bum Bhole” shouts.
As Sri-Sri-1008 is here too, barefoot, still wearing only a short loincloth and a blanket on his one shoulder and a small sack on his other shoulder and here I will get my chance to implement my scheme.
First we all have breakfast in the Ashram kitchen.
As we come out I take Baba’s cheroot and begin smoking ganza, I suck large puffs in a rush. I feel a fire in my chest. I smoked a maximum 10 cigarettes in my life but never took the smoke to my chest before.
I keep taking large puffs for a while but this goddamned gunza too is not working.
Then suddenly my head spins and I run behind the ashram, there I throw up and then faint.
When I wake up I find myself surrounded by many people they all are laughing at me.
Baba says, “ज्यादा ही खींच गया था गांजा. धीरे धीरे प्रैक्टिस होगी.”
Briana says, “Nice try.”
Biswas points at me and says to Briana, “You still trust him, you should come to Kedartal or Badrinath with me. That would be fun.”
Briana shouts at Biswas, “No he will be taking us to Auden’s pass, he is fit like a horse. He is only putting up a show.”
It is apparent that I stayed passed for only a couple of minutes, Baba and Briana help me to stand up and drag me to water tap there I wash my face that is already wet because they threw water on me.
After another cup of tea we gather at the temple exit.
Swamiji performs pooja for our safe passage and as we are ready to go to Baba’s Pindi.
Swamiji calls us back and shouts, “Who is your leader?”
I point at 1008 and he begins laughing and shaking his head. Then I point at Biswas and he begins laughing and shaking his head, then I point at Briana and she begins laughing and shaking her head. They all are shaking their head from side to side.
I shout back to Swamiji who is standing on the ledge looking down at us, “Nobody is our leader.”
Now all point their fingers at me including Swamiji.
I guess I am the leader.
This is not a good omen.
बलि का बकरा हाज़िर है.
I am responsible for this Motley’s crew.
Hope we all give it up and return to Gangotri, if not today then tomorrow or even at the day after tomorrow and after that there’d be no sense to return because Auden’s Pass would be closer and then a descent to Khatling glacier and then to Ghuttu would be the better option.
I shout, “God bless the leader.”

Loaded like mules we take a descent and return to the main path, there we have to visit 1008’s personal Shiva’s Pindi. We drop off our luggage at a tea shop and walk to the temple and then climb over the hill and visit Baba’s Pindi. Baba performs Shiva Pooja.

Near Auden’s Col
We return to the tea shop I eat another two parothas there because two in my belly were kicked out when I threw up. We have our last tea in Gangotri at the last tea shop. Baba runs to the Ganges and brings some water in a small vial to carry it to Kedarnath.
It is time to remount our backpacks and I am very scared of the backpack.
One of my friend chants Hanuman Chalisa in such situations, wish I had that booklet because I don’t remember the whole poem.
अब ओखली मैं सर दिया तो मूसलों से क्या डरना …
We load ourselves up and begin our walk. At the path where steps to Sri Krishna Ashram begin we find Swamiji is waiting for us.
So it it is the time to begin. I am skeptical. We all are a motley’s crew of misfits, an assembly of characters. Baba is barefoot and carrying only his pooja gear, a blanket and ganza. Biswas is carrying a huge backpack and filled to the brim with God knows what. I am not carrying enough essential things for myself because half of my weight is Briana’s belongings. I gave away my many things to ashram to relieve my weight.
Amid the final chanting of Baba and Swamiji a small mob gathers around us.
We all shout with Baba: Bam bam bhole.
And march begins.
We all cross the Kedarganga Bridge and then after passing Ganges falls, take a steep descent in the jungle along the left bank of Ganges. It is already 10AM. Our aim for today is to walk at least 10 kilometers.
At this point Swamiji and others shake hands with us and say final prayers and farewells and they turn back.
We begin our walk.
The trail moves down steeply on the left bank of Bhagirthi upto the power house that was never functional. We rest there and then resume our walk till the Rudugaira Gad where Rudur Ganga comes from the steep valley like a thousand feet long and high cascade. Now begins the steep ascent and let’s see if we will survive it. Now till Auden’s Col we will be going higher and higher with each step.
My heart is not pumping but it is about to explode. Not just heart but I feel my head too will explode. After half kilometers I pray Ganga Mai for either chest or head should explode. Why prolong this torture? Briana is even worse shape than me and I am counting that this whole ordeal will be over withing few kilometers and there would be happy ending back in Gangotri. Biswas too is in bad shape but he is maintaining a smile on his face. I guess he is doing some immense efforts to impress Briana.
We stop to rest at a place and look back at the Ganges river. There we see the spectacular confluence of Jad Ganga and Ganges. Jad Ganga brings the water from Tibet’s Nelong region.

On the way
We begin climbing and panting along the Rudugaira gad on its right bank. So far we are walking on the trail that now starts to climb up through the birch jungle and after an hour it became a good trail easy to follow. Baba is ahead of us because he has little weight, then I and then Biswas and then Briana. We stop at many places to let Briana to catch us up and in those stops we rest but poor Briana is getting no chance to rest. Now path is going down to the river and we cross over to the left bank over a log bridge setup by the sheepherders. Sheepherders here are mostly local tribesmen and not really Gujjars.

Mountain Goats
After we cross the river, the trail is moving up and up along the cascading river, in the stunted paper birch tree forest, it is very tiring being the first day with full loads. My head is pounding and I am seeing flashes followed by blackout in front of my eyes. As we stop at a waterfall, I order everybody to halt for lunch break. Firewood is available and we make a fire and heat up parothas on the flames. We all eat 4 parothas each except Baba; he eats little but smokes a lot. We are drenched in sweat and we take a quick bath at the waterfall. Water is snowmelt and near freezing.
Waterfall on the way
Slowly we keep moving up through a reasonably good trail and soon encounter the first sheepherder. He tells us that we still have some kilometers to cover to reach the flat meadow. He shows us the patch of ground high above which has red bushes. We ask him about some more information about passage to Auden’s Col but he says he has never ventured that far. He remembers that New Zealand Team went this way about two weeks ago. All he is able to tell is that everybody goes along this river and then after some kilometers many other rivers meet this river so it gets next to impossible to know which one is the main river because the flow in the branches keep changing in the whole day. He tells that if we may find a river impassable due to lots of water, then it would be wiser to wait till evening to cross it because during day snow melts more.
Going to that height is a scary with this entire load but we look below and this gives us a hope that we already gained a serious height so we keep moving silently. Nobody is talking or joking because we have no spare energy for that. My back and shoulders are paining and I simply want to quit and run away. The path goes through several water streams coming from right and after that we are at the flat ground.

Nala Camp
We drop our loads and nobody is willing to go any further including Baba 1008. It appears a good camping place. We setup a fire and as we begin relaxing we hear the sounds as someone has lighted fire crackers. We wonder about what this is and suddenly Briana shouts and points at the mountain above us. Rocks are coming down straight in our direction. I shout everybody to not to run but keep an eye on the rocks. We all look at the rocks and as each comes crashing down we jump to protect us. We decide to move away from this place and again load ourselves up.
We walk about another kilometer and find another suitable place to camp near a sheepherder’s beaten up shack made of mud, tin and polythene. It is 5PM of evening and temperature is now near freezing and sun is already gone behind the mountain. We make preparations for tea. Two sheepherder with many sheep and goats show up. Their dogs surround us and are ceaselessly barking. We again decide to move a bit further. Sheepherders ask us if we want goat or goat meat but we decline. I heard that sheepherders stole things of the travelers at nights so we decide to move a little further and again pack up in a hurry because cold night is about to descend in the tall mountains.
We decide to walk further.
We update our passage with sheepherders and they point us to the way saying that everyone comes and goes along the main river. They themselves have not ventured too far from this area so they cannot tell us what lies above.
We walk another half kilometer and collapse there. Nobody is willing to go any further, no matter what might be the consequences.

Near Nala Camp
We make camp there and erect tents and now nobody wants to eat parothas. Everybody is very tired and nobody is in the mood to cook. We all want to lie down to give rest to our aching backs. Luckily Baba brings us some firewood and lights a fire and we boil rice in a pressure cooker but firewood is not enough and fire dies. We are in tundra and trees are stunted and rare. Briana lights her butterfly stove and we boil rice and then add some oil and chat-masala in it. Baba offers us his sattu and this reminds me of Andhra Style food where they put sattu like thing with lots of spices in the rice to eat it. I add red chillies in sattu and rice is now more palatable. Everybody follows the suit.
Biswas opens a tin full of cham-cham. I rarely eat sweets but after some serious walk on the mountains I get the craving to eat sweet things so we all enjoy a piece from his can. He says he got another can full of Rasgullas.
Wow! No wonder he is carrying so much weight.
I suggest to pack up our backpacks and bring everything in the tents but everybody is dead tired and we leave everything outside. Baba is with Biswas and we all give him just all our clothes to use as mattress or quilt or just anyway he wishes.

Thalay Sagar Peak
Baba arranges a small temple with the objects he is carrying in his bag and asks us all to join in the Ganga aarti followed by Shiva aartee.
It is bone chilling cold here we are desperately waiting for the aarti to come to an end.
I ask Biswas if he would like to have a drink with me and he agrees and comes to our tent. He says he drinks rarely and is carrying a bottle of Liquor with himself for medicinal purposes only. I fix him a light drink but it goes over his head in no time. Briana does not drink but for the sake of company she accepts a drink with few drops of raw sugar alcohol.
Biswas starts telling us why he came to Gangotri to do some hard trekking.
He was engaged to a girl by family arrangements but she broke it off. He felt it very insulting because wedding cards were distributed. He packed up his backpack and arrived to Gangotri.
Well Briana also came here because of some unpalatable ordeal was happening in her life and I ordered her to come to India. She implied she wants to suicide and I promised her that suicide it should be, at that time it was a joke. Jokingly I suggested her to walk from Gangotri to Auden’s Col and Khatling Glacier, just we two together. She came on the condition she wants to attempt something that may bring some life and death situation.

The passage to Auden’s Col
I say to Biswas, “Now I am eating my words and here I am or rather we all are. You can still go back it you wish but Baba is here for good.”
Biswas says, “Nah, I will rather walk with you guys. I was skeptical about your finding directions to the Auden’s Col and tomorrow or day after tomorrow this question will be settled. After the Col, route is straight forward. We have to scale down 7000 feet high wall and we cannot get lost there because glacier turns into Bhilanga river and there we will find a trail to Kedarnath and people do walk over that route.”
Then talk steers towards his broken engagement and he begins crying.
We all collapse in our sleeping bags. I find it hard to sleep after a serious hard ascent with the entire load. It is my nature that when I am very tired I find it difficult to sleep whereas Briana is sleeping like a baby. I make myself a drink and that helps me to go to sleep but sleep is very dreamy and restless in this thin air.

Views from our Campsite
It is again Briana who hears something strange outside in the freezing night, she wakes me up. I open the tent and shout and see a man running, he was here to steal our things and we got lucky. I wake up everybody, it is 10PM and freezing cold, hardly our feet warmed up and we again leave our sleeping bags and pack everything and bring it in the tents.
It is just the beginning.
Hopefully tomorrow everybody’s spirit caves up and we return to Gangotri.
I may get lucky tomorrow.
If not then – there wont’ be any sense to return after that.
I am upset that we are carrying so much food but didn’t use much today to reduce our weight. From tomorrow we must have a party each day.

End of day one

Passage till Auden’s Col
Common names include pasque flower (or pasqueflower), wind flower, prairie crocus, Easter Flower, and meadow anemone.
This makes one of the greatest Homeopathy medicine. Medicine is given based upon mainly mind symptoms.
It is said to be a very good medicine for women, for blondes, especially for tearful blondes. It is one of the polychrests and one of the medicines most frequently used, as well as often abused. The Pulsatilla patient is an interesting one, found in any household where there are plenty of young girls.
She is tearful and generally has little credit for being sick from her appearances; yet she is most nervous, fidgety, changeable, easily led and easily persuaded. While she is mild, gentle and tearful, yet she is remarkably irritable, not in the sense of pugnacity, but easily irritated, extremely touchy, always feels slighted or fears she will be slighted; sensible to every social influence.
Cold drinks relieve, even though the patient is not thirsty. Cold foods are digested while hot food make the body warm from which symptoms are worse. Ice cold water feels good going down the esophagus, and is retained in the stomach, though there is not thirst.

Pulsatilla (Meadow Anemone)
by William BOERICKE, M.D.
Presented by Médi-T
Wind Flower
The weather-cock among remedies.
The disposition and mental state are the chief guiding symptoms to the selection of Pulsatilla. It is pre-eminently a female remedy, especially for mild, gentle, yielding disposition. Sad, crying readily; weeps when talking; changeable, contradictory. The patient seeks the open air; always feels better there, even though he is chilly. Mucous membranes are all affected. Discharges thick, bland, and yellowish-green. Often indicated after abuse of Iron tonics, and after badly-managed measles. Symptoms ever changing. Thirstless, peevish, and chilly. When first serious impairment of health is referred to age of puberty. Great sensitiveness. Wants the head high. Feels uncomfortable with only one pillow. Lies with hands above head.
Mind.–Weeps easily. Timid, irresolute. Fears in evening to be alone, dark, ghost. Likes sympathy. Children like fuss and caresses. Easily discouraged. Morbid dread of the opposite sex. Religious melancholy. Given to extremes of pleasure and pain. Highly emotional. Mentally, an April day.

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