Monday, May 27, 2013

Chopta to Mandal walk – Rudranath Trek Part 1

Rudranath Trail Sitemap

1: Chopta to Mandal walk
2: Mandal to Anasuya Devi
3: Anasuya Devi to Hans Bugyal
4: Hans Bugyal to Rudranath
5: Rudranath to Toli Bugyal
6: Toli Bugyal – Dumak – Kalpeshwar

Panch Kedar (पंचकेदार) in Garhwal refers to five Hindu temples or holy places dedicated to god Shiva. They are the subject of many legends that directly link their creation to Pandavas.
Kedarnath ( केदारनाथ) at an altitude of 3,583 m (11,755 ft), the Tungnath (तुंगनाथ)(3,680 m/12,070 ft), Rudranath (रुद्रनाथ) ( 3505 m/ 11500 ft), Madhyamaheshwar (मध्यमहेश्वर) or Madmaheshwar (3,490 m/11,450 ft) and Kalpeshwar (कल्पेश्वर) (2,200 m/7,200 ft).
About three years ago I visited Rudranath temple. Rudranath is considered as the toughest Panch Kedar temple to reach. Most trekking routes to Rudranath are from Gopeshwar or nearby places. Now a motorable road is present up to the village Sagar — 5 km from Gopeshwar, beyond which a 20 km trek to reach Rudranath. The trek winds through tall grass, oak and rhododendron forests. Other routes include: an uphill, 17 km trek from Gangolgaon — 3 km from Gopeshwar through the forest and Panar and Naila shepherd settlements. Another trek route is from Gopeshwar to Rudranath is via Mandal (13 km) and then additional 6 km to the Anusuya Devi temple and then another 20 km to Rudranath. The Anusuya Devi temple is home to goddess Anusuya, who is believed to help devotees in distress. A 45 km trek path is available from Joshimath via Helang too (considered a strenuous trek). There’s also a trekking route to Rudranath from Kalpeshwar, via Dumak, Kalgont Kimana and Palla. The route meets at Urgam village, a little ahead of which is Kalpeshwar.
Rudranath is the toughest of the famous Panch Kedar pilgrimage treks. Even seasoned trekkers say, and locals agree, ‘Rudranath ki Chadai, German ki Ladai’.
We returned from Tungnath and spend a night in the scenic Chopta. I am not making a post about Tungnath temple because it is most accessible Kedar and also there are already several posts about Tungnath exist and several more would be coming. Chopta offers amazing views of the imposing Himalayan range including Trishul, Nanda Devi and Chaukhamba. It is located at an elevation of 2680mts above sea level. Chopta is rich in varied flora and fauna. Chopta is situated amidst thick forest of pine, deodar and rhododendrons. Bugyals begin just after 1 kilometer on the Tungnath Trail.

Chopta to Mandal Walk

We begin our walk form Chopta to Mandal and after one kilometer, we are abruptly out of the high altitude valley of Chopta and face the green, virgin jungles in a vast cup of a valley surrounded by mountains at all four sides. Only a road at the end of the vista is visible. This is an unusual scene in India, you feel you are in some other Western country where you see no one and all virgin jungles. We keep walking on the road under dense tall deodar forests. We make a girdle around the mountain where Tungnath temple is situated. Ramshila is visible at a point on the road, straight at above at the highest cliff. Vista stays with us for about 3 kilometers and then we pass the ridge. Luckily we find one tea shop here at the intersection of the village trail near Dhobidhar where vista is about to change abruptly. We don’t see any person and I only wonder how this tea shop man makes his living. But he is also a watchman for the rosin contractor so to keep himself busy he also makes tea for forest contractors and rosin harvesters etc. Tea shop man tells us that we won’t find any other tea ship till Mandal – that is 11 kilometer.
The 11 kilometers descent from Chopta, deep down the valley to Mandal, is a great thrilling experience. Four kilometers down the paved road till Dhobidhar, straight into a thickly wooded forest full of deodar, oak trees and vines, the dried leaf strewn path is steep and downhill. Thick undergrowth and trunks are lush and relaxing. However now we are in a deeply wooded raving and road makes several hairpin bends till Mandal. We take several shortcuts in the silent lush green and damp jungle. Path is laced with weathered, rounded stones splashed with sheen of green, sit in mossy groups.
As our path intersects with the road, a car stops and window at the passenger side is lowered. In the front, only driver is sitting. A young couple and a child are on the backseat.
Their car is crammed with lots of routine stuff. Husband is a very skinny person and lady is fat and petite.
Man asks, “Is this road going to Mandal.”

Chopta to Mandal Walk
I reply, “It should be, I don’t know if it can go anywhere else.”
Then lady asks in Hindi with an English accent , “Are you a native of this area?”
There is something peculiar about this lady. She is wearing excessive make up, she seems like she is settled in abroad.
Harsh replies in English, “No we are not from here, we are walking to the Mandal and this road only goes to Mandal.”
She says doubtfully, “Are you sure?”
Driver interrupts, “Didn’t I tell you several times that this road goes to Mandal.”
Interruption by drives makes this lady very angry.
Car moves along.
We hear lady is fighting with her husband now, we overhear her saying to her husband, “Tari, there are so many nice cities in India, why did you bring us in this godforsaken damphole. ”
Well, how we are to know that we will be seeing these comedians again and again.
We resume our walk on the road and as we find the path entering down in the jungle, we again shift to the path. Bubbling brooks accompany us the journey, bringing a much welcome drink of cool spring water. The forest is full of the sounds of nature. Tangled and matted trees emerge from a moss and fern carpet, into thick leafy foliage.
There is something special about this wood, something magical and enchanted forest from a fairy-tale. Halfway down, in clearing in the valley, a stream gushed down over the rocks. We sit on the grass by the bank and time just stops here. Wild roses are in abundance here and rose fragrance is overwhelming. Butterflies are hovering all over, birds are singing and water is crashing. This is a mesmerizing experience in the jungle and on this walk.
We cannot resist our temptation to take a bath in the brook. We are fairly down in the valley. The whole scenario had changed. Instead of looking down into the valley, over tops of trees, we are to look up to the mountains.

Chopta to Mandal Walk
They loom over us, green, tall, and imposing.
Here we see many animals and snakes that too is unusual in India where most of the virgin trees are gone and also animals are gone. We keep walking in the raving that turns into a cascade. It is 2PM now and we are extremely hungry. In the clearing in the jungle we see Mandal Village.
Mandal is an extremely beautiful and peaceful village at the confluence of Balkhilya Ganga and Atri Ganga. It is so beautiful and beyond the words to explain. There are some hotels in the Mandal and prices are very basic because hotel serve to the village folks rather to the tourists.
We have no plan to stay at Mandal as today we want to push ourselves to as far as Ansuya devi that is six kilometers climb from Mandal. Whole area is so compelling that we must stay here. Now path merges with the road and then road itself comes out of the forest abruptly at the last hairpin bend. Mandal is still 1 kilometer and we see a couple of small buildings this is Herbal Research and Development Institute. Gardens belonging to this institute, along the road are full with exotic medicinal plants. All can visit in these garden. Here we see Echinacea flowers growing. These flowers are a native of USA and are in high demand as a immunity booster herbal medicine. I find some research scholars here and we have a chat. Later on I mailed them the seeds of Phytolacca Decandra from USA, because I see a great promise in that plant. It is hardy and fast growing plant. It spreads thousands of seeds, its leaves and stem are edible after cooking. I want people to try Phytolacca so I gave sent its seeds to many institutes and also gave it to many people. I haven’t been to those places afterwards so I don’t know if anybody made any effort to plant those seeds.

After we emerge from Last hairpin band.
After these gardens we find a tea ship and a basic hotel next to it. We ask for food but there is none left at this hour but man promises to make us daal-rice in less than an hour. Room is for 200 rupee and is basic and overlooking the extremely beautiful valley. We take it and relax there till food is getting ready.
Then we hear a man and woman fighting. We see the same couple arriving in our hotel. They are in the open walkway in front of our valley facing room.
Woman screams at the husband in English, “Tari why you brought us here, there are no descent hotels at this place. How I am to spend a night here. ” – Beating her head she cries, “Oh God! This hotel is equally worse. I am very hungry. Where do we eat? I don’t like it here. ”
Tari pleads, “Honey! please calm down. We are here on an obligation, kindly bear with me. It is a matter of a couple of days. Then I will take you to just any place of your choice. ”
They enter in an open room next door to us and she collapses on the bed we hear her fighting with poor Tari.
Tari comes out of the room, his pretty kid tugging behind him. He seems miserable. He sits on the chair outside. We join him and start conversation.
They are from Canada. Tari had child after 5 years of marriage, his mother vowed to goddess Anusuya that if her son is blessed with a child, he will bring his wife and child to her temple in the Mandal area. Then Tari himself took a vow to do pilgrimage to Rudranath also on the same visit.

Chopta to Mandal Walk
Seven years ago Tari went to Canada on student visa and married Amandeep Kaur who was in Canada since she was seven years old.
We suggest Tari (Mr. Avatar) to take a room in this hotel and then go to tea shop and order food and he obeys because he is very hungry. More over he is counting that his wife may sooth down upon knowing that other people from USA are happily facing the same situation.
Shop man give us a shout that food is ready so we go in the shop. As we are eating our late lunch, poor Tari shows up with hanging face and asks the man if he can cook some paneer things? Shop man says he can make paneer bhurji or mattar paneer so he is ordered to make both.
After food I and Harsh leave the hotel for a stroll in the villages around Mandal. We keep walking at the opposite direction of Mandal on a dirt road to a small village called Khalla. At 6PM sky turns from light blue to azure blue and then suddenly to dark blue. We walk till another village near the main river. At the other side of the river, road to Gopeshwar is going high above. Area is exceptionally breathtaking beautiful and we are enjoying each second of our time.
We find two youths and fall in the conversation. They tell us that homemade liquor is available at Bairangana village on the road. Well it is too much for us to go to the valley all the way down and then climb to the road moreover night is about to fall. I give them 500 rupee to bring us 3 bottles for us and keep remaining money for themselves. They tell us to wait for them at the river bridge before the village.
They go running to their direction and we begin walking to the river bridge. We wait for them till 8 PM it is night but it is a full moon. We give up thinking that boys took away our money and will not return, we begin our walk to the hotel that is 3 kilometers. As we are near our hotel, we hear shouts, a boy is coming running to us panting.

Mandal area
He gives us 3 polythene bags full of liquid. We thanks him and he runs back to his village.
We reach at our hotel and bring out the two plastic chairs. We call Mr. Tari and hand him a pack. Valley is extremely beautiful in the full moon. It is a scene of a lifetime, Mandal area is such a place.
Tari’s wife is still fighting with him.
We hear Tari’s wife screaming at Tari, “Your mother – that woman . . . ”
Not to spoil our night, we take our chairs out of the rooms and come on the deserted road.
Soon Tari joins us.
We hear his pathetic story. He is miserably married and wanted to run away from her and now he is stuck because he loves his little boy.
Liquor turns out superb.
We order a grand dinner. Daal, rice, subzi and chutni and that too turns out superb.
We return to our room to sleep and hear Tari facing more torture -
“You were ignoring me, I was rotting in this room and you were with your drinking with your new buddies ….”
This goes on and on endlessly till liquor helps us to fall to sleep. Our worse nightmare is to walk with Mr.Tari & Company to all the way till Rudranath.
Let’s see.
To be continued …………

Solanum dulcamara Linn.
Family Solanaceae.
Habitat The temperate Himalayas from Kashmir to Sikkim at altitudes of 1,200–2,400 m.
English Woody Night Shade, Bittersweet, Bitter Nightshade, Felonwort.
Ayurvedic Kaakamaachi-vishesha, Valli-kantakaarikaa.
Unani Mako (red var.).
Action Twigs and root bark-stimulating, expectorant, hepatic, astringent, antirheumatic, alternative, anti-fungal. Dried branches-sedative and analgesic. Used for chronic bronchitis, chronic eczema and rheumatism.

by William BOERICKE, M.D.
Presented by Médi-T
Hot days and cold nights towards the close of summer are especially favorable to the action of Dulcamara, and is one of the remedies that correspond in their symptoms to the conditions found as effects of damp weather, colds after exposure to wet, especially diarrhœa. It has a specific relation also to the skin, glands, and digestive organs, mucous membranes secreting more profusely while the skin is inactive. The rheumatic troubles induced by damp cold are aggravated by every cold change and somewhat relieved by moving about. Results from sitting on cold, damp ground. Icy coldness. One-sided spasms with speechlessness. Paralysis of single parts. Congestive headache, with neuralgia and dry nose. Patients living or working in damp, cold basements (Nat sulph). Eruptions on hands, arms or face around the menstrual period.
The history of Homoeopathy can be traced as far back as the year 1835 when a Romanian man Dr. John Martin Honigberger visited India. Dr. Honigberger was a pupil of Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of Homeopathy. He was called in by the Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore who was suffering from paralysis of the vocal cords with swelling of the feet. He treated the Maharaja dispensing “Dulcamara” in wine, in low potency. This medicine cured him. The Maharaja was also impressed when he treated his favorite horse of his ulcer of the leg. Dr. Honigberger became the chief physician of his court.


  1. Fabulous pictures, nice travel diary and so much useful information! Congrats.

  2. Nicely written travelogue, beautifully picturized and very well informative...we had just been to Chopta last month in May 2014 and it revived all those lovely memories of that amazing trek, though we missed Rudranath, been to Tungnath and Chandrashila.


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