Monday, May 27, 2013

Hans bugyal to Rudranath – Rudranath Trek 4

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

We wake up in the morning at 6AM, it is intense cold. Using the fuel wood from Swamiji’s stocks we make black tea outside and soon Tari and Horseman join us. Tari seems miserable. Horseman tells us that the Chatti (night staying place where boarding and lodging is provided) run by Mr. Rajinder Singh Bhandari at Panchganga bugyal after the Naola pass is open. Panchganga is the place where other main route for Rudarnath merges.
This is good news that we will be getting hot lunch in the high altitude wilderness.
For breakfast we swallow one parotha each because we are eating these for third time and these seem tasteless. We prepare black tea for Swamiji and also for Memsab who accepts it from Harsh’s hands. Kid also drinks 2 cups of tea while his mother is not looking at him. He seems enjoying very much here and is despised at his mother who is rude to his dear Pa. He is always sticking to his father and shunning away from his mother. We also leave out 2 kilograms potatoes that we carried as emergency ration, there because food is available at Panchganga bugyal.
I and Harsh resume our walk to Rudarnath although Tari again pleads to wait for them. Kid wants to walk with us but Tari stops him. Gradually the forest thins and the evergreens give way to conifers, less tall trees and finally to twisted willow trees. We reach a small patch of flatland with a few sun-baked flat rocks, called Dhanpal Bugyal. We find many sheep and goats arriving accompanied by a couple of men, they tell us that this is the last point of obtaining drinking water till Panchganga bugyal.
Rudranath temple

Place is extremely beautiful and sun is gradually rising. We want to linger around here for a while because after some kilometers to Naola Pass, routes eases up and there is a descant till the famous temple or Rudranath. Shepard have tea making arrangement and we offer them some money and they make tea, they have goat milk but we prefer it black. We drink tea while lying on the sparkling clean, gleaming and graceful cool rocks. We fill our water bottle and resume our walk.
The steep and narrow route is through rolling grasslands along a broken mountain path. At this height respiration is now labored, thin air at this altitude is hitting us hard. Dark clouds are gathering in the afternoon. Often we are enveloped in the wandering clouds. We are walking slowly and steadily. At about 10 am we reach Naola pass at a height of 14,000 feet. Here with the poor visibility it is quite easy to get lost. From the pass, Rudarnath temple is all the way down at 11500 feet. Unfortunately we are unable to witness any views from this pass otherwise one can see Rudranath temple (3505 mtrs). Hathi Parvat, Nandadevi, NandaGhunti, Trishuli and many others peaks can be seen from here.
Initially the path is mild and appealing.
Rudranath temple village
As it starts raining, the ground becomes increasingly more slippery. Luckily rains stops soon. We cross over a glacier that is about 50 feet across. There is no path or trail anymore and with the guesswork we keep walking and cross several more glaciers. Now we are walking in the dwarf and stunted rhododendron bushes in full bloom. The entire mountain area is crimson. I had never seen anything so colorful before.
Suddenly weather clears us and sun is up. We reach at Panchganga bugyal, where Mr. Rajinder Singh Bhandari of dumuk village is running a shop and his income totally depends upon pilgrims. It is 1:30 pm and time for lunch, he offers us to make aalo-parothas but we now hate parothas. He makes us simple daal and rice. We enjoy dinner in such a serene setting. Mr Rajinder Singh tells us his experiences. He faces severe fuel problems because forests around are shrinking and many people including shepherds use wood for fuel. He is totally depending on forests which are getting far and far from this place. Rhododendrons are dwarf shrubs at this height, which is used as fuel but it makes a poor fuel.
Panchganga bugyal
There is some bedding for stranded travelers. He offers us night stay including food for 200 rupee each and it is very tempting to spend a night here at this very calm and still place. Anyway he suggests us to reach Rudarnath because it is his obligation to provide shelter to people who arrive late in the evening or who get stranded due to rain or hailstorms etc. Rudarnath is barely 3 kilometers steep descend from here.
At 3:30 PM now we had a terrific food and then tea also. We hit the path again because path is now dangerous and we need good day light to cover this last stretch.
No symptoms of Tari and Party. May be they returned or may be they are coming.
Who knows?
May be Baba Rudarnath knows?
Walking among the stunted black spruce trees we reach Narada Kund – a natural spring of fresh water with a small temple and an archway with bells. It is amazing to see a man-made monument here in so remote recess of the Himalayas. We ring bells to enjoy the music.
Now we decide to take bath although water is near freezing cold. We find a small mutilated bucket there and take bath using minimum water.
Rudarnath is barely 1 kilometer from here and we are in no rush. We decide to make tea with rhododendron bushes. It is difficult to find dry wood here and somehow we use leaves and twigs and start a very smoky fire going.
Rudranath temple
Luckily water comes to boiling in our little aluminum pot.
We hear noises and Tari and Company announce their arrival. Memsab is sitting at a mule in an awkward funny position. We cannot stop our laughter and she begins weeping loud. They also stop there because horses want to drink water. We have just two cups and two cups of tea, we hand her first cup and second goes to the kid who is jumping with joy. We all help Madam to dismount the horse and she stands in a embarrassed position and then collapse down on the rocks. We make tea in another two batches because our small pot can take only two tea cups. Tea is full of smoke aroma from rhododendron smoke. We suggest Memsab to have a walk till the temple; it is now a descent all the way, about easiest part of the journey.
Since we have already packed up and Memsab is in no shape to mount the mule so early, we run away from them and hit the path. From Narada Kund the path becomes very steep. Suddenly Rudranath temple and other huts show up on a narrow landing by the path. We arrive at this landing that is barely 10 feet across with a steep fall of about 250 feet on one side and a near vertical mountainside on the other.
This is an idol of Narada Muni, just a hundred meter before Rudranath temple. On this rocky mountainside are a few huts that house any pilgrim who comes here. These are very basic wooden structures with corrugated iron sheet roofing, some with floor of packed earth strewn over by dried grass and others with wooden boards for flooring.
Rudranath village
These huts have a door and a couple of small windows for ventilation with rags hanging as curtains, each hut a sunken fireplace for cooking, girdled by a few stones. The walls are covered with soot and it is very dark inside. There is no electricity. Be your own guest here if you have a sleeping bag. One hut is turned into a proper little dharamshala. Depending upon the season there may be one or two Chatti that provides beds and food to pilgrims. The path leads to a small hut etched into the mountain. This is the famous temple of Rudranath. There are barely 5-6 huts in the whole village.
We find a natural water spring and a kund near gate. We sit in open area of temple for few minutes and relax. This place is exceptionally beautiful, beauty beyond the words. Natural beauty works as a medicine and we forgot the tiredness of journey. It is 5:30 pm so we need to make arrangements for night stay and dinner.
We walk in this very simple temple. Rudranath is the place where lord Shiva is worshipped by face. Idol looks very nice in cave shaped temple. Temple gate is made by mud and wood. We find some other pilgrims scattered around here.
Rudranath Trekking map
The Idol of Rudranath is slightly bent to its left side. Priest Tiwari ji is talking to every pilgrim and asking about their journey, food and accommodation. He directs us to a dharamshala. Rooms are made of mud and dinghy with a tiny window opening. Walls are black with accumulated lantern soot for the years. This is a bare and simple place. Bedding smells of damp and usage by many people for many years. But it is okey, overall we fall in love with this place and decide to spend at least a couple of nights here.
We come out to a tea shop and order dinner also. Tari and Company also announce their arrival at the temple, we wave them. Madam is taken down from the mule and falls right on the feet of the beast. Then she is carried and brought at the grass. Kid comes running to us and enjoys a cup of tea. Little-fella is very interested in the surroundings and looking at everything enjoy-fully.
After tea we explore this ultra scenic place.
A bugyal near Rudranath
There is a group of temples with different shapes of Shivlings, which looks very beautiful.
According to the legends of Panch Kedar, this temple has the face of Shiva. There is a small rectangular space just outside the sanctum. The deity is a Swyam Bhuva (Self Appeared) Shivalinga shaped like a human face formed by the projection of a huge rock. This face has a serene smile and a gaze of benevolence in the all-seeing eyes. I never expected anything so graceful. Measuring about 3 feet from the chin to the top of the jatas, a white cloth remains bound tightly on the crown of Lord Shiva.
There is a natural ledge overhanging this face from where droplets of water keep falling permanently. The temple is very damp and cold with small puddles here and there. There are a few pieces of flat wood on which the pujari or temple priest and his assistant stand during the performance of the elaborate rituals otherwise floor is always ice cold at this altitude. The large half open eyes of the deity are kept covered with larger golden coverings.
Every evening, in elaborate worship, the mask is removed from the face of Shiva to give a brief glimpse of a rarely-sighted aspect of Shiva. This is the only temple of Shiva where his face is his symbol.
Since this is the only dharamshala here so Tari and Company is also given shelter in the same large room of dharmashala. They establish their territory next to us. Poor Tari tried hard to find some better place but found on other alternative.
After parking our belongings we come out.
Naola Pass
Madam has moved herself to a rock and is unable to move around due to her leg sores. Her face is sulking and angry. She has not seen her sleeping place yet so Tari is very scared and confused; he does not know what will come to him because room is dingy black and smelly. Beds are emitting a foul fetid smell. Time and again, at various places at my various journeys, I came across this smell and I am used to it. I always use my loincloth as a liner at the face area and I always make my own pillow using my spare clothes.
To help Tari out, Harsh spills about half of his colon bottle on the mud floor. We suggest him to go out and find dhoop or agarbatti and he goes out but returns empty handed. None is available at this dissolute place in the roots of God.
As sun is about to set and it will be dark very soon and whole area will go deserted.
We join evening Puja and then immediately we are called for food at 7PM.
Tari and Company too arrives there as there is no other place serving food. There are just same three items on the menu for all. One is daal other is aalo-soyabean nugget subzi and third is rice. Memsab is very angry but stays quite. Tears begin rolling from her eyes. I whisper with Mr. Ramkrishan – the shopkeeper. He produces a cupful of goat desi ghee. Memsab eats rice with goat ghee and little potato curry – in silence.
As we come out after food, now area is pitch dark. I and Harsh go out to have a walk but our feet hit many rocks so we return to our room. Our beds are on the floor in a row. Tari and Memsab are already there in their beds in the silence.
She only utters one sentence to Tari, “You return to Canada, I will break your nostrils there.”
I ask Tari if he has visited the temple for what he took so much trouble, he says he hasn’t.
We hear muffled weeping sounds of Memsab and then she screams loud because angry kid bit her on her groin. Kid crawls over her and comes to sleep with us.
To be continued . . . . . .
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