Monday, May 27, 2013

Toli Bugyal – Dumak – Kalpeshwar – Rudranath Trek 6

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 from our sound sleep in narrow dingy hut of Bakhtwar Singh. He serves us tea. We pack our belongings. He makes us breakfast of aalo-parothas and offers us to pack some food for the way but we decline. Dumak village is now barely 10 kilometers and it is all effortless descending.
We say goodbye to our best friend Bakhtwar Singh. Hope he lives forever and we want to see him again and again. Our heart is breaking upon leaving this heavenly set up.
Dumak Village
Toli Bugyal

We begin our walk and ascend a bit from the lake and then take steep descent. Heavily wooded mountain slope is now at our arms distance. We pass through the patches of stunted forests of willow, fir and birch. As we are descending, trees are becoming taller and stronger. Then abruptly we are in the dense forest and then forest turns into the tall trees of deodar and oak.
Dumak Village
A brook after Toli Bugyal

We pass several waterfalls and at one waterfall we see the vista of distant mountains and valleys. It is overwhelming and as an excuse to stay here more we spend some time in preparing the tea. I add many willow leafs in the tea. Our black tea is now gently flavored.
Bugyals on the way
Bugyals on the way
In the old times, aspirin was made by willow leaves and bark. Now aspirin is manufactured by organic compounds but formula stays same. Willow leaves smell like flavored pain ointments. This is the reason local folk use Willow bark and leafs as pain killer. Not many people know that aspirin is a solvent also, it is prescribed to be taken for whole life to most of heart patients. It dissolves fats in the arteries and keeps it from clogging. Not many people know that willow leaf paste (or aspirin as well) can be used for faster and more reliably growing a plant from the stem. Dissolve some pills of aspirin or make a past of willow trees. Soak the plant stem in the liquid for a night. Plant the stem in the morning and use all this liquid around the stem in the soil. Aspirin triggers the growth hormones in the stem.
Many countries got similar terrain as we have bugyals in Himalayas. Switzerland, Austria, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Argentina etc to name some. These countries got prosperous by wisely using their pastures. These countries managed their grazing lands wisely and scientifically and got rich. We don’t have this concept in India otherwise these alpine meadows are an asset to the nation.
Dumak Village
On the way to Dumak Village
We leave the pretty waterfall and resume our descending. We see a first hut after a clearing in the forest and a cute smell kid of 4 years age is sitting on a rock and playing with a cheap plastic toy. His one arm is newly plastered as he broke it three days ago. We stop there to have a chat with him. He is very happy to see us and begins telling us his stories. He is still flabbergasted with the memories of his visit to hospital in Helang where his Pa took him yesterday. First time in his life he saw cars, trucks and motorcycles. First time in his life he saw electric bulbs, refrigeration and many many other things. And first time in his life he saw so much pain.
On the return trip they rode on a shared jeep from Helang to Urgum but jeep was crowded and this even hurt his arm more on the ride. He has a sister who is gone to school in Dumak Village that is 4 kilometers from here. As we are chatting with this little happy chirpy, his mother brings us tea without milk. She says they use goat milk in the tea but not many people like the taste so she brought us black tea.
Dumak Village
Dumak Village
They have 50 goats and that is their sole asset as well livelihood. They grow some potatoes and pea on the slopes in season, barely enough for themselves. To take Chirpy to hospital, his Pa took one goat with them to sell in Helang to raise cash for the trip and treatment. His Pa carried him to all the way to Helang that is 10 hours walk. They reached there in the evening and hospital was closed. They sold the goat and slept in a temple room. Next morning they went to hospital and Chirpy’s arm was plastered. At noon they took a Jeep to Urgam and then at night they reached at his aunt’s home at Dhumak. Then today morning they arrived here. In Helang his Pa bought him a plastic car toy and also for him and his sister new plastic shoes and also some bananas.
We don’t have anything for Chirpy but we open our backpacks so he can take a look and select just anything he wishes to have. He selects a cold cream and a small shaving mirror. He loves to have windcheater jacket that Harsh is wearing but it is too big. We ask if his mother can sew then she can alter its size for him. He says that they have no sewing machine but his aunt in Dumak has one. Harsh gives him his jacket, he has a half sleeve sweater and that is sufficient now on. I give him my monkey cap that is too small on my big head anyway.
We bid our goodbye to little chirpy and he is not happy about our leaving him. He asks us to spend a night in their hut but we resume our walk. Very soon we see villages in the densely forested mountains further. As Dumak is coming closer, we see some apple orchards and potato farms. We arrive in the Dumak village at 11 AM.
Dumak Village
Dumak Village
Dhumak has a neat hotel run by Mr. Prem Singh Bhandari. There is also a tea shop where we order lunch, that turns out a very basic one. We are told that next village is Devagoan but lodging is available at Kalgot that is 7 kilometers and easy gradual descend. We decide to go there.
We leave Dhumak at noon.
Dumak Village
Approaching Dumak Village
Now way is alternated with some steppe farms but mostly deodar forest. Walking leisurely we reach Kalgot at 3 PM. After a long walk and descend we are not really tired but our legs are shaking and we fall down without our noticing so we decide to spend night here in this small village.
Dumak Village
Dumak Village
Dumak was unappealing but Kalgot is very serene and green. We are longing to spend a night here. One home provides boarding and lodging to travelers in the season and we settle there for the rest of the day.
We walk out of the village to find some waterfall to take a bath, children follow us everywhere. Lots of very healthy cannabis is growing here so this area attracts lots of foreigners too. Children take us to the waterfall and we have a prolonged bath there.
Dumak Village
Kalgot Village area
Next morning we begin our walk, Mountain-pass is very near the village of Kalgot and in half hour of climbing we are at the other side. Again steep descending begins till the village of Urgam. We traverse through dense forest, ups and downs followed by lush green meadows. A road and some jeeps are visible at Urgam. Finally we have seen the road after some days.
We reach the outskirts of Urgam village, spread wide across a flatland, with farms bordered by cannabis hedges. We take the outer path skirting the village. On the way, we come across a village lodge, fairly recently opened, where 4 trekkers from Bengal are sitting on the verandah. We are offered room where we have to pass through the dormitory. After spending several days in the open we don’t like this setup so we move on.
Dumak Village
Our hotel in Kalgot Village
We arrive to Negi’s village house, basic, neat and clean, with 3 double-bedded rooms upstairs, which he rents out to the occasional trekker. Many foreigners are staying here because of abundance of cannabis. We take a room here and sit in verandah, drinking tea and chatting with two Israeli girls, who ware painstakingly cleaning the brush of fine hair from some wild plants. They have gathered them during his day’s wanderings to the nearby forests. This subzi turned out to be a delicious delicacy prepared by Negi’s wife – definitely one of the best meals we had in this journey. We find Urgam is busting with pilgrim and trekking activities.
Urgam village has water problems, too many travelers and too many activities has made this place a mini town. Although Kalpeshwar Temple is just 2 kilometers away across the bridge on the next mountain next to a vertical waterfall but we decide to visit there tomorrow.
We walk around Urgam and walk to the river bridge to take a bath. We pay money to a man to bring us locally made alcohol and enjoy our evening outside our room.
On the way to Dumak Village
Near Urgam
Next morning we visit Kalpeshwar.
Kalpeshwar, or Kalpnath is one of the Panch Kedar. It is believed that Lord Shiva’s matted tresses, visible on the rock face that curves overhead to make the cave were all that were glimpsed of him when he was eluding the Pandavas who sought his darshan to gain forgiveness for killing their kin in the epic battle of the Mahabharat.

Urgam to Kalpeshwar
It is a favorite location for meditating Babas and Sadhus. Legend has it that the sage Arghya had performed austerities here and created the nymph, Urvashi. Rishi Durvasa is also believed to have meditated here under the wish-fulfilling tree, Kalpavriksha. The sage had given Kunti the boon that she could invoke any of the forces of nature and they would appear before her and grant whatever she desired. Known for his quick temper, Rishi Durvasa is often recalled in context of the incident when, along with several disciples, he visited Kunti’s sons, while they were in exile. He indicated that he and his disciples expected food. There was not a grain to cook. An anxious Draupadi’s prayers were answered by Lord Krishna who appeared and miraculously solved the problem.

Kalpeshwar Mahadev temple
In the small cave, we sit in meditation in front of Shiva’s locks. Outside, a group of Sadhus, including a couple of Nath sampradaya ascetics, with their large circular earrings worn through deeply pierced ears were singing.
On our way out, we stop to greet the old sadhu who had lived here many years. He invites us for tea, and gives us a poori as Prasad. Unlike the other Kedars, the temple priests here live at Urgam village and by rare tradition is not a Brahmin.
Well it is the time to return to the road head. We are walking for the last several days and have walked more than 100 kilometers from Tungnath Temple. At noon we reach at Urgam Village.
Next morning we check out from our hotel.

Kalpeshwar Temple main gate
Shared jeeps are going to Helang that is 10 kilometers but we rather walk all the way down to Alaknanda River. We reach Helang in 3 hours of joyful pace. We take a very long bath at Alaknanda River near Urgam Bridge.
We are missing those pristine bugyals, simple people who survive with bare necessities and live off the land. We are missing damp, dingy and soot covered homes but peace resides there.
This ends our Rudarnath Trekking experience.

Willow Tree
Salix alba (Willow)
Actions and Indications: Culpeper used the plant to stop bleeding of injuries, as well as to stop any other blood loss, including nose and mouth bleeding and spitting of blood. He also mentions that it can be used as an anaphrodisiac although he may have been referring to Black Willow (Salix nigra) as there seems to be some confusion over which variety of willow has this property. He also comments that the tree can be used as a diuretic, as well as commenting on the use of the sap to treat eye problems.
Other herbalists use the bark to treat colds, influenza and respiratory catarrh as well as indigestion, diarrhoea and dysentery. It is used particularly to treat musculoskeletal complaints such as rheumatism and joint pain caused by inflammation, inflammatory tissue conditions and lumbar pain, as it is anti inflammatory and a useful analgesic. It can also be used to relieve gout, lumbago, sciatica, neuralgia and ankylosing spondylitis. It is a diaphoretic and can be used to relieve fevers, and contains salicylic acid, making it a useful pain killer for headaches and any other pains, especially those caused by inflamed diseases. A decoction of the bark can be added to hot baths to treat aches, pains and feverish conditions.
Externally it is used to treat ulcers, as a douche to treat leucorrhoea and as a scalp tonic to encourage the growth of hair. Generally the bark of the tree is the part most often used in herbal medicine, although previously the leaves were used as a tea to treat fevers or colicky pains, and as a wash to treat dandruff. The bark is a gentle bitter and can be added to prescriptions to stimulate the digestion and relieve gastroenteritis and diarrhoea related to heat and inflammation. It could quite possibly be used to relieve the symptoms of IBD.
Willow bark can be used to relieve the pain of spasmodic dysmenorrhoea, ease menopausal night sweats and help women suffering from menstrual pain in general.
Note – if you are going to gather willow bark, do make sure you don’t remove a ring of bark around the tree trunk, as this will kill the tree.
Another variety of Willow that is equally medicinally potent is Bottle Brush Tree

Bottle Brush Willow
Willow Cricket Bats
The villages nestled high in the mountains which were abundant with willow of Kashmir, and accounted for the majority of the world’s cricket bats during 1970s when its manufacturing started.
As it usually happened in all third world countries, nobody cared to plant more trees so willows are an engendered trees in India. Import of Willow Bats is banned in Kashmir but one can go there and buy as many. In Anantnag area these are made and sold by truckloads.


  1. marvelous story Praveen bhai..the master story teller

  2. Wonderful and marvelous visit n coverage....with nice clicks

  3. Enjoyed reading full blog till the end, interesting write up and nicely picturized. Though really sad that we missed visit of such nice trek while we were at Tungnath last May 2014. Will now surely visit there for sure one day soon...

  4. To: Rishi's Papa:
    I liked your narrative style plus photos, and your love for nature. I remembered our trek to Rudranath:

  5. Dear Praveenbhai...
    intresting travel blog dear, cant stop reading midway, intresting sytle of naretion like we travel with you. please keep traveling, Wishing more travelouge from you.
    Happy journer for future dear.
    regards and love from

  6. Beautiful travelogue, mind blowing.........

  7. Hello Praveenji,

    I have some queries regarding Rudranathji Trek. Actually this blog made a great help but there are some queries. Can I have your mail id? I have sent you invitation in gmail.


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