Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mystery of Shilajit; Kedarnath Valley Part IV

We made Shilajit at Kalimath and it was stolen there. I walked from Kalimath to Rambara except for the 14 km when a gentleman gave me a ride on his bike. Finally I got a bed at a restaurant-cum-hotel in Rambara at 9PM in the night and it was snowing.
Rambara is half way between Gaurikund and Kedarnath and it was 10PM at night. There was no electricity and lanterns were being used. Soon shop closed down because hotel was full and food was no more left and a mixture of snow and rain was falling in the month of June. They hung curtains in the front and retreated to their own beds at the front section. We were above the tree line and wind was furious, cold and heavy; hotel structure was shaking. Actually we could hear the creaking of all structures nearby.

I was woken by the shopkeeper at 8 AM in the morning whereas everybody else left in the early morning and only I was still there. I was glad that especially that Bengal party were also gone and wanted to avoid them in Kedarnath also. Shopkeeper was a bit concerned. He asked if I was ok. I said yes. Last night I paid him for the food but didn’t’ eat and then I collapsed on the bed and he was observing.
In the morning I ate 2 parothas with tea and he did’t charge me for that. I walked to Kedarnath. Trail climbed and climbed till about 2 km before Kedarnath it eased out and a bit leveled at some places. Town of Kedarnath was visible under the tall snowy peaks. Now we were walking over the high alpine meadow.
It was cold at that high altitude but luckily day was sunny so I changed my night suit with still pants and T-shirt but anyway both were still wet.
I crossed the bridge over Mandakini river, that was now turned into a khud. I entered in the small town of Kedarnath.
It is a very strange and mysterious town. I walked in the whole town twice or thrice in vain to find some room and visited all hotels and dharamshalas but no room was available. This very small damp town strangely appeared as a frigid ghost town whereas whole crowd was around the temple. Some buildings are ancient. Most of the dharmashalas are owned by Pandas and initially they offer the room for free but then they are very skilled to empty your pockets. I heard many stories from many travelers. Some parties were left just barely enough money to get back to their town.
At the day of Diwali town is abandoned by everybody and Kedarnath Ji is brought back to Ukhimath temple.
View of Kedarnath way
View of Kedarnath way from the other side of valley
I had a lunch at a restaurant; prices were 3 times higher than nominal. Tea cup was 15 rupee.
Then I stood in the line to pay respects to Kedarnath Ji.
Finally I began my return journey. I wanted to stay there but no room for me.
Walking 14 kilometers downhill was not a big deal and in 3 hours I reached at Gaurikund. On the way I saw some porter making some sort of herbal tea, they were boiling mostly rumex crispus leaves but some other leaves and roots too. I asked them to give me a cup full but they laughed it off saying it is not suitable for people like me. I persisted and offered them money but they declined money and anyway gave me a mugful of that hot liquid. It was very bitter and somehow I drank it up slowly because I knew there were no seriously poisonous or hallucinating ingredients. That herbal tea worked like magic on me and my sore muscles begun recovering immediately. Laughingly they offered me more but I was unable to stand that bitter taste no more. As I was leaving I thought of shared some of my shilajit with them.
Their head man took the bottle from my hand and sniffed it and his face appeared as he was hit in his stomach by both hind-legs of a mule (dolatty). Then he declared
“Yeh to bhoot zordaar cheez hai, aazkal aise cheez kahan milti hai.”
They gladly removed a half spoonful of it and added to that concoction.
I wanted to go slow and prolong my presence in that extremely beautiful valley but I was very tired; and wanted rest in a proper room and that was only possible if I get to Guptkashi before night fell. Traffic was banned on all mountain roads after 8PM.
As I crossed Gaurikund bazaar and there was another nasty shock waiting for me.
Those same Bengal people were fighting with each other with great noise. A crowd was gathered around them. Out of curiosity I went to them. Their Chowdhary – (the man who stole my shilajit) had the money bag for the whole party with him and he lost it somewhere.
When he saw me and he ran to me and asked for forgiveness for buying my shilajit without my consent. Then he asked me money. He said he will return it to me with interest. Will send me money order or just will deposit it in my account.
kedarnath way
Kedarnath is now 2 kms
“Come come sir, you are loaded with money and we need a bit of it to get to Guptkashi. Our cell phones are not working here. I will ask my relatives to send me money in Guptkashi. I have an account in SBI …… and I have ATM card …. Money will come tomorrow.”
They all were very hyper and agitated. I waited for him to calm down.
I said to him, “I will buy back that shilajit from you for the same money that you left”.
He began jumping and said, “This is not fair. This is not fair. This shilajit is worth a lot more and I bough it from you. I can give you this back for 10000 rupee because you said that much it cost you. I bought it from you right at the place where it was manufactured. We are not there now.”
Rambara to Kedarnath
Rambara to Kedarnath
I was not in the mood to continue the un-pleasantries so I walked away from him but he ran after me and begun bargaining. 8000 rupee, then 70000 rupee and then 5000 are last.
I laughed and said, “Well you can sell it to someone else and kindly leave me alone.”
He said, “We already tried selling it but nobody wants to buy it from us. Nobody believes if it is real shilajit because it smells very bad and my bag smells brutally. I will sell it in Calcutta for may be 50000 rupee so it is a bargain I am offering to you.”
Then there was another gentleman in their party came to me and calmly said, “Sir we need 2000 rupee and we stole your shilajit and that was not fair. I was not in this game from the beginning but we need 2000 rupee. Our driver left us because we have no money. We have a room booked in Guptkashi and we must get there. From there my son will send us money, he is manager in SBI. We already have bargained transportation on a milk carrier truck to Guptkashi, he is asking 500 rupee and hotel is already paid but we have to pay 500 more for tonight, then we have to eat food and buy milk for children. You take back this shilajit from us and give us 2000 rupee and I will deposit 500 rupee in any bank where you have account because we owe you that much.”
His plight was genuine; there were women and children with them. I gave them 2500 rupee and they returned me my shilajit. Then I asked him about their transportation because I also had to get back to Guptkashi. Traffic was a bit better so there were some movements on the road. I also followed them to the open milk truck with some empty milk vessels lying in the back. There were already many people in the truck and driver was waiting for this Bengali party. 10 people were sitting in the cab meant for maximum 3. Then open back was already full. Somehow we all climbed into it. More and more people were trying to get on it. It was unbearable to stand inside and I and some others hung on the walls dangerously to make room for women and children. Truck began its journey. Since it was government truck and police helped it to pass all the hurdles.
Truck ran nonstop and we arrived at Guptkashi at 5PM. I was in bad shape because of prolonged hanging in the cold air and also was very tired of walking 50 kilometers in the mountains.
Bengali people began walking towards their hotel and I walked towards main market area and then I remembered something. I turned and shouted to them, “Hello, please stop”.
They stopped, I walked to them and then opened my backpack; they were looking at me in confusion and I gave them the little bottle of shilajit that priest gave to me.
“Here is a gift. Some shilajit”
“Thank you sir, we will always remember you.”
“Thank Maa Kali, it was given to me by temple when you took away mine and now I got mine, so now you can have this.”
He had tears in his eyes.
Views from Guptkashi
Views from Guptkashi, Ukhimath side.
That gentle man is still my friend because at that time we shared our email addresses.

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