- A road trip to reposeful Deenapani
- The Burning Binsar
- Beautiful Birthi Falls
- Munsiyari – The final destination
- Munsiyari maximized
- Pasham, Pundit Explorer and Pricey Fungus at Mr Pangtey’s Museum
- Chaukori – The health prone nature zone
- Eurasian Jay- Mimicry Artist of the Avian world
- Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave – Treasure trove of Indian Mythology
- The Berry lores of Kumaon
- Experiences Good and Bad at Jageshwar
- The Jageshwar Temple Complex
All over Uttaranchal, Lord Shiva is worshiped with his consort Parvati. It is believed that even nature celebrates their embracing in the merger of sky (Lord Shiva) with earth (Parvati). It is Parvati’s incarnation as Nanda Devi that is omnipresent in Kumaon. She represents her icy, unmoving and stolid form in endless anticipation of her beloved – Shiva. Her abode is usually atop a high mountain peak and its surrounding peaks are her vassals, her kitchen and tend to her other needs.
23rd May 2010, our first destination in Munsiyari was one of the all-pervasive, Nanda Devi Temple. The vehicles brought us at the entrance gate and from there it was an easy twenty minutes walk to the temple. After paying obeisance at the temple we continued on a trail with a steep descend. It unfolded stupendous views of the Gauri Ganga Valley. The steep mountain sides were dropping several feet into the comfort of step farms. Kids were having helluva time, running and racing upward-downward, enjoying their youth and agility.
Please allow me to divagate here and recall my first embarrassing encounter with the word helluva. I was in Europe and my friend wrote me about helluva time they had while watching Anil Kumble taking ten wickets in the second innings of a cricket match. I thought that they had “halva time” and feasted on Anil Kumble’s feat (though even at that time, I found helluva a strange spelling for halva). My reply and subsequent responses left me red-faced. In retrospect, perhaps it was not my fault. After all, when one is in a foreign country for a long time, halva sounds much more appealing than cricket 🙂
Dragging myself back to the trail from the umpteen distractions I have while I write …
Walking on that trail at a reasonable pace, enjoying the glorious surroundings, we reached a plateau, sat there and contemplated trekking further down or returning back.
The challenges while trekking downhill is always to keep a check on your trekking enthusiasm, evading the luring of beautiful surroundings and to stop just at the right moment when you have enough energy to bring yourself up again.
It is easier said now than done at that time. We were hypnotized by the nature’s magical charm. There were inner voices of subdued explorer. “What? Return! So early! Perhaps this trail leads to the Gauri river gorge, do you want to miss that?” And then there were rebellious inner noises as well. “I am not tired. I have enough energy to walk down further and come up again.”
Sanity prevailed. We did not succumb to those (fatal) attractions and returned.
While trekking uphill, my Brother-in-law and I took turns to lift Tanmay. Still, when we reached back to the top, both of us were huffing and puffing. Towards the end it started to drizzle intermittently and came out our umbrellas.
From Nanda Devi Temple, we drove towards the bank of river Gauri, with a desire to spend some time wandering along its bank.
On the way, there were a few newly built mansions facing deep valleys. Living there would surely be an experience!
Then it started to rain moderately and if the overcast sky was an indication, possibility of heavy rains could not be ruled out. After driving down in those conditions for some time, senior driver stopped and cautioned us, “We should not drive further. The weather in hills is unpredictable and if there would be heavy rains, it would be difficult to return.”
The suggestion was disappointing. However, we had to pay heed to the experienced driver’s advice. A meek and dispirited, “Ok, let’s return” was the response.
While returning, we passed through Darkot village and stopped there to wander in the village.
There we found a place with beautiful views of the ravishing valley. While looking for a vantage point to capture it in our camera, we descended on stairs around and found ourselves in a school compound. It was Sunday and there was no one around. We roamed without restrictions. Imagining kids gaining worldly knowledge, in that blissfully located school, enthralled us.
There we met Raju Martolia, a local guide, who told that Darkot is famous for its hundred years old houses and homemade Pashmina. He invited us to his home to have a look at Pashmina. All of us followed him with immense curiosity.
Traditionally, Bhotia women are skillful weavers of Pashmina along with carpets and blankets. For generations this art is handed over to daughters by their mothers. Nowadays the non-availability of raw wool from Tibet has severely affected the tradition and only older generation is involved in the trade.
At Raju’s home, his mother welcomed us and took us to a small room where she did all the weaving. She then invited us to their first floor room to have a look at some ready material. We removed our shoes and walked upstairs to a small cozy room and looked at the stuff.
Hand-woven Pashmina garments are expensive, in-fact very expensive. It was tough when we could not find anything interesting and returned empty-handed. We retracted quickly without looking at their faces. Perhaps that’s the reason I still retain the impressions of those warm welcoming faces rather than disappointed host.
The grey-black nimbus that were butting along the horizon for long were now dispersing giving some visibility of snow-capped peaks. Our visit to Nanda Devi Temple, revered in Kumaon as Goddess of bliss, had born fruits and the Goddess has chosen to smile.
We took a break from Panchachuli peaks to halt at the tribal heritage museum and drove back from there. I will write about the museum in a separate post.
The drive back to Munsiyari was filled with shrill of excitement as the clouds were lifting curtains over the hidden treasure of Munsiyari and there emerged the awe-inspiring, pristine Panchachuli peaks that held everyone’s gaze. In a short span of time, all the five peaks were visible.
Panchachuli peaks owe their name “five cooking hearths” to their plumes of wind-blown snow that get reddened in the evening sun. Legend is that Pandavas cooked their last meal on these peaks before ascending towards heaven. In reality there are seven high snow peaks among the group, but only five of them are visible from any direction and distance.
To me, however, they appeared as representation of Pandava themselves; it was as if one by one all of them were lazily waking up from their profound sleep, throwing away the quilt of clouds and showing their young-determined faces to their admirers, reassuring them of their presence.
As we returned to Zara resort, the fortune of staying in the special room of Zara was waiting. The peaks glowing in the setting sun were visible from the big windows of the room as if someone has hung a life-size photograph. My Brother-in-law praised the awesome views from the room and every time he praised them, Jaishree reminded him, “Nothing comes for free. I have spent hours for this meticulous planning. You must pay your tour operators (her) for it.” And at every sigh and word of praise the charges increased in denomination of thousands.
The next day morning, it was time for us to return from Munsiyari. The manager of the hotel suggested us to trek from the back of the hotel, boarding the vehicles at the end of the trek. We love trekking and believe that as in a camera, scenery can be best captured by increasing the exposure time, similarly, mind also make powerfully etched memories if you provide it time to absorb the surroundings. Perhaps trekking is the best way to do so.
Walking at a slow pace, listening to the mellifluous sound of the stream flowing through the verdant green of the trek, exchanging smiles with the occasional locals, as we reached to the top, the valley was echoing with the tinkling of bells tied to two horses.