From the first floor verandah of Kumainu-Garhwal mandal tourist guest house at Gwaldam, hills beyond the market square buildings were  clearly visible and slowly climbing file of stately pine trees was inviting.  Slightly left to the hills, tiers of mountain and peaks were cloaked in thick grayish white clouds.We were told that on a clear sparkling day the snow capped Himalayan peaks under the blue canopy of sky offer a magnificently divine view from that point but that day we were soaking in the surreal mystique feel.While talking to the locals we gathered that at the farthest tip of pine adorned hills there is a small ,beautiful grass land.We suddenly planned to visit that. We finally could not make upto that point as we had started quite late and it  being a cloudy day the darkness descended earlier than usual. However we enjoyed our  leisurely ascent midst pine jungle.

The cab could take us upto the school building and from there onwards we  climbed in the august company of lofty pines. .A kind of bitter sweet fragrance of slightly moist pine woods , ground carpeted with golden yellow needles of pine,stately pines adhering to earth with all their might yet appearing aloof to things around bearing a saint like equanimity….the conglomerated impact of all these elements of nature somehow takes you to an entirely different planes.The chains and burdens on your being start dropping one by one and sitting there with your back resting against one of the pines if your eyes stroll to the upper most tips of pines, you feel nearer to heaven than earth.

This ridge provides a beautiful view of valley on another side. Kosi river snakes through the valley. it’s silvery band shimmered  midst the green, blue haze.

Pine needles dropped silently while tall, magnificent trees stood  like powerful warriors with golden heart. Their sermons can be clearly heard by a keen ear and dedicated heart.I gathered some pine cones fallen on ground. Some were ripe and dried, some were small green and sticky.perhaps the untimely separation from parent branch caused the raw wound and heart bled .

We roamed around enjoying the picturesque landscape, the sylvan scenes, inhaling delicious fragrance of woods.The evening proved to be a perfect prelude to our Bedini trek.

 

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All pictures by Sunder Iyer

 

 

13.06.2016. At. 6.30 A.M. We started out trek towards Bedni. I am not going to talk about destination here. It’s all about passing through small villages on the way, walking midst the forest wilderness, tuning to the calls of birds, buzzing of bees, gurgling of streams.

At the beginning of climb there are small houses on road sides and we get to meet many people busy in their daily chores yet each of them have enough time to wish the passing tourists. Specially the small kids we met wished us ‘namaste’ with folded hands. If you talk to them, they will stop, leave the work in hand and with smiling faces respond to you. It’s not that tourists are a rare feature in the area. On daily basis  many people pass through their village route yet they never fail to display the welcoming attitude.

 

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These kids were our first encounters en route. They got up from the place they were sitting and came down on the edge of passage to greet us.

 

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She is Manisha with her little basket going to collect leaves for her goat. The basket she carries is made from a locally available plant. Yashwant told me the name of the plant but I forgot, It’s a species of Bamboo but these plants do not grow as big as Bamboo. Manisha goes to school too. She is student of class second. It was time of summer holidays and she was contributing her bit to household chores.

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This group of young girls was going to cut and collect wheat from fields. Heera, our guide told us these girls belong to  his wife’s village, hence they are his ‘saliyas’  sis – in -law. The girls laughed, felt shy, jostled one another, the magic and beauty of relationship brightened the mood and filled the heart with joy……..Right that one is Hira, behind the girls.

The journey on Bedni route is beautiful amalgamation of people and nature. In fact up there both of them do not stand out separately but together they weave a tapestry of lovely hues, colours and depth. They act as supporting forces perhaps as the creator planned it to be.

We met many people on the way, some local inhabitants, other groups of trekkers.There was this duo of father and son.The boy must have been around ten years old. Father was an employee of Uttarakhand co-operative bank. Both of them originally planned to trek upto Roopkund but it was boy’s first trek and he got tired so they returned from Bhekhal Tal.Then there was this young boy from Delhi, Gajendra, the solo back packer. He was returning from Roopkund. How the interest and inclinations are changing, One thing I felt was that people have now started realizing that wilderness is becoming a necessity gradually.

Most of the local people were taking their buffaloes to the top at grasslands. Some leave their domestics for two three months there so that they can feed on lush green grass there. Some of them stay there for two three days and bring back the animals. On the top there are custodians for the animals, who take care when masters return after leaving animals.We met Priyanka and her mother and Deepa with her husband who were on the way to the top taking there buffaloes.

 

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Our first stop for tea and snacks was at Rankadhar.View of valleys on three sides is beautiful .

 

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After Rankadhar descent for Neel Ganga starts. Between Wan and Patal Gairoli Neel Ganga is almost a mid way point. Valley of Neel Ganga is cool, Soothing. One can easily get down to the stream. The crystal clear water flowing above the pebbles, encircling the boulders sing in  honeyed  voice and in between pipes in the birdies sailing on the wind and you get merged with nature. You don’t even have to try, getting one with it flows in naturally.

 

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                                        sunder and Heera at Neel Ganga valley

 

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Nature is God….by the side of river

 

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                                                        The tea shop after Neel Ganga

 

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At Patal Gairoli

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A cup of tea in serene valley of Patal Gairoli….no less than nectar.

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With Deepa from Wan at Patal Gairoli.We met there only and then walked together upto Bugyal with a teacher from Gopeshwiar and a  gentleman from Kolkata electricity board etc.

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This group of boys we met at Patal Gairoli was returning from Roopkund. Had a lively hearty talks with boys.

 

 

There were long stretches midst dense forest when we were alone with nature and then we traveled within, inhaling peace, trying to fathom the depth of the hearts of those centuries old high, very high trees. How many untold stories lie buried deep in their furrowed, wrinkled persona. The sighs, the tears, the joys and happiness of enumerable passers by have they absorbed with equanimity. They must have borne storms, avalanche, harsh winds yet none of them appeared to be discontented. Even when their heart is wide open and bleeding they stand there deeply attached to the ground below. Deeply rooted to the place they were born  they travel far and wide into space of time like meditating sages.

 

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                  Died and decaying still giving life to others, nourishing others.

 

While walking through the jungle sometimes through clearing we could see the view beyond. As if a window opened between the trees and the bright blue sky with floating white clouds and grassy hills suggesting not to be in hurry at all. At every step nature has something new, something amazing to offer. Hidden in the wilderness are such precious gems albeit for those who seek.

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                                                Few Buransh bloomed in between

 

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Nature’s armchair

 

 

 

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – said Lin Yutang. I tried to realize it in between the journey too and believe me I did.

 

All the pictures except those of Patal Gairoli are mobile clicks.

 

 

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Loleygaon is a small Lepcha village. It lies at the altitude of approximately 1670 meters.Loleygaon is about 124 Km from New Jalpaiguri. It takes about four hours to reach Loleygaon by road from NJP via Kelimpong. From Lava, Loleygaon is about 24 Kms away. It comes under the Kelimpong 1 block in the Darjleeng district  of West Bengal.

Loley gaon has few wonderful points to enjoy the beauty of Kanchenjunga range and sunrise but as we visited the place in rainy season, we did not go there. We could not walk even on the famous hanging bridge as due to heavy rains it was closed on the day we visited there .

But due to abundance of surreal clouds walking from all sides we enjoyed an entirely different beauty of the famous Loleygaon forest. A long stretch of road passing through exuberant jungles on both the sides was bumpy, strewn with pebbles .Giant sized trees  with moss covering their boles stood there with arms widely outstretched. Wild creepers hung from branches and swing from tree to tree.Wet moss grew even on creepers hanging downward. It felt like traveling back in time, ages back at the time of the planet being uninhabited. The grey white clouds swirling in the forest created a mysterious world.Rain lashed on the window panes with wild  fury perhaps it did not like our intrusion into the solemn world of nature.

Forest from a distance appeared one green,grey, white like vast expanse of ocean but come closer and it broke into different forms— fresh, radiant green ferns standing tall like trees and bushes, gracefully curved tall bamboos like explosion of green, stealthily tip toeing lights and shadows, fallen trees and above all the pulsating stillness , the complete silence yet alive with anticipation. A twig snapped somewhere, someone scurried unseen, a shrill voice of unknown bird exploded across entire jungle

Loleygaon forests cast spell. They not only engulf you, swallow you but they step inside you, they  spread within and then everything else fades in the background.

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Varied moods of forest we enjoyed at Loleygaon.

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The hanging bridge. The walk under the canopy of trees.

Above  the picture of the hanging bridge  are four   pictures of a monastery[ rather it was more like a temple of Buddha] and a temple on our way from Lava to Loleygaon. Barring a very small shrine dedicated to Lord Hanuman on a roadside rock on way to Kolakham from New Jalpaigudi this was the first temple we came across during our travels. The shrine is dedicated to Lord Shiva but these two shivlingas with nagas are erected in open.The temple can be seen behind Buddha’s statue in the first picture. Standing Buddha too is very rare. May be it’s a monastery in making. This place was referred to us by the lady of the eatery at Lava where we had our breakfast.

All the pics by Sunder Iyer.