Padamchen is a small, beautiful village surrounded by lush. dense jungles. At the height of about 8000 ft, the village is perched on hilly slopes. I found it to be one of the most serene, quiet, soul stirring place on old silk route.

From the balcony of our homestay we could see small patches of fields and some trees sloping down and resting on the tops of the trees, who stood there, feet firmly planted somewhere deep down in the valley. Beyond that long stretch of green, mountains rose to reach high in the sky, layers and layers of mountain ranges. And on this perfectly set stage  entered those feather feet blithe dancers, soft white clouds. At a moment they rushed in large group swirling, rivuleting, bursting with energy and in a blink of eyes stage cleared. High, elegant, strong mountains stood vibrating under the impact of stupendous , energetic performance.  And then from far off corner drifted in another group slowly, gracefully, rhythmically. They floated in the outstretched arms of hill,nestling in the comfort of their solidity. The lightness of their movement, the softness of their mudras as if can be touched. We stood their mesmerized by the magnificent, exquisite show of feathery clouds. Then some fluffy ones entered flying on their wings and sat perched on the tips of peaks , as if savouring in the vistas and then slowly moved away to their far off destinations. and then there were some, almost transparent, soft light filtering into their being. They entered with hesitant steps, as if not ready to face the world and then quietly dissolved into thin air. We soaked in this uninterrupted show till the darkness descended from sky and coloured everything around uniformly. What a beautiful, uplifting and liberating experience it was!

 

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In praise of these wonderful clouds, lines from P. B.Shelly —

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.”

 

 

Snuggled in the cozy warmth of blanket that night I slept in the lap of clouds and got up to a refreshingly fresh bright morning. It had rained in the night.

After a hot cup of tea we were out on the clean tar road to explore the neighbourhood. There was no one else except us on the road and in the silence chirping, tweeting of birds on the road side trees could be heard very clearly. Padamchen is reckoned as bird watcher’s, bird photographer’s paradise. Later on I met a lone cow herder on the road and he told me that a group of enthusiastic bird photographers was staying in a guest house for last two-three days. Different kinds of calls emerging from trees told us that there were many species of birds residing there but tracing them in the dense foliage was difficult. Though we could see few while they flew from one to another tree.

From the point at the end of straight road where it turned and climbed upwards we could get a magnificent view of valley and mountains beyond. Those few red, yellow. orange roof tops nestled midst the green wilderness looked inviting. A cloud floated by brushing them gently as if cooing in their ear that another new dawn is knocking on the threshold.

The lone little figure emerged from the greenery below, a school bag on the back. The boy was hardly six or seven years old. Standing there he called his friend but perhaps he from down told that he was not coming . Young fellow started on the road slowly. I asked him. ‘school? so early?’ ‘ no . tuition..and he is not coming.” I had my all sympathy with him. But later on saw a unique scene on that lone road of Padamchen. Saw  same child walking with a young lady, who had an open book in her hand. She was teaching boy some spellings etc . Behind them at a certain distance was another young man with two little girls and he too was teaching them while walking on the road. This certainly looked liked a good plan…fresh air, calm morning and a lesson on time management.

 

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The kid walking to his tuition class

 

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Raushni, the smiling beauty too was off to her school.

 

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Lessons on the road…spelling revision session.

 

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Our hosts at Padamchen

 

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Every face has it’s own story

 

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 Corns hanging outside the hut of our hosts.

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This kind of bowl emitting fragrant smoke  from morning till night is found outside almost every home. Every morning with fresh material it is lighted and hung at a corner at the entrance. I simply loved the idea. You can interpret it in any way you want — prayers for all, welcome gesture for every guest, thankfulness to God. It definitely added to the holy, pious aura of the place.

All the pics — Sunder Iyer

05.04.2017

From the balcony of first floor of our home stay it felt as if we have been transported to a land of clouds. On the other side of the narrow road, just outside of the doorstep of homestay nothing could be seen. The valley, the trees, the hills beyond, the tiny houses everything was enveloped in the dense grey layers of clouds . We stepped outside. Walking on the gradually rising road felt like literally entering the clouds world. However as we approached closer, trees in the valley became a bit clear. At least we were able to make out the shapes of tall, cylindrical stems and fluttering prayer flags. Last evening we had seen a board of a ‘Chorten of lopenla’, [ Chorten means a Buddist shrine, a saint’s tomb ] the arrow directing towards valley. We decided to step down and explore the vicinity. Walking on the narrow,  gravel paths, stepping on the steps of rocks, running through silent forest gave birth to indescribable emotions….it always does……whose were the steps who first treadled on this path….who were the people who walked on this before us…..felt a kind of connection to all those who passed on that track before me…they made it easier for us to walk…. a bond of gratitude was established. Somehow that feeling made me happier.
After descending for some time we could see an enclosure housing a Stupa like structure and a bright colored room nearby. Rows of white, red, blue, yellow, green colored flags with prayers written on them were tied in a cris-cross way from one tree to another. The prayer flags fluttering rhythmically in a slow pace over our heads were as if showering blessings. We walked on silently and reached at the gate of enclosure.
The enclosure had a small gate which was latched from inside but could be opened from outside. However we stood outside enclosure silently looking at the Stupa with each one engrossed in thoughts of own when we heard a voice from inside the room, ‘ you can enter the enclosure.’ We went inside and by that time the owner of the voice a Buddhist monk too had stepped outside his room. He struck the conversation by asking the usual questions like….from which part of country had we come…..and then invited us to his living quarter……well, that was definitely a new experience for us. We had visited many monasteries in different parts of country before this and had a little bit of interaction with the monks in the premises but had never been to their living rooms.
He is known as Guru ji midst locals there. We had long intimate informal chat. He told us about his life….originally to which place he belongs, how he reached at that particular place, his Guru ji who earlier long back did penance on the spot and after he left for his heavenly abode Guru ji stayed back carrying on the legacy. We talked about his daily routine, travels, thoughts, beliefs, human life, present social changes, even recent political scenario of country. He also told us about a pond up there in hills somewhere in which  red colored flowers  bloom every year at a particular time and earlier locals used to climb upto the pond to pick up those flowers. That period was celebrated as local festival as inhabitants used to gather around the pond, stayed there and celebrated the occasion with folk songs and dances. It was considered an auspicious period. Still few locals go there but now the cultural fair is organized near the lake down. Now the three day cultural event has taken a modernized look though folk dances and songs by participants too are performed on podium.
Guruji also offered us hot, delicious tea prepared by him and chips,  papads fried by him. We were lucky to get prasad which was brought to him from Himalayas by his some fellow brethren.
He chatted with us in a very normal way. Nothing like imposing any rules, thrusting any gyan or establishing any supremacy yet his compassionate smile, the pious aura and fragrance had a kind of cleansing effect on us. In his presence we felt unburdened.
Travels bring us unexpected experiences, learnings and encounters and these enrich us for life time. That morning with Guru ji at Aritar will keep glowing inside me for ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pics copyright- Sunder Iyer

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

 

 

Bedni Bugyal is one of the most beautiful alpine meadows located in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Bedni and Ali Bugyal are neighbours.At an altitude of about 3500 meters these wide spread meadows on the top of mountains provide magnificent views of Himalayan peaks Trishul and Nanda ghunti.

While walking through the deep woods, trekking towards top in the august company of ages old trees you tune in to your deepest philosophical self. It’s the month of June. The monsoon is yet to set in but some times clouds swirl in the jungles taking you by hand to those mystique lands beyond.The cocktail of wet wild fragrance tug at your sleeves cajoling you to stop for sometime inhaling the existence of unseen . But the moment you reach the top the sheer expanse of rolling lush green meadows as if liberate you off all the baggage. Reaching the destination after a long trek urge you to throw your back pack down and the unhindered green on ground, the blue above invite you to melt in it’s embrace. Such a tiny dot like speck you are up there that you tend to forget yourself and isn’t it the most liberating feeling….being unaware of your own existence. You don’t matter at all. You are set free of all kind of shackles. Standing there at the farthest tip of meadow where it hopped down to deep gorge, valley below, facing the layers of  tree laden hills beyond and sensing the majestic Himalayas behind them, I outstretched my hands and could feel the divine as if absorbing me. Felt so light almost non-existent.

After some time the reverie broke. Voices from tents and ground behind filtered in and I turned towards the tea shoppe. Its strange, new places with unknown people sharing comes easily. There too you strike a chord, instant chord with certain individuals and that’s a beautiful comforting feeling. Vasudhaiv kutumbakam…..While trekking we didn’t feel the chill but on the meadows where the winds danced freely on their nimble feet, we felt a bit cold. Though the scantily clad bamboo tea stall didn’t do much to prevent the winds from entering inside yet sitting beside the earthen furnace soaking in it’s warmth, interacting with different groups provided comforting feeling.

After resting there for sometime we wandered towards Bedini pond. As monsoon has not yet arrived there, the pond didn’t have water.Bedini is an important stop of Nanda Devi Jat Yatra and as local informed us during the Jatra time pilgrims offer Tarpan to their ancestors at the kund.

Behind the Kund sloping green mountains come running down to it while with upwardly stretched hand they hold on to the range of mountains behind them. The gradation of hues from sparkling green to dark green to misty grey and then the mystique white touching the sky is mesmerizing. How magical is natures palette, a soft touch of the golden brush here and there and entire landscape is transformed. We sat there beside the small temple soaking in the silence. Few dots like figures huddled on that slope, a lone tiny one strolling on the ridge of another hill, that twosome at farthest end facing the valley and the far off voices from tents…the world of routine faded away. I felt as if I belong to some other era, some other time.

The day was bright and the evening clear. A bunch of clouds huddled together around Trishul peak were teasing our expectant glances.And then the haloed rays from eternal light house filtered through dispersing the clouds. The cloud glided upwards, rested like a wreath on the tip of peak and slowly floated way , the magnificent snow covered majestic peak stood there solemnly.  The sheer grandeur made us gasp. It was a humbling experience….. Darshana of divine.

That night it rained heavily and in the morning we could meet eye to eye with Trishul Peak once again but how differently the stage was set this time. From the hazy mist of early morning slowly very slowly the peak immersed, the rosy pink blooming from the depth of eternal.

Every time I am far away from the maddening city crowd in commune with silence of nature, I know the experience is beyond the words…..hence I stop here and let you have a feel of place through visuals……..

Now I hand over the stage to Sunder Iyer.……all pics captured by him….bedni_42nw

After the trek, on the threshold of Bugyal.Bells at the temple of nature. ..winds toll

them and flowers smile.

That is my wife...

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
John Muir,

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“Going to the mountains is going home.”
John Muir

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“We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.”
John Muir,

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clouds have their own stories to tell, own journeys to share

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And this last one was clicked by our guide Hira Singh Bisht Garhwali, without a thank you note to him none of our Bedini blog post could be completed.

His contact details…

Hira Singh Bisht Garhwali

Village — Wan

Mobile no.– 07895165848, 09756480219

 

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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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Talacauveri is said to be the origin of mighty river Cauveri. It is around 48 Km from Madikeri. The source of the river does not look like as one would have imagined, a gurgling, foaming stream gushing down the hills . At the place there is this spring originating from Brahmagiri hills. An enclosure is built around it and same is connected to a small pond where pilgrims take the holy dip. The pond is surrounded by concrete steps and wide platforms from all sides.The spring runs underground from here and becomes visible after a few kilometers to flow as a river. Green hills from three sides stand there in silent reverence.

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A view of the temple premises from hilltop
There is a shrine dedicated to Kaveriamma just in front of the pond. Ascending few more steps one reaches a wide open courtyard encircled by covered verandahs from three sides. In the courtyard are two temples, one of Lord Shiva, and another of Lord Ganesha. Lord Shiva here is known as Agastyeshwara. Ganesha, Muni Agastya and Cauveri…..that made me remember a mythological tale related to these three. If I remember correctly Agastya Muni brought waters from Shiva’s abode Himalaya on Brahma’s advice to make it flow as a river in Southern India to end the water woes of that part of our country. He was carrying  it in his kamandal and Ganesha in the form of a crow toppled the kamandal and the river Cauveri flowed. Or was it that in anger Agastya muni had arrested Cauveri river in his kamandal and then Ganesha in the form of crow toppled it to let the river flow.

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The Temple premises
Talacauveri is a holy place for the people of Kodagu. It was told to us that on Tulasankranti day that is the first day of the tula masa, which usually falls on mid of october, water from spring gushes up at a predetermined moment. Thousands of pilgrims flock here on the day to witness the fountain head rising . This sudden spurt of water is known as Thirthodbhava and the belief is that Goddess Parvati emerges as Thirthodbhava. Pilgrims carry this holy water back to their homes. People observe the sacred tula snanam on the banks of Cauvery on this particular day. People of Kodagu believe that on this day Cauveri reaches every water body of the region be it well, pond or lake. Those who can’t reach the banks of Cauveri carry water from the nearby water body to their home.
This place of origin of the river is about 1300 meter above the sea level. from here beautiful view of the distant blue hills and green valley can be enjoyed but the view from the hill top after ascending  near about 400 stairs is heavenly.
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The blue canvas
The place is very well maintained. As the steps leading to the hill top can be reached only after crossing the temple courtyard, we have to walk bare footed but who cares for that when one feels like floating in paradise.
While climbing the steps I stopped in between and glanced all around . With every few steps  the view became more ethereal. And once on the top…Ah.. I could have spent my entire life there standing and imbibing the beauty, the feel, the solitude.
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The Verandah of clouds
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White fluffy clouds rolled all over the hills, pushing, nudging one another, somersaulting on velvety emerald expanse. Somewhere from womb of valley rose tall columns of clouds. The Master painter was at His work spilling pure white clouds on bright blue canvas overhead. Swiftly changing shapes of clouds created mesmerizing patterns.
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Deep down in valley a tiny water body sparkled like a gem between grove of green trees. A solitary hut tucked midst greenery, a lone cart walking languorously on ribbon like road, hushed silence pervading the surrounding, filled my heart with a sense of gratitude.
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This was a glorious moment, a moment to celebrate being a part of this magnificent world, a moment to be thankful for experiencing the pure joy and contentment of just being.
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 Feeling Blessed
In every walk with nature one recieves far more than he seeks.
-John Muir
All pictures by Sunder Iyer