Nathang falls on old silk route circuit in East Sikkim. This valley is very close by Nathula pass leading to Indo China border.

That day as we got out of our vehicle at Nathang , the little village at about 13500 ft altitude looked at us with it’s drowsy eyes. It was cold and cloudy . Almost no body was out on streets. little wooden houses sat huddled together as if in an attempt to counter the biting chill in the air.

Gautam had to go about in the area for few minutes to ascertain our homestay and then we entered the narrow lane between two houses, walking on the frozen layers of snow . Heaps and mounds of snow were all around homes.

 

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Way to our homestay.

 

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Entering the doors of homestay we were engulfed in the warmth of welcoming smiles of hosts and the cozy, comfortable indoors. Neat, clean rooms, bright colored comforting beds. linens and spotless western style toilets …… homestay in that little village on high altitude . surrounded by rough terrain was a very pleasant surprise.

Except night, I spent most of my indoor time in the kitchen of the home talking to the lady of the home and basking in the warmth of the indigenous room cum food warmer. It was a long, knee length high rectangle table with tin surface.  On the lower surface of the table ,almost in the middle an iron furnace was fixed. logs were burning in it. On the upper surface there was hole at the mouth of furnace but it was covered with an iron lid. A long cylindrical pipe arose from the table and went out of the roof, a chimney to carry out the smoke.Warmth around the table was very comforting. Moreover I got to share lots of family, community , life in general kind of things with the lady.  How easily can we open ourselves to the strangers… perhaps  the comfort of anonymity makes it easier to share. But you know the amazing part is that while conversing you never feel that you are stranger to each other. It’s easy to strike the chord, when you open your heart wide. And then I believe that one who is  closer  to nature is  simpler . Luxuries and material comforts do contaminate human thought process.

 

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Welcoming smile of lady of the home

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Those cozy warm moments in the kitchen

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This is the indigenous warmer I talked about above. That is the chimney pipe extending out from the table surface. dinner preparation are on.

 

 

From my room window I could see the far off mountains and snow but day light receded fast as hoards and hoards of grey, white clouds descended in the valley. Wrapped in the furry blankets of cloud as if valley too was getting ready to take rest.

Early. very early in the morning I parted the curtain of window and was excited to notice the signs of a bright morning.  Nudged others to get ready and after a piping hot cup of tea in the warm kitchen ventured out to walk in the valley.

The valley is guarded by mountains from all sides and have stretches of grasslands, Valley is totally devoid of any kind of tree. There are few streams crisscrossing the valley and there are cute wooden small bridges across the streams. We wandered around as if in a vast plain of nothingness. Except those few dogs no body was to be seen. Wind though chill was comforting. Those were the moments of uninterrupted interaction with mountains, with sky  stretched over.  a small shrine atop a ridge, beckoned,prayer flags fluttered in the air….. and… and you feel as if that noisy world full of chaos didn’t exist at all.

 

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under the blessed shadow of blue horizon above head, guarded by tough, mighty mountains and the prayers in the air.

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Sometimes to find yourself, you need to travel through wilderness, nothingness.

 

Pictures by Sunder Iyer and Shubham sunder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mankhim view point…….The temple at Mankhim view point is at the height of about 6500 ft and offers a wonderful scenic view of Aritar and hills around it.The temple belongs to Rai community of Nepali origin. The Nandi outside the temple and various tridents in the premises suggest that the temple is dedicated to lord Shiva however the Shivalinga inside temple is in different form than found in other parts of country. Lord here is called Paruhang. Rai, mainly a community of cultivators consider themselves children of Peruhung, who is supposed to reside in Himalayas. Rai people in Sikkim gather here every year to celebrate Sakewa, a festival celebrated for expressing gratitude towards Mother Earth. Sakewa is also known as Bhumi pooja or Chandi pooja. Prayers are offered  for peace and protection of all living  beings and for rich crops and cultivation.

 

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Temple at Mankhim view point.

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Peruhang….inside temple. As it was annual festival time in the valley, we found many youngsters visiting temple in groups and pairs. youngsters clad in western outfits, different colored streaks in hair and half shaved head kind of hairstyles…. taking off their sports shoes and bowing before God with that expression of surrender and reverence….. somehow the sight felt very reassuring.

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Nandi and Kalash in row outside temple.

Besides panoramic view of hills and mountains, from here we can also enjoy the beauty of Lampokhri lake and scenes around it.

 

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and when the blues descend to embrace greens, the dreamscape created is so surreal, so inviting that you close your eyes, stretch your arms and are almost ready to be lost in oblivion…. Niravana kind of feel.

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From up there, the view point, the terrace fields looked like wide spread poetry sheets, nurturing life in their womb.

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 A glimpse of  Lampokhri lake from Mankhim view point. Without the emerald spread all other colours would look so static.

 

Later on we went down to Lampakhori lake. Annual cultural function and fair was going on at the ground near lake so many parked vehicles and an ongoing stream of people filled the area. However the Green placid lake surrounded by hills and trees promised that on quiet days the place would be worth spending some time in one’s own company. It’s not like that I don’t like humans or I like them less but I like nature more, There midst pathless woods I find a different kind of joy, sitting on a roadside rock, looking at the mist covered street dissolving in oblivion ,as if leads me to altogether different vistas  and I love being there.

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Lampakhori lake and the small temple on it’s bank.

 

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A folk dance by seniors in the cultural fair.

 

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A lady in her stall in fair with some handwoven stuff.

 

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And the light of world, little girls in fair, enjoying their day out. Golgappa, pani batasha, pani-puri, fuchkas…. you may call it by different names in different parts of country  but they definitely are high on ladies favourite list, whatever might the age be.

 

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This Gumpa was quite close to our homestay.

Solitude is the language of these small places on Old silk route and ever smiling, hospitable locals add charm to one’s visit there.

Meet some people who made our Aritar stay more enjoyable—-

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She is Pinchu. We met her on our way to Mankhim view point. To reach view point we need to climb a stretch of well laid stairs and on the way is Pinchu’s home, her shop. Her parents provide home stay facility too. While returning from view point we stopped at Pinchu’s shop for sizzling Wai- Wai and hot coffee. Pinchu made our stop over very enjoyable. Very smart girl she is and was handling the customers confidently, offcourse consulting her parents for cost of items etc. As her father was telling us about their homestay facilities and tourist agency at other places too, Pinchu took out his visiting card from the drawer in shop and handed over to us. Her perfect business woman kind of gesture made us laugh aloud. Nobody there even mentioned the visiting card there but she knew what should be done.

 

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And he is Aryum, our homestay owner’s son. Kid with his young companion, Nasima, a girl of eight years filled our hours with pure joy and laughter, which you can enjoy only in the company of innocent kids only. Aryum and Nasima shared a beautiful relationship. Nasima proudly told us that she was a student of class third.

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She is Aryum’s mom, owner of Shangey homestay. wonderfully efficient lady,. I saw her with amazement running on her toes from ground to second floor, attending all the guests with a charming smile, managing her staff, looking into problems of water, electricity supply and kitchen too.

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And the aesthetically decorated dining space of Shangey homestay. We stayed at four or five homestays during this trip but Shangey homestay at Aritar is our most favourite one.

Reliving my memories feels like that rose pressed between the pages of a book, even after ages I can inhale the fragrance and feel fresh.

 

©All the pictures by— sunder iyer

 

 

Few days ago I got to spend few hours with this ninety two year old gentleman with varied experiences of life. He takes care of this ages old temple but does not hold a good opinion of so called Sadhus and babas. He prefers to communicate with we grahasth [family] persons, who according to him happen to be more enriched spiritually.
He lived with Sri Govind Ballabh Pant, the first chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, when he practiced as an advocate and Our country was under British rule.He started his first government job with salary of Rs forty per month, did his char dham yatra on foot from Haridwar.He shared lots of memories of the days when entry of Indians was banned in Hazaratganj after four P.M. as that was the time British offiicials and their families used to come there for enjoying their evenings.He also shared how there was scarcity of educated people and posts in government offices, seats in higher educational courses lay vacant for want of candidates.
This temple where he now resides is ages old. He told us that no body knows who built it originally. years ago it lay surrounded by dense forest on the bank of river. Dacoits, bandits and freedom fighters too took shelter here.When he arrived here then also it was surrounded by dense forest and forty to forty five snake couple resided in the vicinity…and why not after all it is an ancient shrine of Lord Shiva.It is said that plastering of the temple structure has been done by the mixture of Urad dal [ black lentil] pulp of Ber [ indian plum / jujubi] and chasani [syrup of Gur[jaggery]

Talking to him was like turning pages of a old history book nay more interesting and enthralling. He created wonderful imagery while narrating his travel experiences of mountains and the underlying spiritual essence provided hope and strength.

 

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All pictures by 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

 

 

World of Hindu mythological tales and folklore is very interesting, charming and varied. It is believed that about thirty three crore Gods and Goddesses occupy Hindu pantheon. Quite possible…in a culture where many plants, animals and almost all the elements of nature are worshiped, where every small village, hamlet has it’s very own guardian angle, reaching even that staggeringly high  number is not out of bounds. With every revered place and deity are associated certain folklore and tales.The authenticity is neither questioned nor argued. It is simply accepted.

One of these is Latu devta of Wan. The folklore related to Latu Devta is very interesting and one of it’s own kind. Nanda devi is  one of the most revered deity of Uttaranchal. She is considered to be Avatara of Goddess Parvati and Latu Devta is her adopted brother. Goddess Parvati nee Nanda Devi did not have any brothers. On one occasion she felt very sad about this and wanted someone to be with her at Kailash Parvat as her brother. She went to Royal family of Kannauj and requested the queen to send one of her two sons with her to Kailash. On the way to Kailash they reached Wan and here Goddess decided to take bath in the river Kali Ganga. While waiting for Her on nearby hillock Latu felt very thirsty. He went to nearby hamlet and asked women to give him water. Women folk were in a jovial mood and instead of water handed over the pitcher containing local drink to Latu. Unaware of their prank Latu drank the whole content of pitcher and became unconscious. On her return from river, Goddess became very angry with the women and conferred a boon on Latu that he will be worshiped by the inhabitants of the area but no one will be allowed either to enter the sanctum of his temple or see him.Till date the doors of the temple are opened only for one day in a year and then too neither devotees nor even Pujari is allowed to have a glimpse of Devta. The Pujari enters the sanctum blind folded and lights the lamp. Doors of the temple is closed by evening.

This temple is very different from any other temple. There is this massive Devdar tree at the place. It is the only Devdar found in entire region. Rest are centuries old Surai trees.There is another anecdote regarding presence of that single Devdar tree in the area. However I am not talking about that here as I am not able to recollect all the details narrated by the old gentleman, a retired porter, we met at Wan. So, the abode of Latu Devta is said to be inside the a chamber in the trunk of this Devdar tree.People of the area have great faith on Latu Devta. They visit the premises with their troubles and unburden their heart at His threshold and when the wish is fulfilled, the task done, they return to present a bell. Hundreds of bells hanging from poles are the testimony of people’s undying faith on the deity.The place becomes alive with massive crowd of devotees on the days of fair being organized there. People from far off villages come and stay in tents etc. Bhajans, Kirtans are sung in praise of Lord.

We first heard of Latu devta at Gwaldam.One local gentleman advised us that if we intend to go to Wan, we must go to Latu devta temple.During the day we spent at Wan village we heard His name many times from villagers and children.

While we were returning from Bedini, yashwant and Pushkar trekked upto Ran ka Dhar to meet us.In fact they knew we had to leave by evening and they wanted to spend as much time as possible with us.We too were delighted to have more of their company. With these two kids we went to Devta’s temple.Their enthusiastic company suffused enough strength into our tired limbs to trek upto the temple.

As we climbed towards temple we wished we had more time in hands.The Surai trees dotting the hill along the circuitous path leading to temple left us spellbound. Each one had it’s own tale to recount.They appeared so ancient as if they had witnessed all those mythological events unfolding. It is said that these trees have very long life. Don’t know much about their botanical characteristics but can definitely vouch for the enigmatic impact they imprint on your being. They look like wizened saint, lost in deep meditation.Their towering presence make you feel that they are the dwelling places of divine spirits. The secrets, the teachings, the lessons they have in their heart, one need to tune up to understand. Trees to me are one of the most sacred images of God.

 

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Sonorous sounds of faith and devotion.

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Behind us, under the tree is shrine of Latu Devta and these are the kids who brought us to temple. In fact before going to meet us at Ran ka Dhar they came here and kept incense sticks and match box…all set and ready …to be lighted by us when they brought us here. The little one Pushkar insisted that we should pray to Latu Devta for appeasement of our any wish. He had full faith that our wish will be fulfilled and then we would return to offer the bell. The faith, love and affection of kids filled my heart with sublime emotion. Kiddos, you are the harbingers of our hope and faith in all that is pure, innocent and selfless. We shall definitely love to return at least once.

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This one was clicked by Yashwant, the elder kid, on their insistence ofcourse. That triangle like structure is where incense sticks are lighted by devotees.The outstretched arms of Devdar trees….bless us Lord.

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There is a guest house of Garhwal mandal vikas nigam (tourism department) and another of forest department near the temple, on the hill. During Nanda Devi Jat Yatra, this is an important station for devotees.The time we were there the entire premises was very quiet, peaceful….kind of aura when you can feel nearer to God, more intimate to your best self.

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View of Wan village and valley from temple.

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Boys waiting for us to climb down from temple. They rush down speedily, said that going slow tire them.

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‘A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.’ Hermann Hesse

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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