As we started climbing upwards from Padamchen to Nathang scenery around us started changing. The greens receded back and brown, grey dominated the screen . It was not a bright day. Sky too was laden with grey clouds. However as we moved forward patches, heaps of white crystallized snow could be seen on the sides of road. May be it was a day old or so. The sparkling sheen had diminished a bit yet it added a delicacy to otherwise brown sternness of high, mighty mountains. somewhere snow clung to the wide powerful chests of mountains as if feeling secured in their solidity.

 

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Further up and we were engulfed in whiteness. Except the road we were traveling on, it was white everywhere and snow there was soft like cotton balls,,,,fresh cool, soft snow. In the background at a distance mountains created a chain of rising falling waves on grey waters. At some places solid sheet of pewter sky watched over us unblinking while on other occasions white, grey clouds floated in like rosette and on still another moment the sailing clouds formed a translucent curtain pushing everything under it’s fold, creating a mystical world, tempting us to plunge head-along in their depths to soar in that world beyond.

 

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Mountains don their snow robes with an unmatched sublimity. The grace with which they let snow clad them in different patterns add to their majestic grandeur and how they appear to smile with indulgence.

 

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On the way intermittently military establishments and few hutments lay under the shadow of the mountains where snow does not melt even in summers. From a distance candy coloured green, yellow, rust , sloping roofs of barracks and huts added a bit of brightness. How hard is life up there for the people due to whom we can nestle in the warmth of our homes and hearths. We can never show enough gratitude to these brave hearts.

 

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And then there were lakes — It is said that Sikkim has about 225 lakes and innumerable water falls. We on our trip came across three main lakes.

Manju lake … At the height of 136oo ft.  Manju lake lay nestled amidst high snow clad mountains. Nathula pass is about seven Km. from this lake. The serenity, the calm was overwhelming.

 

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Manju Lake

Kuppup lake or elephant lake … every tourist on old silk route visit this lake. We were on the spot in the first week of April. The lake was partially frozen and partially melted. We walked upto nearby ridge to have a complete view of lake, valley and snow laden mountains beyond the lake. On the other side of the road too white fluffy carpet of snow stretched over the hills, mountains . Cold gusty wind was blowing. Grey clouds rushed off and on displaying their antics. At a moment clouds went down embracing the lake and at another lifting their frilly gown they rushed back to the other side of mountain ranges. At yet another the clouds cautiously peeped down from the peaks watching their reflections in the crystal clear waters of the lake and then unable to restrain themselves they ran down hand in hand with the winds to bless us with their feathery nearness. It was chilling, it was freezing yet such mesmerizing was the beauty unfolded before us that we stood there rooted on the spot. Kuppup lake is called elephant lake as when frozen completely it resembles an elephant in shape, however we were able to trace down the trunk.

 

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From elephant lake we proceeded to Changu lake, also called Tsomgo lake. The lake at an altitude of about 12400 ft. lay nestled in the arms of high snow clad mountains.This is one of the highly revered lake of Sikkim.  It is a sacred lake both for Buddhists and Hindus.

This was the tourist season so the lake has many visitors, every group enjoying as per their own taste and interest.There is a temple at the bank of lake and beyond that high snow covered mountains. In this season trekking on the mountains can be enjoyed. Gum boots, canes and all other accessories facilitating the trek could be hired in the nearby small, local market.Rows of decorated yaks stood there with their masters to give a ride to visitors.

But despite all the tourist humbug if you want to be alone with the lake, you can easily do that. Walk a few feet away and the blue waters start whispering the mystical chants flowing down from the lands of the high peaks of mountains. Somewhere up there, beyond our reach, lies a world  cradled and caressed by fluffy floating clouds. And I want it to be there only, far away from us, beckoning and reassuring. They say that the lake gets completely frozen in winters and then perhaps angels float down on glassy white surface of the lake to dance and enjoy under a clear star lit sky.

 

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A quiet time with Changu lake

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yak riding, trekking on other side of the lake

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The temple

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Waiting for their turn

 

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The snow, the mountains, the peaks, the valleys, the streams, the lakes, the winding paths, the sky, the clouds. mesmerizing, panoramic scenes all stirred kaleidoscopic emotions but my heart overflowed with feelings of gratitude and reverence for these quiet, dignified, brave sentinels, They represent the real spirit of mountains.

 

All the pics by — Sunder Iyer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rangoli, Alpana, Kolam,Muggulu, Puvidal, Mandana , Chauk….. you can call it by any name but different patterns adorned on ground on various auspicious occasions all over India speak one language and that is of celebration, welcome and devotion.

In South India drawing the geometrical patterns at the entrance and Pooja room is a daily ritual. Different states have specific design patterns for specific occasions and specific Gods too. In South India these patterns are drawn with dry powder or wet paste of rice powder while in North India it is made with dry wheat flour. With the passage of time various other mediums are also being used to draw Rangolis. Innovations and experiments with new design patterns are also seen but the spirit of these motifs still reverberate on the same tune.

The design galore on ghats of Varanasi on Dev Deepawali day was spectacular.The magnificent display of patterns, designs, colors and lights was mesmerizing.Ghats after ghats one could see old ladies to young girls busy in drawing designs, filling those with colors, decorating with diyas.  Witnessing  three generations involved enthusiastically to fill the world with beauty and sacredness gave a deep reassuring feel. Air was filled with Shlokas, Bhajans.Innumerable lighted earthen lamps in flower bowls floated slowly, rhythmically, steadily on quiet Ganges. These tiny dots of light on wide  waters of holy river bathed in inky darkness filled the heart with gratitude and peace. Big round moon in the sky smiled benevolently  as if granting boon.

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All pics by Sunder Iyer.

In Hindu Mythology Shivalinga and Nandi are inseparable. Wherever there is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, an idol of Nandi is sure to be found  inside the temple complex.Nandi at Lepakshi is a bit different in the way that it is outside the temple enclosure, say about five hundred meter away on the road side. But then so is the big majestic Shivalinga in the temple. Infact the main deity of this temple is Veerbhadreshwara, a form of Lord Shiva only and the very artistically carved Nagalinga is  in the open courtyard of the temple outside the sanctum. The Nandi faces this Shivalinga.May be during the time both these were sculpted there were no high buildings in that five hundred meter stretch and Nandi even from that distance was able to continuously gaze his beloved lord and master.

This splendid Nandi bull is of gigantic dimension, approximately 4.5 meter high and about 8 meter long.This monolithic bull is a spectacular example of prodigiously talented artists of the Vijayanagar empire period.The massive Nandi bull like a guard presides over the entrance of Lepakshi town.

The exquisitely carved details of ropes, belts and bells over the body of Nandi are one of the finest example of stone craftsmanship.

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For ages it sits elegantly under the open sky rapt in the bhakti of the supreme Lord.

 

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Look at those intrinsically carved details of all the ornaments…and the expression of Nandi Maharaj…I can almost see a delicate smile lingering on His face. Are you able to make out the mythical bird with an elephant in it’s claw, hanging as a locket from the chain? Well, it is said to be an insignia of Vijayanagar kings.

 

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Like me do you too find a Ganesha reflected here?

 

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The green lawns. shady trees and rocks here and there… a perfect setting to set you on pondering mode about our rich cultural heritage…the bygone times….almost tempting you to jump into a time machine and live that era for some time.

 

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The lotus ponds and the rocky terrain stretched around makes it a perfect spot to spend leisurely time.

Nearby this spot is Andhra Government guest house with fooding and lodging facilities.

All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We started from Bangalore at about 6 A.M and reached Lepakshi by 8 O’clock.Lepakshi is a small non-decrepit town in Anantpur district of Andhra Pradesh Veerbhadreshwara temple at Lepakshi  is one of the finest example of  artistry of craftsmen of that era.Grand, massive sculptures, delicate, intricate carvings on stone, ceiling adorned with murals depicting mythological tales…this temple has a lot to offer to leave us spellbound.

Standing below the high raised platform on which the huge splendid Shivlinga is carved, is a humbling experience.Three coils of Naga around Shivlinga led to its seven hooded magnificently carved head stretching over Shivalinga.Craning my neck as I tried to look at the topmost point of the entire sculpture, i had a sudden feeling as if the  canopy of those seven hoods is descending directly from the bright blue morning sky overhead. The Linga transformed into that mythical  pillar of light connecting the earth and the heaven, the  manifestation of limitless Shiva energy. Perhaps it is not just the grace, the magnificence of masterpiece carved by the great artists of yesteryear but all their commitment and devotion which to this day start resonating in our hearts once we stand there silently with our   heads bowed, imbibing the  sacred spirit.The open courtyard bathed in soft morning glow gave the entire scene a haloed touch. Shadows in the covered verandah walking along the courtyard appeared to be harboring many untold stories. Such are the moments when you feel at peace with yourself.

 

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Chiselled on the other side of the huge rock behind the Nagalinga is  Ganesha, calm, quiet and peaceful.I love Ganesha idol in this form – the big belly resting on the ground, the legs denoting the sitting posture and his small vahan mouse in front.  Various symbolical interpretations are available for His body parts and His Vahana but to me He radiates substance, faith, confidence and dignity, He always fills me with a kind of intrinsic joy, a kind of happiness you feel on being comfortable with your own being. And the tiny Vahana– more than anything else it’s our faith that make us traverse through the life.

 

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The Natya Mandapam of Veerbhadreshwara temple at Lepakshi is a sculpted ode to the artistry of carvers and chisellers of sixteenth century Southern India.Impressive sculptures of divine dancers, drummers and other musical instrument players in half-reliefs on the granite pillars are so intense and alive that you almost feel them in actions. The rhythm in shapes, palpable emotions, glorious manifestations impart the stones a dream like feel. Early morning sunlight tip toes the mandapam from one side and the shadows in the pavilion simmer, the dark corners get suffused with golden dust and the bygone era as if awakens…..

 

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This Natya Mandapam has about seventy pillars and one of these is an architecture wonder beyond comprehension.The hanging pillar– this pillar like all other pillars is attached to the ceiling but does not touch the floor below. Such heavy granite pillar…how can it hang ! Presently it stands a bit dislodged from it’s original position. It is said that during British times certain enthusiastic engineers tried to fathom the secret behind this marvel and in turn, the pillar suffered. However faith of people put it on divine pedestal. It is believed if you pass any cloth underneath it,the wish you sought will be fulfilled.

 

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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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It was 3rd of March 2015 . We reached Chakauri as the day was wrapping up. We had witnessed an amazing sunset from the rooftop of a road side house at Berinag. Kind of sunset that leaves us awestruck with huge, orange-red circle of sun majestically gliding on vast horizon, filling every object with an ethereal beauty.

Our train from Lucknow had reached Kathgodam at about 11.30 A.M. Our taxi was waiting for us outside the station and we immediately hit the road. We reached Chaukori at about 7 P.M. After dinner we retired to bed early with dreams of early morning dialogue with snow-clad majestic peaks of Himalaya.

Chaukori is a tiny Hill station in Pithoragarh District of Kumaon Division of Uttarakhand. This was our second visit to Chaukori. Once almost about 17 years back we had visited Chaukori with our two sons. As is the story of every tourist place, Chaukori too has changed a lot with passage of time but it still has those quiet pockets where woods sit by you silently whispering untold stories, chirping of birds gels into virgin melody of folk songs riding from villages down in the valley. Splendid view of majestic Himalayan peaks Nanda devi, Nandadevi east, Nandakot, Panchchuli, trishul and Annapurna transport you to an entirely new world. Bathed in moonlight when snow-capped peaks resplendently stand out in inky blackness of night, you are compelled to believe that there far off is a land of fairies and angels.

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4th of march, cool, tender twilight moments, salubrious mountain air though nipping was ahh so refreshing. We were on the watch tower at Kumaon Mandal guest house premises waiting for the sun. Here we met Mr. Sunil Arora, the lone traveller. His enthusiasm for wanderings is simply amazing. And then slowly the rosy tint started appearing on the sky far away behind snowy peaks and then suddenly one of the peaks was bathed in silky orangish pink light….the simmering, flickering fingers of the sun were caressing the pearly white head of the peak with soft tender touches….I could hear the music in my soul….the divine tinkling of temple bells….the atmosphere was as if filled with unsung prayers and hymns……

The valley on other side was filled with an ocean of clouds. Chaukori at one time must have been a quaint little tiny land mass surrounded by valleys on all the sides, encircled by mountains, peaks and hills. In those early morning hours it must have looked like a floating island in the clouds. The magic still can be felt and witnessed.

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After a cup of tea in open in the company of charismatic Himalayan peaks we set off for unhurried wanderings. Eariler when we were here in Kumaon Mandal guest house, there were no buildings in the vicinity except that big old palatial house. Now a number of houses, resorts, hotels have come up. Earlier there was no paved path and we roamed around between bushes, trees. This time we had to go out on the road from the main gate of guest house and we walked on a laid down path. We walked up to the tip from where hills sloped down to valleys.

There was this little temple under a big tree on that hill. Steeped with silence and surrounded by tall trees this small portion of hill was a perfect place to sit down and catch up with oneself. The lone Buransh tree between dense greenery smiled all bright and red. Snow clad mountains seemed nearer. After spending some time we returned to guest house. On way back in a grove enjoyed chirping and twittering of different species of birds.

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Back in the guest house most of the fellow travellers were out in the open — the middle aged couple from Varanasi with their young daughter, the group of Bengali boys heading for Munsiyari with a trekking plan booked, this Bengali documentary maker with his mother and mausi and Sunil ji. All of them left after breakfast. We too had a plan to go to Munsiari but as the road on the way was blocked due to heavy snowfall and anybody going towards Munsiyari needed one extra day, we had to cancel our programme of visiting it. If we went ahead, it would not have been not possible to get back to Kathgodam in time to catch our train. We even thought of cancelling our reservation if we could get the seats reserved for a day later but that could not happen hence we stayed there in Chaukori for the day.

After every body left it became quieter as we two were the only occupants in entire premises besides the staff of guest house. Sometimes that is what you need…..let the time slip away while you sit wrapped in eloquent silence, trying to merge yourself with nature all around. We wandered all around leisurely discovering new paths, spotting different birds, inhaling the fragrance of unnamed flowers and chatting with the local kids, enjoying the gathering of women to celebrate Holi, The sudden charismatic appearance of two rainbows in the valley, suddenly finding myself face to face with an idol of Ma Kali, locked in a room of deserted and dilapidated hut..

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Night dawned and the entire hill station plunged into pitch black darkness as there was no electric supply that day but that too proved to be advantageous for us. A bonfire in the verandah and its warmth was too cosy and comforting. In front of us were the Himalayan peaks bathed in moonlight.

How they stand out! The combination of snow and moonlight…so mystique it looked. The entire range like illuminated Arc of Noah in the dark, raging water waves invited us to take the voyage of faith. It was so divine.

Yes , we missed the chance of being at Munsiyari, a chance to enjoy the majestic beauty of Himalayas from closer quarters but as is said everything happens with a purpose, our extended stay at somnolent hills of Chaukori too served a deep, fulfilling purpose. Such divine encounters not only rejuvenated my soul but brought myself closer to me.

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all the pictures by Sunder Iyer