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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On twelfth of june 2016 when we started from Gwaldam guest house towards Dewal road, we did not have any fixed plan. We reached Gwaldam with a plan to trek upto Bedni  but somehow the feedback we received there discouraged us to venture on the route. We Got an impression that the terrain is too challenging for our age. So on the morning we set out to reach the last point accessible by vehicle on that route, that is Wan. We drove with a leisurely pace stopping in between to click pictures, to listen to the rhythm of silence flowing through the forest of tall, stately pines.

And then we reached Wan. At the turn of the road was this tiny shop. We parked our vehicle there and inquired whether we could get a cup of tea . It’s Jamuna dadi’s tea shoppe. Here we met Hira. Hira takes trekkers – individuals and groups on trek tours to Bedni, Roopkund and beyond. Few minutes of conversation with him and he convinced us to embark upon the trek to Bedni. Somehow or other the way he took upon himself the responsibility of making this trek possible for us made us free of all worries. Jamuna dadi too with her enchanting smile encouraged us . Ultimately it was decided that we shall spend the day in the village and then next morning start our trek.

 

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  Jamuna dadi, the shop owner

This stay at Wan was totally unplanned but perhaps such unexpected changes make traveling very fruitful and enriching. The day we spent in the tiny village was truly rewarding, Sitting there in the tea shop in salubrious surrounding of green hills we met many new people and listened to various travel tales. There was this gentleman who once upon a time worked as porter and had accompanied many foreign nationals to uncharted paths, untraveled roads on high hills, through dense forests and deep valleys. Now with tired limbs and weakened joints he roams and works within village limit only but he still looks with longing and fondness towards the high peaks and sharing the tales of his glorious, tough travels make his eyes shine with luminous joy. He remembers with fondness his past adventures and conquests but not being able to do that now had not made him bitter at all. This calm acceptance of  the inevitable  patterns and changes in way of life is very endearing….a life long lesson. The real travel is just not visiting new places but learning new lessons of life, developing a new eye to various facets of life.

 

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                             Panoramic views of Wan

Hira took us for lunch to his home. His home was in front of tea shoppe, across the road on a slightly higher plane. His mother and wife prepared the food.  Fresh hot dal, vegetables and salad from fields, chapati and rice with home made chooran was tasty and we enjoyed it a lot. During entire day we visited other houses too, had tea in different courtyards and learnt a lot about local customs, traditions, festivals, fairs, Gods and Goddesses.

 

bedni_12In conversation with Hira and Yashwant, near the river flowing through the village

 

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out of these three pictures, the first one is the stream of river, whose flow the villagers get diverted to run their indigenous flour mill. Second pic is the outer view of their flour mill ,while the third one is the inside view. such praiseworthy effort on the parts of villagers.

 

bedni_26bedni_7 - Copy - Copy Lady walking towards her field to cut the wheat and in the upper one cutting wheat in the field.

 

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bedni_16 Separating grains from plants. I admired the school, college going girls, who study in nearby bigger places but were at home during summer vacation. They participated equally in  all the agricultural activities.

 

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It was time of harvesting wheat. The women folkfields were busy cutting wheat from fields, separating the grains by beating the dried plants.

Meeting the children and interacting with them was a wonderful experience. Yashwant, Deepak, Pankaj, Yashpal, Pushkar etc were in the age group of nine to fourteen. Few of them studied in schools of some nearby bigger places and were in the village during their summer vacations. Awareness level of the children living in those remote places was amazing, from latest mobile technologies to political scenario of state and country to each and every plant, trees of their area, mythological tales, local rites, rituals each of them was very well versed in all these subjects. Very sweet, affectionate kids were they.

 

bedni_20                   enjoying tea and gossiping with women

 

bedni_21                              children in their courtyard

 

bedni_27 Pankaj holds in his hands a plant , he plucked from road side. Children told us that a very tasty curry is made from this plant. They described the entire procedure of cleaning the plant and cooking it.

 

bedni_24             Walking towards Ghanti Dhar with children

They showed us their fields in the valley, introduced us to various plants and their utilities. Narrated the tales and facts heard from their grand parents about centuries old Surai trees and  by their description made alive  the crimson clad valley in the season of Buransh blossoming. Excitedly they invited us to revisit their village at that time. Those lovely smiling faces as if reflected radiant Buransh.

While returning from Ghanti dhar we were caught unaware by a sudden spurt of lashing rain. No cover was available. we had not taken our umbrellas with us, children were not worried about themselves but were concerned that we had to start our trek early morning and we didn’t have any change of clothes with us. A little ahead on the side of road we found a bent, hollow tree under which we tried to get shelter. We tried calling the driver of our cab to come and take us but that too did not work as no BSNL coverage and connectivity is available in Wan and nearby areas and we both and our cabby Prem all three of us had BSNL numbers only. With luck we saw two people coming towards us, Kids asked them whether they had a mobile and then they called their mother to send our driver to pick up all of us. Finally huddling together inside the cab we reached the village, where jamuna dadi was ready with black hot tea to greet us. The entire episode was so fun filled. It revived our childhood spirit and enthusiasm. True, the joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, changing horizons. The simple joys are the most nurturing ones.

We spent the night in a small, low ceiling neat room with mud walls, whose door opened to green high  hill beyond the valley. The bed sheet, quilts and blankets were clean and we had a undisturbed sound sleep. Kaloo, the black, bulky dog sat on rooftop entire night as if on guard.

 

bedni_15At the door of the room we stayed for night

 

bedni_18                              The inside view of room

 

Next morning we left the place with Hira on our trek to Bedni but we did not leave Wan. We brought it with us. It became a part of us and simultaneously we left something of us there behind. We returned back to our daily city routine but the journey never ended. It keeps rewinding again and again within the deepest and quietest chambers deep down inside us.

 

bedni_22                             An overview of Wan village road

 

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All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.

Details of Our guide–

Hira Singh Bisht Garhwali

Village — Wan, Dewal. Chamoli, Garhwal, Uttarakhand.

Phone number — 09756480219[ whats app available on this number], 07895165848.