In the lap of Himalayas
It’s 4.20 a.m. and raining heavily. I woke up to the call Rishikesh aa gaye (we’ve arrived at Rishikesh). Jumped off the bus to take shelter under asbestos roof of a closed shop. The next order of business - how to reach Kedar Valley.
May and June are the peak months for the famous Char Dham (Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath) yatra. Not surprisingly you will find chaos at the Rishikesh bus stand. Rishikesh has a private bus stand next to the govt operated one. This is owned by the GMOU (Garhwal motor owner’s union) and they serve all key areas with private buses. Our friends at GMOU suggested me to hop on a bus to Soneprayag (base for Kedarnath) and drop at Kund. From Kund, a separate path goes to Ukhimath, my destination.
(View from Teen Dhara)
Unceremoniously the bus stopped at Teen Dhara for breakfast. I grabbed a bite of the first of many Aloo Parathas (stuffed Indian bread) in the trip. We chugged along and reached Kund at 9 a.m.
Reaching the base camp
(Kund Y Junction with roads to Kedarnath and Ukhimath)
I waited at Kund for the next ride to Ukhimath. I see two young lads in their twenties coming my way. Bhaiya, Ukhimath wali gadi idher se milegi? (Bro, do we get the ride to Ukhimath from here?). I nod my head. We start to exchange notes on next few hours plan. They’re coming from Triyuginarayan and moving towards Ransi for the Madmaheshwar trek. I share my desire to move to Chopta and do the Tungnath trek. We learned that the order of both treks were different in each of our plans 😄 S and D (his cousin) are from Pauri district in Uttarakhand.
S stops an electricity dept vehicle going to Ukhimath, we get a ride. And of course, the inevitable happens. Bhaiya, Madmaheshwar karlo hamare saath, kahaan akele trek karoge (Bro, do the Madmaheshwar trek with us, what’s the fun in telling solo). I gave in, flipped bits and decided to do Madmaheshwar trek before the Tungnath trek. There goes my solo trek 😛 It took us 45 mins to reach Ukhimath.
The trek to Madmaheshwar starts from a village called Ransi. There are no buses to Ransi, only shared jeeps (max, bolero etc.) ply on that route. We stopped at the shared Bolero and hand over our backpacks to be tied on the vehicle roof. On the middle seat we had two other trekkers, one with braided hair (B for Baba) and V. B and V were also trekking to Madmaheshwar. They run a tour guide business in Pithoragarh and create youtube guides for trekkers.
Slowly more villagers started taking their seats or adjusting in the space. Total count becomes 12 for the 8 seater and we get the indication of wheels rolling after 45 whole minutes. 6 seating at the back, 4 in middle and 2 + driver in the front seats. Everyone was uncomfortable yet was consoling each other that the shared taxi drivers only get to earn from the six months of dry weather. No business in the snowy off-season. This is their chance to earn for the year.
We reached Ransi at 2 p.m. Appeased our hunger with a quick bite of Maggi. In case you’re wondering, Maggi is a close contender to the Aloo Parathas as staple food in the Himalayas. The steaming hot Maggi at single digit Celsius is a treat like nothing else. B and V pack their backpacks and get day packs ready for the trek while I change my dress to a trek suit behind a parked car.
We begin the trek at 2:35 p.m.
Onward and upward
The first few kilometres in the trek are downhill. All of us are excited and march along at an excellent speed. Our minds have started imagining reaching the summit tonight with such a great start.
(Waterfall on the way)
We come across a few waterfalls along the way to Gou ndhar. After Goundhar village, we reached the lower Bantoli village crossing the bridge across Madhu Ganga river. We never imagined that this river will be our companion through out the trek. It’s almost 5 p.m. Sun is still up, with high spirits we deny the possibility of staying at Bantoli.
(Fresh fruits, our energy boosters)
Trek has slowly started becoming uphill and speed beginning to reduce. S finds small fruits on the plants along the mountain side, they taste heavenly. With chants of Har Har Mahadev we continue to run along. At upper Bantoli, we stop to have tea and I close my eyes for few minutes thinking about the history that the mountains in front and Madhu Ganga below may have witnessed.
(Madhu Ganga flowing between the mountains)
As per local legend, Madmaheshwar is the second of the five Kedar. The middle part of lord Shiva is worshipped here.
We took another break after two kilometres growing tired with the rising altitude. This time the red Rhododendron juice gave us the energy kick. It’s evening now and bhole ki fauj (army of Shiva as B named our gang) is still toying with the idea to make it to the top. My shoulders have started paining due to carrying the ~8kg backpack. I decided to drop the large backpack in the juice shop and carry a light day pack instead. It took a trekking of 9km to realize the folly of carrying a large baggage.
Or was it Mahadev’s way of saying that I have to walk alone. Just this Self and nothing else.
So I dropped the backpack at the juice shop. We took out the headlamp and the torch in our phones. We marched ahead shouting Har Har Mahadev at the top of our lungs. Mountains, the night sky and the road ahead have all merged into darkness except the lone stretch illuminated by the torch.
In the next few minutes, there appears our sixth friend.
Bholu we named the black dog walking with us. When your feet have given up, muscles inside crying to stop on this very step, Bholu seemed to be the strongest amongst us. He’s walking unperturbed, munching the biscuits we had on us and leading the way for us. Bholu pahuncha de yaar, aur kitna dur hai.
It starts drizzling at this time. To my surprise I had left the rain wear in my backpack. The soaking t-shirt was not enough distraction for my dwindling will power to carry forward. Another group travelling ahead of us had decided to pitch their tent in the jungle to the left of the path. Just drag along to the next village I pleaded my mind.
We saw the lights at 8:30 p.m. It was coming from the sole hotel and lodge in the Nanu village. Nanu only has single digit inhabitants who run this stay.
Food tasted heavenly. We dozed off to the music of rain showering on the roof above.
We trekked 13km today. Big day ahead tomorrow.
This post is the part of a week long solo backpacking series. All posts are below:
- Hello from Delhi
- In the lap of Himalayas (this post)
- Madmaheshwar darshan
- Tungnath trek in Monsoon
- Ukhimath to Kausani
- Two days in Nainital
- Notes for next solo trip