A pilgrimage up North – Part 4: Rambara to Gaurikund Trek

Pawan and Nitika started a little ahead with the kids while Meena and I took a leisurely stroll back to Rambara, this part of the trek was awesome! Even if you cannot do the trek uphill, I recommend everyone to walk down the hills. It was exhilarating, the snow capped peaks in the distance, the waterfalls meandering down the hills and the changing weather patterns at every turn of the mountains. By now the rush of pilgrims had slowed down to a trickle and we did a very slow trek down till Rambara, talking to so many pilgrims on the way.

The conversation with the pilgrims was what I loved the most on the way back. For one, we were relaxed having done the journey. Secondly we had answers to the questions, people who were trekking towards Kedarnath would ask us. Essentially there was only one thing on everyone’s mind – What is the difficulty level ahead?

There were people from different walks of life and different parts of the country, one could hear Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Marathi. Those who could afford it, would take the palkis or the ponies, and there were several from the small towns of India who were trekking uphill with no shoes, no warm clothes, just a big smile on the face and willing to actively engage in conversations and the conversations revealed the strong faith that people had in Divine. It was something to experience this faith.

When we started from Gowrikund, we had met an Australian lady who was walking all the way from GuptKashi so as to get used to the uphill trek. We met her again at Rambara and she had decided to take a break at Rambara so as to do the trek uphill next day morning at 4A.M. so as to avoid the rush of pilgrims and do the journey in solitude. One look at her glowing face, we knew she was someone who was on the path. If only we had some time to engage in a more meaningful conversation with her.

We met a group of pilgrims who had come from a village in Maharashtra walking bare feet up hill with a huge smile on the face!

The next day we met an elderly gentleman from a village near Indore who was supposedly about 90 years old (in the photograph with Yami, Nitika and Pawan) and was traveling with his son and was coming after doing Gangotri and Yamunotri. Apparently he gets up at 4AM everyday, washes his own clothes, cooks his own food and does not depend on anyone else in the family. At Gangotri he had walked way ahead of the others in the group and had completed the yatra before others in the group could make it. It was the same case here, the rest of the group was lagging behind while this gentleman was ahead of others. I am not sure if I was even half as fit as the guy was at 90!

We reached Rambara, just as the night was about to fall. In the meantime, my left knee had started to hurt. We had a very nice dinner and slept with the night temperature going right below zero. The next day morning I woke up with a very stiff knee, unable to walk even couple of steps and I had another 7 Kms ahead of me and we had to reach Gowrikund by lunch so that we can reach Gopeshwar for the night halt.

Taking a Pony down the hill was out of question. Doing uphill is fine, but the ponies have tough time managing their footing downhill and if one is not seated properly the chances of falling are much higher. The big question was how do I climb down with a hurting knee?

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A pilgrimage up North – Part 3: Rambara to Kedarnath

The last couple of kilometeres, we found were the hardest for us. In the distance we could see the destination, but our pace had slowed down considerably, it started snowing very lightly and Meena was having a tough time coping with the journey. She had tried hard to build up endurance for this trek and was going on regular walks in Bangalore for at least a month or so before the journey, and it didn’t seemed to have helped. Despite asking her to take a Pony for the last kilometer or so, she choose to walk. The last couple of Kms took us more than an hour. As the mountains gave way to the plateau, the scenery changed and it was stunning to see the majestic peaks of Kedarnath in the background. However many photographs we clicked, it was impossible to capture the beauty of it.  It was almost 1.30PM by the time we reached Kedarnath. Nitika who had gone ahead on the pony from Rambara along with the kids and had already reached by 11AM and kept waiting for the rest of us to follow.

Then suddenly we realized it is past lunch time and would the Pittu guy would have dropped Tanvi to where Nitika and kids were or would he be waiting for us and what about Tanvi – what if she was feeling hungry or thirsty? And how and where would we find the Pittu wala? The very thought gave us the shivers! Very fortunately for us the Pittu guy had very safely delivered Tanvi to where Nitika was waiting.

Kedarnath peaks in the background

Kedarnath peaks in the background

The kids had some Maggi for lunch and then the trouble started.  Akku started vomitting….the other 3 kids meanwhile had taken their shoes off and ran into the temple and when they came back, the socks were wet, the temperature was almost freezing and they starting feeling the frostbite and one after the other, all the four started howling, with Pawan and Nitika feeling overwhelmed and tending to them, unaware of the fact that it was the frostbite that was troubling the kids.

Meanwhile as Meena and I reached into Kedarnath and crossed Mandakini, we saw a series of oversized steps leading into the town and that’s when I gave up. Just sat on the stairs exhausted!! We somehow dragged ourselves into the town and walked to the temple. Meena meawhile was mentally cribbing about the journey, tired and exhausted, as she approached the temple, a Sadhu looked at her and said “Woh sab baad mein, pehle darshan” (All the cribbing later, first have darshan). How did he read her mind, is something we couldn’t figure out. She waited to see if he said the same thing to others, but he just smiled at her, turned and walked away.

We found Nitika and Pawan with the kids at the first shop opposite the temple. As we tended to the kids, Pawan and Aunty moved into the queue for Darshan – the temple closes for lunch at 3.00PM. We joined them and very fortunately, we all had a good darshan. Darshan over, it was back to tending to the crying and howling kids, we bought new pair of socks, rubbed Zinda-Tilismath that gave them much needed relief – didn’t I mention earlier that it was a cure for everything – bought additional blankets for the kids, hired Pittu’s for all the kids for the journey down and started back for Rambara.

In the chaos that ensued with the kids howling, we had forgetten to click any snaps at Kedarnath, I wanted to visit Adi Shankaracharya’s samadhi behind the temple, but couldn’t and as we stepped out of the temple town, we started feeling famished. It was already 3.30PM….and we didn’t have time to stop for a proper meal – we had the 7.5Kms trek back to Rambara to do and we had to do it before the sun went down. As it is the weather was quite unpredictable – we had experienced bright sunshine, rain, and light snow in a day – and we wanted to reach Rambara before nightfall. We stopped near a shop bought a couple of bananas and ate them, they were the hardest bananas that I had ever eaten in my life. Luckily we had taken choclates with us and both the ways we gorged on them to keep the energy going.

The trek down hill was awesome!  More about it in the next post.