Tough hike to Gaurikund

Posted By Author on December 24, 2010


Got up at 7.30 A.M. we finished ablution on a spring near P.W.D. cabin.  Shomu and Inder went ahead to arrange meals.  I had fifty rupees out of which ten were spent at Nala chatti and ten were then given to Shomu.  At 9.30 A.M. we began our trek.  On way at a spring Baba splashed lot of water on his head.  Slowly we treaded the path.  A jeep of Maharaja of Tehri on election campaign crossed us.  We reached Fata at 12.30 P.M.  The head master of the Fata School Mr. Mishra had already seen Baba. He came to meet.  Afterwards with Shomu all of us went to bazaar of Fata.  A verandah of a shop was washed and cleaned and Baba sat there.  About hundred people crowded around Baba and many rendered service.  Three-liter milk and oranges were arranged.  A water tap was rubbed with lemon and purified.  Then Baba took water.  Shomu prepared ‘chhana’ (fried split milk with sugar).  People brought about eighty oranges and Malta fruits.  They were small in size costing a quarter rupee each.  Oranges were kept along with the basket with a promise to return it on way back.  Baba then selected about twenty-five oranges with green sticks attached.  I paid fifteen rupees for oranges.  Paid one rupee tip and one rupee to Inder for purchase of one-kilo sugar.  The balance left with me was rupees seven only.

We took our meals for rupees two each and resumed our walk at 2 P.M.  We reached the school away from the village and Baba took oranges and ‘chhana’.  He gave it to us as well.  At 2.30 P.M. the march began again. Some womenfolk were following us out of curiosity.  We left the motor road.  The ‘Chhana’ was not good and hence Baba did retch it out of stomach on piece of cloth, wrapped it and buried it.  The narrow road had continuous ups and downs.  A boy named Kedar of Rampur met us and accompanied us for some distance.

After a stiff climb we arrived at Badasu.  A schoolteacher met us.  He was in service at Sirsi.  He accompanied us.  Clouds were gathering.  He requested to make a halt at his school, which was away from settlement. This boy told that he met Baba earlier and that his village was near Lands Down.  Owing to an avalanche of landslide his entire village was wiped out.  All members of his family perished in the Nature’s catastrophe.  His brother reached the village a day prior to the disaster and he too succumbed.  This fellow alone survived because he was out of town.  He was a graduate.

We arrived at his school.  A few houses were nearby. Baba rejected the site.  Time for his meditation was fast approaching.  We went ahead and away from the settlement and got down the path.  It started raining. By then, two Garhwali villagers approached.  They were carrying huge bundle of grass as forage for their cows.  One of them Bachiram Notiyal suggested that there was a cave nearby.  He took us there.  The cave was on a higher level with very difficult approach.  Baba approved it.  We cleaned the cave and lay down green leaves.  Bachiram had been to our camp before.  Ramsingh of Okhimath knew him well.  He was a young Brahmin.  The official priests of the rulers were Notiyals he informed.  Baba enquired about his welfare and told him to get milk.  His house was half a furlong away along the road with a seasonal kiosk during pilgrims’ rush.  We reached his shop, a hutment.  He brought for us cooked rice and vegetable from his house.  He spread leaves of ‘Khatag’ tree and we took rest on it.  It was raining outside.  After some time he brought milk and Shomu prepared ‘Chhana’. Radhakant was moaning.  He had a shoe bite.  Blisters covered his foot.  At 8 P.M., Shomu, Bachiram and I reached Baba’s cave with ‘Chhana’.  I told Baba about Radhakant’s bad health and proposed to drop him there.  Rest would proceed ahead. Baba agreed.  He told Bachiram to arrange an umbrella or ‘Daukhi’ which is a sort of raincoat made out of raw blanket. I wondered about Baba’s knowledge of Garhwali nomenclature.  Leaving Baba in the cave we came down and finished dinner.  The sky became clear and a cold wind swept in.  Radhakant promised to clean Baba’s place next day and with heavy heart he saw us off.  At 10 P.M. our march resumed.

The addresses noted of teacher of Sirsi and Bachiram who rendered service to us were:

(1)           Tulsiram Bhatt, teacher at Sirsi,

Village Dadwa, Pattee Rallipar,

P.O.Bareth, Agastimuni, Dist. Chamoli, U.P.

(2)           Bachiram Notiyal,

Village Sirsi,

P.O. Rampur, Dist.Chamoli, U.P.

People apprised us that the motorable road was only up to Sitapur.  We therefore took that road.  Baba was groaning with strain.  After walking a couple of miles the road became blind, the bridges were yet to be constructed.  Nearby, was a hydro flourmill with a footpath adjoining it. I went ahead on it and the rest followed.  It went to a dense forest and we returned.  Then on the side I saw a narrow road.  We treaded it and crossed a small river on a temporarily built bridge.  The night walk in pitch darkness was not only arduous but very dangerous.  A slight slip and we would have been three thousand feet below in the valley and up in the heaven.  The dim torchlight was the only saviour.  We again retraced and joined the motorable road.  We took rest near ‘Dharamshala’ of Rampur.  At a distance we witnessed two lights moving.  All of us were staring in rapt attention.  One light became dim.  I made a sign by my torch with no response. Our curiosity was mounting.  The lights began to run amok.  Baba told that those lights could be of the departed ones belonging to lower ‘Yoni’.  I doubted that they could be two ends of a burning fire line of the forest.

We went ahead along the motor road.  At one place a reverse bifurcation was seen. I was in a quandary.  There were marks of animal footprints on the motor road and horse droppings were seen on the bifurcation.  We continued on motor road.  There was a big boulder on the way and hardly one-foot space was there to cross it. On

the adjoining right there was a deep fall of a ravine about five hundred feet.  The spot was very hazardous.  I kept my back to the boulder and facing valley in a crab fashion crossed inch by inch.  The road ahead was all right and hence I told others to cross the dangerous spot.  It was horrible ordeal to cross with luggage.  Baba was already exhausted and would oscillate while walking.  My anxiety knew no bounds.  I stood near the boulder and stretched my hand to support Baba but he refused and in that age with so much exhaustion he safely crossed.  After a walk of about a furlong the road had dead end and with a gap it could be seen beyond.  The bridge was not constructed.  We had to turn back and again retrace the dangerous spot.  All crossed safely.  Inder was the last with luggage on him.  He was walking near the valley edge and I shouted to move the other way.  He thought I shouted because he might touch Baba and he pushed towards the valley more.  I hit him with a stick from the valleys side and a foot forward, pushed him bodily to safety.  The great mishap was averted and I became ice cold.  We came back for a mile and got hold of the narrow path that bifurcated.  At 1.30 A.M. in night we crossed Sitapur.  We walked along the motor road.   At one place again there was a bifurcation of a narrow road about four feet wide.  We preferred the broad motor road.  I observed weeds grown over the road with a narrow clean footpath on it. I expressed my doubt and even then we treaded a mile. Again the road was broken with blind end.  We had to retrace and join the narrow road.  All of us cursed the P.W.D. for not putting any sign, board or at least row of boulders blocking the dangerous blind roads.

While we were retracing the last blind spot, we saw a light on the opposite bank of the valley.  First it went up and then it came down very fast.  All of us were curious again.  I made the torch on and off and once got the similar response.  Then the light suddenly disappeared. It was seen at the top of mountain and vanished.  Again it came at lower level.  Movement was very fast.  We were perplexed.  Baba said they were manifestations of the dead, a particular type.  We would often halt and show our torch.  The light began to appear on the very bank on which we were walking.  Shomu and Inder became nervous and started weeping.  Baba was not panicky but he told Shomu to recite ‘Hare Ram Hare Krishna’.  In his quivering voice Shomu sung a line and all of us repeated it in chorus.  We could not find the bifurcation to climb up.  We were really baffled.  Baba took the lead and told me that there was a type of spirit who mislead the path purposely viz. ‘Chakwa’ or ‘Bhulbhulaiya’. He assured everything would be all right by singing God’s name.  Then we got the narrow path and even then the light was coming towards us.  Consequently we impulsively accelerated pitch and speed of singing.  Baba too joined the chorus.  I was curious and I halted and began shouting as to who was there but Baba stopped me from shouting. We continued our march and reached near Sonprayag.  We crossed the pukka (pucka or pakka) Bridge and on turning suddenly three men with a lantern appeared. They were going to Gaurikund for medical aid, as their   postmaster was serious. Later he perished.  They were mortally afraid to see our light and ran helter and skelter.  It was an illusion that they were on the opposite bank.  Actually the same road went there crossing the tributary.  The road to Kedarnath follows the main river and becomes zigzag along the tributary where it crosses it headward. One has to climb up along the tributary and get down to join along the main river.

Relieved of all tension we continued our journey.  Baba said that lights we saw on the mountain were different and belonged to spirits.  Jim Corbett has also mentioned his similar experience in the Lindiya valley of the Himalayas.

After Sonprayag there was a very stiff climb and the task was formidable.  Owing to utter exhaustion Baba’s body was swinging to and fro as well as sideways.  I sensed danger.  I coaxed him all the while to be on his right side to avoid fall in the adjacent valley.   I had to be very vigilant and guard him.  The path was hardly two feet wide.  Because of my concentration on him I could not show torch to Shomu and Inder who were in the rear.  They knocked the bald outcrops of rock and their feet bled.  I had to tell them again and again to be close to me so that they would see the path in light ahead.  After a walk of a few hundred feet we would sit and rest.  Even in that darkness we could clearly see the surrounding snow peaks.  It was 3.30 A.M.  The cold was intense.  He had thin clothes with a shawl.  His endurance, agony, exhaustion and groaning were unparallel.  The steep climb appeared endless and Gaurikund would not arrive.  Baba could not make movement of his fingers, as they were stiff due to exposure to cold.  He forgot to take hand gloves.  He could not handle and light a matchstick.  Either Shomu or myself would light his cigarette.  I could not sustain watching his unimaginable suffering and hence I insisted upon him to take rest and nap.  He readily agreed.  Adjacent to the path he spread his mat on snow and he told us to lit fire.  We collected sticks and leaves but they were moist due to snow and rain.  We exhausted complete one matchbox but to no avail.  Got fed up.  Spread blanket on snow and slept.  Inder was already asleep.  Even in that cold we had sound sleep and got up when the Sun shone on us.

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