MYSTRIES OF KEDARKANTHA
Traveling to unknown places excites most of us, and moreover, gives us a sense of independence. I don’t want to write something about myself since that could be misinterpreted as being selfish, which I get a lot anyway due to my solo travel adventures. Traveling alone is truly something that can only be felt and not explained.
In an effort to share this experience with those interested, I’ve decided to pen down some of my trekking adventures. Till date, I have completed eight treks and would like to start off by sharing my most recent trek to the Kedarkantha Peak, where I brushed shoulders with The Great Himalayan range located in Uttrakhand.
Day One: 25th November 2016 – we traveled from Dubai to Dehradun. My excitement had been building as of a week prior to this date, since the day my new bee trek partner Fiona got our ticket confirmations for our trek from Thrillophillia and TREK THE HIMALAYA. One thing I was hiding throughout the flight (our first mode of travel) was my anxiety – a welcome anxiety since I had been training for this trek and so looking forward to what was to come.
We landed in Delhi and took a connecting flight to Dehradun, one of the tiniest but nicest airports I have ever seen. We made our way to Goraya Homestay near Malsi, which was around 45 minutes away from the airport. We arrived to a lush green area, and were pleasantly welcomed by fresh air. The room had lovely polished wooden interiors, plenty of books to read and the best view.
After almost a year, it was time to get back to riding a bike. Fiona had a confused look as we didn’t know the place or any of the routes, but I insisted on renting a bike to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings. At 6:30pm, we rode approximately 9km in search of food up until Pacific Hill, where we found a restaurant called Sizzling Dimsums.
We ordered dimsums, Schezwan noodles and Grilled fish at affordable prices, and left with full stomachs. We made it back to our room for the night and fell asleep right away as we had an early start the next morning to Sankri, from Dehradun railway station at 6.30am.
Day Two: 26th November 2016. ‘Trek The Himalaya’ had arranged for a traveler to commute with us from Dehradun to Sankri, a 210 Km journey. It was time for Fiona and I to meet the other trekkers. I was surprised to see a nearly 50 year old (young) lady there in the vehicle with her daughters, who I soon came to know as Mrs. Lekshmi and this was her first trek.
The journey to Sankri began as the air soon filled with the sounds of everyone’s joy and excitement, as we passed the beautiful city, gazing at people going to work, while we were singing songs with the two Bengali beauties in our group, Madhu and Monali. Slowly, the city area disappeared and we were surrounded by landscapes, complete with valleys and green mountains, with a small stream running alongside, to make for a perfect picturesque drive.
Our first stop was near Kempty Fall, where we had brunch, with all kinds of options for delicacies you would definitely want to try when in Incredible India!
After brunch, we continued to advance towards our destination, passing through small towns such as Purola, Mori, Netwar and Motwat. It was also getting dark and the road was getting narrower and quite bumpy, accelerating our thrill and adrenaline. The sky above was completely breathtaking, although we could only get a glimpse of it. And to further boost our morale, the driver switched on the disco lights inside our vehicle, throwing florescent bright colours off the walls. It was quite the ride!
We finally arrived at our destination, Sankri, a beautiful village between mountains, and we were warmly welcomed by the localities,but freezing cold weather. We were allotted separate rooms. I didn’t expect much, apart from warm water to drink and food to eat as we skipped lunch. It was time to meet our trek Guides, Harinder (Bunty) and Dev for our introductory and pep talk session with a question session to follow. Both guides were both funny and serious, and very adept at getting their point across – we had no choice but to leave our comfort zone behind on this trek. Some of our group wanted to go out and look at the star-filled sky. Pranay, Manan, Madhu, Monali, Fiona and I were fascinated with the dust cloud of our galaxy. We all retired for the night just before 9:15 PM to our respective rooms for our early start the next morning. With my rucksack ready, I was sound asleep in minutes.
Day Three: A bell rang like as if I was in an army camp to wake me up; someone was knocking at my door calling for breakfast. I was late and the last one to enter the kitchen area and people were almost done.
Introductions were made with the crew, and we started walking, pumped up and completely enthused, clicking pictures and admiring Sankri’s beauty. We saw kids going to school and people busy in paddy fields. Led by Manoj, the local route guide, I was in the middle of whole group. As soon as we started ascending, I felt as if I was losing my breath but it was just that my body was rejecting the change. Gradually I was leaving others behind, despite walking at my normal pace. I was flooded with a wave of emotions with the fresh air and greenery around me, gaining altitude, the sun peeping through the woods, small streams running down the rocks as a fresh source of water, and a man’s best friend, furry and cute Jerico, walking alongside me.
Guides insisted we keep drinking water in abundance to prevent cramps, dehydration and as an aid for acclimatization as well. There were abundant natural sources of water (sarot) and streams around us. The water was sweet, fresh, cold and worked as well as Gatorade for us. As the day continued, we began to remove our layers of clothing as the bright shining sun above had set the temperature rising on us.
I was the first one to see our camp site and smiling, I turned around to find Fiona and the others, as they were much behind me.
I saw the expanse of greenery around me, spotted with a blue tent jungle, with lake known as Juda Ka Talab, around one corner, which is said to be 9100ft above sea level.
The reason behind the name Juda Ka Talab is that there are three small pieces of land within the lake which are separated from each other. I felt so free in that very moment that I began running around the open space and got the chance to lay in and soak the sun briefly as well, before the sun hid behind the mountains and tall pine trees.
I spoke to Dev and borrowed a mattress for the five of us to lay on and enjoy the stars in the cold -8 degrees Celsius temperature. Pranay was in open sandals and mid-calf length pants, shivering, although his reason for not completely covering up was a bold one – “I am trying to check my limits”.
The first problem I faced was fitting in that sleeping bag which I couldn’t zip it until my one arm was outside. We were instructed by our guides that we should not go out alone to use the washroom. Luckily Pranay was standing outside my tent calling for someone to accompany him on the same deed.
Day Four: 27th November 2016, our hike towards the Kedarkantha Base camp continues. As this was possibly the last time I was going to see Juda Ka Talab, I was the last person to leave the site as I wanted to capture every element of that place in my mind and took a deep breath before leaving and made sure not to look back. I was even more excited about our next stop, in the hopes that it would be even better.
Gaining an altitude of around 2150ft, at a regular walking pace, we reached the Kedarkantha Base camp at 11250ft, in about 3 hours. It is an open meadow unlike Juda Ka Talab was surrounded by huge pine trees. Kedarkantha base camp was unique because the view is astounding, with mountains as far as the eye can see. All of us were enjoying the sun and lying down, when suddenly Dev called for a gathering. It was time to learn how to pitch a tent.
One of the crew members and Dev taught us how to pitch a tent in what they called a QED (Quite easily done) manner that in minimal time and with little to no effort, Fiona and I were able to pitch our tent all by ourselves. Which of course we were very proud of. And the breathtaking view was right in front of us. We couldn’t have asked for better accommodations.
That evening, at around 6:30 pm, we headed out on our acclimatization walk. Covering our heads and ears are not allowed, just so our bodies could adjust to the surroundings. Bunty, Dev and Manoj were narrating stories of animal attacks and types of animals we could potentially encounter. On our way, we found skulls of animals and bones (which scared a few of us), as we were in the Govind National Park region, a wild life reservation.
After the walk, we were all briefed about the next day’s schedule, The Summit. Looking at the Kedarkantha peak (our summit), we were determined to conquer it tomorrow.
The Base camp is the chilliest place, as it’s an open meadow and quite windy. At night, the temperature dropped down to -11 degrees Celsius. We all retired to bed right after dinner; no games were played or stories shared that night. After preparing my rucksack, I fell sound asleep, in anticipation of my early start and our mission for tomorrow.
Manoj taught me a lot about the snowy mountains we saw spread out in front of us, which is very hard to conquer. One of them was Swarga-Rohini. He added that people had returned from the second campsite and not even reached the Base camp of that summit. Instead of intimidating me, this actually motivated me – I instantly decided that this would be my target someday and that I would work out and train more for it once I was back
Swarga-Rohini is counted under an expedition; Manoj also told me that it is considered to be the only way to reach heaven in human form and locals believe that it is the same route the Pandavas in the Mahabharata took to reach heaven.
Today, I wanted to be the first person to climb up without hesitation or any problem gaining altitude. The closer I got though, the harder it was to climb the steep mountain, while maintaining the same pace.
I was able to see the summit in front of me. I ran towards the summit, dropped my rucksack, closed my eyes and took one long deep breath. I didn’t want to be interrupted – just wanted to take in the unbelievable 360 degree view from the top.
My eyelashes separated and my heart stopped for a few seconds in that one moment. It was marvelous, flabbergasting and quite a heavenly view. Mother Nature nourishing the creator’s landscapes. All the peaks visible from the top – Bandar punch, Kaalnag, Har Ki dhun, Swarga-rohini and Yamunotri range.
KEDARKANTHA PEAK- The name literally means the throat of lord Shiva (Kedar refers to Lord Shiva and Kantha means Throat) “He is the DESTROYER of the universe only to recreate it, Lord Shiva.”
Manoj continued telling me the mystical stories of Lord Shiva’s Shrine at the peak and how villagers believe that the shrine protects them and all their prayers are accepted by Lord Shiva.
The belief says that it was supposed to be the original Kedarnath temple but Lord Shiva, who disguised himself as a cow hiding from the Pandavas was disturbed during meditation by village men, cows (Lord Shiva) mooed and disappeared to the present Kedarnath.
Everyone joined us on the top struggling, breathing heavily, tired and thirsty. I was glad to see that Mrs. Lekshmi and her two pillars/ daughters had made it to the top. Everyone was dumbfounded at once and forgot about the pain they were suffering from as they stood tall to be mesmerized by the view.
After taking it all in, it was time to descend, climbing down the steep incline; I helped Fiona through difficult areas. We got back early and slept for a while, before getting up for evening snacks and today’s game of word association.
Our instructors congratulated us on completing our trek successfully and we all had a great time sharing stories and talking about our future trekking plans. Dinner was served at 7:30 pm, through which out conversations continued. And then ensued a calm peaceful victory sleep
Day Six: 30th November 2016 – we were all set to walk back to Sankri after breakfast. There was a bittersweet feeling overtaking our group, after completing the summit.
Walking down, Pranay, Madhu, Monali, Fiona and myself played the word association game but with twisted rules, enjoying the descent and scenery around, passing jungles, campsites and rest points.
We reached Sankri after 6 hours and the first thing everyone wanted to do was bathe in hot water. After which we set out to explore Sankri. By the time we returned, Bunty and Dev called us for evening tea and a final discussion. They got certificates for everyone, asked us who’ll volunteer to distribute them, and I jumped up and grabbed the opportunity. I gave funny names and tag lines to everyone as I called them to collect their certificates. After the certificate distribution, we thanked Bunty and Dev for being the awesome support system we had all needed throughout the trek.
Day Seven: 1st December 2016 – we made our way back to Dehradun and bid farewell to the crew, kitchen staff and especially thanked Manoj for sharing those mystical stories. I met Harinder (Bunty) and Dev and we all shared contact details. There was a smile on everybody’s face.
The traveler started running on the narrow roads crossing small towns and we finally got back to the Dehradun railway station at about 7:30pm. Thankfully, our hotel was nearby and we checked in, with Monali and Madhu as our guests. We had made a plan to have dinner with Pranay that evening at a restaurant called PREZ in Dehradun. Good food and reasonably priced options for beer. After dinner, we dropped Madhu and Monali off at the railway station after which Fiona was a little upset because she is not good with goodbyes.
Day Eight: 2nd December 2016. We boarded our flight from Dehradun to Delhi this morning, which was 6 hours delayed and the first time I was ever travelling on a double propeller plane.
This trek was a life changing experience and if you haven’t tried it, you definitely should. Open up, get yourself out of your comfort zone, meet new people, experience new places and accept the change; it really is what the whole world is about.
NOTHING IS CONSTANT IN THIS WORLD; EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE IS CHANGING. GET OUT AND BE THE CHANGE FEEL THE CHANGE- Akshay