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May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

My first tryst with the mountains was in 2012 when the family visited Kedarnath and Badrinath. Although a pilgrimage, the trip did manage to sow the seeds of love for the mountains. It was just a matter of time that this seed transformed into a huge tree, whilst blossoming whenever there is a vacation. The vast valleys and the gorges sculptured by the meandering rivulets, the shiny mountain peaks that play hide and seek scripted by the wind and clouds, the feeling of time standing still, the air, so fresh, that the brain always stays in HYPER MODE etc were all a different experience and the battered soul longed for it time and again.

 ROUTE OF THE CURRENT TRIP

Delhi – Hardiwar – Ukhimath – Saari – Deoria Tal – Chopta – Tungnath – Anasuya Temple – Atri Muni Cave/ Falls – Gopeswar – Helang – Kalpeswar – Joshimath – Badrinath – Mana – Vasudhara Falls – Charan Paduka – Mt.Neelkant Base ( almost) – Pokhiri – Kanakchauri – Kartik Swami Temple – Rishikesh – Dehradun – Bhunter – Kasol – Sar Pass – Tosh – Kullu – Delhi

 

JOURNEY DATES – May 6, 2017, to June 3, 2017

The UTTARKHAND LEG

The journey began with Ukhimath, which is usually where travelers take a break for their onwards journey to Saari and then ultimately to the DEORIA TAL and I was no different. Reached Ukhimath by evening after a long tiring day, which involved a lot of bus/shared jeep switching. The evening Aarti was a spiritually enriching experience and I met some fellow travelers. Travelers have a common pattern. They talk about the love for the mountains and travel plans are always enquired about. We get to know some hidden gems during such interactions. Among the attendees that night, there was a young sadhu who had chosen the spiritual path. He wore white clothes, had long locks and a beard and very deep observant eyes. We exchanged pleasantries, spoke about mutual travel plans and after a while bade farewell. And I was very sure that THAT WAS THAT. But destiny had other plans. The same person would play a very crucial role in contributing to what could be said as one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever experienced. A rejuvenating night’s sleep and I was off to Saari the next morning. I’d already visited Deoria Tal in 2015, so I had a contact there and informed him about my arrival so that tents could be set up. So by noon 8th May, I was camping near the Tal. The last time I went, it was just wifey and I. We had the entire place to ourselves. Not a single soul around, and frankly speaking, it was really spooky. But this time around, it was just the opposite. There were at least 20 tents put up. *So much for solo traveling and finding peace in the mountains* PHEW!!

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

 The tal amidst tents and clouds

 

DEORIA TAL

Almost all places in the hills have a tale to tell. Deoria Tal was no different. Locals say that this was the place where the YAKSHA PRASNA episode from the Mahabharata occurred. Nevertheless, the green meadow, a clear pool bang in the middle, the reflections of the mighty Choukhamba in the pool when the air stands still, make this place a photographers haven. A myriad of birds to descend upon this serene place, thus making it a bird watchers paradise. In fact, the whole Deoria Tal–Chopta–Tungnath circuit is a MUST VISIT place for bird watchers/photographers. The weather had a very steady pattern throughout my travel. The sun would shine till about noon and then the clouds would step in.  Same was the case today, although, post rain, the setting sun, and clouds decided to put a show. And Boy! Those were some hallucinating colors. 

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

When nature decides to paint

After witnessing the spectacle, a session of interaction with fellow travelers followed. Nothing worth mentioning occurred after dinner. A sound sleep and I was all set to wake up and try my luck for the reflection of the Choukhamba in the Tal. The water levels in the lake weren’t up to to the mark; therefore the “REFLECTION PIC” for which this place is famous for, eluded me the first day. The sky was also overcast in the morning the next day, so not much scope for photography, SIGH! I decided to stay one more day at the Tal and spent the entire day lazing around and talking to fellow travelers. Although I met many, two people stood out. One was a doctor from Gujarat who brought along his 5-year-old son. Long convo short, he said that he was trying to instill the love for nature/travel at a very young age and once the seed is sown, it becomes a tree all by itself. It was very inspiring to listen to this man and how he was making it a point to orient his kid to spend some quality time in nature rather than buy him an I-pad and while the entire holiday away looking at a screen. I noticed that the MRS was missing, so inquired about her absence. “Oh, she is doing EBC” came the reply. *Jaw = Drops!!!*

The other guy was from Maharashtra. On a trip to Ladakh in 2016, he suddenly got inspired by some of the travel tales and impulsively bought a bike and has been cycling ever since. He told me that his target was to enter Nepal via Kumaun by June 1. I just had one question-“But, What do u do?” I asked. “I’m a freelance IT guy, dude”, he said. Being an Assistant Professor in Sanskrit Philosophy in a Central University meant that I get atleast 50 days off as summer vacation. Holidays for Durga Puja and Pongal were an added bonus. People always got jealous whenever I mentioned about my long vacations and how I travel. For the first time, I was on the receiving end. Don’t get me wrong, I love to teach, but for the first time, “I wish I could do something like him” the mind muttered in regret. The hunter becomes the hunted I guess!

I always plan my travel basing on the lunar calendar. Watching the snowcaps in the silvery full moon night is a sight to behold. But the real spectacle, for me, is watching the MILKY WAY. You see it once, you are hooked for life. May 11th was a full moon and May 25th was a new moon. So as per plan, I wanted to be in Tungnath on a full moon. The grandeur of the snow peaks shimmering and shining in the moon light is a grand spectacle. The night at Tal was no lesser, for I had seen the biggest halo around the moon, ever, in my life. I hung out with a group of young lads from Dehradun who had just started their own adventure company. The long exposure shots I took were some of the best I clicked from the entire trip IMO. The sky was crystal clear and Choukhamba was radiating in all glory under the moonlight. OK! I think I have failed miserably at describing what I saw that night. I will let the pictures do the talking.

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Reflections in the moonlight

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

the mesmerizing Choukhambha

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Two..Minutes..to midnight!!

The next day was also hazy and hence no proper picture of the Choukhamba in the waters. The best time for a reflection snap is post-monsoon where the water levels in the Tal are full and when the skies are clear, sans the clouds. After paying for the tent, I left for Chopta, from where the climb to Tungnath begins.

 

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Ethereal Reflections!

 

 TUNGNATH

          The climb from Chopta to Tungnath is a gradual 3.5 km climb. The stony path is well laid. After about a kilometer, bugyals (meadows in local language) open up and these are some of the greenest pastures one comes across. The path slowly snakes up and the views of the mountains viz Choukhamba, Kedardome etc open up.

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

The final path to reach the Lord!

The final kilometer is a straight path which eventually leads to the highest Shiva temple in the world, which is also the third of the Panchkedars. It took me almost three hours to reach Tungnath. Found a room for the night at the Kali Kamli dharmasala. There are many dhabas and homestay options at Tungnath, but mind you, all of them are very basic the roti, kapda, makaan types. It’s always a challenge to come out of your comfort zone and live on just the bare essentinals. After aimlessly exploring the place and visiting the temple, I ended up at the temple premises at the right time when nature again decided to put up a show. The sunset at Deoria Tal itself managed to mesmerize me, but this one went one level up. It was as if nature was on LSD. 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Panorama of the canvas

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Oh ! the layers!

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Can't really blame the priest for posing !!laughing

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Sun bathing hills !!

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Eyegasm!

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

The layers stretch for miles !!!

In the hills, once the sun goes down, the temperature follows suit. After having my dinner, I braved the cold winds and once again reached the temple premises to capture the mountains in the full moonlight. Half an hour later, the cold became unbearable and I slipped into a blanket, hoping for some warmth, but it turned out to be even colder. DUH!

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Basking in the moonlight         

By the time I opened my eyes, the clock read 4:30. This meant I would miss the sunrise at Chandrasila, which I didn’t intend to miss. I hurriedly set away with hasty steps and puffed breaths. At about midway, I found I was making labored steps and finding it hard to breathe too. I wasn’t acclimatized enough! Just a day before I was at Deoria Tal which was not at 8000 ft. And Chandrasila must be no less than 12000ft. Even though I spent the night at Tungnath, the body could not adjust to a gain of 4000ft in less than 24 hours. I panicked and almost gave up. The last time I visited Chandrasila in 2015, I went to Tungnath from Deoria Tal, exactly like how I had gone this time. I had no problem then, but this time, it wasn’t the same. That’s the thing about Altitude Sickness. You never know when it hits you. You can be a seasoned trekker with many miles of Himalayan mileage, yet it could hit you when you least expect it.

  A word of caution to all readers - If you have AMS, there’s only one option – GO DOWN… DESCEND. If you are stubborn or obstinate about it and continue further, it could be life threatening. When in the mountains, you are at the disposal of the mountains. IT decides if it wants you to scale IT. The locals always talk about respecting the mountains. The mountains will be right there, they aren’t going anywhere. Acclimatize yourself and come back again. A failed attempt is always better than ending up in a coffin.

I sat down for a while, reassessed my current situation and its intensity. After having some groundnuts, one energy bar and warm water from my thermos, I started to feel better and somehow gained confidence that I could do it decided to give it a go. If I hadn’t felt even a little better, I would have returned without any second thoughts. Having felt a little better, especially after having warm water (Water is a life savior at higher altitudes) I took a moral decision of continuing further. Finally, I reached the top at around 6 am. I had thoroughly missed the sunrise amidst all this. There was a crowd of about 30 people including the guys from Dehradun whom I met at Deoria Tal. I was aghast and depressed about missing the sunrise. But, then, out of nowhere, a worthy compensation awaited.

Remember the young sadhu I met at Ukhimath?? He was there with a flute in his hand. I instantly recognized him and exchanged pleasantries. I requested him to play something. And then it happened. The best 6 minutes of the trip. The mellifluous notes of the flute, steadily piercing the silence atop was so heartwarming. And the rising sun with its morning rays, kissing the faces of us cold folks did the physical job of warming us. The cold-induced numbness made it a little tough for him to play the correct notes at times, but then, who would complain? Never did I imagine, even in my wildest dreams, that I would be enjoying a concert at almost 4000 mts ASL, whilst witnessing a beautiful sunrise. This was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Concert at the summit!!

After a while, the entire crowd left. It was just me and my TANHAYI. I sat there in silence for an hour, soaking and tapping into that mesmerizing canvas that unfolded before me. And when the sun rays started to get bothersome, I decided to find my way back, but not before monkeying around with my camera. I took numerous photos on my way down.

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Himalayan Poser!

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Views that fill your soul!

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Living on the edge !!

As I had missed the sunrise, I decided to stay one more day and witness the Chandrasila sunrise. Being a full moon night, I again ventured out after nightfall to click some pictures. After a while, icy winds picked speed and a small shower followed, so I returned back and slept, hoping for a clear sky the next morning.

I woke up sharp at 3:30 am and immediately headed out to inspect the sky. There were no clouds and the sky was clear with the moon still shining vigorously. I immediately set forth to the summit with two young chaps from Haldwani. My body was better acclimatized than the previous day and I had practically no issue this time and reached the summit by 4:40 am. I sat there, waiting for the magic to unfold. All the Garwali and Kumaoni peaks were clearly visible. Right from Gangotri range, Kedardome, Choukhabha on the left to the Panchchuli, Trishul and the legendary Nanda Devi and its fortress of mountains on the right, everything was clearly visible. The blue hour slowly changed into crimson yellow, with the first rays kissing the Chokhambha mastiff. Slowly the red hues turned to golden and then gradually yellow.

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Panoramic Offerings !!

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

The Garwali Ranges!

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Red & Blue 

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

The Rising Diamond !

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

TIMING IS EVERYTHING !

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

The SOLOIST!

I clicked as many pictures as I could, to my heart’s content and hurried down as I had to catch the early morning bus to Gopeshwar for my onward journey to Anasuya. Some captures on my way down.

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

LA EXOTICA - MONAL !

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Can't get enough of those views!

ANASUYA TEMPLE AND ATRI MUNI CAVE/FALLS

Instead of the bus, a shared taxi was available when I reached down at around 8 am. So I took it and reached Anasuya gate in an hour, although the road from Chopta to Gopeswar is extremely scenic. I took bath at a hotel, had breakfast, dumped my unnecessary luggage and started to Anasuya temple. The route starts from the village and eventually goes through a dense forest. There are shelters and water sources at regular intervals. There is also an inscription at the 4.5 km mark. The path is well laid and if one goes alone, there’s a good chance to get spooked, thanks to the dense vegetation. The Amrit Ganga is initially to one’s left at the beginning of the trail but gradually ends up to the right side. I reached the temple at around 2 pm as there was a downpour with hail which interrupted my proceedings.

          The Anasuya temple is situated beautifully on a meadow with mountains towering in the backdrop and surrounded by greenery from all sides. It’s all green..green.. green as far as the eye can see. The temple has a Dharamshala where travelers can retire for the night for free or donate whatever sum they feel like for the services provided. I somehow decided to stay at a small dhaba near the temple which was run by Guddu Bhai. He is the nicest pahadi one can ever come across. Polite, shy, soft spoken and a smile always on his face, he caters to all the basic needs of travelers who come there. Guddu Bhai previously had a shack at Panar Bugyal, which is where people stay overnight on the Anasuya – Rudranath route.

For two days, I just sat in the cooking area beside the dhaba meeting fellow travelers, listening to stories, gossip and local politics Guddu Bhai,Tiwari ji(the local temple pundit) and the other locals there had to tell. A new Dharamshala is being constructed near the temple premises. There is a Dattatreya temple too nearby. The next day, I went to visit Atri Muni cave. The way one has to reach the cave is precarious. One has to crawl through a crack in between a huge rock to reach the cave. I even saw a tiger’s paw mark just outside the cave. Anasuya temple is nestled amidst a dense forest and locals have numerous stories about encounters with the big cat and bears. The waterfall is beautiful and we can actually walk through falls from a considerable height. Huge bee-hives hang from the high rocks beside the waterfall and according to a local, back in the day; villagers would hang themselves down using ropes, set smoke and extract the sweetest nectar from the hives.

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

The road less traveled !

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Look into the heavens! 

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Agastya Muni Mode!

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

El Paradiso !

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Where time stands still 

My two days at Anasuya was a soul enriching experience. After long, I was at peace with myself. Many people consider Anasuya temple to be a spiritually charged place. One friend said that this place has the maximum “VIBRATIONS”. Time seems to stand still at this place, and since it is not a very famous place, it is not on everybody’s radar. I just wish the tranquility of the place remains. After having a sumptuous meal which included pakode, I retired for the night. Woke up next day, and headed down. The sun was blazing and it was a very sweaty downward journey. As I was crossing the local primary school, I noticed some local boys were bathing in the crystal clear waters of the Amrit Ganga(also known as Siroli Ganga). They watched me and asked me to join them. I refused initially and took ten steps forward, but the prospect of a bath in cool water under the blazing sun seemed very relaxing and necessary too after the sweaty downhill journey. And the inviting from the boys, their timing could not have been any more perfect. They gave me an invitation which I could not refuse. I retraced my steps to the sauna-like pool and within minutes – SPLASH!!!!

After spending a good half hour in the soothing waters of the Amrit Ganga, I reached the Anasuya Gate and continued my onward journey to Gopeswar, then Chamoli and finally Helang. Helang is en route the Chamoli – Joshimath route and a small road passes through the enchanting Urgam Valley where the last of the Panchkedar temple Kalpeshwar is situated.

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

The soothing waters of the Siroli Ganga sauna !!

KALPESHWAR

I waited for quite some time for some transport to the last point of the Urgam Valley but nothing turned up. Finally, I managed to hitch a ride in a transport vehicle, a maxi. I had to stand inside the vehicle in the middle of daily supplies being transported to the Urgam Valley. That 10 km ride to the last point of the motorable road is the worst during my entire trip. I still do not understand if it was the vehicle or it was the standing which created the effect, but the ride was plain HELL. The roads were in bad condition and the vehicle I travelled in had zero shock absorption abilities. I was swaying like a pendulum in it and the vehicle simply amplified even the smallest bumps. At one point, I felt as if my entire visceral organs would fall from their place into the stomach cavity. The ride to Helang = Hell for ur ANGS (Ang is Hindi for Body parts).

After reaching the last point, I regained composure and visited the Dhyan Badri temple and after a 2 km walk with all luggage, huffing and puffing, I reached Kalspeshwar. The temple is basically a cave with a small stone being worshipped. The temple complex houses rooms where travelers can stay for the night. An old sadhu and his entourage make food and all the necessary arrangements for the travelers. They don’t charge money and it is upto the travelers who pay whatever they wish. It rained that night and things got very cold. There were some foreigners who nestled in the temple and food was provided to everyone. A lot of sadhus too were there. Three babas rode all the way from Haridwar on two Royal Enfields. They were the most badass biker babas I met on this trip. The night at Kalpeswar also had a HOLY CIRCLE session with the resident old sadhu kicking off the proceedings and the rest joining. Chillums of various sizes were excavated and the smoky affairs continued till the wee hours of the night. Frankly speaking, those babas could put any group of professional stoners to shame.

I woke up the next morning and tagged along with the three sadhus and reached Joshimath by noon, whilst visiting the Vriddha Badri temple on the way. I had 3-4 days in hand and was looking for trek options. The Dronagiri Trek was named the Trek of the year by the GMVN but it was scheduled to begin on May 21. I contemplated on whether I could reach Jumma and finish the Bagini Glacier/ Nandi Kund trek within four days and realized that the itinerary was too rushing and gave up. Next option I had was Kuari Pass. Seasoned trekkers do it in 3-4 days and I spoke to some locals/guides and enquired about the charges. Kuari Pass is in my must-do list as it offers magnificent views of the majestic Nanda Devi, but somehow, the logistics and the price didn’t work out and I took an impulsive decision to head to Badrinath.

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

The piercer of darkness 

BADRINATH – VASU DHARA FALLS – MT NEELKANTH

I reached Badrinath by evening, found a place to stay. The entire day involved a lot of traveling and tired me. Post dinner, I slipped into the warmth of a thick blanket and got much-needed rest. I woke up the next day, had a bath in the hot springs at the temple and had a darshan at the temple which took more than three hours. Post lunch, I decided to visit Vasu Dhara falls which was almost 5kms one way from Mana – the last Indian village. I reached Mana, visited the Vyas and Ganesh Guha, crossed the Bhim Pull under which the Saraswati River roars and started for Vasudhara falls around noon. The weather was clear and I started with a decent pace. Just at the beginning of the trail, I met three guys from Bangalore who had camped the previous day near the Falls. They picked up all the trash they could find en route and brought it back with them. Although man is at the helm of affairs in the food chain, the amount of damage he has caused to nature over the years is downright atrocious. Yet, good Samaritans like these guys make you hope that all is not lost and we shall still manage to leave some of these beautiful places available and accessible to our next generation.

          After a brief chat with them, I carried on and eventually reached the falls in 2 hours. The trail is gradual and has lot of loose boulders with some glacial crossings too. The Vasudhara falls are something else. It does not feel like water falling, rather, it feels like powdery snow dropping from the height. There were hardly 5 people near the Falls by the time I reached there. A lot of snow was present directly under the Falls and the hardened snow that it was, made it very tricky to walk on it and reach the point right under the Falls. The experienced managed somehow whereas the faint-hearted retreated after a few steps. After some time, I was the only soul present there. Being my birthday, I sat there contemplating about the various things in life. Birthdays make me very weird and philosophical. I hate birthdays!

Why do we have to celebrate a birthday? It brings you one year closer to your death. Isn’t it so? What have we even achieved in this birth making us worthy of celebrating it? Whatever we achieve has already been achieved by someone before or shall be shortly achieved by someone after. If so, then what is the whole point of achieving things? What is the point of living itself? What is death?  What happens to us after death? Is the circle of life and death actually true? What liberates us?

Ok! Enough rambling. Long story short, I don’t like birthdays. But this one time, I was thoroughly enjoying it. The only wish I got that day was from SBI which wished me HAPPY BDAY CUSTOMER. The sheer scale and magnitude of the hills did something to me. I was enjoying this solitude thoroughly. On the other side of the stream is the path to SATOPANTH TAL, the exotic green triangular shaped lake which is again on my TO DO list. The weather slowly started to change and I realized it was time to head back, but not before promising myself that I would return to this magical place and cross the Sahasradhara and Chakrateerth to view the mystical Satopanth Tal. I reached Mana in the evening, headed back to my hotel and retired for the night.

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Vasu Dhara Falls !

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Is that water ? or powdery snow?

The next day, I decided to visit Charan Paduka, which is a 2 km hike from the Badrinath temple. As I made my way up, I bumped into the three sadhus whom I had met at Kalpeshwar and who gave me a lift till Joshimath. The group got a little over zealous and decided to walk all the way till the base of Mt Neelkanth. We must have walked a good 4-5 kms from Charan Paduka when we realized the weather was going to change. Additionally, I had to head to Kartik Swami too, so I walked back. There was a MOUNI BABA who was stayed in a small cave like constructing there. There were atleast two other sadhus I came across who were known as Mouni Baba in the region. Nevertheless, the route to the base of Mt Neelkanth is divine with a lot of sadhus meditating and I know I will be going back. My next trip to Badrinath will be of 10 days where I intend to cover Satopanth Tal, Mt Neelkanth Base and the Kagbhusundi Tal. I reached my hotel, packed my stuff and left for Joshimath and then to Chamoli. As it was 8 in the night, there was no further transport option and I had to spend the night at Chamoli. The next day, I headed to Karnaprayag, then to Pokhiri and finally Kartik Swami at Kanak Chouri

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

The Magical Neelkanth

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Where even the mightiest egos get dwarfed!

KARTIK SWAMI TEMPLE

          This was the second time I was visiting this place. The trail seemed the same, although a new construction is happening just at the beginning of the trail. It took me an hour to reach the temple quarters; the main temple is another 500 meters away. I informed the temple priest about my intentions to stay the night there. Kartik Swami too offers the same view which Chandrasila offers, only from a little further back. The place offers a 180 degree view of the Garwal and Kumaon Himalayas and is also a prospective place to witness a grand sunrise. I went to the temple and spent quite some time clicking pictures. It was an overcast day and by evening it started to pour mercilessly. Post dinner and a good night’s sleep I woke up the next day early enough to witness the sunrise, but Alas! It was not a clear day. There were clouds all over and I could not witness the sunrise. Another time I guess!!

          I came back to the temple quarters and headed down to the starting point of the Kartik Swami trek and managed to find a lorry heading to Rishikesh. I reached Rishikesh at around 4 pm and then headed to Dehradun as I had to board my bus to Kullu for the next leg of my journey – SAR PASS

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Rain vs Sun 

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

cotton wool smeared!

THE HIMACHAL LEG

I reached Bhuntar at around 7 in the morning, found a bus to Kasol, which is the base camp for Sar Pass. The route to Sar pass is Kasol – Grahan – Padri – Ming Thanch – Nagaru – Biskeri – Bhandak Thatch – Barsheini – Kasol.  The trek was for 10 days and it was through an agency. Every camp and place have their own charm. I had booked for Sar Pass on May 19 because that would mean we would cross the pass on May 25, which was a new moon. The first time I saw the galaxy was on the pass crossing day during my Chanderkhani Pass in 2016.  I can say without doubt that witnessing the Milky Way is one of those defining moments which demarcates a before and an after in my life. Also, the vision is so humbling and addicting, it always leaves you gasping for more. So, this time, I wanted to witness it again during the course of the trek. The first opportunity presented itself at Padri Camp. Although all my tent-mates were fast asleep, I managed to wake up at midnight and after managed my first long exposure click and the result simply blew my head off. I upgraded from a P&S camera to a Sony A6000. I also got a toy lens which is fully manual – a Fotasy 35mm f/1.7 prime lens. I almost decided to not take the lens at the beginning of the trip and had I done that, it would have been a disaster. The fast aperture of the lens lets in a lot of light thereby paving the path for some nice pictures of the night skies. I just managed two shots from Padri Camp.

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Rainbow at base camp

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Milky way at Camp Padri

The next opportunity was at the Ming Thatch Camp. This time, at night, I had company. The previous night pictures had managed to arouse a desire to witness the skies at night among some of the trek-mates and I managed to capture some decent pictures that night too. The Nagaru Camp had a cloudy sky when we woke up and hence the whole plan to capture the Milky Way from the highest camp went downhill. We crossed the pass without any hassles as the weather was very supportive and reached Biskeri Camp. Having walked for more than 10 hours, most of us were dead tired and retired very early for the day.

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

The night sky at Ming Thatch

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

The rise of the Akash Ganga 

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Another glimpse!

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Double Rainbow @ Nagaru Camp!

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Sar Pass - Painted!

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

He was in a "Reflective" Mood!

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

Truimph!!

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

The Lone wolf!

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

The snowy ANT line!

The last camp in the entire trek was Bhandak Thatch. This is where I had the time of my life. As we had successfully completed the trek, we arranged for a bonfire and kicked off a party. There were clouds looming all over and lightning too. And within an hour, it started raining heavily. I woke up again at around 1 am and came out to check if the skies cleared. And Lo! Not a single cloud in the sky. There must have been a billion stars. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, there was a streak in the sky. It took a while to figure it out but I finally did and realized that I had just seen a Shooting Star. And the next minute, there was another and another and another. The event ensued to the point where I eventually lost count. All in all, I must have seen at least 100 shooting stars that night. From 1 to 4 in the morning, I had the time of my life looking into the heavens and trying to capture the Milky Way.

          After completing the trek, I lazed around in Kasol for a day, then headed to Tosh where I stayed for two days and finally returned to Kasol. On June 2st, I reached Kullu for my onward journey towards Delhi. After reaching Delhi, I boarded my flight and reached home that night.

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

The heavens ablaze 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

the galaxy rises @ Camp Bhandak thatch

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

shooting Star Alert!

 

May - My Month of marvel in the Moutains

the grandeur of the cosmos

EPILOGUE!

A month in the mountains has rattled a lot inside me. That starry night at Bhandak Thatch has left an everlasting impression on the fragile mind. Aren’t we just a speck of dust in this infinitesimal universe? Aren’t we so insignificant against the sheer magnitude and ever-changing temper of the mountains? This trip has been a very humbling experience for me. My usually massive ego has simply melted like an icicle exposed to the first rays of the sun.

It was a tough thing to adjust back to the hustle bustle of the “regular” life. It found it hard to encode my feelings into words. Words escaped when I tried to speak. Although I have somehow adjusted, a strange unrest and unsettlement still occupy the mind. Another journey soon awaits; a reflective and a mysterious one. The moon lake (Chandratal) is calling, so are the buried bones in Roopkund. I silently count my days for September to arrive. Until then, I WAIT !!!

Kalyan Oruganti

An Assistant Professor in a Central University who teaches Sanskrit Philosophy recently bitten by th Read more

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