Kailash: First leg: Some musical moments and pahadi khatirdaari

This post is part of a travel recollection from Kailash Mansarovar Yatra 2018 via Lipulekh. For a list of posts in their sequence please refer to the following link:

Kailash Mansarovar Yatra : The beginning…

…Continued from previous post

We started at around 5:30 AM from Delhi for the epic trip that it was, the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra 2018, via Lipulekh. The bus provided by the KMVN was comfy and I had this fuzzy feeling and was raving of seeing the Himalayas after a gap. Vitamin H as I call it lovingly, had already started infusing my thoughts. After sometime, it occurred to me that I was actually en-route to a place I had dreamt of visiting for months, years. I felt like pinching myself to make sure that was not a dream. Also the realisation hit me that it was a Wednesday and I was sitting in a bus, going towards the fabled mountains in place of a meeting at work.

Now THAT, was a thing! 😀

The first day was supposed to take us to the hilly town of Almora. En-route we stopped at Gaziabad for breakfast and felicitation, where I met a gentleman who had completed the yatra seven times previously. This was the beginning of feeling a little odd being treated like celebrities (or like scapegoats before they are butchered for that matter 😛 )

At Kathgodam we stopped for lunch, where we were greeted by some very musical children. They were singing devotional songs, but the difference was that, on contrary to the usual monkey business of chanting, shouting and clapping we had witnessed till now during our journey so far, these children had the music in them.

I decided to sit close to this enchantingly musical welcome for sometime before proceeding for lunch. Lunch organised by KMVN was simple, delicious.

We changed into smaller buses from here and quickly found our way to the meandering mountain roads. Towards evening we reached Kainchi Dham. I, frankly had no idea regarding this place at that time. I got down there to see the place with my usual curious self. A pathway across a stream lead us to the main premises. There was a temple. Just what the temple complexes in these places are expected to be like.

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Temple complex of Kainchi Dham

As I neared that place, I could hear some music, a sankirtan, sort of a repetitive musical chanting of some sort. The sun was setting. There was a gentle breeze and the sound of the stream beside. And I stood there, spellbound at the beauty of the moment.

The days following this would be filled with untainted beauty of the high Himalayas filled with charm and freedom and I would end up humming an unknown tune while looking at the setting sun, or the flowing river, or the bee travelling from flower to flower, only to realise while shuffling through the photographs and videos after coming back from the trip, that it was from this place where I picked it up.

And I hope to get back here, someday.

Later that evening we reached Almora KMVN guest house. The place along with the nearby places like Naini, Bhimtal and Bhowali along with the places like Ranikhet and Kausani were the ones travelled and loved by my parents during their earlier years. As I informed my mom regarding my locations, she came up with bits and pieces of information on those places and memories from the past.. warm, beautiful, happy…. In a way, my family was also travelling with me, remotely.

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Evening @ Almora KMVN GH

Reception at Almora was warm. The arrangements excellent. Dinner contained some local delicacies including the Bal Mithai, a confectionery specific to this hilly region. Belonging to Bengal,the land of the practised and perfected art of making sweets, the gesture to showcase the local specialities appealed to me. The taste was OK too. 🙂

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Bal Mithai, a speciality sweet from the hills…

We spent sometime under the night sky trying to find out the constellations and then retired early for our journey further next morning. Little did we know that there would be times of, entire evenings turning into dead of nights of staring at an entire galaxy so bright that the night in Almora would seem like a dim version of it.

By now, the news that had come earlier only as a possibility was confirmed and we were to go to Pithoragarh for airlift. The journey on the next day from Almora to Pithoragarh was a bit less enjoyable than the first day. It was warm, almost to the point of making me feel like I was back to my hometown of Kolkata, which was burning then.

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Roads at a place we stopped for a break on the way from Almora to Pithoragarh

We reached Pithoragarh by late afternoon and were again greeted by the KMVN staff there.

One has to appreciate the arrangements by KMVN throughout the route. It is astounding how their staff provide that kind of support even in the high mountains where it could be difficult to breath at times. It is surprising how cheerful, helpful and friendly these people are!

As I interacted more with more of them during my time, I understood that each and everyone of them gave an additional amount of effort because this trip is so special to them. Many of them told me, that to help us the best they can is their way of worshipping the lord. They send their devotion, hopes, wishes and respects with each one of the yatris to the land of the God. So I carried with me the wish that these people remain happy in their lives and keep contributing positively wherever they go.

That evening we went to the war memorial in Pithoragarh. A small ceremony to pay respects for the martyred soldiers was organised. There was also a ceremony to plant trees post that. Beside the guest house there was small temple of Ulka Devi. Some people went there for a darshan.

After that everyone got back to being busy for the final round of packing. There was a further reduction of the luggage quota per person to 12 KGs. And I still had no issues with that 🙂 So I roamed nearby as the night began to fall. After everyone had left, the war memorial looked like a picture of lives frozen in time. The rock structures had the names of the soldiers we lost during different times dating back to the times of the world wars. There was some space left in some of the structures. Humanity has its own costs.

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The war memorial

Also, by this time, the lights were coming up in the nearby hills and the layers of mountains with those teeming lights looked beautiful. So I sat for some more time there, roamed around a little more and finally got back to my room where my roommates were also busy with the final packing.

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The mountains on a hazy evening @ Pithoragarh

I had nothing to leave behind but again, I reorganised the contents of my bags and brought out some things that I thought I would require handy from the next day. The next day is when the actual trek begins. Till now, its the cakewalk 🙂

We woke up and got ready for our flight to Gunji the next morning at 4 AM There were two MI17 choppers from Indian Airforce deployed for this. It felt great to see and be able to climb into one of the machines I only saw in pictures previously.

And we flew atop a valley of dreams as the rest of the world got back to getting their final hours of morning sleep. We got closer to our destination than we were the previous night.

Coming up, the tale of The Gunjiyals…. 🙂

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