This morning while getting hooked onto Sadhguru’s youtube channel, I came across the one polite answer to the debate whether we should embrace or conquer. Embrace means “being one” with your goal; conquer is “to fight” whether you love it or not. My thoughts begin to dwell. Do I embrace the mountains or is it merely a quest to conquer? Frankly, I still don’t know the answer. Can’t even guess.
White debating between Dhakuri Trek or Tungnath, I chose the later one. Although I knew Hukum will miss this winter fun, but then I was unsure if we would get snow at Dhakuri top or not. Hukum’s visit is unavoidable and we as group had only 3 days in hand. Being at both the places before, I knew Dhakuri does not offer any better motivation than Tungnath. A vibrant temple, with Chaukhamba on its mount that’s how it was. And I have been there twice before. But at times Chilta temple looked to me more beautiful and inspiring when I take a moment to imagine how nice was it sitting at the temple stairs, watching the view in the front and sweet breeze blowing through the hair, and the sound of hustle of the leaves. Anyway, Tungnath was mutually decided by group. What was undecided within me is – to embrace or conquer.
Kuldeep Rawat, Darshan Negi, Anuj were joining us for the first time. Kuldeep Rawat, a jovial man with glowing face in the late 30’s appeared fresh and happy and rum fragrant from his mouth. I got to know Sandy and Kuldeep had a cheerful party a while ago to celebrate this togetherness. Darshan, also in his late 30’s is slightly reserve but a positive man with great faith in god and humanity. Anuj is my office colleague, a light hearted man with good heart but someone who needs direction every now and then. Rest the crew was same – Ranjan, the loudest man on Earth; Sanjay, the live show (post his drinking); Sandy, the drinking machine, Yash, the soluble sugar (gels with everyone); Abhishek, the inquisitive mind with tongue for coffee; Prem, the man “always on fire” and blackberry.
The Guptkashi bus dropped us at Ghat at 10 a.m around, comfortably. The hired jeep took us to Ukhimath GMVN, our destination for the day. After quickly refreshing up, we decided to have quick meal and then off to Deoria Taal. After all, we had full day. Ukhimath market has a feel – looks like a typical hamlet on a ridge crowded with colorful shops, loud music playing on stereo, the rambling sound of Mahindra jeeps, and their drivers taking a smoke break, people chitchatting about economic condition of the state, or simply bathing themselves in warm sun. We had a quick but heartily lunch. The jeep continued it journey towards Sari village, the place I knew well before. A steep climb of 2 kms around from here will take us to the taal. Deoria Taal is famous of its reflection of Chaukhamba that many enthusiast photographers attempt to capture through their lens. While reaching for Deoria Taal, we saw school children coming down after their ‘picnic’. About 3 p.m we also reached the spot. The mesmerizing Chakhumba showed it aura – the snow clad tips of the four-sided peaks is truly a delight to see. And the photo session began. How I wanted to sleep here in this sunshine, in the shadow of the mighty mountains overlooking the lines along the water body. But the sun was setting.
The crew came back to their dormitory beds at GMVN Ukimath, right on their spots except some of us who went for the groceries for the trek next day to the temple of the lord Tungnath ji. Soon after the happy times began. Kuldeep bhai inaugurated the evening lamp session of “somras” – very much required to negotiate with the heat of the day. Darshan bhai was still silent until he had few glasses going inside his throat right into his passage to stomach. Sandy as usual was the bartender with his “heavy machine pegs” that he labelled as ‘little little’. In now way, those pegs were little, infact, each peg was over 90 ml dose – I can confidently say that.
But since he do not prefer to listen ‘No’, so everyone included me gulped the first round. Sitting over drinks with Sandy is like a heavy weight boxing championship- you are being knocked out each moment with his 90 mls peg till you finally say – everything here is revolving, so is the leg of the chicken we brought from Ukhimath market for the evening that GMVN cook Negi and Chamola had made for us. Only Prem is able to take those punches but I bet even he is grasping for breath after a few pegs. I recall Prem also refused to accept the pegs made by Sandy soon after. As for us – the poor fellows – it doesn’t matter who makes the peg – Sandy or somebody else. Anyways, we have to drink till the revolving feeling starts engulfing us in its cloud. Morning next day, we got to know Kuldeep bhai was declared as the “winner of the championship” that lasted for over four gruesome hours. The winner of the battle showed no proud-ness for this achievement but Sandy did. We made fun of him since he was over drunk and revolving on the dinner table. That was the only time I saw gap in Sandy’s feeling for chicken – he could not eat. He hardly ate any.
Next morning Kuldeep bhai gave the jars of dry fruits that he was carrying. We made pocket pouches for all. Hired jeep came to receive us. A drop to Chopta and back was agreed for Rs. 1000. After an hour’s travel, covering some 30 kms we reached Dugalbitta – the snow spread carpet did not allowed jeep to go any further. That’s what I wanted too – to walk. After all that’s what we all are here for.
The snow started to get thick – all over the place – as we walked through the jungle patch. The sun was up too. Covering some 2.5 kms on jungle trail, we reached Chopta. The path was well charted – no possibility of confusion. By that time, all my share of dry fruits were already inside my belly. The appetite was back again and at the only open tea shop, we ordered paranthas for all. The activity took fair amount of time and realizing that we started climbing the real part of the trek – towards the temple. By the time we reached half way, each one of us grasping for breath. Sandy was leading, Yash was managing group in between, Sanjay and Ranjan following the tail clicking photographs. Kuldeep & Darshan bhai asked me second time how much more does it require walking? where is the temple? The usual answer is – a bit more and we are there. But we were only half way. It was almost 1 pm and we still not been able to reach the temple though we started from chopta after our parantha session at about 11:20 a.m. But we are not in hurry. In fact idea is to enjoy every bit of it – the white space spreading all over the area – the white snow patches, the shining high Choukhamba and the warm-hearted fellow members joking, talking, coughing and puffing.
The temple bell rang. Abhishek was murmuring something over his phone – video recording. Me and Ranjan tried looking at the Akash-kund and got ourselves ankle deep into the snow. I hate it when snow gets into your shoes and starts melting in through with the heat of the feet. In awe, I tried to tell Ranjan not to come here at akash kund, but he was close already. We reached the temple and suddenly everything was completely holy. As if we are on some pilgrimage. Only thing bothering us is now our dry throats – no water and all snow – taking us nowhere. It was there I remember to be carrying apples that we took as part of trek grocery. Half apple for each – made our day. The worth of a half apple you know when you are standing at 13,000+ feet with no water around.And then we did what you can choose to call as nasty – our classic and cult bare chest photograph – right in the snow desert, in front of the temple. It is something crazy, weird but made us all come together. The ultimate fun. The barometer of our unitedness. The celebration of togetherness – does not matter if we were embracing it or conquering it. And to this day even the quest continues.
- 22nd evening: Delhi-Guptkashi bus via Rishikesh covering a distance of about 400 kms. Reached Ghat at 10 a.m. Stayed at GMVN Ukhimath. Visited Deoriataal – 2 kms trek from Saari Village. Approx 16 kms from GMVN Ukhimath.
- 23rd – Tungnath Trek – 5.5 kms in total from Dugalbitta, and 3 kms from Chopta
- 24th – Holy dip at Rudraprayag
- 25th morning – office … no Christmas holiday for us 🙁