“Mountains are the beginning and the end of all natural scenery..” ~ John Ruskin
And I always wondered what lies beyond them….
As if the urge to reveal the mystery was not enough,the wanderlust pics of the trekkers on Instagram with perfect blue sky,sparkling springs ,green meadows ,the dense forests,the majestic mountains and the colourful rucksacks forced me to choose a high altitude Himalayan trek this time.
Of all the beautiful Himalayan treks,we pinned down ROOPKUND(15700 ft),a mystery lake in Uttrakhand, because of its diverse trails ( which was suppose to take us through the beautiful Oak and Rhododendron forest,the vast Bugyals, the barren yet colourful Rocky patches and the snow ),the popularity it had in the world of trekkers and also because of the word “mystery” attached to it.
However, little did i know that my choice of Roopkund, on all other treks ,would also give me a mountain to admire for my entire life – The Nanda Devi ,not only because of its statistical fame but also for the legend it unfolds as you reach for the summit.
While on a journey there are no strangers…..
Roopkund trek was an experiment with my quest to do a solo travelling(Well,by solo i mean me and JEETU ,because , I consider US as ONE :D)
But its ironical to see how a bunch of strangers become your home for the entire journey ,while as in our mundane life we are busy creating strangers amongst our friends and family.
Far up in the mountains you have no one but each other and amongst those few you also get your favourites who inspire and make you fall in love with the enormous rocks more by their stories that how trekking and the mountains have healed them and made them a better human being that they are today.
“Pack Light” – the mantra of any High Altitude trek and Life as well…
Every journey is a lesson for life and this journey taught me the lesson even before it began..
Being the first trek of my life i dint believe that just 2 pair of clothes was enough to survive for 9 long days. Yesssss ,you heard it right!!!just 2 pairs…
It came as a news to me that half of the things that we behold in our life are not our necessities, but mere desires.Life is so damn simple,I always believed it but the mountains turned my belief into a reality. In the end,everything that goes into your rucksack is all you need to lead a happy life….
Booking the trek and the tickets are nowhere close to the preparations for the trek.
A high altitude trek and that too Roopkund(15,700ft) which comes in the moderate-difficult category required rigorous exercise regime.Walking,Running,Swimming,squats etc became a daily routine and India Hikes (our trek coordinator) left no stones un-turned to remind about it everyday.
And now when I am back,those tasks are an interim part of my life.
30 mins a day is all you need and its totally worth it!!!
Finding “Nemo” …..
My journey to Roopkund began months before the travel date as I browsed the internet reading about Roopkund ( almost daily )and going through the “out of the world” pictures of the trail.Only thing unknown to me was “Who are my co-trekkers??”.
It is one feeling to be introduced to someone but absolutely another , trying to find an introduction in every one you see.Anybody i saw with a rucksack,felt familiar to me. And thus i met Ritika , a solo trekker , Smita -an inspiration and my tent mate and a bunch of admirable people with love for the mountains.
Just as it was a beautiful transition from the busy city life to the silent misty mountains (BBSR >> Delhi >> Katgodam >> Lohajung(Base Camp of Roopkund) )so it was, from just 2 fellow travellers to a gang of 26 .
What is a forest??A blend of tall trees,slow moving mist, shrill sound of chirping birds,growling of animals here and there,a far distant sound of flowing water and narrow un-travelled roads made by nature.Is that all?? Well ,traversing through green-red dense rhododendron forest I realised its much much more than that.Its the instant connect you feel with the unknown.
The route to Gheroli pattal -our first camp site ,was through a dense rhododendron and oak forest.The troop always followed the same routine which was Pratap bhaiya in the beginning,Avijit (our super enthusiastic trek leader) in between and Lakshman bhaiya in the end.The thumb rule – no one walks before Pratap Bhaiya and no one stays behind Lakshman bhaiya.The small resting shops built in those dense forest were life savers and the rhododendron juice was our energy drink.
We filled our bottles with spring water and our soul with the purity of earth in Neel Ganga ,prayed in Latu Devta temple for a safe summit and reached Gheroli Patal after a trek of 4 Hrs.It was out first altitude gain,hence the walk was not an easy one but, still , on reaching our camps we were as fresh as we just started.
Little did we knew about the piousness of the place ,until the locals narrated the history it beholds. Gheroli Pattal is said to be the resting place of beautiful Goddess Nanda Devi while she was travelling to hemkund. Read here to know the folklore.
Bedni Bugyal – The dream land
How do you define a place where the GREEN is GREENER,the WHITE is WHITER and the blue is BLUER.Well,you call it a fairy land,I call it “The Mountains”.
“Early to bed and early to rise” is the mantra of the mountains and thus you have so much time to listen to the silence of the mountains,to feel the freshness of the air ,to see the sun rise and to retrospect.
The 4 hr trek from Gheroli pattal to Bedni Bugyal was a clear transformation from the woods to the meadows through Ali Bugyal and perhaps the most beautiful place I have ever been in my life.
It was a place straight out of any dream tale,with the white horses running here and there,the mist playing hide and seek,the sun peeping out of the mountains every now and then ,the sudden rain,the beautiful strange white clouds , the big bright rainbow ,the majestic Nilkanth, Chaukhamba,BandarPooch and many more peaks in the background ,the Bedni Kund (where Mahisasur was killed by Maa Durga in Kali avatar) near by and the gorgeous starry sky in the night.It is also believed that Maharishi Ved Vyas compiled all the four Vedas in Bedni Bugyal.
Patar Nachoni – Where the wind talks!!!
After 2 days stay in Bedni Bugyal and getting acclimatised,it was time to move higher.From the lush green meadows ,it changed into a blend of rock and grass.Till now the cold was bearable but at Patarnachoni, it was different.Sharp cold wind along with the low temperature made us wear all our layers ,yet could not stop it from entering our spine.Surrounded by huge mountains all around,all we could hear was the wind .The only thing that kept us warm were the stories of our life we shared with each other ,songs we sang and the folklore we heard from Lakshman Bhaiya and Pratap Bhaiya about Patarnachoni.
Bhagwabasa – On the rocks…
Bhagwabasa, the last campsite before the summit, was nothing but rocks.Even in the nights when we switched sides,we could feel the rocks moving underneath .The climb was steep till Kalu Vinayak (a Ganesha temple on the way to Bhagwabasa) but the trekkers moving downhill kept smiling and motivating us saying “If you have reached till here,its just a piece of cake further ahead”.(That’s one thing I learned too,to smile at everyone without any reason)
By the time we reached the campsite,almost all of us were in the same pair of clothes that we had changed 3 days back.Up in the mountains,nothing matters except moving ahead .Every tiny step you take is an achievement .You are so much engrossed in taking in the beauty of the mountains that you forget how you look(Well,the cold and the scarcity of water is just a secondary reason ;))
The Summit – ROOPKUND
2:30 it was!! We were awake even before the wake up call and were already on the move with the flash lights on.Little did we knew that the journey till here was just a trailer of what we were going to face ahead.
The summit was steep and through a very narrow passage.We were allowed to stop only at the given points or else the whole crowd stops behind.Apart from our group there were hundreds of more trekkers who were nowhere to be seen till now.Also we could not get slow or stop and take rest at our ease.It has to be at the designated places.
Every now and then it felt that “I cannot go further”,but then that was the point which made me stronger and pushed me ahead.That’s the magic of the mountains.
And finally when I was there,I was in tears and more than the place I was admiring myself for having fought against my weaknesses and come this far… closer to nature ….closer to GOD…closer to myself…
ROOPKUND is a folklore and a place of worship for the Garhwals,
a popular name for its Raaj Jaat yatra that happens in every 12 years,
a place of research for the mysteries it beholds,
the best trekking destination for the trekkers,
a place to visit after marriage for the locals,
and a name which brings a smile of pride and honour on the face of everyone connected to it,
but for me …
Roopkund will always be an inspiration ,a journey that made me quest for more and a story that made me fall in love with Nanda Devi (Will be very soon on my next trek to meet her)!!!!