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Old 11th April 2016, 11:37   #1
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Default Nandikund Trek: Quest through the Garhwal Himalayas

Prologue


Few among us are born restless, destined to reach out into the unknown. They do not know how to sit still; the calling is always upon them. To push the concept of “what is expected” is what always plays on their mind. I think I belong to this breed, for omnipresent is this urge to venture out, to hear the wind rustle in the trees and caress my body; to have the sun beat upon me and form wrinkles on my skin as reminder of the days spent in his company; to have the heart swell up with the feeling of lightheadedness as something extraordinary presents itself in this ordinary life that we lead. To see vistas spread in front of me that make the eyes sparkle and the lips to utter a prayer of heartfelt thanks to the Maker above This is my tale of a quest on foot through the highlands of Garhwal Himalaya; this is the tale of NandiKund.

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2. As with every tale, the origin of this also happened on a rusty rickety chair in front of a state of the art laptop which displayed with the assistance of the world wide web a hazy tale and mention of a place nestled high up in the Garhwal Himalaya, away from the frequented paths of the touristic hordes who descend on to these regions come every summer. There comes a time when one is just drawn to something without any logical reasoning and this is exactly what happened with me, I was just drawn to two names – NandiKund and Sujaal Sarovar .

3. As I dug deeper into the recesses of the web I did accumulate data about these places and names of local guides who could take me there. Thus was born the basic framework of #Nandikund Trek, which originated from a small village called Raasi and terminated at another village called as Urugam , requiring ascent of two high mountain passes along with three high altitude lakes and two out of the five Paanch Kedars.

4. But the origin for me was not Raasi , it was Mumbai for it was from here that I had to begin my journey. Even now when I think back I realize the amount of planning that I undertook in order to ensure that I was successful in the completion of the trek for as the saying goes “God Helps those who help themselves”.

5. The preparation for the trek I would say was broadly divided into the following categories: -
(a) Clothing for a high altitude trek.
(b) Baggage to carry the same.
(c) Preparation of the itinerary in consultation with the guide.
(d) Choice of photographic gear and equipment.
(e) Self-learning tutorials on how to pack for a trek including a 12-day stay in the wilderness.
(f) Leave requirements.

6. I would not dwell much on the above other than touching briefly on them, but let me say that it really involved burning the midnight oil, just like how one does for any major examination that is coming up . After lot of preparation finally I reached the day when the journey was to begin and as my preparations in terms of my backpack and equipment took shape I was pushed to the edges of self-doubt as to whether I would be able to walk with the total equipment that I had to carry for my body was groaning under its weight at mean sea level and I was supposed to lug it across undefined paths at altitudes in excess of 15000 feet. It is moments like these when the self-resolve is tested and the mind has to carve a path ahead and clear the self-doubt that starts engulfing the mind and heart.

7. The journey to begin walking had to be first covered by air followed by rail which thereafter changed into bus and finally a jeep took me to the place from where I was supposed to begin my walk . Lot of time to ponder on my decision of whether I can do this or not or was I being foolhardy in this quest. One thing I knew was that I had to begin liking the thought of lugging the backpack as we both were going to get real close in the days coming ahead. Hence from the sophistication of the international terminals of Mumbai and Delhi I descended into the chaos that was New Delhi railway station which soon gave way to the holy city of Haridwar where my train Nanda Devi Express (how apt a name) deposited me at four in the morning. Taking a deep breath I lifted the backpack and trundled across the sparse platform No 1 to exit the rail station.

8. My eyes hunted for a chai wallah and uttered a heartfelt thanks to be born in India for lo behold there was one just outside the station , serving hot piping tea at four on this wintry early . After two cups of tea I moved out and started walking towards the Bus Station in order to take the state transport bus to Rudraprayag which I knew departed Haridwar at 530 in the morning. The bus station was a throwback to the Eighties, passengers sleeping on the floor many of them devotees who visit this holy town . The buses all coming up and parking haphazardly and people like me stumbling here n there to find the correct bus to take them to their destination  but it was fun .

9. The bus started right on time and we were on our way with the driver zooming confidently on the mountain roads twisting and turning all the while , confident of every action with a swagger which denoted that out here he was the king and the road and bus his kingdom . I admired his personality as we zoomed onwards deeper into the highlands of Uttarakhand. The sun soon rose and the sunlight warmed my heart and gave confidence to me making me believe that I will be able to do this . I was the only non-local in that bus and it was so strikingly visible especially at the local stop en-route for breakfast, a fare which I enjoyed thoroughly at one of the dhabas on the way at a place wonderfully known as “Teen dhara” .

10. Eventually I reached Rudraprayag and bid adieu to the bus and began the next chapter of catching another even smaller a bus which would be taking me further and higher up; to a place called Ukimath which if anyone would have read my earlier blog would realize is a deeply religious ancient town. It is here that I met the first member of my team, my guide for the trek Mr Umeid Singh Rana.It was a joyous meeting as I had trekked with him earlier so the familiarity was already established.

11. As the afternoon bore on, I had deposited the backpack on the street side while we waited for the jeep which would take us to the final place from where the trek would begin, we sat at the nearby tea stall to sip cups of hot tea over animated discussion as to what the coming days would be like and soon nearby people joined in with their views on the terrain, weather and just about everything else. I was invited to their establishments and shops as they proudly informed me as to how they had set up their life in small places like these. So it was a great time waiting for the jeep. Eventually we started for the village called Raasi which would be the staging point for the commencement of the trek and also coincidentally the home of Mr Umeid. Hence for the night he was hosting me.

12. The journey from Ukimath to Raasi is generally covered in around two hours and passes through small villages en route called Mansuna ,Raounke ,Ulliana . The mode of transport to all these places is either the jeep or small mini buses. There is only one bus which goes every day to these places and for the jeep well one has to wait till respectable number of passengers are accumulated. Basically the pace of life is slow and involves lot of waiting and planning in case one has to move in these interior parts of Uttarakhand. This is not the place of android phones and multi-tasking lifestyle.

13. By 630 in the evening I was at Raasi and the walk from the road till Umeid’s house was a bit awkward as I was subjected to curious stares from just about everyone, as it happens in small villages the word spreads quickly that an outsider has come for trekking. Anyways with a smile on my face I greeted all those whom I met and soon I was at ease. The evening was spent in the company of the local school teacher and we had quite an engaging discussion on various topics. In the between I did sneak up to the terrace and looked at the great army of stars in the clear mountain night gazing down upon me . I really felt so good about myself and the decision to begin this quest. The stars, mountains, winter chill, warmth of the solar lamp and the knowledge of a great adventure on whose precipice I stood made the moments spent out there truly worth cherishing. After a simple dinner and meeting my head porter I turned in for the night with the anticipation of a great day tomorrow.

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MY RIDE

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BACK TO HISTORY

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BUSTLING NEW DELHI
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Old 11th April 2016, 11:51   #2
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Raasi to Nanu

14. The day started well as I was up by six in the morning, overflowing with emotions and excitement of watching the sunrise amongst the mountains. After a few clicks I decided to visit the local village temple which had been recently renovated by the villagers. It was a pleasant feeling to visit temple devoid of the usual mass of people streaming in which happens and yes I too am a part of that.. . but for a change here there was no one other than the occasional devotee. So I sat for a while in the temple premises and thereafter took a stroll in the village .. watching the people go about their daily chores; from the hard working women who were segregating the hay piled on roof tops preparing for the winter ahead, then there were the school kids on the way to school while the village elders gathered to talk whatever was the topic for the day . There was everyone doing some activity or the other and I tried to integrate myself into this frame. After an hour or so I was back and after a simple breakfast and thanking the lady of the house for the warm hospitality the team gathered comprising of Umeid , the head porter Prem Singh ji and two porters.

15. By nine we were off , I said a small work of encouragement to myself , lifted the backpack ,adjusted the weight and took my first step on the quest into the highlands towards a destination that I had only heard of ..

16. The path was narrow skirting the mountains that surrounded Raasi as we made our way to the first way point which was the village of Gaundar around 6 kms away. Enroute we came across womenfolk carrying huge bundles of grass meant for hay for the livestock. I think we made good progress and we were at Gaundaar by around 1030. The views of this walk were great as we could see the Chaukhamba massif all the while and then there were the forests of pines and birches which we walked into. At Gaundaar we rested and lunch was planned to be had here, so accordingly the order was given to the local eatery and he set upon to start the preparation from scratch, so definitely we were going to take some time. But then this is how the wheel turns here , slow and easy finish the current task first and then pick the next one which we city folk generally do simultaneously and call it as multi tasking 

17. So with time in hand I set upon clicking pics of some beautiful gardens that were being maintained out here. By the way there are homestays in this village so trekkers do stop here, there is no electricity out here even now and its solar amps to the rescue.

18. After a sumptuous lunch we departed forward. The backpack .. it really was making its presence felt .. I think it was around 18 kgs and the path is steep uphill immediately after exiting the village and in the afternoon sun this walk took my heart away ..i still remember my legs were wobbly as i climbed one step at a time upwards on that steep incline .. head bend down .. shoulders hunched to take the load concentrating on moving ahead .. eventually we reached a place called Sartaza nearly 4 km ahead of Gaundaar where we rested for 30 min. The small tea house was run by a solitary lady who was all alone in this wilderness without electricity or phone connections or neighbors, tending to her small field, two goats and the tea house, living her life caring for her four sons. Her husband had expired in the 2013 kedarnath disaster. Looking at her bustling with activity and determined in the face of such odds … made me feel so conscious of the hardships that others endure and yet they still find the strength to go on …

19. I decided that I needed to reduce the load that I was carrying as with the photographic equipment strapped on my chest and the backpack behind it was just not possible for me to fulfill one of the goals of this quest which was photography as I was concentrating on just reaching my destination. I decided that I needed another porter who would share my load as I did not want to burden the existing team with my stuff. Hence a call was made to Raasi and immediately volunteers were up ready to embark on a quest at 5 minutes’ notice. My guide informed me that treks bought ready cash hence all the youth were willing for this and needed no advance intimation. The porter was to meet us at Nanu, our destination for the day. From the solitary tea house at sartaza we then moved ahead towards Nanu which was another 5 km of uphill climb. We reached Nanu by five in the evening and what a feeling it was to stand without a load on my back on a narrow stretch of clearing on the edge of a big mountain inhaling the fresh mountain air and having the sense of accomplishing something .. the quest was underway and it was very much real. I had started and had survived the first day .. the hardest of all the days ...

20. I just took my big shoes off and walked into the sunset feeling the bare earth beneath my feet and the wind rustling in the bushes. As night fell and the rains descended high in the mountains, we huddled in the kitchen of our hosts and the lady of the house treated us to a delectable dinner cooked over wooden fired chulahs in the glow of solar lamps. Tomorrow was to be a new day and a new goal.

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SYMMETRY


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SHADES OF DELICATE


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PRETTY FRAMES


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NATURE DISPLAYING


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THE QUEST


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GAUNDAR VILLAGE


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GAUNDAAR WELCOMES


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GARDENS OF GAUNDAR


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GAUNDAR AS SEEN ON THE TREK TRAIL


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EARLY MORNING AT NANU


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RAASI WAKES UPTO A NEW DAY


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CHAUKHAMBA MASSIF AS SEEN ON THE APPROACH TO GAUNDAR


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PRETTY RAASI


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RAASI


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ON THE TRAIL


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Old 11th April 2016, 18:44   #3
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Default re: Nandikund Trek: Quest through the Garhwal Himalayas

Note from Support: Thread moved to the Travelogues section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 11th April 2016, 19:12   #4
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Default re: Nandikund Trek: Quest through the Garhwal Himalayas

Lucky are those who get the chance to earn their oxygen and do not take it for granted. Beautiful photographs there. Keep it coming!!
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Old 12th April 2016, 19:32   #5
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Nanu to Madhmaheswar

21. Early in the morning I was up during the hour of the nautical dawn which is the period just before sunrise and set up the tripod to do some photography, standing in that small clearing at the edge of the mountain looking outwards across huge mountain ranges waiting for the sun to arrive and having steaming cup of chai .. a moment like this definitely finds its place among the most wonderful moments that this mortal eyes have seen till date …

22. After an hour of photography we started to prepare for the day and it does take me time to prepare as I had to wear the specialized gear that held my photographic equipment followed by the backpack , hence lot of straps all over my body . It is important to be properly kitted for treks of this kind as even a small niggle can prove to be highly troublesome. I was using a photographic harness from Cotton Carrier Systems that permitted to hold two heavy DSLRs strapped to my body. In addition, I was using the S&F series technical harness and waist belt by Lowepro which was holding my various lenses. Additionally, my Go Pro was attached to myself while the remaining part of lenses were in the backpack.

23. Post readiness we moved ahead and today’s target was the holy Madhmaheswar. The fourth of the Paanch Kedar . Soon after around two km we reached Maikuma Chatti, once again a solitary hut on a steep mountain slope with wild flowers growing all around. The hosts were informed that we would like to have breakfast and soon the chulah was firing merrily away. After a great breakfast we moved towards Kaunchatti. The weather deteriorated as we moved ahead and it was all mist n grey clouds … which sapped away at my morale. I feel blue skies and warmth of the sunshine are great motivating factors. As we walked our way through the dense wooded slopes of mountains towards Madhmaheswar we met many trekkers who were returning after a darshan of Madhmaheswar. The weather had deteriorated and I trudged in silence wondering whether the views that I so desperately wanted to see would be visible to me or not. My last trip to Uttarakhand also did not have great sunshine and though I was treated to a different genre of views yet this time I wanted to see blue sky and white peaks.

24. The view of Madhmaheswar is truly fantastic as one emerges from the tree line and comes across a clearing in the forest and lo behold one sees the magnificent Madhmaheswar ji outlined against the backdrop of the forest behind. It was a totally awesome feeling I must say. We reached Madhmaheswar by around 12 in the afternoon and I was able to get a darshan as I was the only outsider there barring the priests and few individuals who run an odd homestay/restaurant.

25. The legend of Madhmaheswar goes this way that Shiva did not wish to meet the Pandavas who wanted to atone for their deed of killing family members and hence transformed himself into a bull and when the Pandvas tried to catch him , he went into the ground in five parts and these are known as Paanch Kedar , Madhmadheswar means the stomach .

26. After the darshan and lunch we decided to move towards Budha Madhmaheswar, which is a hillock and a favorite of many who come here for the summit is flat and offers spectacular views of the Garhwal Himalaya including Chaukhamba , Kedar dome on one side while on the opposite side views of distant towns in the valley like Raasi and Ukimath are seen . After lunch as I stood up i started feeling uneasy , I understood that my body was having difficulty acclimatizing as I was ascending altitude very quickly right from Mumbai .

27. However I controlled myself and started the walk, which had another elevation of around 600 mts more over around 2 kms. Midway I just could not go ahead and informed my guide that I was feeling uneasy. He immediately unloaded my backpack and suggested that we rest. I controlled the panic and opened my medicinal kit and took one tablet of Diamox, which I was carrying hoping that I was not too late in taking them. I was sure that AMS had hit me and I was hoping that Diamox though being taken at such a late stage would combat it. It took me two hours to climb that 2 kms without any backpack as I took it very slow. I am so grateful to Umeid, my guide who stayed with me throughout. As I reached the top and with the time it took I guess the effect of Diamox was able to combat the AMS and I started feeling better.

28. It was a cloudy evening as I saw the porters setting up the kitchen shelter as the skies spoke of the oncoming rain . Those moments spent that evening were a mix of freezing rain interspersed with bouts of shafts of sunlight as the wind moved the clouds revealing the brilliant mountain peaks that surrounded us I wandered here and there with the camera in hand marveling at the play of light and clouds in the sky which was creating an electric atmosphere all around. It is a place to see and to be. The night was spent in trying to do some night photography as the weather cleared and with the promise of a clear sky as I so much wanted to see the glory of the Himalayan peaks from here which I had so much read about.


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at BudhaMadhmaheswar


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budhamadhmadheswar


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Madhmadheswar


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Old 13th April 2016, 11:41   #6
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Default Re: Nandikund Trek: Quest through the Garhwal Himalayas

Wonderful images and excellent narration! Worth reading!
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Old 13th April 2016, 13:11   #7
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These are beautiful pics Sumit. And great narration too - going through it was a pleasure! Keep up the good work

Cheers !
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Old 13th April 2016, 14:19   #8
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Very inspirational thread swsumit! The pics are enchanting to say the least. Especially where you have tried to capture the first morning light on peaks. Could you please share some details on your camera/tripod kit and the settings that you used for the night shot of the stars. I have been trying to get some night shots (stars primarily) but unable to get clean shots.

Waiting for more pics/details!
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Old 13th April 2016, 14:23   #9
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Wah, lovely photographs, truly amazing, way to go!
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Old 13th April 2016, 14:33   #10
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Hobbit ! Is what I remember when I see these pictures.
Amazing journey, great write up.
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Old 13th April 2016, 15:13   #11
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Default Re: Nandikund Trek: Quest through the Garhwal Himalayas

Wow sumit sir, lovely photographs. All the pics took me back to your Ladakh travelogue. I still rate your Ladakh travelogue as one of the best ever, thanks to the amazing pics.

This travelogue is no exception. I've been to the Upper Garhwal region multiple times, once to the Deoria Tal to witness the Chaukhamba Massif overlooking the entire valley. The place is absolutely pristine. Thanks for taking me back in the memory lane. What brilliant photographs !

Rated your travelogue 5-stars.
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Old 13th April 2016, 15:31   #12
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Right now, I am just jealous of you! It takes courage to pursue your heart.

Great great narration and superb pics, wish I could learn photography from you.
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Old 13th April 2016, 15:38   #13
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Brilliant narration coupled with excellent pictures!
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Old 13th April 2016, 16:19   #14
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You have brought to us the beauty of the place through your photos and even more through your words. That has been one hell of a treat so far...waiting for the rest. Rated 5 stars
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Old 13th April 2016, 17:01   #15
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Absolutely epic!!

Those photos of the nigh sky look surreal. Something us city dwellers will definitely appreciate.
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