It was the autumn of 2004. Along with a few colleagues including my wife, I went on my first trekking in the Garhwal Himalayas. The school where we worked gave us that opportunity. We took a group of higher secondary students to Hemkund.
Walking up 14,200 feet (4320 metres)in the Devabhoomi on the Himalayas is a soul-stirring experience.
A cosy bus carried us from Delhi to Joshimath (a little less than 500 km) via Rishikesh and Rudraprayag. The journey from Joshimath to Govind Ghat (22 km) is also by bus but it was breathtaking journey for us. The road was very narrow and the sides were steep in most places. I don’t know the present situation. There were moments which made us gasp in anxiety.
|With Margret, my wife,|
at Govind Ghat
The beginning of the Trek
The trek begins from Govind Ghat. Tighten your backpack and get going. It’s a whole day’s climb to Ghangaria depending on the climbing power in your muscles as well as your will. You breathe in the beauty of the Garhwal Himalayas all along. There were shanty-like eateries on the way where you could sit for a while and have some snacks and drinks. Walk up the ascending track which gets very steep in places. The greatest challenge was the rain which continued for hours in the afternoon which is very common in the Garhwal Himalayas.
By the time we arrived at Ghangaria it was dusk. We were drenched and shivering. You don’t get any cosy accommodation in Ghangaria which comes alive only for the trekkers and pilgrims during the season. I don’t know if the situation has changed today. The rooms we got in the scruffy lodge were as damp as the trekking track. We paid almost a princely sum to get our shoes dried near the charcoal fires lit for the purpose. You can’t blame them for charging such sums; getting things to that altitude is no ordinary mule’s job.
After breakfast in the next morning, we started the really challenging ascent from Ghangaria to Hemkund. The track was very narrow and all the time you had to dodge the mules which carried pilgrims to the Gurudwara off the Hemkund lake which is dedicated to Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru.
The distance between Ghangaria and Hemkund is about 5 km only but the ascent was very steep and challenging. In the afternoon we trekked back to Ghangaria where we spent one more night in the dampness of the lodge. In the next morning the trekking down started. Downward journey is pretty easy even on the mountains just like in life. But it has its own risks too. The boulders beneath your feet can slip unexpectedly.
with a colleague
It was the first and the best trekking experience we had in our life. Eventually we delighted ourselves with a lot more treks in the Garhwal Himalayas, the last being to Gaumukh in 2012. My wife and I cherish those experiences with heartfelt gratitude to Sawan Public School, Delhi (eventually shut down by a godman) which organised all those treks for the students whom we, teachers, accompanied. I particularly remember Dr S C Biala, the Principal who took charge in 2003 and changed the erstwhile study tours into treks. He was a lover of the mountains and a trekker himself.
Nature’s peace and beauty flow into you when you ascend the mountains. The breeze refreshes you penetrating into the very marrow of your bones. The wind on the mountains carry a divine energy which seeps into your being. Mountains are the devabhoomi. Maybe one day I will return there to meet the gods once again.
PS. This is written for Indispire Edition 137 #PhotoMemory