If one considers the top three states to be visited upon when it comes to admiring nature’s beauty and the mountain ranges , the state of Uttarakhand figures amongst the top three owing to its rich portfolio of having the lower Himalayan range running through it . Now if we consider the top ten places to be visited within the state to admire nature’s breathtaking beauty I would say Chopta figures amongst the top five.
read more about Chopta here : Sojourn to Garhwal Himalayan Hideaways and the Enchanted Lake : Chopta and Deoriyaa Taal
For those who visit Chopta, there is a jewel in close proximity of it and no I do not mean Deoriyaa Taal, though it is a lake of unparalleled beauty, what I am referring to is a location which has its own stature and is devoid of the hordes of people who come visiting Chopta and Deoriyaa taal thereby making these places lose the beauty and vibe that comes out when they are not filled with a large number of people.
The location that I am referring to is Budha Madhmaheswar.
Uttarakhand, the moment this name figures in conversations the primary thoughts that run through the mind are two: Himalaya and Spiritual Belief. This state has been the focal point for the above two factors right from the ancient times. It has been the gateway to spiritual belief and becoming one with nature right from the times of Sri Adi Shankar Acharya himself. Thousands have come here in search for peace; many have found their true inner calling among the dense forests and virgin rivers that flow through the lower Himalaya. Home to the greatest of all ancient rivers, the Ganges herself; on her banks many a great spiritual soul has contemplated life and its essence. Boasting of some great trekking options the region is a must on the Bucket list of any traveler.
There is a saying that says home is where your heart is and the other side to it is that the earth is our home. So when we combine the two, we realize how incredible is home. We all have our “go to “places and for me that part is mountains, the landscape just makes the heart sing. It makes me feel alive. For those who stay in the heart of our country or in the western regions, one does not have to go far to experience mountains at their best, the lofty ranges of the Garhwal Himalaya with the image of the mighty Chaukhamba makes anyone feel right at home.
A journey of eight hours by road from Haridwar, along the Kedarnath trail but with a diversion at the settlement of Kund towards the holy town of Ukimath. This route takes one via Augustamuni where one could visit the ashram of Sage Augustamuni and there after one crosses Bhiri village and finally arrives at Ukimath. All the places are small towns nestled in the foothills of mountain ranges. The scenic beauty is evident all along the route. The journey through a familiar/unfamiliar world is sustained by the pause, and the pause is sustained by such a journey.
Omkareshwar temple at Ukimath houses the deities of Kedarnath as well as Madhmaheswar during the winter months. There are five shiva lingas established here which represent the five paanch Kedar. The temple construction and decoration of the Parvati temple is very soothing. This temple is a must visit.
From here, one needs to move further inland, 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.
Raasi is the jump off village from where the trek to Budha Madhmaheswar begins, yes you read it right, one has to trek to reach the location. Now I think you know the reason why the hordes of people are missing who are always present in Chopta and Deoriyaa Taal making those places lose their aura so quickly as the crowds buildup. So the evening was spent at the village making new acquaintances and sharing views of the lives that we all lead.
Raasi to Nanu
The next day started well as I was up by six in the morning, overflowing with emotions and excitement of watching the sunrise amongst the mountains. 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.
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 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.
After a sumptuous lunch we departed forward and the path is steep uphill immediately after exiting the village and in the afternoon sun this walk took my heart away, 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 …
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 .
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.
Nanu to Madhmaheswar
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 tea .. a moment like this definitely finds its place among the most wonderful moments that this mortal eyes have seen till date.
After an hour of photography we started to prepare for the day ,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.
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.
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 Pandeva’s tried to catch him, he went into the ground in five parts and these are known as Paanch Kedaar , Madhmaheswar means the stomach .
legend of Paanch Kedaar , read here : Belief & Faith : The Paanch Kedar , a trek into the less visited trails
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.
It was a cloudy evening by the time we reached and 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.
Garhwal Himalaya is known all over the world for its lofty mountain peaks, alpine meadows and sacred rivers. Coming to a place like Budha Madhmaheswar makes one sample a slice of that world.
The morning was a splendid visual treat as the sun rays shone the mountain peaks of the Garhwal Himalayan range making them glitter in the morning sun like beacons of divine light. I had a great time freezing these moments as the day slowly came upon me. There are four pools of water out here which reflect the mountain ranges spread out in front. There is also a small temple out here which is worshiped by the priest of Madhmaheswar and by those select few who manage to come here. The entire top of the hillock at an altitude of 3497 mts is a part of the Madhmaheswar valley and extremely enticing.
The trek is a fairly beginners trek and if done in leisure, is an extremely enthralling experience. The return back to civilization is easy for it is most downhill as well as the gradient is favorable and one can reach Raasi by late evening.
Duration: 03 days (Raasi to Raasi)
Trek gradation: Moderate
Mobile Connectivity: sketchy to manageable
Guide/support staff: highly recommended as per me
|MANDATORY CHECK OFF LIST FOR THE ABOVE LOCATIONS|
|Warm layered Clothing|
|Comfortable hiking shoes|
|Essential medication including glucose|
|Power Bank Charger|
|Life Straw Water Bottle|
|Torch with spare batteries|
|High energy content eatables like chocolates and resins|
|Emergency numbers of the district administration|
|Camping equipment ( good quality )|