The concluding part to the destination known as Nandikund , a long & hard path indeed …
Launtri Khark – Sujaal Sarovaar and back
The next morning the weather was crystal clear and the objective was to visit sujaal sarovaar about which I had read about but not seen any images. My guide was confident of the way .The route was straight up and the incline started immediately, a continuous gain in elevation. Thankfully the weather held up. On the way we crossed Myna Taal , totally snowed out at elevation of 4357 mts.This is the intersection for those going towards Panpatia Col trek. . Finally I reached the tip of the ridge and rising in front of me was the mighty Chaukhamba Massif along with various other peaks that I am not aware of .. at the bottom was the elusive lake, Sujaal . A magnificent spectacle indeed, totally out of this world, my first experience of being close to Himalayan Peaks and deep snow. The view of Chaukhamba was truly magical. The GPS read 4800 mts.
My head porter came up to me and said that it is not that I was lucky to have come up to here and seen this, it was ordained that I would come here and that this spectacle would be witnessed by me. It was ordained that on this day at this moment the weather would hold for us to witness this view and at that moment the words sounded so poignant. It was indeed a place of Gods. There is absolutely no path to reach this place and a experienced guide is a must. After few minutes we turned back and retraced out path … walking carefully over the steep slope stepping over huge boulders all the while. By four in the evening I could see my camp down below and in an hour we finally reached the site.
That evening was a happy one indeed as i dried my clothes .. and generally undertook maintenance of my gear and clothing relaxing after a successful day indeed. Tomorrow was the onward journey ahead to PandavSera.
Launtri Khark to Pandavsera
The morning was as usual clear with blue skies, we started early as the route was supposed to be challenging since it involved crossing two gorges and the guide repeatedly mentioned to me about them , hence I knew that it was a matter not to be taken lightly.
The gorges crossing involved walking precariously up and down the mountain slopes, hopping over huge boulders definitely not a very pleasant situation . So after around 30 minutes of walking I arrived at my first gorge called as Panoor ghad which implied as small river. To cross it we descended downwards and I found it manageable. Thereafter crossing the river at a suitable point we started the climb again parallel to the river which was tumbling down. After continuing ahead uphill we reached Pandor Khark , where we rested for a while and waited for the team to arrive . It was a small clearing on the edge of the mountain range and gave a sense of the magnitude of this region. It was vast and far in the distance we could see the Bharal or Blue Sheep grazing. Elevation read 3942 mts.
We moved ahead and reached the second gorge known as Dwari Ghad which was a cracker in itself . On my own maybe I could have never done it .. the climb down was so steep that sweat still forms on my hand as I think of it. The early morning mist on the dried leaves and the loose soil on that barely visible path at an angle of around 75 degrees down gradient gave me the shivers. I stood on the edge and wondered how to go about it, should I sit on my haunches and slowly crawl ahead or should I shuffle slowly sideways.
I took a deep breath and the first step, shuffling slowly ahead .. the path twisted and turned as I walked very slowly with baby steps, the camera gear on me firmly strapped and balanced. The descent was around one km and half and it took me an hour think or maybe more, I really do not remember but I do remember sweating in the sun.
Finally we reached the base and then had to cross the river and then there was the climb ahead. But we took rest here and soon the entire team too arrived and the tea can was put to good use. After the tea break it was up and up as we moved towards Dhhar Ki Dwari which was around two kms ahead. This place was right at the edge of the mountain valley and far into the distance I saw my first sight of Pandav Sera , a unique valley surrounded by towering mountains and the river in between shimmering in the afternoon sun. Elevation read 3800 mts,
Mythology states that Pandav Sera , was the place where the Pandava’s stayed and cultivated the place int he course of their wanderings . Hence the visitor is pleasantly suprised to see wide grassy plains in the midst of towering ice clad peaks .
Pandavsera to Nandikund.
The next morning we started towards Nandikund , the name that I had come across way back sitting in my rickety armchair . We walked around two kms through the valley floor till finally we reached the edge of it and then started the climb yet again. To climb and criss cross mountain ranges and ridges, this is what this trek was majority, it tested the limit and endurance. Elevation read 3900 mts. As we climbed up I came across another unfulfilled wish of mine .. Brahmakamals , so many of them standing tall against the morning sunlight found only in these upper altitudes of the Himalayan ranges. I was indeed fortunate to have come across them. After a climb of around 2 kms we reached the top of the ridge and crossed over leaving Paandav sera behind. Elevation read as 4210 mts.
From here one could see the Kedar dome , Chaukhamba massif and other Himalayan Peaks glittering in the morning sunlight. We pressed forward after a short break for breakfast onwards towards Nandikund. After a treacherous route through the mountain slopes I descended into the cavity between mountains and there lay NandiKund at an elevation of 4500 mts.
My first sight of the shimmering lake as I came up to it from below was nothing short of magical . All the effort paid off as we were able to reach here and I was congratulated by my guide for the successful mission trek. I was overwhelmed with emotions and I am unable to put it in words, the place moves you and after the walk through rains , mist , snow , ridges ,mountains , forests and desolate countryside one comes to this sight , the lake waiting for those who have the will to reach out here and the traveler is presented with sights that are branded in his memory for the years to come …
Nandikund , a high altitude lake situated in glacial terrain provides splendid views to those who come here . The lake is fed by the snows all around on the mountains and there is a river that originates from this lake which flows downwards towards pandaav sera and beyond. There is a small shrine built here which is of Maa Nanda Devi and is worshipped by local villagers who come from Urugam and Dumak village yearly once.
That evening there was just me ,the team out here and the lake , no one else .. a truly magical moment indeed.
Nandikund to Manpai Bugyal
The next day we decided to press on and by seven thirty in the morning we were on our way , the first target was to ascent Ghia Vinayak Pass. The pass was marked by the egress from the cavity that Nandikund lay in and we moved in that direction .The route was extremely brutal and treacherous and involved walking or rather I would say hopping over huge boulders and to do this without a guide is definitely not even to be thought of , it is so easy to get lost out here and wander off into the various trails that lead into the surrounding mountains and there is no coming back from them .We would have covered a distance of 2.5 km uphill till we reached elevation 4712 mts which was at the pass and from here one could see the entire Himalayan Range including Nanda Devi , Nanda Ghunti , trishul and other glittering peaks …
We waited for the rest of the team and then after offering prayers we descended the pass and I looked back once towards the lake which was not visible anymore and with a sense of sadness turned my back towards it and moved ahead as I pass through the region of the high mountains towards the forest that awaited us.
The descent from Ghia Vinayak was also treacherous and totally boulder ridden as I picked my way slowly and we reach Vaitrani covering a distance of around 2.0 km which marked the base of the descent. Elevation recorded was 4335 mts. From here the walking was faster as we were crossing rolling hills, the elevation dropped sharply and soon we reached Barma and then Kiel which was 2.0 km ahead. Elevation recorded was 3713 mts. The effects of the 2013 disaster were visible here too as there were huge cracks and fissures that had opened up where earlier there was nothing.
The next way point was Achrikona , which had a small shrine dedicated to the forest goddess , this shrine lay on the mountain slope near to the summit at an elevation of 3900 mts and was around 2.5 km ahead of Kiel . We rested for a while and it was early evening but decided to press on and reach Manpai Bugyal where we would stop for the day. This lay on the other side of the mountain, a series of meadows and at an elevation of 3670 mts and around three kms ahead.
Manpai Bugyal to BansiNarayan .
From Manpai bugyal one needs to proceed downhill to the base of the valley ,cross the river and then climb up again to cross the mountain range up ahead as one moves to Bansinarayan .So we started the trek towards Ghad bhitri which was the first way point at the foot of the mountain near to the river , as we descended we reached the tree line and then we moved further downwards reaching the river and crossing the same on a log bridge built every season , and then the uphill climb began again . The next way point was Khandwari ghad which was round three kms uphill and soon we were above the tree line once again .
This was bear country and I was moving as fast as possible, the last thing I wanted was to come face to face with the Himalayan Black Bear; after around three kms we reached Bansi Narayan temple and our camp site for the day at an elevation of 3546 mts. From here one can proceed towards Urugham village or can take the alternate route to Dumak village and further ahead to Rudranath ji .
The villagers of Dumak and further ahead are actively engaged in collecting various medicinal herbs that are sold to the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture medicines and is one of the main source of livelihood out here. The afternoon it started snowing again and the winter call of nature was everywhere. Winter was coming and it was coming fast , I was glad that I had made out just in time for getting caught in the region from where I had just come was really a daunting thought .
From Bansinarayan temple one can see the entire great Himalayan Range including Nanda Devi, Nanda Ghunti , Dronagiri , Trisul and various other peaks that I am not aware of … they are lined up one after the other and it is a sight to see .
BansiNarayan to Urugam to Joshimath
Today the was last day of the trek, as we would descend and reach Urugam Village from where we would take a local transport to Joshimath. I woke up by 530 am and witnessed a splendid sunrise and spent the next hour clicking pics, the first rays of the oncoming sun directly falls into the inner sanctum of Bansinarayan temple and is a wondrous sight to see.
By eight we were on the move and the descent is quite rapid and brutal as the mountain soil is soft and the decent steep hence it takes a toll on the knees. By eleven we were at Urugam village, from where Umeid and myself went to visit Kalpeswar Ji which is one of the five Paanch Kedars and around 3 kms walking distance.
By late afternoon after a sumptuous lunch we booked a jeep which deposited us in Joshimath by evening. The quest was finally over and I had done my first major and serious trek of my life and that too I had chosen one of the more challenging ones, but then as said by my head porter, it had nothing to do with me .. I was called by the Himalaya and because the call had come … I was able to do it … it was as simple as that. I for one believe what he said and I wait for my next call to once again go back into the land where Gods chose to stay.
Few lines came to me as I sat in the evening looking at the sun going down and the lights in the valley lighting up … it said, “The mountain does not care whether we are here or not, it does not compete with us and is not burdened with hopes and dreams. Everything it means to us is what we bring to it … it is only what the mountain reveals to us that has any lasting value.”