The trail to Mesar Kund

Yes driving in the hills is fun and something I love but even more appealing is to shun your car and walk up into the woods. That is one even more appealing thing about the Himalaya’s. Unlike walking in a city and bumping into someone here you mostly are alone walking all the way and even if you actually come across someone you don’t ever have to make way plus you always get a smile and a Jai Ramji Ki or Namaskar greeting you.

 

Add to that the fact that you are under the shade of tree’s and the temperature is always brilliant to walk in plus the air is fresh, pollution is miniscule, there are interesting birds hopping by and if you have an aware local with you along than you will get to taste a lot of berries and fruits that you otherwise wouldn’t dare to pick up.

 

So one early morning in Munsiyari we decided to shrug off our laziness and after our morning tea and breakfast we started walking up to the home of the lady who had arranged our stay, Mallika Verdi, she is a retired mountaineer who has settled here since 1992 and has a wonderfully lovely place. Apparently she is the one who has helped all the local ladies to set up a homestay and ensured that this income is paid in the hands of these ladies. We were told that there was a Yoga session at her place which is beside a meadow, incidentally a guy from Bangalore had also come to stay just like us and was a Yoga instructor and so she had arranged a few sessions for all locals to take part and learn yoga.

 

Honestly so far I have always loathed yoga but we thought why not go and see and even maybe click some pictures whilst these people are at it. So we began our stiff climb from our place in Shankhadhura to Mallikaji’s house. Mornings in Munsiyari are ethereal with sunrise in summers happening at almost 5 am from behind the Panchachuli peaks. We soaked in the view and sipped our tea with Parantha’s, about the view, well…

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Actually giving up a position that is comfortable, where you can order food all the time and sit with views like this and walking is a task, but we had decided and off we went.

 

It was a good one hour stiff climb to reach Mallikaji’s place, others might do it in maybe 45 minutes but with us panting and clicking pictures basically to conceal our panting took our sweet time to reach there.

 

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The panting and sighing never stopped on the road too as through the woods from time to time the majestic mountains playing with the clouds would appear and wow us.

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The meadow near Mallikaji’s house

The place that Mallikaji has is beautiful beyond words, woods, a meadow, a pond with loads of fish, ducks, geese, cows, dogs, spectacular views and a lot of love and warmth to boot!

 

We were welcomed with tea and we sat about talking about our trip so far and her place and got to know each other a little bit. She was wonderfully charming, calm and a very likable person as it was evident from our talks with our host and her husband and all the locals that had come there for Yoga. The way they all mingled and joked and laughed with each other was so heartening to see. She was as much a local as any local could be, they all called her Didi out of their affection and respect for her. There was great camaraderie between the people who had all gathered there. Men, women and children all alike joked and pulled each others legs, the environment amongst them was a thing to behold I am not sure I can describe it.

 

Photography didn’t really happen much as we mingled and got busy with Yoga ourselves and actually loved the whole encounter. Everyone helped each other to accomplish the most difficult Asana’s the Bangalore boy taught us.

Men and women had never seemed more equal than I saw them at this place on this day! Honestly this is no exageration.

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During the Yoga session it did drizzle in between, a short shower and we would all carry our mats and rush to shelter and come back to the field again when it stopped. It was fun and we didnt even realise we spent around 3 hours there. Eventually we were told to hang around for lunch. Apparently there was Sambar rice, Lemon Rice and Potato subzi being made by Ram who also belonged to Bangalore and stays here. The invitation was pretty tempting and we were thinking of aborting the trek but then we learnt that it would take another 2 hours for lunch and I thought to myself we could rush up and down in that time and make it by lunch! 😉

 

So off we went to Mesar Kund, which was another stiff climb that took us 1 hour, this time it was just the three of us on the route, no human crossed us or met us on the way, there are no residences here and no one seemed to be coming that way. The three of us had to stop quite a few times to rest and catch up our breath. It was tiring but well worth the effort.

 

Here are a few pics we took :

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Walking through foliage that dense is something I love dearly!

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Encountering flowers on the way!

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Catching up breath was pretty important!

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Finally our destination!

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Mesar Kund!

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The tranquility of the place was something else the peace you could feel here was unbelievable, ideal place to sit and take deep breaths, the place was pristine and fresh and you should take in as much oxygen here as you can!

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Far away from the maddening crowd, beneath the Oak tree, gathering your thoughts! 🙂 Thats the prize you get for climbing and panting your guts out. You own places like this, there was no one but just the three of us here.

 

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From one end the view of the Panchachuli was something like this! 🙂

 

We munched about apples sitting here and watching the place and soaking the tranquility in, we didn’t bother with our packed lunches that our host had packed for us as the Sambhar Rice was playing on our minds. We hung around for around an hour at this place before the clouds threatened. We rushed but not before the rain fell on us and almost drenched us, thankfully enough we reached just in time for the Sambar Rice.

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Not the best picture, taken by mobile, however, make no mistake, this was one of the yummiest meals we had on our 15 day trip to Uttarakhand. The simplicity and yet amazingly wonderful Sambar Rice made by Ram were a highlight of this trip.

 

Amazing aint it to have authentic South Indian food cooked and served up so high North in the country and that too not in a restaurant but cooked in a camp! We emptied plates I tell you the three of us!

 

Its evident na, why I am smitten by the Himalaya’s and the people there and how I have encountered so much goodness so many times there that I just cant stop singing praises and making return trips. Not a believer in God, but if God did exist than I am sure he lived in these parts for there is still so much goodness left here! 🙂

 

A sunset

The fun thing about road trips is that you have to make halts, several halts at that, to pick up a cold bottle of water or to take a leak or to pick up some nice looking guava’s from the road side or sometimes the crowd around a Kachori wala hawker attracts you. These are some of the reasons I love road trips. You can converse all the time, you can do as per your whim all the time. This time round, instead of going to Jaipur directly from Bharuch enroute the Himalaya’s where we usually take our first break, we started a day early! Yes, that is one more perk of taking a road trip, I didn’t have much work and so we started early and we thought we would book a hotel with a pool and beat the heat.

 

So we selected Udaipur and reached there by noon, we took a dip in the pool and after that decided to stroll about the Fatehsagar lake as for us Bharuchi’s that weather that day in Udaipur was certainly pleasant. We walked about camera in hand on the many stalls of Fatehsagar lake wondering where to eat. What I didn’t know is that the place has an absolutely gorgeous setting for a sunset! Its straight out of the drawings we used to do as kids. Mostly we would have a water body, behind the water body some mountains, a sun setting or rising and maybe a few birds in the sky, a boat in the water and a few people standing by. Well I guess if I have built up an image in your head… here goes!

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There, aint it the one we, who were poor in drawing always paint this type of scenery? DSC_0297

Even junior loved the setting and kept gazing!

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As you walked about it showed different shades! Snapchat-2325227793258955769

Tea in a kulhad with such a view was a blessing I tell you! DSC_0277

Sigh… I did fall in love with this sunset!

 

 

Mandu -A conglomeration of cultures

Indian history is so vast and diverse that studying it in one lifetime perhaps is not possible, the records of such a long time are available and the fact that it is such a vast country and there is so much diversity makes it an interesting subject no end. Whilst I was taught history in school, honestly, I was not that fascinated, for in exams that would ask which year who defeated whom and all that and remember the AD and BC and all that seemed a super headache. Perhaps the system of testing instead of narrating stories was what killed it. Whilst the class would invariably be interesting, the exams would be dreaded by all of us.

 

What the history classes did not achieve was ultimately achieved by ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ 

 

Reading these books whilst growing up is one of the highlights of my life and also a stark reminder that history always fascinated me. Especially when narrated well nothing can beat the stories from the past. So during this road trip to Pench NP, we decided to drop anchor at Mandu for a day.

 

Mandu, previously known as Mandavgadh, is an amazing location, ideally to be visited in Monsoon, is an amazing conglomeration of cultures and tells you so much about India’s diverse history. The story of invasions, prosperity, art and culture booming, eventually cultural invasions and most spectacularly even architectural conversions!!

 

As our guide narrated, originally founded by Raja Bhoj, Mandu was once a prosperous town, well populated and pretty educated and liberated society. It is said even the then lowly considered weavers would be able to write shloka’s in Sanskrit back then, that high was literacy during the times of Raja Bhoj in the 11th century. Eventually as the centuries passed, it was won over by the Afghans, the Ghuri dynasty was established and began Mandu’s golden age. (source : wiki)  The subsequent take over the the Khilji’s and during the reign of one of its most colourful king Ghiyas ud din who buillt a harem of almost  women to equal the number of wive’s Krishna had (as per our guide) tells you how many tales this place holds.

 

The most popular story, which has been told a lot and even has had a popular hindi film made on is of the romance between Baz Bahadur and Rani Rupmati. The tale as narrated by the guides here is stuff of so many unbelievable happenings and makes you wonder as to how the people of that generation thought. The entire truth again is probably lying somewhere in between. How a Muslim king and a Hindu princess fall in love, their palaces which look to have been  built for practicing and performance of music and dance, the Rupmati pavilion built for her to worship the Narmada river before she ate anything overlooking the Narmada valley tells you of splendors and whims of the rulers of that era.

 

Mandu today has several World Unesco Heritage sites, its architecture from the days gone by tell you of the engineering that might have been used in those days. The swimming pools, to hot water showers, to sauna’s, numerous escape routes, the music rooms that involve telephonic technology almost are a delight to view and soak in. Do hire a good guide and do take in all the story he tells you with a pinch of salt, history they tell you might be distorted a bit, the narration however, helps build a more interesting experience. The architecture of the place as the guides show us has several traces of so much diversity Jain, Hindu, Muslim and Farsi influences are clearly visible telling you that each one came in and tried to leave their mark on history.

 

Although I visited it in March, a relatively dry and barren time of the year, ideally visit Mandu during Monsoon, not for nothing did the Mughal’s including Akbar treat this as a monsoon retreat. It is a pleasure that must not be missed. The Jahaz Mahal during the monsoon is a visual treat you do not want to miss.

 

Here are a few pics from our trip there :

On the far right is Jahaz Mahal, the entire area is flooded during monsoon, it also has a lake on its back side and appears like it is a floating palace in the monsoon. A sight you do not want to miss.

On the far right is Jahaz Mahal, the entire area is flooded during monsoon, it also has a lake on its back side and appears like it is a floating palace in the monsoon. A sight you do not want to miss.

The Jahaz mahal is said to have been a harem that housed some 16000 women, in the monsoon I am sure the Sultan boarded this ship till the rain's gave up! ;)

The Jahaz mahal is said to have been a harem that housed some 16000 women, in the monsoon I am sure the Sultan boarded this ship till the rain’s gave up! 😉

The Hoshang Shah tomb made of marble that is said to have inspired the architect's of Shah Jahan who were responsible for the Taj Mahal

The Hoshang Shah tomb made of marble that is said to have inspired the architect’s of Shah Jahan who were responsible for the Taj Mahal

The walking path in the Rani Rupmati Pavilion

The walking path in the Rani Rupmati Pavilion

This used to be the swimming pool in Baz Bahadur's palace, amazing is how they managed the water cleaning system and all.

This used to be the swimming pool in Baz Bahadur’s palace, amazing is how they managed the water cleaning system and all.

Hindola Mahal, the place where the women kept in the harem would entertain themselves on swings.

Hindola Mahal, the place where the women kept in the harem would entertain themselves on swings.

The hindola mahal from inside, said to have had huge swings in its time.

The hindola mahal from inside, said to have had huge swings in its time.

A perspective of Jami Masjid in Mandu

A perspective of Jami Masjid in Mandu

Mandu is a delight for any photographer! A must visit place

Mandu is a delight for any photographer! A must visit place

The wanderlust in you will love this place over looking the Narmada Valley!

The wanderlust in you will love this place over looking the Narmada Valley!

 

When you walk…

I mean when you walk long distances that test your endurance and you successfully complete those treks you don’t just surprise yourself but actually discover a completely new self of yours that you didn’t know exists.

After the 5 hour walk to Rumbak and not being able to really eat much apart from a few bowls of soup the first night was slightly uncomfortable. All evening was spent shivering as most of the Bukhari was already surrounded and I had to sit slightly away from it. When eventually I got my chance near it I actually managed to snooze for a good hour. That one hour of sleep probably made matters worse as the night was quite uncomfortable. We were 4 people in a 15ft by 15 feet room with a Bukhari in the middle. Sleeping inside sleeping bags with 5 layers was not a good idea. Infact I was advise to remove all layers and socks and sleep in one layer inside the sleeping bag and blanket. However, the fear or feeling cold in the night ensured I didn’t take that advice.

Already whilst walking that day in the end I felt like I had twitched something in my leg and I was already feeling a bit of pain so I slept in full layers and that night was actually odd, I felt warm, so warm and suffocated that I could barely sleep, however, early morning I actually managed to catch about 2 hours of sleep.

At breakfast we learnt that 4 guys were actually going back to Leh, that group of 4 had come a day later and one of them was quite sick and another one actually wanted to go back from the moment he landed in Leh as he felt it was way too cold.

I would be lying if I would say I was not tempted. The sick one got a horse whilst the other 3 decided to walk the distance. Walking is a better idea than the horse trust me. Because when you walk you feel warmer. Even sitting in the sun sometimes chills ran through your body. Whilst you are walking you are fine.

I don’t know what got into me and I somehow decided I would give myself one more day to adjust to the conditions. That day we started a tad late around 11 and walked all the way to Stok La near the base of Stok Kangri the tallest peak in that vicinity. The walk apart from being scenic and adventurous was actually my attempt at walking through the pain and checking out my leg and also tiring myself enough so that I would plonk in sleep at night. Amazingly my leg was not giving me any trouble in walking but only when I decided to fold my leg and sit that it would pain me. I was just glad that I did not return that day and gave myself time.

We walked till about 4.30 that day when we finally came back to the Bukhari at our homestay back in the village. The second night was a lot better, as I removed the layers and slept much more comfortably, the next morning the pain of the leg had disappeared and I walk up with a grumbling stomach that was ready to devour some heavy breakfast!

I forgot to mention about the village Rumbak, with a population of 72 including kids as we were informed, it is set beside the Rumbak nullah from which it derives its name. Picturesque, serene, almost sleepy and pretty much empty at most times thanks to the winter cold it keeps gazing at Stok Kangri all day long. At times you get amazed and infact wonder what are these people doing living here in these cold dry conditions? But then our guide Rigzin told us that this place in summer is quite different that you could even see some people in shorts in summers. It is a base for Trekking and expeditions to Stok Kangri in summers and in the winters it becomes a place to make your base for tracking the snow leopard. The Snow Leopard Conservancy has helped the locals convert their houses into decent homestays. Each homestay charges you Rs. 800 in summers per person and 1000 in winters, the 200 extra is because in winters you burn wood in the Bukhari’s whilst in summers the Bukhari’s are dismantled.

All the homestays have a pretty decent dining room, they have also been now equipped with beddings that are quite comfortable and blankets. The folks with whom we stayed were quite shy and soft spoken, keeping to the kitchen and their work mostly not disturbing us. It took us almost two days to break the ice and get them to actually sit and talk and share their experiences with us.

Not only did the locals serve us what amazed us was their ability to work so hard in such conditions, whilst we would always would be delegating some work to one another and constantly evade the same work, these people never had any qualms on their face no matter how many times you told them to make butter tea or black tea or heaten some milk for coffee or get some extra wood for the Bukhari they just got on with it. Trust me even the best of hotel’s wont be serving you this well.

The next day morning we all left our homestay at 7.45 am sharp for our trek, yes like I told you, when you walk and walk and walk through exhaustion you will surprise yourself with the new guy you suddenly realise you are! 😀 😀 😀

Here are a few pictures from the day one of the trek and of the homestay and Rumbak village!

That is the Rumbak settlement a pretty picturesque setting eh!?

That is the Rumbak settlement a pretty picturesque setting eh!?

Tarchok! Thats the name of our abode for 4 days! :)

Tarchok! Thats the name of our abode for 4 days! 🙂

Another homestay besides our abode. The hues in the place are something else. Its  a kind of barren beauty!

Another homestay besides our abode. The hues in the place are something else. Its a kind of barren beauty! Top cliff on the top right hand side has a stupa on top. The places where these guys build stupa’s is absolutely crazy!!!

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We set off on day 2 towards Stok La!

We set off on day 2 towards Stok La!

The view alongside!

The view alongside!

The shades!

The shades!

Some more colours!

Some more colours!

Well...

Well…

This is where we ended our journey for the day and returned!

This is where we ended our journey for the day and returned!

Once back from the trek... this is the most popular place to sit...

Once back from the trek… this is the most popular place to sit…

Faces of India – III

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This baba was sitting at the entrance of the main gate of the Jaisalmer Fort and was quite happy to pose and even asked me to pay him something since he had posed for me. Whilst the baniya in me just gave a ten’er away, our guide Mr Lalit Vaishnav had a mischevous smile on his face and whilst he was smirking and I asked him he told me to finish my business with the baba and that he would tell me about him later.

As soon as we left the baba behind and walked ahead our guide told us that this Baba has some 6-7 trucks, woh bhi those trucks which have 16-20 tyres that run between Delhi to Jaipur and that he is the owner of a big business!!!

I am not sure if my guide was bluffing, throughout our 3 hours with the guide I kept asking and looking for hints to see if he was just making up the story. If indeed that story is true I must say I am flabbergasted! :mrgreen:

To see more in the series of Faces of India meme go here.