India Journal 3

10/7/2004:  1948 In tent at Mendoli.

Lying in the tent about ready to sleep.  Drove another 7+ hours of challenging road again today.  Have done over 10,000 ft of climbing on edge of cliff mountain roads the past 2 days.  Other than being relieved to be out of a car and ready to start trekking, we have decided that (1) anything we do on the trek will be a piece of cake compared to the car ride, and (2) no matter what challenges we face the next two weeks on the trail we will be exiting the trek in Auli (the other end of the trail).  Point #2 is motivated by the conviction that there is no way either of us will take the car ride we just did in reverse.  I can’t imaging anyone, other than an Indian who has traveled these roads all his life, being able to do this on a regular basis and survive to adulthood.

We are camping in Mendoli tonight and will ascend by foot about 10,000 feet over the next three days.  I have a bummer of a cold and hope that it clears up before we do our big ascent in two days.  I lost about three pounds of mucous over the past two days, which I am sure thrilled my car companions (driver, cook, Mo and picked up guide in Renikhet).

We were going to start trekking this afternoon, but the sky looked threatening and our Boss (head guide Retan) decided it would be better to camp here and hike in the AM.

Good call, since right after the tent was set up the sky let loose with a monsoon quality down poor.  Continued to rain through the evening, so we had black tea and dinner in our tent.

 

10/8/2004: 1341 

                        Today Total

Ascent              1591

 Descent           360

Some time during the night the rain stopped and the stars came out.  This morning it is sunny with a few clouds.  The temperature seem perfect for hiking.  Had a pretty good night sleep and woke at 5:30 AM with my cold much improved.

We had our tea and breakfast sitting in a small meadow by our tent.  Finally got trekking around 8 AM.

The first 4-5 km was on a mountain road through tremendous forests with waterfalls.  We passed through a small and very poor town called Lohapani.  In spite of the poverty and filth, every one in the town smiled and said Nameste (universal greeting in India, Nepal, Butan and all Hindu and Buddhist countries) as we passed.  The kids in every town are amazing and amazed with us.  We encountered some of the older kids (9-12) walking the 5 km from their village to Mendoli.  The smaller children, grades 1-5, were on their way to school in Lohapani.  Poverty does not seem to be a deterrent to dressing neatly, being friendly and being excited about school.

I have to recall a scene from yesterday as we drove to Mendoli.  We were driving along the Pinda River through a town called Debal.  The Pindar is a good sized, fast running river out of the Himalayas.  It is one of the seven holy rivers that forms the Ganges.  I digress.  Just past Debal I looked right toward the river and saw a school classroom in session.  Not generally an event worth taking space in my memory banks, but in this case it was.  There was an open slab of cement about 20’ X 30’ sitting right above the rivers edge.  The slab had no roof and no walls.  There were about 20 kids sitting crossed legged on the slab facing the direction of the river.  At the front of the concrete slab just over the glacial blue Pindar River was a teacher writing on a blackboard.

Back to today…

Another 5-6 km past Lohapani we came to Kuling and literally the end of the road.  The dirt road we had been traveling on ended at a small group of shops where it narrowed and became a stone path.  The path crossed a small wooden bridge over a crystal clear stream, and off in to the mountains we went.

 

 

 

 

 

The road between Lohapani and Kuling.  Woman on road carrying cut grass.  Note waterfall in background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a small change in the itinerary.  We were supposed to camp tonight at Didina, but due to a washed out  trail we are going to Wan.  Makes no difference to me.

We passed through the town of Wan and climbed another 700 ft or so until we found a good camp area.  Our Wan camp is a small Shangri-La with crystal clear mountain streams, large ferns, green grass and enormous old growth cedars (or some relative of the Redwood) and pines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Area around camp at Wan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After we had set up camp we were hanging around meeting some of the local kids when an old woman came hiking down the trail from the higher mountains with a friend.  As she came by our camp she called out in the Kings English, “Where are you from?” .  We said the United States and she asked where.  We said Colorado and she asked “Denver?”.  When we told her we were from Steamboat, she actually knew where it was.  She asked if we were familiar with Ft. Collins.  Of course I had lived there for several years.  It turned out she had taken an ecology course at CSU.

We had a nice conversation and then she asked where we were off to.  We told her we were going to Roop Kund.  She said, “oh that’s nice, my friend and I hiked there today.  It is a very challenging hike, but at 74 I’m not as fit as I once was.  Good luck”.  With this she said she had to catch her friend, and literally ran off down the trail. 

Not as fit as she once was?  Before she got old she must have been Wonder Woman or at least an Olympic marathoner.  Roop Kund is 8,500 ft above our current elevation with a one way distance of about 22 km (26 miles round trip).

 

 

 

 

Little old lady who could kick our butts.

 

 

This encounter was remarkable for many reasons: (1) She was the first person we had met in 5 days who could actually speak English, (2) coincidence of her having lived in Colorado and (3) EVERYTHING ELSE.

 

 

 

 

 

10/9/2004: Wan to Bendi Bugyal

                        Today              Total

Ascent              3,888               5,471

 Descent           1,617               1,977

Woke up this AM to one of the town children standing outside our tent playing a toy flute.  Four of the children who had been around yesterday had hiked up from the village to visit.  We had brought some small toys, crayons, pens and paper along for presents and gave them each a small item.  They were thrilled.  One of the little girls named Heme was particularly attached to Mo.  She was at camp about 5:30 AM.  Heme had two sickles that she used to cut grass in the area and always carried these.  There was a beautiful Hindu shrine on the hill above camp and Heme went with us to visit the shrine.  She made sure we removed our shoes and that Mo covered her head.

 

 

 

Mo and Heme at the shrine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By 8:30 we had eaten breakfast and broke camp and were on the trail.  We said good by to our new friends (we thought) and headed up a near 1,000 ft climb.  The entire way I could hear a child walking behind us.  We knew he was there by an intermittent moist cough.  I told Mo we were being shadowed, but never looked back.  When we reached the top of this climb I looked back and there stood a young boy of no more than 6 or 7 years of age.  In spite of his age and respiratory illness he had had no problem following us up this steep 900 ft climb.  I snapped a picture of him and then he was gone.  I’m sure we will never see him again. 

 

 

 

 

 

Young traveling

companion just

past Wan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We dropped in to a valley after the first climb and crossed a river before we started a long sustained 3,000 ft climb to above tree line.  The entire ascent, until we reached tree line at about 11,300 ft, was in a tropical appearing rain forest.  Large trees covered with moss, ferns and orchids filled the forest.

Bugyal means high meadow.  These are areas above tree line in the Himalayas that are relatively level and grass and wild flowers abound.  Bedni Bugyal is one of the premier high country meadows in the Garhwal Region of the Himalayas.  As we entered the meadow we could see three peaks over 20,000 ft, Trisul, Nilkantha and Nanda Gunti.

Bendi Bugyal is a main stop on the Hindu pilgrimage to Roop Kund that occurs every 12 years.  In the center of the bugyal is are ancient holy shrines surround by a low wall.  This is where the faithful gather every 12 years to listen to the Brahman.  It is quite today since the next holy pilgrimage is in 2012.

Tomorrow we move up to 15,000 ft to Bhagwa Basa.  Right now the weather is a little unsettled.

 

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