Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Himalayan Diaries - Day 5 – Birahi to Shivpuri, March, 5, 2012

The guest house at Birahi, a town that has about 20-30 dwellings I should think, was a nice cozy place and I decided to sleep late and woke up last. Nothing like feeling the luxury of a deep, satisfying sleep, and waking up to the comfort of nature - trees, breeze, the fragrance, bird calls and the silence of the mountains. It was one of those days when everyone was up and ready to go including Aditya who normally likes an extra hour to snooze - unlike the older men like us who find it difficult to sleep. 
View from the guest house

After a sumptuous breakfast of toast, eggs, paranthas and so on we headed out. We backtracked a bit to see some project sites on a road less travelled. Story is that due to an earthquake that happened many years ago a lake was formed, Dharmatal (I think?) and the British used the lake as a vacation spot. Roads were laid, bridges made and the Britishers came by to hunt and fish and so on. Makes you wonder at all the things the British did in an alien land to entertain themselves, to make life fun and adventurous. Most of our current hill stations and vacation spots seem to be the findings of the British. For their sense of adventure, one must admire the foreign brigade. Mohan, the teller of these stories, lives up on a hill here and he showed us the steps that lead up to his house - a vertical climb. The lake broke bank and caused some havoc many years ago. Forgot if the lake was still there.
What is it about nature that makes everyone stare at it?
The guest house

Fine rain, cloudy skies, chilly weather – it was heavenly once again. Vasu showed us a contraption that uses hydro power to grind wheat - a chakki. Water is used as it flows downstream in exactly the same way as a hydro power project does and villages use it to grind wheat. It had gates, pipelines, a power/processing house. Very quaint.
The hydro powered chakki (the house like structure)
Children going to school

Holi revellers collecting donations

Koni and Kiri decided to take a walk down the road and I half went with them - the weather being so good. Ranjan warned them of having seen a panther on these roads - it stared at him and walked away - and I decided not to engage with panthers. Mohan says that they normally do not attack, but bears do and they can get pretty nasty.
The mountains

After a while we headed out. Next destination – Kaudiyala which is 35 kms short of Rishikesh – where the GMVN has some fine resorts and rafting arrangements. This was a drive of some 120 kms or so and we headed out in some really fine weather stopping for the odd chai, a lunch of Maggi and toast and breezed down the mountains. Vasu, Koni and I were in one vehicle and it was fun to listen to Vasu's considerable, almost encyclopediac knowledge of things - history, science, religion, politics etc. 
Vasu and I engaged in some discussion while Aditya heads down to the river

Vasu is a most fascinating guy with his penchant for adventure, for collecting knowledge, his eye for detail, his Dhoni like calm under all circumstances, his capacity to retain his sense of humour in all conditions, to do the most unexpected of things, his clarity on issues and his amazing powers of articulation. 

High up on the perfection scale, uncompromising when it comes to himself but he has the compassion and maturity to cut lesser mortals some slack, punctual, respectful of individual need for expression and stuff like that. But if I were to pick one quality of Vasu it would be his equanimity in all conditions that would define him.
Laughter that is only possible with old friends - Koni, Kiri and Ranjan

While on this let me also pick what defines my other friends on this trip to me. Aditya the youngest, for his clarity of expression mostly in all that he does.
Aditya overlooking Dev Prayag

 And, for holding his own and for his sense of adventure, humour - he will do exactly what he wants and do well in that in a few years from now. Star sportsman of his school, rock star, intelligent and adventurous - he did the longest time in the icy waters of the Ganga, floating by behind the raft.
Kiran would be defined by his unwavering sense of balance and a strong will (now a marathon runner and superbly fit) which is one of his main strong points to me - his strong sense of responsibility, he is immensely affectionate (you have to listen to him talk to his children), has a hidden side that craves for adventure that, like Vasu's, is not easily seen. And for all this, he has a deep love to know new things, is well informed on all the latest, the gadgets, the vehicles, the books, the works, loves his music, his drink, his books, his movies - all that he is passionate about. Again one of the most well informed, very passionate about what he believes in.
Ranjan to me is defined by his sense of humour that comes through at the first instance, a schoolboy spirit in its pure form, that he is happiest with. I think that it is this quality that pops us easily, with his one liners, the tag lines on the greeting cards and so on. Another thing that pops up is his fiercely competitive side in games and sports, and his hidden side I suspect is that of a romantic in a most sentimental manner about people, things, relationships and life. Again one of the most hardworking of the lot when it comes to work Ranjan also has the Libran quality of stepping inside and being at peace with his quiet - I do suspect that he is in some way becoming a lot more spiritual these days. 
Koni is defined by one word - enterprise. Always game to try new things, to go where no one has gone before, to make that extra effort to get what he wants. But hidden under the rough and rugged, coarse and crude demeanour that he has adopted, he is also the guy who has far more compassion to people and nature, his own understanding of society and its laws, an original interpretation of life itself. He can easily go stand in the line for you for hours to keep your illusion of his strength going - and he can easily cry when caught by the tax authorities. A paradox.

We reached Kaudiyala at 7 in the evening after a long winding climb down the mountains. We stopped for a few minutes at Dev Prayag on the way though. 
Dev Prayag

The GMVN resort had no accommodation. Fortunately we found a resort a few kms down the slope which offered us tents on the riverbed of Ganga, on the other side of the river, so we had to take a raft to cross, and the promise of rafting the rapids the next day. We headed to that camp and once again it was magical. The moon was almost full, we were right on the river bed with the Ganga flowing past, a bonfire, tents, mountains both sides, forest behind – ah, heaven. Bottles were opened again, songs sung, played, crazy laughter, nice food and by the time we retired it was well past midnight once again. The other youngsters in the camp stayed on much longer, drunk out of their wits.

In the tent Koni told me a story in three parts of a murderer who was the watchman at the camp. The murderer does not like snorers and axes them in their sleep. I drifted off to sleep dreaming of the mass murderer.


Rajendra said...

good going. seems worth doing once a year or more!

Harimohan said...

Oh yes, we laughed so much that it hurt. Definitely recommended once a year at least.