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Himalayan Yatra 2016 Experiences

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Shruthi Srid­har, stu­dent, Amri­ta Uni­ver­si­ty and Shrinid­hi who is head­ing to pur­sue her MBA share the pro­ceed­ings and their expe­ri­ences of the Himalayan Yatra in a vivid and beau­ti­ful man­ner. Pho­to cred­its to Sri­ram, Adarsh and Gowr­is­hankar

It has been one week since my return from Himalayan Yatra 2016. The mem­o­ries reg­is­tered in my head are still crys­tal clear, the images cap­tured by my mind cam­era haven’t yet begun fad­ing, I can still feel the cold wind blow­ing and some­where far far away I hear laugh­ter, mer­ri­ment and cheers. The voic­es are famil­iar and that famil­iar­i­ty spreads an unimag­in­able warmth in me. The Himalayan Yatra 2016 did change life tremen­dous­ly. So, here I sit, with a mil­lion images flood­ing my eyes, sigh­ing deeply once in a while , look­ing back on the most mem­o­rable days of my life.

Near­ly 40 peo­ple ‚from dif­fer­ent walks of life, met at the Coim­bat­ore Junc­tion on 5th June and board­ed the Kongu Express to Del­hi. And so began the jour­ney that changed lives and per­spec­tives phe­nom­e­nal­ly. The remain­ing 12 peo­ple joined us from Del­hi.

The train Jour­ney that I expect­ed to be unman­age­ably dull and bor­ing wasn’t real­ly so. The sce­nario changed from awk­ward HIs and HEL­LOs with strangers in the begin­ning to invent­ing and play­ing games that were laugh riots with the very same peo­ple. We all became 10 year old enthu­si­as­tic chil­dren com­ing up with new games every once in a while to kill bore­dom. We invent­ed card games, word games, mem­o­ry games and what not there­by unleash­ing our child­ish cre­ativ­i­ty. By the end of the jour­ney, we weren’t strangers any­more. All ice was bro­ken and shat­tered.

Anoth­er thing about the train jour­ney was the num­ber of cities, vil­lages and states we were pass­ing through. It showed us the diver­si­ty of India in two days. Of solar fields and dish tv anten­nas in slums, of rains and rivers and hot air and rocks, of myr­i­ad cul­tures and chang­ing cli­mates, of peo­ple, places and things, the train jour­ney recit­ed a poem about the coun­try that it was run­ning across.

After a lot more intense gam­ing and inter­act­ing, we reached Hazrat Niz­za­mudin, Del­hi. From H.Nizamuddin we took a bus to Sarai Rohi­la Sta­tion, Del­hi. Our train to Harid­war was sched­uled at 9:30 pm.

We reached Harid­war in the morn­ing and took a 45 min­utes auto ride to Kriya Yoga Ashram,Rishikesh.

After a short ses­sion, we went to Vashish­ta Guha and the river­side of Ma Gan­ga. There were peb­bles of all sizes lying around and Ma Gan­ga was flow­ing calmy by the banks. The water was cold and a bridge across the riv­er in a dis­tance com­plet­ed the set­ting beau­ti­ful­ly. It was like some­one had giv­en life to a beau­ti­ful paint­ing. After tak­ing a dip in the holy Ganges and absorb­ing the seren­i­ty of the set­ting we went into Vashish­ta Guha. Sage Vashish­ta is said have done his penance in this cave. We returned to the ashram and went to the med­i­ta­tion hall. We’d gone there ear­li­er that day before we left for Vashish­ta Guha.

Shrinid­hi: As only 10 peo­ple could med­i­tate in the Gufa at a time, I decid­ed to first take a plunge in the warm water. When I stepped into the water I was in for a shock! At 3 PM when the sun was right above , the water in the Ganges was icy cold ! We took a quick plunge and went to the Vasish­ta Gufa and med­i­tat­ed there. It was cool and the atmos­phere was charged with pow­er­ful vibes. Med­i­tat­ing there was a very pos­i­tive expe­ri­ence.

At the Kriya Yoga ashram, we attend­ed the 6:30 pm arati and med­i­tat­ed for a while. Set in an ellip­ti­cal dome with absolute­ly no light, the hall was cold, calm and qui­et. There were cir­cu­lar rugs with cush­ions on the floor.

The next day we trav­elled to Uki­math. We reached Uki­math in the ear­ly evening and went to the Uki­math Shi­va Tem­ple for the 7 pm arati.

Shrinid­hi: except our two Guides – Smirithi ma’am and Adi sir, we were all filled with anx­i­ety and enthu­si­asm togeth­er as we board­ed the bus to Ukhi­math. The mar­riage of Anirud­ha (Krishna’s grand­son) and Usha ( Daugh­ter of Bana­sura) took place in the square adja­cent to the Omkaresh­wara shrine. The thought that we were for­tu­nate enough to tread the place that was once stepped upon by such Avathara Purushas made me feel extreme­ly blessed.

The tem­ple priest told us the stha­la­pu­rana of Uki­math.

The Pan­cha Pan­davas renounced their king­dom and wealth to do tapas in the Himalayas and their penance was so pow­er­ful and devout that Lord Shi­va decid­ed to test them. He appeared in the form of a huge bull in front of them. Yud­his­tra asked Bhi­ma to block the way. But, the bull enlarged itself so much that dif­fer­ent parts of the bull appeared on dif­fer­ent parts of Himalayas. The Pan­cha Pan­davas built tem­ples in the places where the parts appeared and these are called the Pan­cha Kedars today. These are Tun­ganath, Kedar­nath, Rudranth, Kalpesh­war and Madhma­hesh­war. But, the best part about Uki­math is that vis­it­ing Uki­math is equiv­a­lent of vis­it­ing all oth­er 5 kedars of Lord Shi­va. Anoth­er sto­ry relat­ed to Uki­math is that Lord Krishna’s great grand­son Anirud­ha and Usha got mar­ried in this tem­ple and hence it’s called Uki­math mean­ing Usha ki Math.

Also, the Shi­va Lin­gaa from Kedar­nath is brought down to Uki­math and the rit­u­als are per­formed in Uki­math dur­ing extreme win­ter as Kedar­nath remains closed due to snow avalanch­es.

The ener­gy of the place was so divine and pow­er­ful that I real­ized the val­ue of the trip. There are so many peo­ple who wish to vis­it these places and I had had that won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ty. I was tru­ly grate­ful to be present there in that moment: The moment when the bells were ring­ing with a mys­ti­cal rhythm , the moment the weath­er changed from stuffy heat to bit­ing cold, the moment the chill in the air car­ried a Himalayan lega­cy, the moment we res­onat­ed with the divin­i­ty of the place. It was moments like these that defined the trip. Moments like these that mold­ed us into bet­ter human beings. We med­i­tat­ed there for a while, chant­ed Aum Namah Shiv­aya and let the ener­gy flow freely.

Uki­math rooms were a com­plete dull down from what we had in Rishikesh. There were 7 of us in one room. The place was cramped and cold. We got just enough sleep to catch up for the next day. But, this kind of run­ning on min­i­mal resources didn’t seem like a big hur­dle in front of the beau­ty of Himalayas and what we reaped out of the trip. In short, we learnt to look at the good things life had to offer rather than com­plain about the absence of com­fort.

On 10th June, our day start­ed at 4 in the morn­ing. We woke up, took a show­er and left the ashram in ear­ly hours of the day for we had the Tun­ganath peak to con­quer for the day. Tun­ganath, where do I begin?

We took a bus to the foot of Tun­ganath. Had nice hot aloo paratas and chai for break­fast and start­ed the climb by ring­ing the bells at the entrance with all ener­gy and enthu­si­asm. Look­ing back, our reg­u­lar trek diet com­prised of Aloo parathas and chai.

Tun­ganath and Chan­drashila

Hence began our jour­ney up Tun­ganath. It was all breezy in the begin­ning, pic­turesque moun­tains stood as if they were wait­ing to be pho­tographed, hors­es strolled by car­ry­ing peo­ple, oth­er pil­grims walked around tak­ing pic­tures, putting their self­ie sticks to max­i­mum use. This was our first acquain­tance with trekking and very hon­est­ly, we were a lit­tle breath­less before reach­ing even half a kilo­me­ter. But, as the trek pro­gressed we learnt to over­look breath­less­ness and take in the scenery around with all eyes and ears. There were lush green lawns every­where. Not the lawns that were well man­i­cured and mowed down reg­u­lar­ly. These were the kind of lawns main­tained by nature, the kind of lawns strewn with rocks and peb­bles, the wild, untamed grass greet­ed us every­where and the green­ery soothed our sens­es. The tem­per­a­ture kept dip­ping as we went up and the view kept get­ting big­ger and bet­ter.

One thing that amazed me about the trek was how sup­port­ive peo­ple were. Here I am, stand­ing in a strange land, 2000 kms away from home, with a huge group of strangers, but the thing about these strangers was that they cared about me. They were con­cerned. They con­stant­ly checked on me. They were wor­ried about my safe­ty. And sud­den­ly, they weren’t strangers at all. They were acquain­tances. They were friends. They were fam­i­ly.

We reached the Tun­ganath peak com­fort­ably after trekking the entire morn­ing. We bought arati taals from a near­by shop, filled a jar with gan­ga jal and entered the tem­ple. Tun­ganath, at 3680 mts above sea lev­el is the high­est Shi­va shrine in the world. Mount Kailash is high­er but it is not a shrine as such. The tem­per­a­ture inside the Tun­ganath tem­ple was way less­er than out­side and the chill instant­ly hit the spine remind­ing us of the sanc­ti­ty of the place we were in. Namah Shiv­ayam rever­ber­at­ed with­in the walls of the tem­ple. We com­plet­ed the rit­u­als and stepped out.

Once we were out of the tem­ple, we were all set to trek to Chan­drashila Peak which was anoth­er one and a half kilo­me­ters high­er. It was 4400mts above sea lev­el with a nar­row­er and steep­er way up. There was also a loose warn­ing that there might just be fog seen from that height.

Shed­ding all inhi­bi­tions and appre­hen­sions, we set to con­quer Chan­drashila. But, in all hon­esty, the one and a half kilo­me­ter climb to Chan­darshi­la was much more dif­fi­cult than what we had antic­i­pat­ed. The path was nar­row, steep and slip­pery. We were breath­less, exhaust­ed and were on the verge of giv­ing up. But, with a lit­tle sup­port from the co trekkers, we reached the peak.

Chan­drashila Peak was such an enchant­i­ng beau­ty that it got me spell­bound. The goose­bumps I got in the moment I saw the Indi­an Nation­al Flag fly­ing high and proud atop the Kali Tem­ple will be marked as a moment I’ll remem­ber for a life­time. After all, we’d trekked half the dis­tance of Mount Ever­est and it’s not a feat that many humans achieve. I walked behind the tem­ple with my heart beat­ing fast and what await­ed me on the oth­er side swept me off my feet. Moth­er Nature pre­sent­ed her­self in all her beau­ty in front of me and wher­ev­er I turned I could only gape at her pris­tine ele­gance. If we take a look at our every­day lives, we are sur­round­ed by so many man made things, so much human influ­ence in the world. There is so much arti­fi­cial­i­ty that eyes dry out due to lack of nature. And here I was, stand­ing on a no man’s land, breath­ing in the clean­est air I’d ever breathed, gap­ing open mouthed at the grandeur of Nature, calm­ing my eyes with all the green­ery, sooth­ing my ears with the resound­ing silence, sync­ing all my sens­es with the slow cold wind. I let myself be car­ried away, I let every­thing go. We were res­onat­ing with nature and cel­e­brat­ing our one­ness with it. We sat on the edge of the world, quite lit­er­al­ly and med­i­tat­ed with our eyes open. We let our mind cam­eras cap­ture as many images as pos­si­ble and let our thoughts wan­der far and beyond our con­trol. After all, it was a land hard­ly tread­ed and we’d con­quered it in all glo­ry. Unde­ni­ably the best 30 min­utes of my life.

Chan­drashila Peak: A tru­ly sur­re­al expe­ri­ence.

Shrinid­hi: This was a trek in the true sense as there were no prop­er roads to the tem­ple. At the end of the trek, we were in the high­est tem­ple in India , at an alti­tude of 4300m above the sea lev­el ! The scenery there was absolute­ly breath tak­ing and we were all elat­ed at see­ing heli­copters and eagles fly­ing below us ! That was a one-of-a-kind expe­ri­ence. The trek down was more chal­leng­ing than we thought ! One miss and it would be a Hump­ty Dump­ty but we all made it with the grace of Lord Shi­va.

We climbed down Tun­ganath and reached the bot­tom in the evening. We wait­ed for oth­ers to return and then board­ed a bus back to Uki­math. This remind­ed us of the impor­tance of resources. Com­pared to Uki­math, Rishikesh’s ashram seemed com­fort­able. But, atop Tun­ganath, even Ukimath’s ashram felt like a lux­u­ry we can’t afford. We learnt to appre­ci­ate resources and hence anoth­er life les­son was learnt.

It start­ed rain­ing heav­i­ly on our way back and the dri­ver maneu­vered through some dif­fi­cult bends skill­ful­ly there­by avert­ing fatal acci­dents. Yet anoth­er thing to be grate­ful about.

We reached Uki­math in all health, thanked the dri­ver, had din­ner and called it a day. An amaz­ing day, that.

After the tir­ing trek up Tun­ganath, it was decid­ed that we have a sim­ple day in order to charge up for a trek that will be thrice as dif­fi­cult as the pre­vi­ous. We went to Gup­takashi and Kali­math.

Gup­takashi and Kali­math

We start­ed from the ashram at 9:30am and went to Gup­takashi. Gup­takashi stands for Secret Kashi. It was a small tem­ple with one spe­cial fea­ture. There were two metal­lic bull and ele­phant fig­ures pro­trud­ing from a wall, the water com­ing out of their mouths was said be a mix­ture of Gan­ga and Yamu­na.

After Gup­takashi, we went to Bio­met­ric to reg­is­ter our­selves for Kedar­nath night stay in tents. Once that pro­ce­dure was done, we head­ed to Kali­math.

There is a belief that God­dess Kali lost her tem­per, cut her­self into pieces and threw the parts every­where. And the places where each of her parts fell have become major Kali tem­ples. Kali­math is one of those tem­ples. The most strik­ing thing about Kali­math was the long line of bells tied close to each oth­er. I per­son­al­ly loved run­ning my fin­gers along the bells to cre­ate the con­tin­u­ous jin­gle.

We had ear­ly din­ner and took to bed ear­ly. A very sim­ple yet mem­o­rable day.

Shrinidhi:We returned to Ukhi­math and lis­tened to a sat­sang by a swami­ji on Yoga , about Bharatham and how oth­er coun­tries have realised the val­ue of our vedic prac­tices (and how we are still being igno­rant and aping the west). We also learnt Gana­p­athi Namaskara which is a proven super brain exer­cise.

Kedar­nath

On 12th June, we began our trek up Kedar­nath, a thrice as long, thrice as cold and thrice as rig­or­ous trek as the Tun­ganath trek.

The day began at 2 in the morn­ing. A long day was sched­uled for us and we were geared up to face it. We took enough sup­plies to keep us warm and dry.

A two hour bus jour­ney took us to Son­prayag where we bought rain­coats and trekking sticks. After hav­ing a light break­fast on the road­sides, we took jeeps to Gowrikund. I sat on the rear end of the jeep, hold­ing onto the top and look­ing out at the road, the trees and the moun­tains I was leav­ing behind. A poet­ic moment, I’d say. There was slight driz­zling en route but the driz­zling devel­oped into heavy rains with­in min­utes. We were all soak­ing wet even before we could put on our dis­pos­able rain­coats. We tried walk­ing up with that but, it was uncom­fort­able and dif­fi­cult. We took shel­ter under a shop and wait­ed. With­tin 5 min­utes, news came to us that our trek had been can­celled and the roads lead­ing up to Kedar­nath have been blocked due to heavy rains. We walked back deject­ed and took jeeps back to Son­prayag. Although Kedar­nath was a chal­lenge, we were look­ing for­ward to tak­ing it. But, nature is unpre­dictable and so is life. We learnt that les­son. We went back to Son­prayag and we were warm­ing our­selves when news came to us that the trek was back on and the can­cel­la­tion has been called off. I had nev­er felt more hap­pi­ness in the world. Nev­er. We went back to Gowrikund, ate hot aloo parathas, bought new socks and changed into them, rent­ed prop­er rain­coats, got warm, dry and com­fort­able again and then start­ed the trek at around 9 am.

Shrinid­hi: As we were about to start, there was an offi­cial announce­ment say­ing that due to risk of land­slides due to down­pour, the Chard­ham was to be closed for 48 hours. We stood there dis­ap­point­ed that Lord Kedaresh­wara was “So near but so far away” and also lit­tle relieved that they din’t ask us to come back after we had gone half way. After all, we had seen on our trip back from Tung­nath how much dan­ger rains can cause in the moun­tains. We took the jeep back to Son­prayag and we were await­ing fur­ther instruc­tions when we got the news that the trek was open since the rain had stopped ! We hur­ried to resume our aban­doned trek quick­ly clear­ing our shoes of logged water and get­ting into dry socks.

We trekked up with a steady pace cov­er­ing one kilo­me­ter in half an hour, halt­ing at scenic loca­tions to take pic­tures and self­ies.

The trek was long and the path kept wind­ing up and up. It felt like there was no end to it. We trekked the whole day and at a high­er alti­tude, the tem­per­a­ture sud­den­ly dropped dras­ti­cal­ly and we had to wear gloves and muf­flers to stay warm.

After brief chai and Mag­gi breaks, we con­tin­ued up again. The last leg of the jour­ney brought with itself a num­ber of pleas­ant sur­pris­es.

First up, the scenic beau­ty was grow­ing to be inde­scrib­ably exot­ic. The wind was cold and the air was fresh, a huge herd of moun­tain sheep grazed the wild grass, heli­copters fly­ing over­head dis­rupt­ed the still­ness occa­sion­al­ly and the wind­ing path curved beau­ti­ful­ly tak­ing us up, up and up.

Sec­ond: our first encounter with snow. Our spir­its soared so high at the mere sight of snow. The white crys­tal mass of hap­pi­ness in our palms and smiles from ear to ear on our faces. we took some of it in our hands and threw it up to the sky on a count of three. I will remem­ber this moment more vivid­ly than ever. Small moments like these make the biggest dif­fer­ence when they become mem­o­ries.

Third, first glimpse of the snow peaks from a dis­tance. Far far away, there they stood majes­ti­cal­ly, huge moun­tains cov­ered com­plete­ly in snow, the sun­light reflect­ing on them, on a clear cloud­less sky. They stood so tall, with so much ele­gance, Nature’s pris­tine beau­ty, unper­turbed, untouched by the humans. Def­i­nite­ly worth trekking up.

Fourth, walk­ing through clouds. As we were near­ing the end of the trek, a dense cov­er of fog engulfed us com­plete­ly, leav­ing us freez­ing amidst it. We could see only a 100mts in front of us, whichev­er side we turned we saw fog, a fog that crept around us qui­et­ly and blan­ket­ed us with its cold arms. We were walk­ing through the clouds and that moment made his­to­ry. On cloud nine? Yes, lit­er­al­ly.

We reached the base camp at 7:30pm.3500 mts above sea lev­el, 22kms trek up, we’d done it. We’d done it after all. The base camp was a neat matrix of white tents. The tem­per­a­ture was about 3 degree Cel­sius.

Shrinid­hi : As we took a two minute break, we looked up and saw white mist float­ing towards us like a heav­en­ly bale of cot­ton. In a minute, we were cov­ered. We could no longer see the Base camp which was our des­ti­na­tion ! What !! we could not even see the road !! O my God ! I can’t see the peo­ple near me ! How worse can it get ?! I cant see my own hands ! We were total­ly dazed. The tem­per­a­ture sud­den­ly plunged and we could no longer obvi­ate our sweaters and like a spell, it grew dark ! Luck­i­ly for us, a few Godas were return­ing and they agreed to drop us at the Base camp. I mount­ed the Goda tired and eager to reach my des­ti­na­tion. Ahead of us was a huge mound of round stones stacked down­hill ! As I was sceam­ing at the Goda waala to allow me to climb down and walk, the horse put its feet down into the stony down­hill. In a sec­ond it pushed away the Godawaala aside and the next sec­ond, its front feet buck­led down. The Godawaala moved aside as the horse seemed to get wild if he approached. I was sit­ting on a peb­bled down­hill at the back of a buck­led Goda . At that moment, like the pro­tag­o­nist in the the nov­el Pon­niyin Sel­van by Kal­ki, I thought I was one of the few peo­ple who would get to see their loca­tion of death before dying ! But the horse seemed to be made of stronger stuff. With an almighty lurch, it got up and care­ful­ly trudged down the peb­bles into safe roads !

On my way back to the tents after din­ner, I caught a sight so stun­ning that it will remain etched in my mem­o­ry for a life­time. It was 11:00 in the night and the moun­tains were sil­hou­et­ted by the grim dark­ness. Amidst the shad­ows of these moun­tains, stood the astound­ing­ly beau­ti­ful snow peaks. The silky white snow was reflect­ing the cool moon­light and the clear, cloud­less sky was stud­ded with mil­lions of stars. I was stand­ing out­side my tent, look­ing up at this mar­vel, all alone, all by myself for what felt like an eter­ni­ty. I will nev­er let that moment die, nev­er in a life­time.

You know how one moment defines the entire trip? That moment defined mine.

We slept in tents, inside sleep­ing bags. It was a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence. As the night grew cold­er, we curled up inside it to keep our­selves warm. And in the morn­ing, we woke up to a resplen­dent sight of the snow peaks bathing in the sun­light. The warmth the sun brought was wel­come.

We fresh­ened up and went to the Kedar­nath tem­ple. It was anoth­er one and a half kilo­me­ters walk. On the way, we saw many saad­hus sit­ting under makesh­fit huts and by the road­side. They wore Kesar coloured dho­tis, worn out and ragged, their deep, sunken eyes looked beyond and far, their faces were plas­tered with viboothi and their long, ema­ci­at­ed fin­gers cra­dled gut­ka pipes, the fumes encir­cled their tur­banned heads and there they sat, enjoy­ing the trance and the tran­quil­i­ty that came with it.

We reached the tem­ple in about 45 min­utes. The queue was long and Namah Shiv­ayam filled the air. We wait­ed in the queue for a while before mov­ing into the tem­ple. Inside the tem­ple, the crowd was uncon­trol­lable. Mov­ing peo­ple pro­duced such strong cur­rents that we were being car­ried in with­out any spe­cif­ic effort from our side. We did some rit­u­als inside the tem­ple. The tem­ple as such was very sim­ple. There were vigra­has of the Pan­cha Pana­davas and Drau­pa­di inside. And the Shi­va Lin­gaa was inside the main shrine. We com­plet­ed the rit­u­als and stepped out on the sun­light again. There was a short med­i­ta­tion ses­sion out­side the tem­ple.

Shrinid­hi: On the 13th of June – Som­var, we went on and had the dar­shan of Lord Kedaresh­wara. A t that moment, I felt I tru­ly under­stood the mean­ing of the line “Avn Aru­lale Avn thal Vanan­gi” from Manikkavasagar’s Siva Puranam. It was an emo­tion­al moment to realise how for­tu­nate we were in the plains and how tru­ly lucky we were to have made with­out any mishap to Kedar­nath and to be able to see him. After the Dar­shan of yet anoth­er of the Panch Ked­hars – Ked­har­nath where the hump of the bull form of Lord Shi­va was seen, we sat down and med­i­tat­ed and Chant­ed “Aum Namahshiv­aya” fol­lowed by a soul­ful ren­di­tion of “Bho Sham­bo” by Smrithi ma’am. As we climbed down, we were all more grate­ful and less fussy. This trek up and down taught us sur­ren­der and grat­i­tude. Our din­ner was Hot Mag­gi per­son­al­ly pre­pared by Adhi sir and Smrithi ma’am as a token of appre­ci­a­tion for hav­ing suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ed the trek.

Once all this was over, we walked back to the tents. On our way back, we stopped by the heli­pad to wit­ness the heli­copters land­ing and tak­ing off. The air that was still and cold was cut through by the blades of the heli­copter and the sound of the wings echoed back and forth. And when the heli­copter took off, it pro­duced such a strong wave of wind that we took a step back. Anoth­er unfor­get­table moment: The wind in my hair when the heli­copter took off. We stood there watch­ing the heli­copter grow small­er and small­er, fly­ing about the expanse of Kedar­nath.

On return­ing, we had break­fast and packed our things and set out on our way back to the sea lev­el. We trekked for an entire day again and reached the base at sun­down.

We returned to Uki­math, had din­ner and slept. June 12th and 13th : Eas­i­ly the most event­ful days of my life.

We left the Uki­math ashram at 6 in the morn­ing and board­ed the bus back to Rishikesh. Con­sid­er­ing, we were exhaust­ed from the Kedar­nath trek, we all slept well in the bus. We reached Rishikesh at around 2:30pm. The cur­few was set at 8:30 pm and in the mean time, a guid­ed tour around Rishikesh was arranged.

Back to Rishikesh

We went to Lak­sh­man Joola, the tem­ple by the riv­er and let diyas afloat in Ma Gan­ga. We shopped for sou­venirs and returned to the ashram for the last ses­sion. We all shared our expe­ri­ences and thanked the orga­niz­ers for the won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ty.

With that, we board­ed the bus back to Del­hi.

We reached Del­hi the next morn­ing at 7:30 am and board­ed Kongu Express. Our train start­ed at 8:35 am and from there I began count­ing time left with the friends who ever strangers 7 days ago.

We talked, shared food, played dum­b­cha­rades and enjoyed each other’s com­pa­ny while it last­ed. And by the end of first day in train, the idea that this mar­velous time was fast com­ing to an end was grip­ping me. I wished time stopped and stag­nat­ed. Slow­ly, very slow­ly emo­tions took over. I told every­one how much I enjoyed their com­pa­ny and how much I was going to miss them. There was a final meet­ing in the train. There were birth­day cel­e­bra­tions of peo­ple whose birth­days were dur­ing the trip.

The train reached Coim­bat­ore and out on the plat­form, there were farewell scenes: Peo­ple hug­ging each oth­er, peo­ple cry­ing, peo­ple Hi-5ing and hoot­ing. Such an emo­tion­al scene it was. We bade Good­bye and part­ed ways, going back to our mun­dane rou­tines. We part­ed ways hop­ing we would meet again. The Himalayan Yatra 2016 came to end.

It’s amaz­ing how your life changes in a week’s time. I have changed as a per­son. And I’m hap­py about it. I’m more con­fi­dent. I under­stand the val­ue of help­ing oth­ers, I val­ue friend­ships, I val­ue peo­ple. I can adjust to any sit­u­a­tion now. I can adapt and abide. I owe it all to the peo­ple around me. Know­ing­ly or unknow­ing­ly they mold­ed me. I have also learnt to appre­ci­ate what I have. I have zero com­plaints now. I’m absolute­ly con­tent with what I have and I’m tru­ly grate­ful about it. My prayers in the tem­ples weren’t real­ly prayers. I trav­elled all that way up and down only to thank the gods for what I have today.

From the bot­tom of my heart, I’m real­ly grate­ful for every moment of my life spent dur­ing the Yatra. Those were unde­ni­ably the best days of my life. Unfor­get­table expe­ri­ences, amaz­ing peo­ple, some very close friends and a gazil­lion load of mem­o­ries.

Here’s rais­ing a toast to this enchant­i­ng tale of friend­ship, love, affec­tion, sac­ri­fice, chai, parantha,trekking, Namah Shiv­aya and Himalayas.

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