A tear jerker in Netwar

Perched on half of my ass in a contorted yoga pose, that  I have now an idea to patent, the speedy 90 minute ride to Badkot from Yamunotri was scenic but tortuous in every way. The bus took 31/2 hours for the same journey the previous day. Now though I was squashed in the back seat of a Mahindra jeep sharing the tiny seat with 3 others. There were guys riding on top as well with women and kids perched on the 'good' seats next to the driver ! Another jeep change at Badkot, whose driver was saying 'aaoo baitho' (come sit) even when there were guys sitting on the bonnet! After more change of vehicles and other small adventures, arrived in Netwar for my night halt. The land cruiser type vehicles operating as public transport in the area leave only when full, so your wait could be from 1 to 10 hours !

Netwar is a small village with shops lining a dirty road . My destination was the forest guest house. After getting lost and going to a couple of stranger's houses finally marched into the place only to be told there were no rooms. There was a hotel in Netwar though, they assured me as i imagined spending the night under the stars. The 'hotel' had 2 rooms and was closed the owner languidly informed me. He asked me to ask at the barber shop down the road. A small entrance at the side of the barber shop was the entrance to a one room one dorm 'hotel'. The room was what I would classify as 'bedfall'. Having seen my share of hotel rooms I have classified them based on their vagabond comforts. I'm sure one day a publisher will be interested in this pioneering work and agree to publish it . Anyway a bedfall room is one in which there is just enough space to step in the room and fall on the bed. Don't even think about taking a 3 step contemplative walk to think about the state of the world ! The teenage dude who showed me the room was desperately trying to impress me with his knowledge of the local treks and women. I liked to travel alone, I  said . I live in an ashram too ! Not hard to convince him on the second point since I was dhotified (wearing a dhoti) and had a clean scalp. For some reason he was very interested in the floor of the room and kept spitting there in between imparting his words of wisdom.

To get him out of the room and to avoid flooding i asked him to show me the promised 'attached bathroom'. He stared hard in my direction as if I had uttered the unutterable and grunted 'Come' . I was led into a darkened hallway where I was sure there were masked men with sickles (don't ask me about the sickle part but that's what I thought at the time) waiting to slit my throat after they found out that I had only 200 bucks in my pocket ! Finally we reached a wooden structure jutting into the valley. Truth to be told the views were great over the mountains but that was because there was not much structure to cover the  views. Very little flooring and even less plumbing ! The water pipe sang some tunes but no paani was forthcoming. 'Dont worry you will have water' he said to me in that reassuring and confident way that meant that I would be really lucky to see even a drop anytime soon. Later that night after a bucket shower accompanied by admiring the hills, the room was quiet except that there seemed to be a TB patient in the nearby dorm who coughed his way through the night. .

Next morning I wake up in high spirits planning to walk to Sankri, a village 12 km away. Netwar is the starting point for Govind National Park and you have to shell out a minimum 150 bucks for a 3 day permit. Gullible vagabond that I am the guard managed to sell me a 5 day permit. I reckoned i could use the extra days ! The helpful guard also wisely dissuaded me from walking to Sankri saying a jeep 'will come anytime soon'. Ha ! My romance with alu paratha continued but to add to the sizzle had the most amazingly lip smacking dahi(curd), fresh local stuff. I literally almost cried after having devoured 3 parathas and struggling to get to my feet again. Err, the lacrimal glands were activated by my intense gratitude to the Lord for such tasty food and not on account of my physical disability that followed my gluttony !


If your days have been full of longing to see my post , here's the reason why Ive only just hauled myself to a net cafe. Death ! Yes, mine if i had braved landslides and a raging river to trek to civilization for the sake of love of the letter. Ah that sounded good! Lets not look at the real reason, laziness, and carry on to the topic of the day.

Just before my head hit the brick hard pillow,the decision was made to go to Yamunotri.What's the fun in planning a trip meticulously 6 months before the journey and then God forbid, everything goes exactly according to plan ? How very boring and ordinary. But imagine turning up at the bus stand not really knowing if theres a bus at that time that will take you to your destination? Being warned of the huge crowds but still being thick headed and turning up at the bus stand with a light heart and baggage...

Yamunotri is one of the four sacred sites of Hinduism set up by Adi guru Shankaracharya ( a cool dude from Kerala) in the state of Uttarakhand. Visiting these sites and bathing in the rivers/hot springs supposedly absolve you of sins. All four sacred sites were once reached through hard treks through forests teeming with wildlife, where you never knew if you would return .They are still closed for 6 months of the year due to snow. So people took these pilgrimages towards the end of their lives when they had nothing better to do ! Now most people  just park their asses on a car/bus seat and puke their way up. There are still many hardcore sadhus still trekking up, more dangerous now, because of the very real chance of getting run over rather than being a delicacy on a tiger's breakfast menu.

The bus advertised itself as an express service and they were true to their word by stopping whenever someone on the road stuck their hand out. What was supposed to be a 10 hour ordeal became a 13 hour hell. Hey that's the fun of unplanned journeys! Lunch, garam roti and sabzi, was awesome from a small dabba (roadside eatery). A loud young group from the Punjab plains tried to goad the driver into picking up speed but it fell on deaf years.We finally crawled into Janki Chatti, 5 kilometres from Yamunotri where the motorable road ends, well after nightfall. In true vagabond fashion, I just set out in search for a room and got one with a king sized bed overlooking the Yamuna for a measly 150/- I soon found out why. Though Yamuna was just a stone throw away there was no running water in the room. The night was a little chilly but great to go to sleep curled under the quilt to the sound of thundering waters outside.

 image courtsey:wikipedia

From Janki Chatti it's a 5 km walk uphill to Yamunotri, the mythical source of the Yamuna river. The actual glacier from which the water spurts out is a further 10 km uphill. The best time of the day to walk up is early morning before the crowds gather. I had a quiet walk sharing my path with the occasional horse carrying the geriatric, obese and the plain lazy ! Also you can get carried on a bucket like contraption on the back of a poor bugger all the way to the top.There's also one where you sit royally in the middle and four folks haul you up. The temple at Yamunotri is not structurally old although Shankarachrya is supposed to have founded it. It has to be rebuilt every few years because of heavy snows during winter.

There are hot water springs where you can have a soak but not anywhere as atmospheric as the ones in Manali(Vasisht) and Gangnani (near Gangotri). There are usually around a 100 people crammed in the space of a bathtub. There are also pestering priests who want you to get all types of rituals done so they can have alu paratha for breakfast.  But all said Yamunotri is the least commercial of the char dhams...