Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Madmaheshwar Yatra in Garhwal Himalayas

We pick up the threads from day minus one (30.5.2011), when we reached Ukhimath around 4 pm, in a hired Maruti Alto from Rishikesh, traversing a distance of close to 182 km. We easily recognized the seven storied brick red colored Bharat Sevashram Sangha guest house, at the extreme end of this town, on main road, having visited the same, in the year 2007.

Bharat Sevashram Sangha, Ukhimath
In the late and lazy afternoon, when I entered the building, not a single living soul was visible in and around. ‘Is the guest house closed?’ I wondered. Reaching first floor (above ground level), the first room happened to be the office, bolted from inside. When I knocked, there was no response. After a few minutes, a boy in his teens emerged, rubbing his eyes. I am not sure whether he felt disturbed, having to abandon his afternoon power nap! I came to the point straight away, ‘I am from Mumbai and we need a double room for the night stay.’ He said that, Maharaj was out and fished out a long notebook, to check for the room occupancy. He allotted us a double room with attached bath for Rs. 500/-. We dumped our luggage and took the car for a short drive to the Ukhimath temple at slightly higher elevation. Darshan, puja and a brief prayer later, we spent some time for photo shooting from the colouful courtyard.

Omkareshwar Temple, Ukhimath
Retracing our steps to BSS in evening, I met maharaj in the office for the donation receipt. Maharaj in course of a chat explained that, they have started a private English medium school in adjacent compound, only one of its kind in Ukhimath, whose upkeep was financed by room rental at BSS. Further, they have tied up with several travel companies for block booking of the guesthouse. We realized that sheer luck has landed us a room at BSS; two days prior to our arrival, entire BSS guest house and school building were packed with tourists.
Having booked our dinner, I was looking forward for a typical Bengali thali similar to one I savored in my stay at the same place in the year 2007, in company of another three friends, when we visited Deoria Tal, Tunganath and other destinations in Uttarakhand. We arrived around 8.45 pm at dining hall and were served Bengali thali including potato in mustard paste,vegetable curry, rice chapati worth Rs. 50/-.  I realized the price has doubled since 2007. I enjoyed my meal, knowing pretty well that I will have to do with really ordinary stuff in coming days. Dinner completed, we packed our trekking back pack for Madmaheshwar trek for next morning and retired early. 

Next morning (31.5.2011), we came to ground zero and crossed over the road to a small dhaba adjoining Anushree lodge and had tea and biscuits. Manjit Singh, our driver did not lose much time in reaching us 25 km to Uniana and further one km ahead along the newly constructed road. This road will ultimately stretch upto Ranshi village for a total distance of 3 km by summer of 2012, it is hoped. No sooner the car stopped we were surrounded by porters to carry our back packs to Madmaheshwar trek. The guy who first approached the car, was allowed to carry our back packs. He wanted Rs. 350/- per day plus food which appeared reasonable. Thus without any bargaining or hassle, tall and stout Vikram Singh, carrying our back packs, became our additional companion for Madmaheshwar trek.

Ready for trek
The time was 8.15 am and our immediate goal was to reach Ransi about 2 km upward trek through forested area. We took a final glimpse of Uniana village at elevation 5600’, amidst the terraced fields. At 8.45 am we were at Goni after walking of  1.5 km. The forested area was visible below, a river flowing in a serpentine manner. We took shelter from hot sun at one of the shacks. After another steep climb of half a km first through stone paved path and then cemented one, we reached Rakeshwari temple at village Ransi at around 9.15 am. Suddenly, we were surrounded by village kids asking for chocolates. One elderly villager realizing they were irritating us, started hounding them away. I restrained him and made the children photo models for a shot. Little models depart happy and contented after I made a small token fee to each of them and they waved us goodbye. 
Children at Ranshi
Temple at Ranshi

After darshan at Rakeshwari temple, I had breakfast of Maggie noodles from the adjoining dhaba, at a slightly higher elevation, seated in the temple courtyard.

Waiting for my trek mate and porter to finish their aloo parathas, I ventured nearby to take a view of temple top from a few steps below. Ranshi is a typical hilly village in slopes with a pervasive cow dung smell in the air, cottages full of harvested grain straws, small cultivation plots being de-weeded by the village women, some making straw bundles, curious children perched up on upper floor of cottages.
Storage at Ranshi
Woman busy with straw bundles

As we were leaving the Rakeshwari compound, a camera toting young man greeted me. We had a small chat. The guy was part of group of eight Bengalis from Kolkata who had done this trek upto Ranshi from Kedarnath and were on way to their next destination.
By 10 am, after walking up gradient for an hour or so we were clear of thick forested growth; the landscape down below and flow of river make a wonderful scene.

View from trek route
By 11.20 am we reached the bridge over a river, with a grand view and deafening roar of waterfall cascading down. We must have walked around 5 km from Ranshi. A further upward climb of  1 km and around 12.15 pm we made it to Gaundar, a scenic place and break for lunch. The weather meanwhile turned from sunshine to cloudy and it started drizzling. The first hotel we encountered, the Kailash hotel, with a three storied guest house and had a small dhaba opposite. We sat on the first floor of guest house with open space over looking valley down below and ordered a simple lunch of Khichdi and potato fry, the food in tune with the wet clime. A young Bengali couple seated on door step of one of the rented rooms, were enjoying their meals. For honeymooning couples, what can be a better place? We had a small conversation with them as we await for our lunch. I looked around and found a Garhwali woman clearing the unruly growth of unwanted vegetation on her agricultural plot; a typical villagers activity. 

At Gaundar
The lunch of Khichdi did not taste as good as expected; Sac commented that the dhaba guy must have added Maggie noodle masala and made a mess of it. However, the guest house rooms with attached bath with running water appeared appealing, as we had planned to stay here during our return trek from Madmaheshwar. 

As we walked along, we felt, a guest house with a lot of welcome sentences written in Bengali, will attract most of the Bengali trekkers. We realized later these trek path to Madmaheshwar is mostly treaded by people from Kolkata. One of the Bengali boarders of this lodge, had written those sentences in Bengali on the outer wall of the guest house at the request of owner, by chalk and the owner got it painted; this we learnt later. I had a chat with the guest house owner and could not find any Bengali flavor in type of food he served to guests.

After trekking a further 2 km through a slight drizzle we were near village Bantoli. A few houses with straw on roof were visible to suggest that we had almost arrived.
View from Bantoli

Vishwa Lodge, Bantoli
We had a top view of thick forested growth, with two rivers Madmaheshwar Ganga and Makrand Ganga mingling with each other and a bridge on one of the rivers, through which we traversed an hour ago.
Finally we stepped closer to two storied Vishwa Lodge, the only of its kind we noticed at Bantoli, along the route; it brought us cheers that we have successfully completed first days trek of 10 km. Time was 2.30 pm by now. We easily get a double room on first floor with attached bath for Rs. 300/- and dump our luggage.

Amidst clouds at Bantoli
 The rains meanwhile increase in intensity. Going out for a stroll was out of question. We settled down for watching the landscape of thick forested growth on the neighboring hill, covered partially in scattered rain clouds, the wind swirling it from down below to hill top and finally merging with the sky. Monsoon mood in mountains has its own aura and shades of gray; we casually caught up with our camera work, with nothing else to do.
The room had one lamp making use of solar cells. Torch light had been of immense importance in this part of the Uttarakhand. We hoped the next morning we get a bright sunlit weather for steep uphill 9 km trek to Madmaheshwar. We had a simple dinner of chapati, dal and potato curry for dinner and retired early.

Yesterday, we retired for the night hoping for a bright sun lit morning the next day, after watching the clouds play hide and seek across the densely covered vegetation all along the hills from comfort of our hotel room of Vishwa Lodge. But as it mostly happens, man proposes and God disposes. We woke up in the morning and came to watch the weather outside and felt a bit disappointed. The sky was grayish, the dense clouds obliterating almost completely what ever the rising sun had to offer. We realized, for the first time that we were headed for a tough trek through rains for at least part of the journey along the route.
Around 6.30 am, after a cup of tea from the dhaba down below, we resumed our trek though cloudy but rain free weather. The pile of brown leaves shed by trees on both sides of the trail, on the stone paved route, was a few inches thick, which kind of cushioned impact of our foot against hard stones; on the flip side there was danger of missing a foothold and slipping. Our progress was slow but steady. We were watching the landscape around filled with gray rain clouds, threatening to pour at any time. 

Around 7.15 am, we reached Khatara Khal, consisting of two shacks, one a dhaba and the other a shelter for the pilgrims with very basic amenities.

Khatara Khal
The word ‘Khatara’ in Mumbai parlance is old - junk; nothing of that sort in this destination, which I can think of. I will remember this place for the cup of tea which was sweetest of all teas that I have tasted in Garhwal. A few sips later, I fed the balance to the roots of a tree, to give it some extra nourishment! Sachin who wisely refrained from having a tea at this place was making his notes seated on a piece of stone a little distance away.

We resumed trek amidst clouds all around us, the nearby hill with dense growth of vegetation was all gray. We were mentally preparing for a trek through rain and monsoon God did not lose much time in giving us the same in a platter. The first sign of drizzle and Sachin our experienced trekker was quick to don his red colored rain coat purchased from Nepal. I lazily avoided taking out my wind cheater till about the time when I found there was no sign of let up of the distilled water from heaven. Wearing a windcheater with woolen lining in rain does give adequate protection against it but on flip side the sweating as a result body heat soaked my tee-shirt. I wish I had bought a wind – cheater without lining or thinnest possible lining for this sort of a situation.

At Nanu Chatty
We continued till about 8.25 am when we reached Nanu chatty, for our breakfast halt. We climbed the steep stone steps to reach two shacks, one masquerading as dhaba and other a night stay facility with basic amenities like, cot, bedding and rajais. We sat in a covered place in front of the shacks on a bench, with a make shift table to keep our camera bags. The flies are a sure shot nuisance in hills. I ordered for chapati and potato curry and Sachin and the porter for aloo parathas. The Garhwali woman from the shack was busy with her chore, oblivious of getting drenched. 

As we were watching rain water clinging to straws and dripping drop by drop, from roof of the shack, a group of Bengali trekkers walked in well protected in their rain coats and wind cheaters and took shelter. The group informed us that the weather at Madmaheshwar was pretty bad with heavy rains and they were relieved to be on their way down to lower altitudes. That news somewhat dampened our spirits. In all my trekking trips in Garhwal, photo shooting is something which has worked wonders during tense situations and kept me cool. I aimed my digicam towards the villagers on their journey back home with grass fodder on their back, for their cattle.

At Nanu Chatty
 Rains abating somewhat, the tiny water drops clinging to the straw ends, looked like pearls ready to detach at any moment creating a void to be filled by the next one’s. After some fuel intake in form of Chapati and potato curry, it was time to move on. The landscape looked magnificent now onwards. The day light was somewhat better; the rain wash had done wonders for the entire valley to provide a clean scenic environment.
Nearing Kun Chatty

At 11.25 am we reached Kun chatty. For the first time in our trek we found a signage indicating the name of the place and also the elevation. At 9,174’ we were in verge of going through high altitude trekking shortly. At Kun Chatti, a shack named Prince Hotel serves as a dhaba and resting place. After a brief rest we decided to commence our trek.

Signage at Kun Chatty
Prince Hotel, Kun Chatty
The low dense rain clouds deciding to migrate to their next destination, the snow clad mountain peaks made their welcome appearance, reminding us that we are in Himalayas. The sky was still overcast and gray giving no sign of a clear sunlit day for rest of the trek. Next we entered the zone of Rhododendron forests on both side of the trail. The fresh little pinkish buds of the flowers or tender leaves, all around, give a dash of warm color to the landscape.
We reached Madmaheshwar around 1 pm after an arduous and continuous climb from Kun Chatti, amidst rain. A welcome sign is a sure sign of relief for our tired limb and discomfort of our sweat soaked clothing; overall a great feeling that we have visited yet another shrine of Panch Kedar.

Arrival at Madmaheshwar
 At 11,000’ elevation Madmaheshwar is a unique Himalayan destination. The green carpet like Bhugyals, the small bushes a plenty, soothing greenery all round is bound to spell bind one and all. At this altitude with so much green cover, surely we will not be deprived of precious oxygen for our lungs. A close up view of Madmaheshwar landscape showed forest cover at the back ground, signifying that this place must be getting copious amount of rainfall round the year. The frontal portion of the temple has an extension created not in distant past to accommodate more people and save them from vagaries of weather. The corrugated and thatched roof structures are guest houses or dhabas along the route to the temple.

Shiva Temple, Madmaheshwar
The Madmaheshwar temple architecture resembles most of Shiva temples like Kedarnath and Tunganth the two of the Panch Kedar. The very dense and tall multi-branched tree behind the temple surprises one, especially at this high altitude.
As I approached the dwelling, I was in a lazy – walk mood. ‘What’s the hurry?’ I thought. ‘Sachin will surely find an accommodation in two storied temple committee guest house, one of the few sturdy looking structures in the temple vicinity.’ And, I am not mistaken, as I watched Sachin, after spreading his red rain coat on verandah railings for drying, standing near our room door.

Temple Committee guest house, Madmaheshwar
At Rs. 400/- per day we got a double room at Madmaheshwar temple committee guest house on first floor. The room had cots, bedding including rajai and a solar energized lamp. The Indian style toilet facility was common for several rooms; one had to be careful during entry to it as the height of door was less than 5’. A PVC tank was periodically filled with water and kept near the toilet entry and one had to help himself. 

As I entered the room, Sachin being ravishingly hungry was eager to go to temple committee canteen for a huge meal. Canteen name was written in Bengali script on black plastic sheet along one of the walls to attract visitors from Kolkata. 

I just un-zipped my sleeping bag and slid into it. I might have dozed off, when Sachin called at 4 pm, to announce that the weather was clear, sunshine was taking over after a long spell of cloudy weather. I felt too lazy and grunted approval and just did not feel like getting out of my comfort zone. Around the same time Subhas Chakrabarty, from Delhi, with whom we got acquainted at this place, climbed the neighbouring hill through stone paved track and switched over to climbing over bhugyals to arrive at Budamadmaheshwar. The following shots of a small religious structure and snow peaks taken by him.

At Budamadmaheshwar

At Budamadmaheshwar

At 5 pm, I shook myself of lethargy and came to verandah to see what all the temple village landscape had to offer. What a lovely sight! The entry portion of temple looked great in contrast to the thatched roofing of a shack in foreground.

Temple View

Temple Top
The temple top looked crisp and clear in diffused sunlight.Rain clouds lifting its veil, a Himalayan peak made its glorious appearance. The gray rain bearing clouds completely migrating, a refreshingly blue sky and a Himalayan panorama made its appearance, which eluded us till now.

High altitude cricket
Cricket is religion in India but never imagined cricket is played at this religious place in Himalayas at the altitude of 11,000’! The weather clearing, the local kids did not lose much time in walking to the Bhugyals, where the rain water percolates fast and dries the surface, from knocking a few boundaries and sixers. For a moment I was tempted to join them, but changed my mind and was content to watch them through the lens.

In upper reaches of bhugyals, the flock of sheep resumed their activities of grazing on fresh green offerings. At around 7.15 pm, we moved to the temple and took our place to wait for the evening aarti to begin. Aarti began at 7.30 pm, followed by religious songs, sung by devotees to invoke blessings from Lord Shiva. Leaving temple, we took to our room to pack up for next days return trek to Gaundar. The dinner at this place was available at 9 pm which appeared to be tad late in a place which is dark by 8 pm during summer and electricity save for a miniscule solar lamp, practically non-existent. Advancement in Aarti timings around 6.30 pm may obviate some difficulties faced by pilgrims. Hope temple committee is listening. 

The rhythmic sound of rain drops on the metallic corrugated roof of the Madmaheshwar temple committee guest-house, woke me up very early in the morning. We were to commence our return trek early in the morning to make best use of our time after reaching Gaundar. But, the nature conspired against us to give a rain filled morning. In Garhwal the saying goes, ‘You can not predict the Garhwal weather as you can not predict Bombay fashion.’ Having visited Garhwal at least a half a dozen times, I am no stranger to this phenomenon. However, we got ready, and fully pack up so that, we will be on the way, as soon as the rain stopped.

Temple view in rain
In the chilly, rainy morning, the entire population of the village thought, it was wise to remain indoors, rather than face the inclement weather outside. The rain increased in intensity as time wore on. The temple through rain and haze appeared desolate, with not a pilgrim in sight; as if Lord Shiva wished, the temple and the holy village to get a ceremonial cleansing, before the pilgrims entered the temple to pay obeisance!

Icicles from guest house roof
‘What’s happening?’ I said to myself. A few feet ahead of me, some strange spectacle came to my focus. The edges of metallic corrugated roofing of our guest house was getting adorned with icicles of different shapes as if some abstract design created by crystal glass  artist. 

Sachin had a huge satisfaction of having touched snow (ice) for the first time in this trek right in front of our room verandah. A careful gaze outdoors and we could see the snow flakes were interspaced among rain drops. The accumulated snow on roofing mixing with rain water was turning it to icicles and dropping along the roof edge.Time lost its dimension there after. We were immersed in the Madmaheshwar mood in rain and snowfall, noticing every happening in this temple village from the vantage point of the verandah in front of our room.  

Temple Top in rain and snow
The temple top looked exquisite through the arch created by icicles hanging from the roofing of guest house. The stone paved road as viewed from temple guest house veranda, was deserted amidst the few shacks which also served as lodging facility for the pilgrims. 

On a rainy morning
Focusing ahead, as we looked towards the trail which brought us to Madmaheshwar, the landscape looked totally different with hills at the backdrop, getting a white wash over a green cover which we saw yesterday, against a gray looking sky. Who other than the local Garhwalis will venture out in this weather? They seem to be thinking whether any pilgrims will trek up today to occupy any of their shacks for accommodation and food. Surely, that is worrying, as tourist season is only for six months till September. 

Bhugyals after the snowfall
The higher reaches of the hills were having heavy snow fall. The upper bhugyal which was lush green yesterday was milk white today, a total metamorphosis, having received adequate snowfall this morning. In lower bhugyal, the flock of sheep stood perfectly still and did not move an inch in this inclement weather, with continuous down pour. Such is the adaptability of these animals in Himalayan environment.
Subhas Chakrabarty, from Delhi, who preferred trekking alone, had taken shelter at the temple committee dhaba along with his guide, in a small room adjoining the dhaba kitchen at Rs. 100/- per day per person. In course of a chat with him, he revealed that he was staying in the temple town for last two nights just to have a snap shot of Chaukhamba peak from Budamadmaheshwar. He made two treks to Budamadmaheshwar, an upward 1 km trek and on his second trip yesterday, he could see the mighty Himalayan peak. Since we could not make it, he showed us the photos he took in LCD screen of his digicam. It was nice of him to post those photos to me via email attachment, which was uploaded in my previous day’s blog. Without his contribution, my Madmaheshwar blog would have been incomplete.

Landscape after rain and snow
As I looked at the bhugyal, the lone shepherd opening up his umbrella took a stock of his flock in rain. Gradually more and more inhabitants of the temple village took to the outdoors. The cleansed and purified atmosphere in this holy village of Uttarakhand must have given them pure joy.

Mandir pujari
In the court yard area of Madmaheshwar temple, a pujari was in the process of making sandal - wood paste. He was relieved to have a rain free period and commenced with his routine activities for the puja.
We descended the steps to go to the dhaba down below and ordered for tea. The dhaba owner – cook was peeling potatoes, for preparing breakfast for some of his clientele. Anjali, dhaba owner’s daughter was running errands for his father and after washing the stainless steel tumblers, near the bhugyal, with a clean water pipe outlet. 

The rain God relenting, by 10.30 am, we got ready to do downward trek to Gaundar. I took a last parting shot of the temple, against the back drop of snow covered bhugyal and thanked Lord Shiva for making our Madmaheshwar trek so exciting and memorable.

Temple View with snow at backdrop
We left behind the Madmaheshwar temple village, covering some distance along the downward slope, observed the last of the rain clouds ready to float across to another destination. Simultaneously, distant Himalayan peaks were making their glorious appearance.

Snow peaks on return trek
A near continuous decent in rain less but cloudy weather was really helpful and less tiring. We passed through Nanu chatty at 12.45 pm.  By this time the sky was also clear of rain clouds and the blue colored sky was a giving a crisp dimension to the Himalayan panorama.

As we descended down further we encountered a lot of tourists coming up the trail. The clear weather must have given them the optimism for the Madmaheshwar trek. Sachin in his large sized spectacles, striding in front, was always mistaken for a Bengali and was greeted in the same language. I met a few Bengali trekkers and they were disappointed when I told them, ‘I am from Mumbai.’ When I switched over to Bengali, they responded well and we had a small chat, which also gave them a much needed breather. We told them of our next trek would be to Rudranth; we were cautioned that many trekkers were stuck up at higher reaches like Naola pass on way to Rudranth, where there was one and half feet of snow. That really got me thinking. If Madmaheshwar at 11,000’ can have a mild snow fall, what will be the condition at Naola pass at 14,000’? Whether it will be wise to take the Rudranath trek, immediately after finishing this arduous trek? My mind was over – working with too many questions. 

Downward trek in my Himalayan treks troubled me more than the upward trek. The load coming on my toes always caused discomfort and became painful after some time. I was some what pessimistic and almost made up my mind of foregoing Rudranth trek and instead visit a few of unseen destinations in Garhwal. Sachin when he heard me was disappointed but we decided to keep the negative thought away from our mind for time being. 

‘Better to keep pressing the camera shutter to get over the negative thoughts’, I thought. A wild flower bush with pinkish flowers out numbering the leaves was in my camera focus.

Pink wild flowers
At 4.15 pm we reached Gaundar, our night halt destination. Sachin was first to arrive and straight away went to Kailash Lodge to get a room; meanwhile I was seated in front of another un-named lodge, with a lot of Bengali sentences written on its wall. Our friend Subhas, who was instrumental in Bengali script being written during his onward trip to Madmaheshwar, took a room at the same place along with his guide. The owner of Kailash lodge sensing some kind of competition from adjoining lodge, slashed his rates and we were offered a room with attached bath, with running water at Rs. 200/- per day. That was the most value for money accommodation in whole of our trek tour. 

We had tea and snacks in the evenings and ordered for Rice, Roti, Dal and Potato curry for dinner. Getting a proper bath after going without one at Madmaheshwar, really felt good and refreshing. The dhaba owner made a better preparation of our meal for the evening, making amends for the stuff he dished out during our onward trek to Madmaheshwar. 

We got down to next days packing and I took out my floaters to replace the Nike, which I had worn throughout. It depressed me to find the floater was in its final days before either mending it or discarding it. Realizing that I will not get a cobbler in this place, I just discarded it, reducing my back pack weight somewhat. We left for the dream world literally, hoping for a bright sun lit day for the next morning, the last day of Madmaheshwar trek.

For the first time in past four days, our prayers were answered by weather God. We woke up and came out to soak in a bright sun lit day. I had a snap shot of our Kailash lodge room on first floor looming on the hill slope with back drop of a cloud – less blue sky. The nearby landscape was a typical village shacks on hill slopes, with small agricultural plots.

Kailash Lodge, Gaundar
We had tea and a bite to eat from Kailash dhaba and got ready to pack up and resume down ward trek. Yesterday with a casualty to my pair of floaters and it’s subsequent disposal, I sat down to apply as whole lot of band aids to my toes, to combat the discomfort while going down hill in my Nike. We made good progress to cover almost 4 km in good time and took a break in a shack in a name – less chatty. Ordering tea, I just looked around for some photo shoots. The bleating of sheep flock was audible from some where up on the hill. A Garhwali woman near the hut was gesticulating with her stick to whom so ever it mattered.

Ranshi View from far
After another hour of trek we spotted Ranshi village on the hill, amidst terraced agricultural plots. A bashful village belle carrying loads of harvested grains gave us an indication that Ranshi village was not far off. By now I had reduced my trekking speed and was taking more halts to ease my toe pain, and took every opportunity to shoot. The Ranshi village in the hills became apparent with tale-tell Rakeshwari temple visible at a distance among the single and two storied cottages.

Bashful village belle with crop
As I approached very close to Ranshi, the road bifurcates, one going up and another going along the same elevation. By now, I had lost the tracks of my friends and the porter. For a few minutes I was in a dilemma. A group of pilgrims taking the road upwards, informed me that they were visiting the temple. So, I took the decision to bypass the temple road and took the other road. After a while I reached bazaar consisting of a number of shops and restaurants. The bazaar area of Ranshi village was one of the cleanest I have seen in Uttarakhand. All restaurants (I refrain from calling them dhabas) are stocked with all possible food items that you can imagine. The mineral water, soft drinks of your choice, biscuits, even eggs for non – vegetarians, not bad at all. I found my friends in one of those restaurants, taking a breather. Sachin and Subhas were indulging in plates of sliced raw tomatoes in salt and pepper. That must have tasted heavenly, since for the first time in last four days, a vegetable other than potato was available! I had my favorite drink Nimbooz, which I used to have plenty at Mumbai during summer. Here I needed to replenish my body fluid after nearly four hours of trek. 

Resuming trek we observed some of the best lodges all freshly painted, waiting for their occupancy to pick up. Once the Uniana – Ranshi asphalt road gets completed by next year, this place will one of the finest places to stay, with best possible amenities, prior to resuming trek to Madmaheshwar. One of the most beautiful lodges we came across was Jai Maa Rakeshwari Tourist Lodge. 

A two km gentle downward trek completed within 45 minutes, brought us to the spot from where we had resumed our onward trek, 1 km ahead of Uniana. Coming on asphalted road we found a truck with a lot of ration being unloaded and a big group of pilgrims heading for Madmaheshwar. Despite trying to contact our driver on my cell phone, I did not get any response. The porter not willing to wait on the road, we walked another 1 km through asphalt road to Uniana village. Our driver Manjit singh after having a refreshing bath was ready to drive us to Mandal via Ukimath and Chopta.

* Author has video recordings of three and half days of Madmaheshwar Yatra which can be accessed by taking the following link: Madmaheshwar Yatra - Comnposite Video

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