6th March 2015
It was one of the best nights I have had during this trip. I slept IN THE CAR parked in Madkot bazaar. The moonlit starry night that I spent here, will always remain embedded in my memory. The food served by Milan Restaurant was pretty good too.
Madkot is a small town situated on the banks of River Gori Ganga, which originates from Milam glacier. The water of this river froths and contains white clay/sand, so it looks white most of the time and hence named Gori (White) Ganga. It further flows down to merge with River Kali at Jauljibi.
While walking in the early morning hours, the thing I saw scared shit out of me. When I arrived here the previous evening, I drove through the entire bazaar until where there was not much of a moment. With gut feeling I put the brakes of my car and saw pitch dark hollow ahead. Sensing danger I drove back and parked the car in the middle of bazaar.
In the morning I found that the road ahead was washed away during the tragic cloudburst in 2013. The entire road was washed away and it created a deep fall. The place where I applied brakes the previous night was the dead end of the road at the edge of deep fall. Sadly no notice board is displayed at the sight.
I drove back a little on the Jauljibi road and found few people bathing in the hot water springs. There were two small pools, one for gents and the other for ladies. I took off my clothes and sat down under the tap carrying hot sulphur water. The water was very hot and I could not sit under it for more than a second. Slowly I became used to it and enjoyed the refreshing bath.
After heavenly bath I drove on a 22 kilometer road to Munsyari. The road to Munsyari runs along the Gori Ganga River and is a mix of bad and very bad road. The view, however, becomes more and more beautiful as the road continues to incline. The road to Milam village glacier bifurcates after few kilometers.
When I reached Munsyari weather was sunny and the famous Panchachuli range was partially covered with clouds. Even then, the view of the range so close was awe inspiring. For quite some time I continued driving in all directions in Munsyari looking to view the entire mountain range from different angles.
The whole Munsyari town was busy celebrating holi festival and the entire market was closed. The town is perched on a slope of the mountain facing mighty Himalayan mountain range. The major attractions are views of Panchachuli group of peaks, Hanshling Parvat and Khalia Top.
Munsyari, ‘The place with snow’, lies at the base of the great Himalayan mountain range, at an elevation of about 2,200 meter ASL and is a starting point of various treks into the interior of the range including Milam and Ralam glacier.
I did not have breakfast and since the market was closed my only hope was Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam Tourist Rest House (KMVN, TRH). It was nice to know that the restaurant was open and also met the same West Bengal family whom I met briefly in Chaukori. The lunch was simple but delicious. I also utilized the opportunity and charged the batteries of my laptop and camera.
“He who thinks of the Himalayas, though he has not seen it, is greater than those who have worshipped in Kashi. God has not been able to describe the glories of the Himalayas even in hundred years. As the dew is dried up by the morning sun, so are the sins of mankind by the mere sight of the Himalayas” (Skand Puran)
In the afternoon I drove to Nanda Devi temple. Soon dark clouds engulfed the entire mountain range and it started drizzling. I met Mr Devi Singh, chowkidar cum everything at the temple. He runs a canteen, takes care of the temple and surroundings. He sleeps inside the room built within the canteen premises. In times of emergency, he gives shelter to people like me as well.
He has a big white hill dog and a black puppy, barely one month old. He told me that they were his best friends and help him during the difficult times. He told me, that sometimes when big cat (Leopard) enter the area these dogs help him bark the cat away.
He offered me tea which was very good. In fact it was so good I asked for another cup. Sipping tea I asked him about him and his family. He told me some of the challenges he was facing in his life. I listened to him patiently and told him that I too went through similar situation in life.
It was getting dark and I decided to leave. I tried to pay for tea but Devi Singh refused to accept it. He said…nobody listens to me at home, you have listened to me so patiently, how can I take money from you. On my insistence he took the money but dropped it into the donation box kept at the temple.
I returned back to KMVN rest house and decided to park the car in the parking place of the guest house and sleep inside as I did in Chaukori. The Manager here was a very nice gentleman. He gave me an additional blanket in case there was a need. Parking here was in an enclosed area and bit cozy.
The drizzling continued for most of the night. It stopped around 2am. To my surprise the cloud cover which was there since evening disappeared quickly. At around 3am the sky was clear and cloudless. I could see the stars all over in the sky. Even the white sketch of entire panchachuli range became visible in the moon light. At around 4am I drove to Helipad to have better view of the range and take few pictures.
It was still dark and nobody was awake at that time of the hour. Lalpari and I were the only denizens awake in the vast open ground of helipad facing the entire mountain range.Sitting inside the car I kept gazing at the unfolding of the magnificent sight. The mountain range was changing color with each and every passing minute.
I kept sitting and watching in amazement until few morning walkers started arriving!!!