12th March 2015
It was amazing sleeping IN THE CAR parked on Kempty road Mussoorie that night. Got up early again and was on my way to Chakrata. Morning drive to kempty fall was amazing. It was wonderful to drive while the dark of the night was giving way to bright morning. Everything looked so fresh. The birds, the trees and even human beings looked so fresh. It felt like everything was born anew. The old self died the previous day and the new one was born this day.
Watching empty kempty fall from the road so early in the morning was an amazing sight. I came out of the car and gave it a longish look. I liked the blueness around the fall. Even the buildings around looked blue. There was no one near the fall. I knew soon the entire area around the fall and the shops are going to be full with the day revellers and the sight will become so crowded.
Soon I was on Yamuna Bridge. Instead of going straight to Chakrata I thought why not visit Lakhamandal on the way and turned right on Yamunotri road. It was wonderful feeling as I was already at Barkote few days ago in the initial part of this trip. The road was narrow but good.
Soon I reached a place where water from a spring was flowing on the road. I could not resist stopping by. It was so beautiful and soothing. I saw many cars and bikes stop and get bath. There was a dhaba nearby. I asked for a cup of tea and then enjoyed bathing my lalpari. In the process took bath myself too. Since I slept inside the car most of the nights in this trip, the places like this seem to be specially enacted by mother Nature for people like us. The water of the fall was very cold, after sometime I became used to it though.
After few kilometers drive there was a turn to the left for Lakhamandal. A board mentioned Lakhamandal 5 kilometers from the turn. At Lakhamandal a nice looking old man greeted me on the way to the temple and took me to his home. His house was all made of wood and mud. It was very nice.
After taking leave from the old man I went to see the temple. It felt good being there in the temple. A young boy, grandson of the old man and priest of the temple guided me to see the temple. The temple is very old one and is an Archaeological Survey of India protected site.
Lakhamandal is an ancient Hindu temple dedicated to lord Shiva. Lakhamandal gets its name from the two words: lakha meaning “many” and mandal meaning “lingam”. The main attraction of this temple shrine is the graphite lingam. It shines when wet and reflects its surroundings.
The old man told me about a very bad incident that happened in the area few months ago. He told me that a young boy and girl from Delhi, who came to visit tiger falls, were kidnapped by a taxi driver and his friends. They were looted, girl was raped and then both were killed. Their bodies were found in Yamuna River after few days. The culprits have been caught and are in jail. He advised me to be careful while going to the tiger falls as the culprits were from a village nearby.
Thereafter I drove on the road to Chakrata. It was a dirt, secluded road. Hardly anyone else on the road, I did not see any other vehicle for miles together. Not even a bike or anything except for few shepherds with their herd. I found myself driving in a very remote area that reminded me of my last years biking trip to remote Spiti and Ladakh areas. The landscape around was beautiful however. It was raw beauty all around.
This was Jaunsar tribal area which traces its origin to the pandavas of Mahabharata. The built of the homes, villages and expression on the faces of people looked quite different. The landscape and beauty of the area was stark. At times I felt fearful. It was quite, strange raw fearsome beauty all around.
Reaching Gauraghati was a kind of relief. It is a restricted area and foreign nationals cannot enter this area without valid permit. The road, however, became even worse. Soon I reached a big village named Kwansi and was glad to see PNB branch. There was a young man sitting on the bike outside the branch. I asked him about the area and tiger falls. He turned out to be an officer of the bank and learning about me he took me inside the branch.
I was told that tiger falls was around 20 kilometers from Kwansi and there was a bifurcation to the left from the main road and there is board mentioning the turn. The road was pretty bad and took me ages to reach the next village. On enquiry I was told that I had missed the turn to falls 4 kilometers behind. It was dreadful going back even 4 kilometer on that bad road, specially as evening was setting in.
I turned back looking for that elusive board wondering how I missed that one. I kept on driving but there was no board. I thought I have driven more than 4 kilometers and have not seen the board. Oh not again, I felt as if I have missed the turn again. Turned back and saw a small dirt trek bifurcate to the left of the road. Guessing I turned on the road and saw a board lying on the ground. Now I knew how I missed the turn.
Left road bifurcates towards tiger falls which I missed twice
On the way to the falls I saw an Innova car coming from the opposite side. This was the first vehicle I saw on that entire route. I waved to the driver and enquired about the fall and the road. There were four persons in the car two boys and two girls. The boy driving the car told me that this was the road to tiger falls and that the falls is a good sight and must be visited. He told me to park the car a little distance away and walk down to the falls.
I drove little further till the end of dirt trek. It was almost evening now.Light was fading fast The area looked totally deserted. I parked the car on one side of the road and walked down around 500 meters to reach near a stream that had paved path along it. I saw a man sitting in the open area alongside a wood fire near a wooden building. He showed me the way to the falls. A few steps walk and a little climb I was at a vantage point. I saw a magnificent gushing water fall loudly. Though a bit disappointing as far as the height was concerned but the volume and setting of the fall ampli made for it.
I spent around half an hour at the falls. It got dark quickly and the bad story narrated to me by the old man at Lakhamandal started playing on my mind. There was no one at the fall the whole time I was there. The only other person over there was a local man sitting near the fireplace He served me a cup of tea. I asked him about the incident. The man confirmed the incident and told me that the boys who committed the act were in Jail and the entire people of the area were feeling ashamed for the act of those boys.
Taking leave from the nice local man, I hurried towards the place where my car was parked. I was bit jittery due to darkness, loneliness and the incident. Once I reached the car and was on the wheels, the fear was gone. Chakrata was still few kilometers away though. It took me awhile to reach Chakrata on that lonely bad road in the darkness.
Chakrata however turned out to be a very charming place. The road and the market were pretty neat and properly lit. There was enough crowd too, lots of dhabas as well. It made me feel comfortable. Proper mobile network was available. I had told my wife that I would be home that night. Starting at 5am from Mussourie I thought Chakrata was not very far and I shall be home before dawn the next day. But the 70 odd kilometers from Lakhamandal to Chakrata through tiger falls consumed the whole day and I was barely able to reach Chakrata around 8pm.
There was still a thought going through my mind to leave for Paonta in the night which and then try going home straight away. But looking at the charm of Chakrata I decided against it. Rest of the evening in Chakrata was wonderful. I walked through the market and bylanes of Chakrata. It had a medieval touch to it. There were still few buildings of raj era intact and gave it an old world charm.
Had a nice dinner and few drinks. Parked the car in the middle of bazaar under street light and had amazing time sleeping IN THE CAR on the 24th night of the trip at yet another new place!!!