12th March 2015, Thursday…..Day(24) Mussoorie-Kempty Fall-Lakhamandal-Tiger Falls-Chakrata 148 km
After an amazing sleep IN THE CAR parked on Kempty Road, Mussoorie, got up very early once again. It was still pretty dark. Drove to Library Chowk, clicked few pictures and was off to Kempty Falls.
The dark of the night was giving way to the pink milky morning. The birds, the trees and even the 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 again.
Watching empty Kempty Water Falls from the road so early in the morning was amazing. Got out of the car for a longish look, liked the blueness all around, even the buildings looked so milky blue. No one was near the falls, pretty soon, the entire area would be swarmed by the day revellers and the place would lose its prisetine charm.
Soon I reached Yamuna Bridge and instead of going straight to Chakrata I thought why not visit Lakhamandal as well, so turned right on Yamunotri Road on a narrow but good road. It felt so good as I was at Barkote few days ago during this trip.
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 too.
I asked for a cup of tea and then enjoyed washing lalpari in the cold, clean and gushing waters of the spring. In the process took bath myself too.
After a few kilometers drive, a board mentioned Lakhamandal 5 kilometers to the left. On reaching Lakhamandal, drove near the temple, parked the car and went walking through the village. On the way to the temple a nice looking old man greeted me with smile and took me to his home.
The old man’s house was a traditional house built mostly with local wood and material. A little later the grandson of the old man took me to the temple and introduced me to the priest who told me about the history and tradition of the temple.
Dedicated to lord Shiva, Lakhamandal, as the name suggests: lakha meaning “many” and mandal meaning “lingam”, is a temple having many shivlings. The main attraction of the temple, however, is a graphite lingam which 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 a girl from Delhi, who came to visit the Tiger Falls, were kidnapped, raped and killed by a taxi driver and his friends.
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.
The road to Chakrata was a dirt and secluded road. I did not see any other vehicle for miles together, not even a bike or even pedestrians, except a few shepherds with their herd. The place reminded me of my last years bike trip to remote Spiti and Ladakh areas. The landscape around was, however, raw and beautiful.
I was in the Jaunsar tribal heartland which traces its origin back to the Pandavas of Mahabharata fame. The built of homes, villages and expression on the faces of people looked very different. The landscape and beauty of the area was stark and at times fearsome. Strange fearsome beauty was spread everywhere.
Reaching Gauraghati, a restricted area for foreign nationals, was a kind of relief. There were few houses and a tea shop. The road, however, became even worse thereafter. Soon I reached a big village named Kwansi and was glad to see a PNB branch.
A young man was sitting on the bike outside the branch. I asked him about the area and the Tiger Falls. He was an officer of the bank and learning about my background, took me inside the branch and told me about the difficult life of the people of the area.
He told me that the Tiger Falls was another 20 kilometers from Kwansi and there was a board mentioning diversion to the Tiger Falls to the left. 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 come I missed that one. I kept on driving but there was no board. I felt I had driven more than 4 kilometers and there was no 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.
On the way to the falls I saw an Innova car coming from the opposite side. It 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 I was on the right road and that the falls was a good sight and I must be go. He told me to park the car at 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 very 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 waterfall 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 falls the whole time I was there. The only other person over there was a local man sitting near the fireplace who served me a nice 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 old man, I hurried towards the place where my car was parked feeling 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 reaching 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 too. 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 at around 8pm.
There was still a thought going through my mind to leave for Paonta in the night 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 the street light and had amazing sleep IN THE CAR on the 24th night of the trip at yet another new and charming place…………………!!!