Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Hemkund Sahib Trek

 Day 5: the trek to Hemkund Sahib
From day 1 most of us had been consistently asking our guide if the trek to Hemkund Sahib was difficult and all we were getting as an answer everytime was “one day at a time mam”. Finally on Day 4 he sweetly says that yes it is a difficult trek and if any of you would like to take the mule up, after the Valley trek, please do. Some of us opted for the same. To be frank before I booked for the trek i had spoken to a friend who had done this tour with WoW and told me that she had opted for the mule and that it saves a lot of time and energy leaving much more time at the Gurudwara too. I was like ok I will do that too. However, I got so inspired by the ladies in the camp that I decided to give the mule a pass and trek it up, all the while thinking that if I am not able to walk, I will be kind to myself and take the mule from anywhere en route.
The night after the trek to Valley was painful as one had climbed down in all the rain negotiating all those stacked up kind of stones. My knees and legs were hurting and as was in the camp, I couldn’t sleep beyond 12.30 am. Each time I turned in the bed there was a silent cry out of pain. I had liberally applied Moov spray (the smell of which I hate) and also wore the knee support for a while. Anyways in the morning at 7 am post breakfast, I popped in a Crocin for pain relief and with renewed hope and enthusiasm began the trek with the group. Being in the group the dynamics of inspiration and the feeling of “can do” becomes stronger. I can now relate to that saying of “if you want to walk fast walk alone and if you want to walk far walk together.”

Taking it slowly yet surely we all set out on our different paces, pausing at every 5 minutes to inhale and look around. After crossing the Ghangaria bazaar we reached the fork path from where, today we moved towards Hemkund Sahib. At the base of the mountain we looked up and saw 2 seemingly very small poles that from here looked like pin heads at the peak of the large large mountain and yes, it was where we were to go. I cannot even begin to describe how it felt at that time. It was so far away and the fatigue of last 3 days was catching up too. Gathering all the strength from within and with a prayer we started the climb up.
The path here is wide and cemented with rocks and there are mules aplenty, which also means navigating and saving yourself from them. The path is swept very regularly and is clean. It definitely is steep though. Today, it took all ounce of energy and will power to move and I kept mentally switching from mantras to the affirmations and everything in between. 

It was important to remain self motivated and moving. Faith, they say can move mountains and I saw can make you climb mountains too however majestic they may be. On the way I saw so many people going up with small babies and old parents, some on foot, others on mules and pitthus. Each one on crossing saying “wahe guru”. It was this and a smile that one gave and received by the strangers that also became a source of energy.
As soon as we crossed a milestone we all felt “galat hai. Ho hi nahi sakta…” we walked so much and it still showed that it was just a kilometer that we had done. Anyways, it also started to rain and the ascent became even slower. We finally thought we have achieved a feat when we spotted our guide waiting for us at a shack and asking us to rest. As soon as we tumbled in he said, “half hua hai”. I rolled and fell only, mentally and physically. Took the bench quietly and sat looking at the beautiful red mountain finch that were pecking on soaked rice. 
mountain finch

Anyways when my walking partner Radhika reached there, I told her, “radhika he is saying its only halfway (I seriously thought he was lying) what do we do?” Radhika coolly replied, “nothing we have decided we will do and so we will.” That sentence and her calm demeanor worked its magic on me and off we started again.
After having walked a distance again, now we could hear some shabads from the gurudwara and walking in the rain listening to those while fully mindful of each breath was nothing short of a walking meditation. We crossed a couple of streams on the way that were flowing right on the path making the entire landscape surreal. The air had thinned further. Fortunately none of us encountered any breathing issues or dizziness. We kept moving step by step. At one place someone going down offered a sip of glucose and that gesture in itself was one of the most beautiful ones. I felt so touched and realized that in life as in this trek we really do meet earth angels if we are open to receiving. We received and gave many blessings. Most of the flowers that we saw at the Valley were all here too on the mountain slopes, and it was a delight to see them. Everytime I spotted blue poppies it was like encountering a friend I now knew.

At a turn when we were pretty close to the gurudwara, we – me and Tanya – had the option of taking the stairs or the path. Some people coming down the steps said the steps are fairly good and we also felt that now if we don’t reach the ardaas will get over, so we chose to take the stairs. The initial stairs were very steep and then they became pretty consistent and not very high. If we looked up the stairs seemed never ending and reminded me of my very favorite song, “stairway to heaven.” The long winding stairs were beautiful, however at each couple of steps I needed to stop to catch my breath. Tanya, the youngest one was leading the way, she was looking up at the stairs and me at her. By the way I later read somewhere they were 900 of them. Anyways as with the stairs, they ended. Yes they ended. And opened up in to the gurudwara compound. Oh my good god, we had made it, we had climbed, we had reached! After a minute or two of catching our breath we started to feel cold and quickly ran in the gurudwara.
the entrance

Once inside, we went to a small prayer room and then into the main hall. It is so endearing to note that there are many blankets available in the gurudwara hall for people to wrap them and sit for the prayers. As soon as I reached in and sat, it was like opening up of floodgates within me. I was all tears and very wet eyes, I cannot explain the feeling, maybe surrender feels like this. After having toiled, pushed mental and physical limits to simply just reach the divinity within and out, it was the most beautiful experience I ever had. In a minute or so bhai ji came and doled out a huge ball of halwa Prasad and we ate hungrily, the manna from heaven. I prayed for everyone, each and everyone I know, have known, and then just every one.
Darbar Sahib 

Thankfully we had reached in time and had some time to spend in the gurudwara. We were allowed to take photos and we did. Finally at the end of the ardaas they started announcing that all return as weather was becoming bad. It already was misty and raining and it seemed will rain more. Anyways we went to the langar hall and were served khichri and tea Prasad, most yummy one I had ever had. 

After having our fill, we were just around when Abhimanyu started to call out for us, “jaldi aao”. We rushed and saw that the mist over the “kund” lifted just for those 30 odd seconds before it came down and engulfed the lake again. It was a sight I won’t forget in a hurry. 
just for me the veil of mist lifted 

in the morning before we reached 

And with all done, we started now to begin our descent. Oh yes, and while we were coming down suddenly right next to the long winding steps we had taken Tanya pointed out to a most gorgeous multi layered waterfall, which believe it or faint we missed seeing while going up. Yes, and we also spotted the elusive Brahma Kamal. 
Brahma Kamal 
One step and one breath at a time. The coming down was not as difficult as the day before and it was raining all the while but became excruciating with the knee hurting and ankles swollen. But with joy in each step and pride of having done it and group mates sharing their personal stories made it worth its while.
Just as I came down, a group of youngsters stopped me and asked me if I had trekked it all the way up and down? I was elated and said yes yes. The exhaustion and the elation was I am sure writ large on me. They asked if it was tough and steep and the 1000 doubts and I motivatingly replied to all of them just as someone had earlier replied to me. It had come a full circle. I was back at the base, richer and enriched.

PS: Some pics are clicked by me and rest by others in the group.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome experience with beautifully narration....This keeps us inspiring.