Trinetra Bhattacharyya: The more we climbed up, the more we started feeling tired and breathless. So we sat down again, took some breath, and started again. The beautiful scenery around, especially the green valley on one side and the snow-capped mountains on the other, the silence, with only the sounds of some insects and birds, made us want to climb further.
In May 2018, we went to Uttarakhand where I visited the highest Shiva temple in the world – Tungnath. It feels so special even after a year. We were staying at the GMVN Tourist Guest House at Ukhimath, itself a beautiful place. I still remember standing in the verandah, looking at the clouds gradually shrouding the mountains and then coming towards us. What a sight it was! Later in the night, the lights in the mountains glowed, like some colourful droplets. Just opposite our room, we had a group of trekkers, who had just returned from Tungnath. We heard, how they had to face rain and hail while coming back.
I felt some fear, but I was excited still. We woke up very early the next morning, so that we could begin the trek as soon as possible. We packed raincoats, packets of nuts, candies and water bottles in our rucksacks. The caretaker of the guest house gave us walking sticks which would help us during the trek. While we were driving up to Chopta, Tungnath’s base, the winding roads and the chill in the early morning wind kind of gave me a sense of adventure. We had planned to have breakfast at Chopta, but the drive through the winding road made me sick. Before I could eat anything, I unfortunately threw up. I felt doubtful of whether I could at all begin the trek or not. But my parents and aunt encouraged me and we began the trek.
There were rhododendron trees along the sides of the stony path. Small stone slabs were there to sit, if one grew tired. There were men offering rides on horses too. The atmosphere seemed mysterious as only my parents, aunt, myself and our guide were there. A little higher up, we could see people climbing up the mountain. After a while, we sat in a wayside shop and had tea and biscuits. Then we continued with our climb. Both my mother and I clicked pictures of the beautiful mountains all around. The more we climbed up, the more we started feeling tired and breathless. So we sat down again, took some breath, and started again. The beautiful scenery around, especially the green valley on one side and the snow-capped mountains on the other, the silence, with only the sounds of some insects and birds, made us want to climb further. But after sometime my father felt out of breath. My mother told him to take a ride on a horse, but he wouldn’t. After about an hour later, when my father simply couldn’t climb up the steep mountain any more, he took a ride on a horse.
When we were nearly at the top I felt so tired, that I had to sit on the stone slab. I told my mother to go ahead and leave me there. My mother didn’t want to leave me alone so I had to continue after resting for a while. When we almost reached the temple complex, I saw my father sitting on a boulder. He was sweating but the chill in the wind didn’t let him open his jacket. I ran up to him and hugged him. It had taken us about four hours to reach Tungnath from Chopta. We went inside the temple to pray to Lord Shiva. My mother, aunt and myself went inside while my father waited outside. It was really cold there and the cold wind hit our cheeks. After strolling in the simple but beautiful temple complex for sometime we decided to return.
While having some food on our way down, a sharp cold wind started to blow hard, the sky started getting dark. The snow-capped mountains started getting grey. My aunt said that if we didn’t hurry, then it would start raining and it would be dangerous to step on the slippery path. We might even face a hailstorm, just like the group in our guest house had met, the evening before. So we quickly had our food and hurried along. Our guide took me to the ‘Bugiyal’ (wide grassy tracts) where I saw wild horses and birds. There was greenery and freshness surrounding me. I slipped one or two times while coming down, but as my father and guide were holding me, I didn’t fall. I reached the base first with our guide and he told me to sit in the nearest shack selling eatables. My aunt and father had coffee and my mother and I had warm frothy buffalo milk to get our lost energy back.
It started to rain while we drove back to the Guest House. As I was sitting in the car having chips, my mother said, ‘‘Did you know that you had trekked up to 12,073 feet?’’ I couldn’t believe my ears. What did she just say? I was astonished. My face said it all. I was so happy, I hugged my mother, who stood like a rock with me all the time. And my father, always up to his funny antics said, ‘‘This girl, all of nine, is already on cloud nine!’’
Words: Trinetra Bhattacharyya
Photos: Trinetra Bhattacharyya and Shatarupa Sen
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