Table of contents for Ganges Valley to Yamuna Valley Trail
- Uttarkashi and Thalan (Ganges/Yamuna trail1)
- Uttarkashi to Agoda (Ganges/Yamuna trail 2)
- Agoda to Dodital (Ganges/Yamuna trail 3)
- High altitude meadows of Himalayas (Ganges/Yamuna trail 4)
- Lost in the leopard territory (Ganges/Yamuna trail 5)
- Lost in the mountains again (Ganges/Yamuna trail 6)
- Arrival in Hanumanchatti (Yamuna Odyssey 7)
- Dinner in Hanumanchatti (Yamuna Odyssey 8)
- Jankichatti Walk (Yamuna Odyssey 9)
- Hanumanchatti to Kharadi Fall (Yamuna Odyssey 10)
- Yamuna in Barkot (Yamuna Odyssey 11)
- हम भी मिले थे कभी जमुना किनारे. Yamuna Odyssey 12 (Epilogue)
My being so assure of myself comforts Briana and she calms down. She is thirsty and she sips from her water bottle. I unload my backpack and find firewood to make tea with whatever little water I have in my plastic bottle. Otherwise the last of the water we saw is now miles away. This ain’t Gujjar territory anymore. Probably no water on these mountains makes it unfavorable for animal grazing.
I make black tea with Banafsha, Mulathi, spearmint that I plucked on the way. Where we are sitting, is growing wild Himalayan Ginseng (PANAX PSEUDOGINSENG). I have no water to wash the roots to incorporate it in the tea.
When tea is ready, we share half cup each. Initially she was scared to drink any tea with my recipes but now she gulps it up whatever I make. Moreover she licks up all the remaining drops in her cup.
High Altitude Meadows
After tea she is again very apprehensive.
She says, “What next?”
What she does not know that I learned some lessons during my Scout training in my childhood. This time when I suspected we may get lost again, I was twisting and breaking the branches of the soft birch trees. Last branch I broke was about 200 meters before. I broke branches and then twisted in such a way that they still hang upon the tree.
Now is the task to find the last birch branch that I broke and twisted. We only know that we were descending. I mention this Briana to find any broken, twisted and hanging branch on the birch trees.
“I saw you breaking the branches but I thought you were just playing around. Actually I was annoyed.”
We leave our backpacks and walk up to find the first broken branch. But we find several broken branches twisted similar way. But I remember that the tree was like a W and I twisted the branch at the thinnest leg and I tell it to Briana.
Actually she finds that tree after half hour of laborious search, whereas I missed it several times. Yes it is the same branch and first time we make the thorough inspection how I break and twist the branch, so how to spot my own handiwork next time. I break and twist several more branches now to check my own pattern and Briana says that now she can spot any branch that I broke and this will eliminate any false signals.
“Now I know your style,” she declared.
But whatsoever, I don’t know my own style. I am tempted to twist and break several branches to study my own style but I restrain myself so not to sow any further confusion.
She hangs her scarf on the marker tree and we return back below to bring our luggage there. Again I am carrying her very heavy backpack and climbing a steep incline, and her job is to find this same marker.
To amuse herself, she asks me laughingly, “Are not you scared of just anything?”
What she does not know that I am only scared of rain or snowfall here, that could be mortal, in that case, without a roof over our head, we never had a chance to see next day.
To amuse her further, I reply, “remember, when I was walking alone to Darwa Pass, you came running to me and you said: Am I asking too much?”
She burst to laugh. “Yes.”
“I allowed you to come with me because when I saw your warehouse, I knew there must be some thing to protect both of us from rain and snow. That’s why I am guarding and hauling your warehouse.”
She laughingly admits that she got one raincoat.
“Then I can wear that rain coat and you can enter in your backpack. Only thing that can kill us here is rain and snow.”
Near Darwa Pass
We return to the marker and then walk again in the general direction of south. Steep climb is very tiring and I am sweating in the cold of mountains. My heart is pounding and I cannot focus upon any marker because I am seeing dark spots. Then we hear rocks falling and may be it is some human and we both stop and shout but then we see a mother bear with her cubs. We resume our climb and Briana spots another tree branch and I am not sure if it is my own handiworks but have no choice but to keep walking steep uphill. Then she claims another find and this one I vaguely remember because there is a large ganoderma mushroom sticking to the base.
We walk past that marker and see some mountain goats. May be the lack of human activities in this area made this palace a safe heaven for wildlife. I witness several rare herbs growing in this area but we have no time to stop. We are only worried to find a specific path leading to civilization. We have food alright, but we must find water and we can survive in this jungle for couple of days; no big deal. So I am not worried. Briana is also not worried because she is good at finding the markers and this adventure has only spiced up her tracking experience. Unfortunately her camera got stolen in Dharamshala and I always travel without camera.
She says in excitement, “This is going to be a story that I will be telling to all.”
We keep walking and she finds one after other marker while I am crushed under the burden of her heavy backpack. I am unable to see anything beyond by shoes. My head is pounding and my chest is heaving. I only follow her.
Then I collapse at a marker. I believe that is the correct marker because I remember seeing the cluster of Jack of the pulpit plants. Once on my walk in the Manikaran valley I mistakenly ate many fruits of this plant and almost died.
After rest we again walk, she wants to carry her own backpack but I stop her because she is a good navigator. I cannot even identify my own handiwork. We continue climbing. As she is walking further to find another marker, I find the opening in the birch trees, may be this is the ridge that we missed. She continues walking in the dense deodar forest but I walk to the opening and it turns out the ridge, I can see the mountains at the other side of the valley. Far away at the mountains are two homes. As per instructions we have to walk in the north to catch that mountain at the closing of the valley to get to that point.
A Van Gujjar
Briana is farther in the woods locating another marker and I want to give her a scare of the life time before she gets the good news. I hide in the jungle and actually I am so tired that I collapse on her backpack and have no strength to stand up again.
Arisaema triphyllum (Jack of the Pulpit)
Also called as Arum Dracontium
A remedy for Pharyngitis with sore, raw and tender throat.
Head.–Heavy; shooting pain in ears, aching pain behind right ear.
Throat.–Dry, sore, worse swallowing. Raw and tender. Continued disposition to clear throat. Croupy, hoarse cough with sore throat.
Urinary.–Irresistible desire to pass urine, burns and smarts.
Respiratory.–Hoarseness; excess of mucus in larynx. Asthmatic at night. Expectoration thick, heavy.
Arum, Jack of the pulpit.
After half hour I hear her desperate shouts and then she comes looking for me but I am hiding and she begins weeping.
I shout at her and she comes to me and begins beating me.
“Never ever do this again; never ever do this again,” she is chanting it over and over.
“Well be happy, we are not lost anymore.”
She looks at me with wide childish eyes, “We are not?”
“No Madam, not any more.” I point her to the opening in the trees that we missed; she runs there and looks at the vista of the other side of the valley.
She is now dancing.
It is noon now.
“As we find water, we will celebrate.”
I again lift her warehouse and walk to the opening and sit there for sometime because chances of getting lost are remote now.
We begin walking and so far there is no symptom of water but we must find the water at the closing wall of the valley because we can see a silvery brook line at the bottom. After 3-4 kilometers, we find several waterfalls. Here vista opens up and symptoms of habitation are faintly visible on the mountain in front of us.
We walk past the ridge and when we find a bubbling brook coming and crashing from the massif, we make fire and heat up rest of the parothas. We eat parothas with ranch-salad-dressing that Briana produces from her magic backpack. I gave extra spices and herbs to the man who made these parothas and results were exceptional.
We walk past the closing wall of the valley and in two hours arrive near some homes but all are empty. Now we can see all sheep paths converging and we walk upon the clearest path. After one kilometer path becomes wider and then after another kilometer path becomes a stone lined way. As we traverse a bend on the mountain we see the vista of the other mountains and Yamuna River.
We see 2 women gathering last season’s fallen (sea-buckthorn also called as willow-leaved sea-buckthorn), a wild variant of Hippophae salicifoliais. This variety is only restricted to the Himalayas, growing at high altitudes in dry valleys, near of above tree line. They are far away from us.
This plant has thorns so it is called Kandi. Its oil is called Kandi ka tail.
Sea-buckthorn oil is famous for its extraordinary healing properties, known from ancient times. The unique properties of this oil is widely used in traditional medicine for the treatment and prevention of many diseases. Sea buckthorn oil – a product with a high content of vitamins: E, F, A, K, D, and many other biologically active substances. Used as a source of beta-carotene. But berries in Himalayas yield very little (but very potent oil). That is the reason it is seldom sold in the market. Each home gathers barely enough for their own consumption. This oil can be used for cooking but it is never enough to be wasted as cooking oil. In Himalayas it is used as tonic for women after child birth and also for many other ailments.
Sea-buckthorn (Kandi) courtesy: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Sea-buckthorn.jpg
There are many other varieties of Sea-buckthorn in other countries, these varieties can grow up to a big tree and yield large quantity of oil-seeds. So this oil is available and much valued in many other countries and is sold there. Price is around 1 USD for 1 ml.
Far away we can see other villages along the Barkot-Yamunotri road. Briana is extremely happy; taking this trail was her lifelong dream. She came to Dodital before also but could not accumulate the courage to do it without any guide or porter.
I don’t want this serene journey to come to a blunt end so I keep stopping and spend more time at each stop. Briana is desperate to accomplish her goal. I ask her to move on further if she wishes but she stays with me. Then we see first small village. Many people surround us. Everybody is simply flabbergasted upon our arrival. People crowd us, they say that not many people do this trekking alone because of its dangers. A big plateau is up there and many guides also get lost. Porters make this journey once and then they think they now know the way, they become guides and get lost with the party they lead. There is only one way to return but hundreds of ways to leading to the dead ends. After whole day of walk one may has no strength left to make a return and then if it rains or snows, chances of staying alive diminishes.
Even local people at Bewra and Agoda warned me about never to trust a guide on his own claims but consult locally about his knowledge about this region. Only problems is that; Dodital is not a village itself but barely a couple of huts and a temple and there is nobody to consult to. Guide can be arrange in Agoda only but not many are available. On the other hand several guides can be arranged in Hanumanchatti region but this is an extremely difficult trek from Yamuna Side because it is at least 6000 feet nonstop climb that takes 2 very hard days to get to Darwa pass. Carrying tents and provisions for yourself, for a guide and for a porter itself becomes an expansive expedition.
By the way I did this trekking alone again last April. I made it alone from Dodital to Hanumanchatti in just one day. I started at six in the morning. Actually not exactly to Hanumanchatti but to the next village where we will be having a cup of tea now.
Anyway we are out of the season, most people take this trek in May-June or September when more Gujjars are in the meadows. Gujjars with cows and buffaloes begin going upwards in the middle of the June.
Final stretch of the trail near Hanumanchatti
After this village we find 2 other villages and a tea shop where we have tea. We give away our leftover parothas to children. Tea shop man arranges us a man to carry our backpacks now on further and it is a big relief. Now as I am walking I am feeling like I am flying. The man carrying our backpack has already disappeared.
Now road to Hanumanchatti is visible and we touch it at 4PM.
She cheerfully claps and shouts, “We made it, all by ourselves.”
Man with our backpacks said he will meet us in Hanumanchatti so we walk to the village. At a tea shop we find our backpacks. We have a cup of tea there and then the man who carried our burden appears. I pay him his balance and buy him tea and snacks. He is lucky to find another burden to take to near his village.
Saga of this trail ends here.
Now this story is: Yamuna Odyssey.
Jai Ganga Mai.
Jai Yamuna Mai.
Meeting with Mr. Samwal again in Hanumanchatti but in the different circumstance.
Banafsha (Viola Odorata)
Medicinal use of Sweet Violet : Sweet violet has a long and proven history of folk use, especially in the treatment of cancer and whooping cough. It also contains salicylic acid, which is used to make aspirin. It is therefore effective in the treatment of headaches, migraine and insomnia. The whole plant is anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, and laxative. It is taken internally in the treatment of bronchitis, respiratory catarrh, coughs, asthma, and cancer of the breast, lungs or digestive tract. Externally, it is used to treat mouth and throat infections. The plant can either be used fresh, or harvested when it comes into flower and then be dried for later use. The flowers are demulcent and emollient. They are used in the treatment of biliousness and lung troubles. The petals are made into a syrup and used in the treatment of infantile disorders. The roots is a much stronger expectorant than other parts of the plant but they also contain the alkaloid violine which at higher doses is strongly emetic and purgative. They are gathered in the autumn and dried for later use. The seeds are diuretic and purgative. They have been used in the treatment of urinary complaints are considered to be a good remedy for gravel. A homeopathic remedy is made from the whole fresh plant. It is considered useful in the treatment of spasmodic coughs and rheumatism of the wrist. An essential oil from the flowers is used in aromatherapy in the treatment of bronchial complaints, exhaustion and skin complaints.
Himalayan Ginseng (PANAX PSEUDOGINSENG)
Ginseng can be used to improve the health of people recovering from illness. It increases a sense of wellbeing and stamina, and improves both mental and physical performance. Ginseng can be used to help with erectile dysfunction, hepatitis C, and symptoms relating to menopause, and can also be used for lowering blood glucose levels and controlling blood pressure.
Ginseng has been shown to reduce the levels of stress in both men and women. Those that take ginseng regularly are able to withstand higher amounts of physical and emotional stress.
The root of Asian ginseng contains several active substances called ginsenosides or panaxosides that are thought to be responsible for the medicinal effects of the herb. Asian ginseng is “warming” while American ginseng is “cooling”.
Because of its adaptogenic effects, it is widely used to lower cholesterol, increase energy and endurance, reduce fatigue and the effects of stress, and prevent infections. Ginseng is one of the most effective anti-aging supplements, with the capability of alleviating some major effects of aging such as degeneration of the blood system, and increasing mental and physical capacity.
I myself value ginseng a lot, I have discovered its value by sheer coincidence. I bought a packet of ginseng tea from Vancouver China Town only for amusement. Next morning when I had ginseng tea, my hangover disappeared. At last night, with my friends we had a mixture of many liquors and it gave us all a nasty headache and hangover.
When Koreans discovered about wild Ginseng in Himalayas they begin coming to India for the sole purpose of harvesting the roots of this plant. Wild ginseng is sold 1kg for 1000 USD. Whereas cultivated ginseng is 1/3rd cheaper. Ginseng is cultivated around Kemloops, British Columbia and also in Korea and China. Since rhizome is used so any plant plucked from the wilderness has no further chance to propagate.
I used to stay in a small village Bhagsunag near Mcleodganj near Dharamshala (Himachal). My host lady told me that many Koreans are coming to Bhagsunag and whole day they gather a certain plant. They dry its roots and then parcel it back to Korea. I was very curious. I asked that lady to show me that plant and she took me to the mountains. That plant turned out wild Himalayan Ginseng. Most of the plants are already disappeared. In those days I found a Korean husband and wife gathering this plant whole day. They were doing nothing but only gathering these plants.