Again I woke up well before sunrise and went out of the tent and sat on a rock for some time waiting for sun to rise. Naveen presented hot bed tea which was exemplary in this cold morning. Arjun too woke up and came out. He climbed the hill on the west to get a good view of the sun. He cajoled me to come up which I did and what a view I got. The sun was peeking out hugging side of a peak. There was a streak of cloud on the peak going away from it glowing in the sun. The railfan in me immediately conjured up image of steam engine belching grey smoke through chimney. We sat there in silence looking at the spectacle.
Our trail was up and down over stones, tree trunks and crossing a couple of streams. We even witnessed last patch of ice around the streams. Arjun showed me how the place must be buried under snow as evident from flattened branches of shrubs. The forest was mainly comprised of Oak trees but there were others including Bhoj tree from where bhoj patracomes from. We were constantly descending and my knees started showing signs of wavering on trying to descend. As treking pole I picked up one tree branch and broke it in couple of strokes to make it suitable to which Arjun complimented that I have become a pro now.
At the junction there was a Gujar hut with family actively living there. These huts are very basic ones constructed mainly of tree branches and covered with thatch or plastic sheet. The walls are not sealed and there is space between branches is open which may not be effective during winds. The families typically have sheep, cows and even buffaloes all brought from plains. Since we had to meet our companions here, we waited for them sitting on grass, soaking in the sun. There was lot of activity at this hut with people bringing in goods and exchanging and taking it forward. The sheep of the house came out to graze along with cows. After some time a little girl comes out and shoved them back. Soon our companions arrive and we set out for more descent.
We reached Pichkiyan around 12 noon. The campsite was not that great. Ground was not level, grass was not inviting and no great views. Also the water body was occupied by buffaloes and dung everywhere. We decided to push forward and go down all the way to Barsu. My knees has started hurting but comfort at the end of trek was inviting and I decided to carry along. In between we met another Gujar family who were asking for medicines for their ailing head of family. We wondered how these people especially elderly live here? These are not typical house with amenities or even neighbours to talk to. How do they pass their time? We met another set of women who were collectign firewood who had come up from Barsu. They asked for water and Arjun obliged. He was speaking to them and asking them things. On me being silent, one of the women asked me whether I don’t understand their language? I said I understand on which she said that since I did not speak to them so she doubted why I was not speaking to them. I did not expect to blush at this place. These womenfolk were quite sturdy and were carrying a heavy load of firewood with them.
We encountered a bigger stream on the way with was like a stepped waterfall. We sat listening to the falling water and freshened ourselves. To cross the stream there was a tree trunk placed cross at lower level and a ‘bridge’ made of 3-4 slender trunks at higher level. The one at higher level was a little risky but on Arjun’s encouragement I managed to cross it with some balancing. After some time we could see Barsu close by. While walking through the village there were curious looks and I walked with the air of a conqueror. Finally we reached GMVN welcomed by the staff there. Rest of the day was spent resting and chatting with staff.
Today we had to travel all the way back to Delhi, so we started early and decided to take local transport upto Uttarkashi. The first taxi took us to Bhatwari, there we transferred to a second one and went upto Uttarkashi. We were running short of cash as we had to pay Naveen, so we went to the ATM there. But all the ATMs were out of cash. Only around 10 AM was the cash filled again and we were able to withdraw cash.
Here I parted with Arjun who wanted to spend more time with Naveen on further association. I went to the taxi stand a little away from main area where there was a taxi ready to go to Dehradun. Instead of Rishikesh I thought to take this one and go to Dehradun which is a bigger town, easier to get transport to Delhi and it was immediately leaving. However, on SMS Arjun warned me about it being a longer route but we were already on our way. The route goes through Barkot – Mussorie a different route than one for Rishikesh. The route was similar to one we came from Rishikesh, not so good roads, dust, brown hills. Around Mussorie the vegetation changes and the forest is dominated by pine trees. However, things were not pleasant. The brown hills had parched vegetation, some forest fire brewing, lot of traffic around Mussorie and weather being warm.
Around Mussorie there seemed a cavalcade of cars mostly from Delhi. Today being saturday the Mussorie town seemed to be run over by tourists from nearby cities. Dehradun was quite warm on reaching there but some of the roads were tree lined. I got down at survey chowk and took No. 5 Vikram tempo to bus stand which is 10-12 km away. There I caught an ordinary bus going to Delhi.
Just out of Dehradun we were passing through Rajaji National park which was completely parched. There was a river course but river was all dried up, trees denuded of leaves. All this in scorching sun presented a gloomy sight. Just nearby we have Ganges and the river through park is all dry. On top of it we got stuck in jam around a narrow tunnel and memories were back to days I used to battle heat in DTC buses in Delhi. After that every town we ecountered dust, jam, cacophony be it Roorkee, Chhutmalpur, Purkaji, Muzaffarnagar. After excruciating and worst part of this vacation, I reach Delhi outer at 11 PM and went to comfort of my friends place.