A dream was coming true, when we started Adi Kailash Yatra on 3rd Oct, 2022 from our home. At that time, we did not know we were moving towards a lifetime experience. As per plan, we reach Daharchula on 5th afternoon. Next day i.e. 6th was a big day as per plan early morning, we would start for, Gunji, the base camp of Adi Kailash and Om Parvat.
Dharchula is on Nepal border where Kali river freely flows and acts as border between Nepal and India. One can cross the bridge over the river by showing any ID and can visit Nepal. We also went there. Being Dusshera, a major festival of Nepal as well, most of the shops were closed and we came back. We enjoyed the evening roaming about in this little place on the river bank. The clean clear water of river Kali was sending refreshing waves.
Next day, as we woke up, I could saw a drastic change in River’s water. It was full of soil and level was much above. We came to know that the road ahead is closed due to land sliding and we will have to wait. At 1pm, we got the green signal and with jaikaras of Mahadev, we started from Dharchula at 2pm.
Dharchula to Gunji
To cover distance of 71km, we, a group of 15 people(including 2 guides), took 6 hours. The road between Dharchula and Gunji is almost not there, quite dangerous and only 4×4 vehicles are allowed but the beauty surrounding was breathtaking. Tall mountains, deep valleys, waterfalls and free flowing river kali along the side did not let us take our eyes away even for a second. The strenuous journey of 6 hours appeared to be so easy and joyful.
Gunji and Weather
We reached Gunji at night and got settled in our camps. Accommodation was semi cylindrical iron structures in KMVN camp which was adjoining Army camp and ITBP camp. We were briefed about the things available there and next day’s plan. As per plan, we would wake up early at 4:30 am or so and by 5:50am, we would start for Adi Kailash which was around 35km. We slept with dreams of having darshan in the morning.
At midnight, rainfall started and we could hear the sound of rains on our iron roofs. It was evident that we would not be able to move out of camp next day. Next whole day i.e. on 7th, it rained and we were imprisoned in our dormitories with 6 people from different walks of life in 1 dorm. Waiting for the kind weather, we kept praying God for his mercy and darshan but he had a different plans for us and his plans are always better. Soon snow also accompanied the rain drops and slowly, small grass outside started appearing white. Mountains around started appearing mix colors of green and white.
Again, at night we were briefed about the plan for the next day and it was repetition of previous day hoping weather would be better. But that day, i.e. 8th was just replica of 7th as far as weather was concerned. Continuous rainfall with occasional snowfall and it was not possible to move out. In the evening, when it all stopped, everybody came out of their respective camps. We all were looking at sky giving our own predictions for the next day.
Darshan at Camp
At that time, something strange happened. One of us, asked us to concentrate on one part of tall mountain and we could see the “OM” in that mountain. “OM” made with white snow on green mountain. Then, he asked us to concentrate on another mountain, and we could see image of Lord “Shiva” in that snow covered hill top and soon, it was all clearly visible to most of us. Overjoyed and jumping with happiness, we realized, Lord Shiva has come here, right here, to give us darshan just around our camp and we could feel his vibrations.
The experience of this darshan cannot be described. We also felt that Lord Shiva is in his little angry state. His one eye not clearly visible and forehead wrinkled. We prayed, meditated and soon realized that his anger is slowly vanishing. Amazing and wonderful experience. As 3-4 people of our group had done Kailash Mansarovar yatra, they asked us to concentrate on opposite side where the all mountains joined together were exactly like Kailash. This was the time to mediate on HIM, to feel HIM, who is there with us right at the base camp. All around, right there.
India’s Mobile network is not available in that area. Sometimes, we get signal from Nepal ‘s Namaste telecom service on international roaming but reliability of this network is quite low. In our group, 1-2 mobile phones were working on this and we used to call home. On days, when this did not work, we would go to adjacent Army camp or ITBP camp to send messages back home using their wifi service.
We slept at night hoping that this night, we would not hear sounds of rains on our iron rooftops in midnight and weather would be all clear for our onward journey. That night, we did not hear that sound of raindrops and in the morning, we opened door with so much of hope. But, outside everything was just opposite to what we expected. We did not hear sound because there was heavy snow fall. Snow, silently dropping all around, covering everything with white sheets including our hope of moving ahead. It was quite clear that heavy snowfall here means closure of roads ahead. The only option left was to move back.
Days at Gunji with roads closed
We came to know that road to go down i.e. from Gunji to Dharchula had been washed away by rains and snow and it may takes several weeks to rebuild the door. We had planned something else but Lord Shiva’s plan was quite evident now. He wanted us to be there and experience his presence, experience the nature around, experience the total disconnection from the whole world and explore things which we would never do otherwise. A fireplace was there in the camp and our day was spent across fire.
Fireplace and Learnings
This fireplace added many learnings to our kitty. People from different walks of life, our co-passengers, drivers, army personnel, police officers, villagers etc. used to sit there discussing life, spirituality, Govt policies and what not. Sitting at that place, we learnt a lot about lives of Uttarakhand villages, their hardship, their joys, their simplicity.
Although I learnt a lot from many people but would like to mention few of them. Here was a lady, who came from Dharchula same day for Kailash Darshan. She, in spite of being uneducated, ran a fast food restaurant and brought up her children so well. Her eldest son is working in Paris, 2 of her children are in Kathmandu preparing for some exam and youngest daughter is doing CA. A very charming and independent woman inspired all of us. Our driver, charming Sagar, just won my heart. He would laugh his heart out with every sentence. Whatever question you raise, he would reply with a big laugh. He taught me how beautiful life is when we see it with that attitude. Many of us keep complaining for something or the other. I can see, how difficult life of this boy is. Driving on difficult roads, stranding on one place for days together was just a common phenomenon, limited resources but still leading a happy and cheerful life. Inspiring!
Simple people of hills narrated many stories to us and it was great experience to learn from each of them. This is how, we started spending our days at Gunji.
We were on unplanned, uncertain trip now, so thought of exploring the nearby areas. Next day was also a rainy day like many other previous days. Sitting at fireplace, we noticed a temple on a hilltop. On enquiring, we came to know that It is Vyas Mandir , 1000ft above our camp and there is a narrow passage to reach that temple. We decided to go to the Mandir. One of our group members, was a professional tracker who had already done Kailash parikrama and many other difficult tracks full of challenges. He offered to guide us. And yes, credit goes to him because otherwise, we would have given up in the midway. On the hilltop, there was small beautiful old temple with Shivlinga and idol of Maharshi Vyas. This Mandir had unique vibrations all across and we could see the whole beautiful valley. The serenity and calmness of this place was so enriching. It filled our hearts with gratitude of HIS grace.
Nabhi and Shiva Temple
In the evening, we thought of visiting the nearby village Nabhi. We came to know that it is 3km away and it has beautiful Shiva temple. Six of us, started our journey after lunch and it took almost 2 hours to reach this temple. The road enroute was so beautiful surrounded by tall trees. Apparently, there was no one in the temple but all things for puja were kept in proper order. It had a huge Trishul, dholak, damroo, Jal, Chandan, dhoop everything. By the time, we reached there, it was already dark. We sat there, meditated, sung songs with dholak and had a great time remembering HIM. He was there with us all the time.
Weather had started improving. Talks were on to airlift us with the help of Indian Airforce. Since Nepal’s network was frequently getting out, we were not getting any concrete information. It was 12th morning now and we got information that we might be rescued that day. We were shifted to helipad with all our luggage. There was a medical emergency in our camp as one old lady was on Oxygen for past 3 days. There was another accident case of a young villager who needed medical help. Indian Air Force’s heli Chinook arrived and picked up both the medical cases. Another round was expected but again weather went bad and we came back to our camps.
Kala Pani and Kali Mata Mandir
We came to know that upward road till Kala Pani is opened. Kala Pani is half way between Gunji and Om Parvat. We decided to visit Kala Pani and started after lunch. Kala Pani is beautiful place surrounded by snow covered tall mountains. The whole area, including Kali Mata Mandir, is maintained by ITBP. Maintenance by ITBP itself indicates the beauty, cleanliness and calmness of the place. From this place, Kali river starts and acts as border between India and Nepal. Serenity of place and warm welcome by ITBP personnel at temple overjoyed all of us. We had great time at temple. Here, we can see NAG parvat, a mountain in the shape of Shesh Nag and we can also spot Vyas Gufa. Vyas Gufa is said to be cave of Maharshi Vyas on a very tall mountain where he did his tapascharya and wrote holy books. One can only see the mouth of the gufa from few points. While interacting with ITBP personnel, we came to know that road ahead till Om Parvat was also clear. It was already dark, so we decided to try next day if not rescued.
Next day, the best day of our journey, the most memorable day of my life, was an awesome sunny day. After breakfast, hoping to be rescued, we went to helipad but soon it was clear that rescue was not planned for that day. Immediately, we decided to move towards Om Parvat. The previous night, 3 of us went to ITBP camp to enquire about the condition of the road ahead. They confirmed that road is almost cleared except the stretch of last 1-2 km. It was worth trying. We started around 12pm from Gunji with folded hands and dreams of darshan in our eyes.
Incidentally, this day was Karwa Chauth, a significant festival for a married Punjabi woman. Back home, We had planned our trip such that we would be back 2 days prior to Karwa Chauth but Lord Shiva had planned it in a very different way. At Kala pani, there was a check post where our ID cards were checked and we were given green signal to move ahead. Within 5 minutes of crossing Kala Pani, there was snow on both sides of the road. Middle of the road was cleared by our forces for vehicle movement. Snow covered mountains were welcoming us all around. We were so overwhelmed by natural untouched beauty. There were Army’s and ITBP’s camps enroute and soldiers were practicing in the heaps of snow. How great our soldiers are and how hard their lives are!!!
Within 2 hours, we reached that point where road was closed. From here, we needed to climb for 1km to reach the view point from where we can have darshan of Om Parvat, Yog Parvat and Nabhi Parvat. With Jaikaras of “Om Namo Shivay”, we started. It was a steep climb on narrow path of snow with around 2 feet of snow on both sides.
There was scarcity of Oxygen and tips given by people working on the route were useful. These people were also encouraging us. One of the tip was to take deep breaths, no matter, how difficult it appeared to be. Another was to take baby steps instead of the bigger one. With God’s grace, these tips were working for me and slowly steadily, looking at just our toes, we kept climbing and finally reached.
Oh My God! What a sight! Right in front of us, was the great Om Parvat, every bit of it indicating presence of Lord Shiva, accompanied by Nabhi Parvat on right side and Yog Parvat on left side. Beautiful sunny day, clear darshan, dream coming true. It was our eighth day at Gunji and we had almost lost hope of darshan but here we were. Obviously, God had better plans for us. It is said, there are very few days, when one can have this kind of darshan. Being at the top and far from view point, even little clouds may hamper the view but sunny day, blue sky made best darshan possible for us.
No matter, for how long we kept looking at these symbols of presence of Shiva, our heart was not allowing us to take our eyes off. We were in complete awe of it, blessed, enriched, filled with emotions. There was a small tea shop. My companions had tea and favorite mountain dish, Maggie. And then, we started our journey back. Journey downward was more difficult than upward. Slippery snow made it difficult to track and we were falling down after every few steps. A part of the stretch was covered by sliding on the snow and it added to the fun.
By evening, we reached Gunji. Again, network was down and we had no communication with the outer world. Since camp was surrounded by tall hills, I could see Chauth’s moon at 10pm. With heartfelt gratitude and satisfaction, I broke my fast. What a blessed day it was!
Next morning, as we woke up, there was a message from our camp manager that IAF’s chinook can arrive anytime for airlifting. We needed to complete our packing and had our breakfast quickly. We packed our bags. While waiting for breakfast, we heard loud sound and saw chinook arriving. Everybody rushed towards vehicles with all the luggage to reach helipad. In no time, we were in queues to board chinook and army personnel were streamlining the process. Soon, we all were inside it. It dropped us at Pithoragarh and we were again connected with the world.
We spent 9 days, 8 nights at Gunji with little or no communication, no means of entertainment, limited movement, harsh weather and limited resources like food options, clothing etc. And all these factors helped us to connect with each other, helped us to look within, helped us to feel Lord Shiva all around, in every bit, in every particle. Serenity of place along with its beauty and piousness, wondered us. Everybody at home was surprised that how could we be at one place with limited resources for 9 days and still we were so happy. I think experience is just impossible to narrate. One can experience it only by being there.
Thank you Neelam ji for sharing. When one starts reading, one doesn’t know that what’s coming. Though you are sounding normal and not compelling about the hardships, I can imaging that it must have been exceptionally hard to sustain every new day. Salute to your perseverance.
Thank you so much for sharing such beautiful pics and such an honest and real experience. At Ghumakkar, we take pride in publishing real stories and this one stands right at top.
Your taste of writing posts is quite unique and interesting. Though lord shiva has many homes but OM Parvat is quite magical and said as real abode of lord shiva.