Yes you are right Yogesh. And not only travelling, the very routine of their daily life is something unimaginable for us city folks. And even than they are so humble, peaceful, helpful and lead a rather satisfying life.
While the room I got at KMVN Gangolihat looked more like a somewhat ill maintained PWD Rest House than tourism hotel, it had fantastic view!
After a quick shower, I got an Alto booked to take me to Haat Kalika Temple and Patal Bhubaneswar for Rs. 700. Pratap (+91-7500734769) was a nice chap and even helped carry offerings for Kali Mata, as he was afraid monkeys would run away with them, though luckily enough there wasn’t any around when I was at the temple.
I asked for blessings from Kali Mata and did so in such an abstract way that I guess only a mother can understand. Temple itself was beautiful and one is even allowed to take photographs of sanctum sanctorum.
After darshan we headed towards Patal Bhubaneswar and en route stopped at a small dhaba for food. I hadn’t had anything except water after dinner last night, since I wanted to visit Haat Kalika without eating food. Dal-Chawal was all that was available at the dhaba and after eating that, we continued our journey and en route stopped for some landscape photography.
At Patal Bhubaneshwar I went till the outside of the temple and had to deposit my camera and mobile phone, since mobile phones and cameras aren't allowed inside the cave. Then a guide took me to the entrance of the cave and seeing that my back twitched. There was no way I would be able to go inside, that was the first thing that came to my mind and indeed, I chickened out! I wasn’t confident that with my size and bad back, I would be able to climb in and out of the cave and I didn’t even try! I made a vow to return one day and do it, but I really felt bad inside.
Once back at the parking lot, there wasn’t much to do or explore, we went on the same route through which I had come, in hopes of getting somewhat better views, but with heavy clouds there wasn’t much scope for that either, however clouds themselves were full of drama.
By around 3:30pm I was back in my room, a bit disappointed with myself. So thought of just letting go and think of happy thoughts and eventually I was able to lift my mood somewhat with couple of rounds of sitting and closing my eyes (I guess trying to meditate). After a round of status updates, commenting on statuses and showing off on FB and WhatsApp, I was feeling even better, though that happiness was only superficial and momentary.
What really gave me peace, calm and happiness was the view outside my balcony, which I enjoyed so much that I cancelled my planned walk through the city and just sat in the balcony, look into the distance, sometime doing photography, but mostly just watching time float by.
Since I wasn’t carrying any tripod, long exposures were out of question. So for a change, I ordered a cup of tea and just enjoyed the views, instead of doing photography. I have seen so many sunrises and sunsets, only once in my entire life have I ever enjoyed a cup of tea at such an occasion and that was earlier this year during my Chail trip. Even at that time I was doing photography along with it, so I wasn’t actually watching the sunrise occur. But this time it was all different, a lot more romantic and a dream come true, for I had wanted to do this for god knows how long but had never done it.
Then as the darkness and mist consumed the world around me, lights begin to appear in distant hills. As if to remind me, no matter how dark the night; life and hope lives on and shines bright. As the mighty mountains in distance begin to fade until barely their outline was visible, that hope and life was still shining bright, even though they were but a flickering small light, miniscule in comparison to the mighty mountains they lived on, yet they were illuminating someone’s home and dreams. Suddenly two lights appeared in distance where there was nothing except darkness, and as suddenly had they appeared, they disappeared, only to reappear again and again. Always constantly moving and surfacing at a new place, as if to say, life is constantly evolving and moving, no matter how much you would like to cling onto it, it always moves and it always evolves.
After a somewhat good dinner of roti and mixed veg at the hotel itself, it was time to hit the bed. Though I was still in deep contemplation about what I had seen, experienced and life in general. I hadn’t yet found what I had come looking for in Gangolihat, yet when I went to sleep at around 11:30pm, I did that with a smile on my face, not knowing what was to come.
@A[k] different areas of photo have different white balance requirement and when one standard white balance is applied (which is usually the case), then the areas in shadow (especially in case of mountains) are rendered colder i.e. bluish.
At 3:30am I suddenly woke up, feeling something different. As if my heart was telling me, time for peace and sleep is over; it is time for the storm to begin. A storm which only the mind can see and the heart can feel, which shakes the very core of your soul and forces you to stand firm on an invisible strand of hope, that only you know exists, and it only exists till you believe in it and it is only as strong as your belief. As birds chirped outside, sun rose and world woke up; my storm was just beginning to fade into the distance, 2 and a half hours after it had begun. Leaving me with that invisible strand of hope, that only I knew existed. I got off from my bed, picked up the G1x Mark II and took one last photograph of the view which had provided me so much peace last night.
I knew that instant that I could no longer remain in Gangolihat and I had to leave as soon as possible. So I took a shower and got ready, in two minds on whether or not to visit Haat Kalika Temple again. After a moment I decided against it and checked out of the hotel and walked onto the main market at around 7am.
A bus for Tanakpur was standing there, but I had to go to Pithoragarh first. So I looked for a shared jeep to Pithoragarh and found one; only problem was that all the front and middle seats were taken, so I had to ride in the back. I also found out that although it hadn’t rained for almost 3 days now (even though it had been raining almost daily this monsoon season), there was landslide at Ghat, which had blocked traffic between Gangolihat and Pithoragarh since 3:30pm yesterday.After filling up Mahindra Max to the brim (two passengers at front, 4 in middle row and six in the bench at the back), our shared taxi finally started from Gangolihat with still not status update on landslide.
People sitting beside me kept changing as we drove towards Ghat, at times there were just 3 of us and at times 6. My knees were beginning to pain quite a bit, not used to the position that they were in and I couldn’t move my legs, I also had my bag on my legs and worst still, person sitting in front of me had his knee jammed up against my knee as well. Funny thing was, external pain only won for brief moments, while the internal battle raged on.
A look back at life; on what I once was and what I had now become and how disappointed I was with certain portions of my own self and after a while, I reached a conclusion. What we cannot accept, must go, and in order for it to go, sometime the entire self needs to be torn down, even at the risk of losing our own self in the process. Maybe that was the Unknown I was looking for or maybe it was just a distraction from the real Unknown I couldn’t yet see.
While the internal battle raged on, we reached Ghat and the good news was, landslide had been cleared and traffic was flowing. Bad news was that we were now stuck in a traffic jam. After a while we managed to drive ahead and our driver wanted to make up for the lost time and drove like a madman. Which didn’t really help with the knee pain and my poor legs only breathed a sigh of relief after we reached Pithoragarh around 11:30am.
As I almost limped to the bus stand, I found Pithoragarh – Delhi bus there, one which was supposed to go through Champawat and starts at noon. Perfect I thought, because I had to visit Champawat to pick up Bal Mithai. So I boarded the bus and once again got the last row before the back bench, sadly I got seat on the side which had 3 seats. With another guy occupying the window seat with long legs, I knew if the third person came, all of us would really be struggling for space. Soon enough an uncle boarded the bus and sat in the middle of both of us. As a result I had two thirds of my seat to hang on to and with the bus swinging from one side to the other, one knee jammed up against the back of the front seat, left side lower back pressed against the somewhat curved end of the seat and hands trying their best to hang on, all I could think was, the real state transport travel has only now begun, not knowing how wrong I was!
Till Champawat I was in deep contemplation mode, all the while trying my best to hold on to my seat. After buying Bal Mithai from Champawat and more importantly stretching my legs, I decided to put on some music, mainly to drown out the voice of 3 passengers who were drunk and talking loudly. While usually I can never think while listening to music, today I could.
After a somewhat rough drive to Tanakpur (yes the same place bus from Gangolihat was going and I did do that Pithoragarh - Ghat section again), it was time to once again stretch the legs for a while, before boarding the bus. Few minutes later, there was a wicked smile on my face. While I hadn’t found the Unknown, I knew what to do to discover myself and discover the extent of my strength and weaknesses, so that I could improve upon them. However that smile was short lived as the bus stopped once again, this time at Banbasa and got packed with more people than technically there were seats. And this time around, all the passengers were long distance with most of them going to Delhi!
Once again I had around 2 third of my seat with knee and back jammed up and at times from side as well, as everyone tried their best to get some space and relax on a hot and humid day in a bus packed to the brim and with no AC! The only relief I got was when the guy at the window walked up to conductor to have a drink while we were crossing Khatima, in few minutes he was back and once again struggle to stay on seat began!
By around 10pm, I was starting to lose my patience, sweating like anything and in pain. Thankfully once again the bus stopped, this time for dinner. After gulping down almost a liter of water, I decided to have my first meal of the day. I hadn’t felt like eating anything since morning and I had been drinking only water, but with my patience almost running out, I thought about having food so that I would calm down a bit and it worked. After having 3 rotis I was feeling better and with a bit more water in, I felt better still.
Thoughts continued and so did the bus journey and the discomfort associated with it, but now I was somewhat used to it and wasn’t getting impatient or angry. At the last pit stop before Delhi, I saw Gangolihat – Delhi direct bus, it was running 20mins ahead of us, seeing it running ahead and somewhat empty, I smiled a bit and then move on towards my bus with no regrets.
We managed to reach Delhi by around 4:30am and after standing and waiting for no. 73 bus for over an hour, I finally got one and reached home at around 6:50am, just 10 minutes short of 24 hours mark, from the time I had left my hotel yesterday.
After changing cloths and downloading photos, I started working on the travelogue, for this one was special and had to be written when thoughts were still lingering in my mind and memories were still livid and not repressed.
For I had gone in the search of Unknown and had in a way, lost a bit of myself in the process and forget about finding Unknown, I hadn’t even found a clue what or who that Unknown was, whom I was chasing so hard?
All I know is, as I look back at this trip, I can only see faint sense of direction that I need to go in to find myself and maybe even find that Unknown I so much desire. And I will continue walking on this path, because I may not know who or what that Unknown is, but I know for sure, that either I belong to that Unknown or that Unknown is a part of my, edging to come out…