Monday, June 05, 2006

Gangotri Yatra

Two weeks ago my friend Nick and I packed up our bags with the essentials- warm clothes, dry food (badam, kishmish, chocolate and kaju), sleeping bag and iodine pills. We jumped on a bus and six hours later stopped in the beautiful mountain town of Uttarkashi. We headed to the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, rented a tent, purchased a butane stove and then jumped in a Tata Sumo the next morning and made our way to the sacred Gangotri Mandir and then onto Goumukh, the glacier that is the beginning of the mighty Ganges River.

Right now is summer school vacation here in India and there were many Indian tourists making the pilgrimage to Gangotri and the surrounding char dham yatra, four of the most sacred and holy places in India for Hindus. Tourists flocked by private bus and many sadhus made the pilgrimage barefoot, walking thousands of kilometres just to reach and see this place. Nick and I were decked out in woolens and more, and it was amazing to pass by these barefoot sadhus in the cold, wothout shoes and covered in thin flowing cloth.

Nick and I had big backpacks full of food, clothes and assorted items for eight days in the backcountry. Over the course of the week we hiked almost eighty kilometres. We climbed steep scree cliffs and crossed the massive Gangotri Glacier which currently is covered in boulders and crevasses, basically a maze of glacial moraine. We camped at 12,0000 feet then 14,000 feet and finally at the highest point 15,000 feet. We slept on beautiful high altitude meadows and we were greeted by wild ibex every morning. Fresh glacier water ran in streams through these meadows. In the morning the streams were small but by the evening, as the glacier melted, the streams rushed and overflowed with water.

Sleeping was a problem and although it's around 35 degrees celcius here in Dehradun, at 15,000 feet the thermometer dropped to -4, -5 degrees celcius. It was tough to sleep and the altitude certainly slowed us down. The peaks surrounding us were all over 22,0000 feet, humbling and reminding us the massive scale of the Himalayas. The wind, the stars, the moon and the streams, lulled us into a trance. The break from the hustle and bustle of the Indian Concrete Jungle was much needed. We ran into hindu saints and sadhus and a mata-ji running an ashram at 13,000 feet, tucked and hidden in a old cave where Shiv-ji must have lived.

More to come...

Love to all...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey ben,
i don't even know what to say. i love sitting here in new york city and hearing about what you are doing. amazing. i love your writing. and your photographs. i'm checking everyday. sending lots of love...

4:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

essentials benny??? no weed u r a liar...nick n u in the mtns with no ganja hahahaha such a joke

2:07 AM  
Blogger malavika said...

beautiful photographs... n i do agree ben n no ganja kinda ironic aint it.

11:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi ben,
so beautiful-the photos, the descriptions.
an ashram at 15,000 feet, awesome.
benjamin and i send our best

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