(Continued from the Heavenly Road to Doditaal)
The illumination was complementing the rhythmical sound of hundreds of rivulets and rainy season streams flowing in the near and distant mountains. It seemed as if this is heaven or at least a utopian world. It was not a dream but a hitherto unseen reality.
The night charmed us and suddenly escaped without answering my very Utopian questions.
The dawn was fascinating again; crystal-like dew drops on a vivid landscape were enticing. I was up early and while sipping tea served in a stained tin cup, met with the unassuming kids and women folk in the village.
The trust building process was quick and the conversation was fluid despite the language barrier.
Around eight in the morning we decided to start for the eighteen kilometre stretch and a 800 metre elevation, through some steep passes to reach our destination, Doditaal.
Our guide, a twenty something young man from the hills, moved swiftly on the slippery roads and made us move as faster.
First two hours seemed easy, it rained and there were plentiful of wild and fresh shrubs that literally paved our path with flowers. At places we came across the majestic white waters of Assi Ganga flowing down the mountains.
This beautiful walk reminded me of the fascinating landscape depicted in the ‘Lord of The Rings’ movies.
The loveliness of the first five kilometres was broken by a series of guerrilla attacks by thousands of impoverished leeches, who had suddenly sprung into life after rains touched the ground.
They were literally piercing into our legs, 10-20 at a moment on each foot.
We had to stretch them and throw every five minutes, or walk for an hour and then pluck them out.
In either case our skin was cut and legs were red with blood.
But locals taught us not to mind the blood and enjoy the nature. This was bad blood that moved out and now the circulation improves with this, they said. We obliged and moved ahead, stopping twice for tea and food.
At few instances the trek path was caved-in or there was no path at all and you could see the gorges down 2,000 feet. We managed with tree branches and ingenious footwork to jump over the space that never existed.
Every time we managed to cross over, it gave us a thrill and we looked back to gauge the width and depth. It was very much like the Indian Jones movie adventures. On the way we encountered no human habitation except a small congregation of makeshift huts where herdsmen from villages at lower elevation had come grazing their cattle the abundant green grass as the monsoon season was on.
Like any hill trek on the Himalayas we come across few aggressive wild Bhotia dogs who often attack you then become your friends after licking your feet and finally follow you for small stretches as long as their territory is marked.
We discovered a small ancient Hindu temple on the path, on the walls of which the name of JJ Irani and his wife were engraved.
We wondered if this is the legendary head of Tata Steel, who steered the company into the new millennium. But obviously, our querry couldn’t have been answered and we left the thought to ourselves.
After seven long hours we finally reached a place where we had to climb down on a moss-laden rickety path and we were told that the lake is almost there.
But we could see nothing for five more minutes. And suddenly there came up a flat piece of land and a small climb. And oh my God what we see! A painting of Monet! Yes it was like that only. A placid, transparent, silent, emerald green lake, the source of Assi Ganga and our ultimate destination was reached.
We were bedazzled and tranquilised and without words. I can't write the experience of that moment but can say my imagination of a heavenly land was similar to Doditaal, thanks to the childhood Chandamama reading. Heaven was like this misty lake, falling clouds and silence....
(The final part will be posted soon)
For the earlier part of the travel visit Travelogue: The Heavenly Road to Doditaal
(Photographs: Sourav Mishra/Arshad Hussain and special thanks to Tanzeem Patankar for the Assi Ganga and Doditaal photographs)
To see more of the travel visit Tanzeem's blog at http://tazzo-dodital.blogspot.com/