Madhya Maheshwar – June 2018 – Part 2
We start this narrative from Ukhimath where I was staying for the previous night.
Morning dawned with a lot of clouds enveloping the surrounding mountains in a diaphanous garland like haze.
There was a lot of rain on the ground which is typical in these areas. We were advised against embarking on such a long trek in one go. Instead, arrangements were made to stop at Gaundhar for the night and then continue the journey upwards from there. So, I started from the inn at around 10 am and went up to a place called Ransi which is about 30 kms from Ukhimath. Ransi is a small hamlet on the upper reaches of the mountains surrounding the Madhya Maheshwar Ganga which is gushing down to meet the Mandakini.
There are Sumos (SUVs) that take you regularly from Ukhimath to Ransi.
It is advisable to start this trek early. But since we were told to break the journey, we decided to start this a little late – in retrospect, not a great thing to do. The journey to Ransi from Ukhimath is picturesque as is true with any journey in these parts. You go down the mountain, cross the Madhya Maheshwar Ganga and then go all the way up to Ransi.
In Ransi, you disembark with minimal luggage and then start the journey by foot.
The Madhya Maheshwar trek starts with a steep descent. In fact, we go down a flight of about 20 steps or so and then start the descent. It takes you along winding paths on the side of the mountains along the course of Madhya Maheshwar Ganga which is also called the Mada Ganga. Madhya Maheshwar Mahadev is also called the Mada Maheshwar Mahadev by the locals. Mada means “drunken”. You need to seriously be drinking to need to decide to make this place a home. But, as we know, Shiva is perpetually drunken in realisation. He is the Adi Yogi.
So we start this journey towards Gaundhar. You are captivated by beautiful waterfalls as they empty their bounties into the seemingly all-encompassing Mada Ganga. The river grows from strength to strength, gorging all the water it could from the surrounding landscape.
The path lead me considerably down and then starts to ascend slightly as I approach Gaundhar. Gaundhar is a slightly bigger village with its own temple. It is accessible only through this path. It amazed me that a place can be so isolated.
Gaundhar has a few houses which are available for an overnight stay. The people in this part of the world are extremely hospitable. The accommodations are cheap though not the most comfortable. Since Gaundhar was reached with less than a couple of hours of trek from Ransi, it did not make sense for us to stay there overnight. So I cancelled the reservation to the considerable consternation of the owner of the house and kept going forward.
Bantoli and Beyond
From Gaundhar, we descend a little to goto the confluence of the Madhya Maheshwar Ganga and the Martyenda Ganga.
These little rivulets converge and run off together to join forces with the energetic Mandakini that emerges from the laps of Kedarnath. Crossing the Martyendra Ganga near Bantoli can be thought of as probably one of the lowest altitude points in the trail. From there on, the trail ascends relentlessly. It is walkable at all places but does not have supporting rails for the most part. There are 5 to 10m of supporting rails followed by endless walk in the open. The only purpose the rails is to give the sense of distance as you look at the never ending mountains.
The trail moves wearily forward with seemingly endless ascent for hours on end. I trudged along for at least 6 to 7 hours from Bantoli with no end in sight. The problem is that there are absolutely no markings that allow you to fathom the end of the trail. It keeps moving on and on with apparently no end. You get dwarfed by huge mountains, stunning waterfalls and your body protesting about the high altitude and endless upward climb.
Words like ethereal, surreal and out-of-this-world will pass through your mind. But your immediate occupation is to go up-and up. The Madhya Maheshwar Ganga lives up to its Mada Ganga name winding down from deep canyons that extend far into the mountains.
It seems to suggest to you that you should emulate its seemingly ceaseless quest to find Mandakini and do the same to find the Lord of Madhya Maheshwar. As you approach the upper reaches, you start looking at snow clad mountains for the first time. They hold out a promise that there is more to come but still does not tell you when the trail is going to end.
I was completely exhausted this day. My heart was beating fast and my throat went dry as I am coping with lesser oxygen and endless upward climb.
It was 9 pm when we reached the abode. We waited on the way for an older lady of around 65 years to catch up. I bow to her for her fortitude and determination.
The locals at Madhya Maheshwar provided frugal accommodation so that we could rest after our travels.
End of day 2 – at last. I can see the temple now and cannot wait to go in tomorrow.