Adventures in India

Letter 2 - Joshimath to Mundoli trek.

From Netwar we want to reach Joshimath - a place which is located next to the highest mountain of India - the Nanda Devi (7,816m' ). The distance between Netwar and Joshimath is about 300 km, but due to the Indian roads it takes us 3 days and eight bus changes to reach Joshimath (Netwar -> Mori -> Prola -> Barkot junction -> Barkot -> Srinagar -> Nanda-Prayag ->Karan Prayag -> Joshimath). In one part of the way we are taking a local public jeep. The driver tries to squeeze as many people as possible into this jeep. In this jeep there is one seat next to the driver, and more seats in the back. As westerns we get the place next to the driver (we are two and there is only one seat). We think that we will squeeze and it will be OK, but... we have a surprise - the Indians put another person next to us.... We are three persons in one seat... you probably ask yourself how it can be. Well, the third person is actually sitting on the GAP between the driver seat and the passenger seat, while the driving stick (the gear) is between his legs... so embracing especially when the driver changes to the second gear (I can hardly stop my laugh....).

Eventually, we reach Joshimath. From here we start a 10 days walk in the area of the Nanda Devi sanctuary towards Mundoli village. The way is hardly marked, and is very difficult to find, but the views are extremely nice. There is nothing between you and the mountains and you get a great panorama of seven thousands peaks all around.

The first overnight stop, Gurson Bugyal.

A big part of this walk is in the bush, where we collect wild strawberries and see many monkeys.

The bush.

The strawberries.

During this walk we cross several mountain-passes and climb about 1'000m' vertically every day. The trek passes by the villages of Pana, Gingi, Guni, Ali, Sutol, Kunul and Wan. One day we see many eagles in the sky, and we can't understand the reason.... Later on, not far from the village of Ali, we see an AMAZING view: more then 20 eagles are eating a dead cow. They are cutting pieces of its meat and are fighting between themselves for the best pieces, including some Arial fights... They are huge birds and all this scenery is really impressive!!!

Do you remember the frozen lake with the bones and the leopard from the beginning? - Well, here it comes: Rup Kund (4,600m') is a holy lake located on a cliff between two huge mountains: Trisul (7,200m') and Nanda Ghunti (6,309m'). It is considered as one of the pilgrimage sites, where Hindu should visit at least once in their life (like the Kinnaur Kailas). There is a lot of mystery related to this lake, since 700 years ago, a group of עולי רגל (pilgrimages) were lost there due to bad weather. Now, you can find bones and parts of their bodies (skin, nails etc) in the water of that lake and around it. A very frightening vision. We are planning to reach this lake...

Rup Kund (4,478m'), the currently frozen lake is in the bottom of the picture.

From the village of Wan (2,600m') we start our climb towards Rup Kund. The climb is supposed to take three days. On the first day we arrive to Badni Bugial (3,350m'). On the second day we climb till Bhugu Basa (4,100m'), where we are supposed to stop overnight and continue in the following day. The weather is a complete mist. You can see nothing.... We are very tired, but decide to continue on the same day to Rup Kund due to the following reason: the weather pattern in the last days is clear mornings and cloudy afternoons. So, if we continue to climb now, we hope to get good visibility in Rup Kund in the next morning. We keep going tired and thirsty (no water along the way) alone (of course) towards the sacred mysterious lake. Snow starts to fall.... I start to think whether our decision to continue was right (we are all alone there, and if the snow blocks the way, we will have no chance of finding it... I also think about the 500 people who were lost there 700 years ago...). We continue walking slowly slowly. Then...., from far, I see few round things lying on a huge rock. I am not sure what I see (due to the poor visibility and the snow storm) but I suspect something... I ask Nir to be the first one walking.... Then we arrive to that rock, and discover that these are skulls of people. We, actually, have just arrived to Rup Kund which is, currently, mostly frozen. Skeletons of people are all around.... The dry and cold weather preserved the flesh on some of the skeletons! It is amazing and on the same time frightening. We are going to sleep here at night brrr....The only source of water around is the lake itself (where all the bodies are floating...) We break the ice and take water from the holy lake (I don't believe it is kosher...). Where can we pitch our tent? Yes, on the lake. This is the ONLY horizontal place in this rocky area. The upper layer of the lake is frozen and we decide to put our tent on it. Hopefully, it won't brake during the night... I am not relaxed in this mystic place... We are so tired. We sit in our tent, eat something and prepare ourselves to sleep. Then... the storm becomes harder. It is snowing heavily now. Oh no, if the snow covers the area we will not find our way down, and in 4 days we have our flight back to Israel... We hope so much that the storm will be over soon. The snow, indeed, stops after few hours and we are relieved. At night the temperatures drop to -15 degrees and we cannot sleep even a moment. We are hugging each other to gain heat, waiting for the morning sun (in this situation even to pee is a great mission as you can imagine...).

In the relatively warm (-7C) tent...

...then we arrive to that rock, and discover that these are skulls of people...

After a long and cold night the morning comes. We go out of the tent and feel so great. The storm has completely gone, and a bright sunny day welcomes us. The visibility is great and we can see mountains all around us. The fresh snow is so beautiful in the sun... We start walking towards the mountain pass (Jyuri Gali 4,700m') which is located above Rup-Kund. Suddenly I see something that causes me to hold my breath for a moment. On the fresh snow, just few meters from our tent, there are clear footprints of a snow leopard (a mountain tiger). Whoo....this is the last thing that we need now - a meeting eye to eye with this animal. It probably smelled us and could have come to our tent. I don't dare to imagine what we would do in that case...

Footprints of a snow leopard (see our shoeprint for scale).

But eventually things went OK. We arrive at the pass above the lake. The views are amazing. The two huge mountains are in a touching distance from us, and we can see many more mountains in the far horizon. We feel so nice. What a great way to finish our trip in India!!!

The view from Jyuri Gali (4,620m') the pass just above Rup Kund. On the right is Trisul (7,120m') and in the middle, Nanda Ghunti (6,309m').

Form here it takes us two more days to reach the ending point of the walk - a village called Mundoli. From Mundoli we get a lift by jeep to Debal where we stay overnight. At 4:30 in the morning, we take the daily local bus to the city of Rishikesh (we arrive at 03:30 PM). Rishikesh is considered as the Yoga center of the world, and it is a very spiritual place. We stay there few hours, see few religious ceremonies and leave around 7:00 PM on the same day to Delhi. We reach Delhi at 2:00 in the morning of the 15.10 (after ~18 hours of drive in the same day) to catch the afternoon flight back to Israel.

In Rishikesh.

Here we finish our trip as well as this story. We really enjoyed India and hope to come back sometime !!!

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Last modified: Fri Mar 29th 19:05:00 IST 2002