10th Oct - Ukhimath
It was our second day in our trip after Rudraprayag, where we pre decided to have a complete days rest. Had planned to get up late as I was feeling very relieved because of the tension and anxiety over climbing to and down from Tunganath with my son was over. As it is had slept slightly late having the cushion of time the next day. But as things have it, the very day you need not wake up early, you actually tend to have your sleep broken in the wee hours.
But in my case I was happy to have woken up as I was treated to a riot of colours around sunrise over the Kedar range and hurriedly got my camera to store some of the memories of a blissful morning.
We took our time in discussing as to how to best use the day apart from giving ourselves a break from the Xylo before our long drive back home to Kolkata. We were told about this temple called Kalimath by the Hotel people.
Here I admit that my research from Kolkata was wrong as I was under the impression that this place will be at least a 40 km drive plus a 3 km uphill trek. But I was told that it would be around 25 km and the car would go almost upto the temple steps. Kalimath is one of the Shakti peeths where Goddess Kali is supposed to have slayed the Ashura King and drank his blood. It took a lot of convincing from the hotel staff before I realised they were talking of the same temple and then we decided to give it a dry.
It was already very late in the day so we ordered for lunch, which was egg curry, but superbly prepared. We ate to our hearts content and started VERY late at 3.30 pm
We needed to drive all the 7 km down to Kund which we would take the next day to go back to Rudraprayag. From there we take the Kedarnath route on to a few km before Guptakashi and take a right turn for Kalimath which would have been 12 km from this junction. Till this point the road had a fair bit of traffic and the conditions good. But the moment we took this right turn the road turned desolate and the surface was broken.
We were still along the Mandakini but very soon left it to be along side the Kali Ganga river. I have never used the GPS service in my earlier drives but this time my friend was using it. Not that it was foolproof but we were taking it as a backup to my instincts and road sense. But the moment we left the Guptakashi Kedarnath route and took the Kalimath route the GPS cracked and was not available. This straight away created a doubt in our minds.
Coupled with that came to road condition which started deterioration and frequent landslide zones started appearing. The worst thing was that it was already getting dark as we passed some deep gorges alongside the Kali Ganga which still bore signs of the natural destruction of the previous year. Surprisingly we never found any vehicle in the route, nor a single soul whom we could ask if the route we had taken was right or not.
After almost 45 mins of driving some of the narrowest and worst desolate mountain roads I have driven, we still could not find any trace of the temple. The Sun was going down fast and the very thought of negotiating the road once again in the dark jungles with the river roaring on one side was spooky. All of us in the car decided to call it a day and pay our respects to Goddess Kali from up to the point where we had gone and not beyond.
So turned back the Xylo. In fact I actually needed to find a spot from where to reverse as the roads were so narrow in most areas. Got down after reversing it. Took a long hard look at the road we stopped venturing further. Paid our humble respects to the Goddess and took some pictures before driving back.
On the way back we hit upon this small place of worship by the roadside.The 12 km lonely mountain road (caved in, at a lot of places) from Guptakashi to Kalimath was devoid of a single 4 wheeler other than the Xylo. It was 4 in the evening and Dusk was still some time away but the deep gorge made by the Mandakini river and later the Kali river passing through some 1000 ft below was already under dimming light. Not a soul in the stretch except for some monkeys... And then we hit upon this "temple" standing in total isolation. All the deities inside were also not recognisable by me. But what was striking was that it had a lamp inside and it was burning in all its glory. This lamp would have been lit every day by some one and some light or the other burns here all time. Stopped to pay respects to the spirit of spirituality... Diwali was fast approaching and I felt The lights of Diwali comes to all of us once in a year.. BUT in this God forsaken treacherous, broken mountain road, this lamp surely brings in Diwali every day....
We moved on but the road was so beautiful that even with the lurking sort of uneasiness in our hearts we still stopped in front of a forgotten bridge to take some snaps. The bridge appeared that no one vehicle has crossed it for ages.
A shop on the other side of the bridge appeared closed for centuries.
We reached back Ukhimath almost at 6pm and straight away went to the Onkareshwar Temple near our lodge which is the winter abode of Lord Kedar and Madyamaheshwar. The evening Aarti was to start at 6.30pm and there was no way we could give it a miss as this was our last date in Ukhimath.