An adventurous trek
I woke up to a cold, gloomy morning and opened the front door to collect the morning newspaper; All the social media platforms and the internet cannot replace my morning cuppa with the morning newspaper!
7 Die in Helicopter crash in Vaishnodevi
The headlines screamed at me ! Apparently a bird hit had caused the crash which killed the pilot and the passengers including a newly wed couple, and a child on an outing with her grandfather. The lady pilot in a valiant and last ditch heroic act had ensured that the copter crashed in open land, ensuring there were no causalities on the ground.
My mind whirred to another cold and gloomy morning an year back when we patiently waited for the grounded chopper service to resume. We were at a small helipad which operated helicopter sorties from a place called Katra in Jammu, India to a famous temple dedicated to the divine Mother, known as Vaishno Devi. The temple is located in the Trikuta mountains and can be reached by trekking 13 kms or you can take a 10 minute helicopter ride which would deposit you within 3 Kms from the main temple complex from where it is a downward trek.
We had booked for the helicopter service months in advance and were very excited as this would be our first ride on a helicopter. But alas the weather Gods were not smiling at all, it was raining intermittently and the visibility was also not good. Soon we heard the bad news, the helicopter service had been cancelled for the day and we were refunded our booking amount.
Disappointed but still with high spirits we turned to the next option which was trekking the 13 kms to the temple. The plan was to trek to the temple and after visiting the temple, trek back the return 13 kms and crash into our beds in the hotel as we had a bus to catch the next morning.
We started the trek in inclement weather which turned from bad to worse and soon it had started raining heavily. We hurriedly purchased some make-shift rain gear which consisted of a thin transparent plastic jacket with a hood, which afforded us some protection from the rain. We were wet, but we trudged on, fortifying ourselves with hot tea and some hotter and spicy noodles from one of the many shops that lined the road that curved up to the mountain.
On the way we met people in groups consumed with a frenzy of devotion singing paeans to the goddess as they briskly made their way to the temple. It was remarkable that small children and even octogenarians energetically marched forward as though propelled by some divine energy.
We walked and walked and walked, we stopped at vantage places to admire the great views.
We looked at the town of Katra spread out way below us and marveled that we had climbed to such a height!
Soon it was dark, we had been trekking since 1.30 in the afternoon and it was about 6 in the evening and we could see the lights of our final destination in the distance. It appeared tantalizingly close, but it took us well night about an hour and a half to reach it.
Once there we lined up alongside a serpentine queue for entry into the temple, after about 2 hours in the queue we finally reached the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Divine Mother and bowed our heads in benediction. Lo and behold! All our tiredness vanished as if by the wave of a magic wand and we were filled by waves of bliss and euphoria.
It was 12 midnight, mission accomplished we started our trek back to Katra, though the paths were well lit, in places it was pitch dark owing to power failure and we used the feeble light from our cell phones to navigate our way.
Along the way we had to battle the march of horses which rushed and brushed by with their burdens of cargo and humans, sharing the same pathway.
The downward trek was easier, but the upward trek and the two hour wait at the temple had taken their toll and our legs felt leaden. We thankfully rested on a bench and surrendered a legs to a wayside and self styled masseur who kneaded our legs and knees expertly giving some relief for a fee of Rs. 10!
Finally we were on level ground and thankfully sank into an autorickshaw that took us to our hotel. It was close to 6 in the morning.
We realized that we had been on our feet the past 24 hours and had covered a distance of 26 kms on foot and climbed and descended a height of 5200 feet without a break!
We crashed into our hotel beds to catch a couple of hours of sleep as we had a bus to catch at 9.30 AM.
Thus ended an unplanned trek which was destined and which enriched our experiences in a way that no other event has.