EXPLORING ON OUR WAY BACK TO DELHI (Story 5)
On down the valley we travel
Today we have a long drive ahead of us as we make our way back down the steep, long, and winding valley, remarking on its beauty as we drive out of the high mountains, through Joshimath and head towards Gwaldam.
Once we turn off this route at Karanprayag the journey takes much longer than expected due to the road being ‘remade’ which means the trip is very, very slow.
Once again we observe the road workers who labouriously break rocks on the side of the road. Some are women with children and this goes deep into my heart to see these women working so hard, for very little, living in polythene temporary housing on the side of the road – a hard life indeed.
After an overnight stay in a guest house, we drive through beautiful forest and countryside towards Kausani, green with low grass, pine tress, and terraces of rice and grain.
Along the way, we stop at the 1000-year-old temples of Baijnath. The feeling among the ancient stone temples is one of peace and tranquillity, along with the sacredness of the blessing bestowed by the priest from the small Shiva temple.
The morning is hot but quite pretty by the river which quietly meanders around the edge of the temple complex.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the main temple houses a large lingam stone which sits in an oval dish. Even after all these centuries, it is still used for rituals and celebrations. (A lingam stone is a symbol of the energy and potential of Lord Shiva, the large oval dish a symbol of the cosmic energy Shakti – masculine and feminine).
Kausani – Switzerland of India
We finally arrive at our hotel in a forest of tall pine trees and tea plantations. Kausani is a high hill station which usually offers an amazing view of the high Himalayas but, alas, the cloud is too low and the apparently spectacular views are hidden from us. At lunch, an American man who has lived in the area for many years tells us that the best time to see the great view is about October, unfortunately we will be long gone home.
After lunch and settling in we drive to a nearby tea plantation and, although it is closed that day, we spend quite a bit of time looking before we purchase our shawls, organic green tea, and other products at the shop by the road among the trees.
We visit the Gandhi museum and ashram – a place where he spent a lot of time. It is reported that Gandhi dearly loved Kausani, calling it the ‘Switzerland of the Himalayas’.
The view over the valley is stunning. Resting for the rest of the day on the terrace of the hotel and in our rooms enjoying this beautiful mountain air is good for the traveller’s soul and we sleep well that night among the bird-song of the forest, readying ourselves for the remainder of the journey.
A visit to Babaji’s cave
We don’t start ultra early but we take a very beautiful diversion up into Kukuchina, in the peaceful Dronagiri Mountains in Uttarakhand near Ranikhet, not far from Dwarahat, to visit the cave of Mahavatar Babaji. This is my third time visiting this cave over 14 years and while one visit was a privilege, now it feels like a privilege and a calling.
So who is Mahavatar Babaji? An Avatar, an ancient Yogi said to have an eternal body and still experienced as physical by many, he has been written about in the famed ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ by Paramahansa Yogananda (first published in 1946) and through his first disciple Lahari Mahayasa who re-introduced Kriya Yoga to the world in 1861. Telepathically, Babaji summonsed Lahari Mahayasa to the cave which is now a place of pilgrimage and worship to the great Yogi and Avatar.
We take the steep climb up the hill through the beautiful forest and once we arrive we sit and meditate for a short time in the quiet, reflective atmosphere of this remote cave. It is hard to leave again but, along with our photographs, we take the blessing of Babaji with us as we follow the path back down the mountain.
I fondly recall and tell my friends about my first visit to the cave and my personal connection with Babaji at the ashram in 2003. The feeling of love, grace and bliss, unexpected, that spread through me at that time, without understanding the depth of Babaji’s power and wisdom until some time later when I wanted to find out more – when I had the question: who is Babaji?
Following this wonderful visit to the cave, we drive on down from the hills and have an overnight stay at Nainital Lake.
And so back to Delhi
With a wander around the evening market and local stores, we complete our shopping knowing this is to be our last chance on this leg of the journey.
The following day, heading ‘home’ we wend our way along the forested foothills, twisting and turning with the dizzying contours of the drive. We then make our way down towards the lowlands via Jim Corbet National Tiger Park – which is stunning as the road is lined with many kilometres of trees. It is the wrong time of year for tiger spotting so alas we drive across the plains to Delhi where we meet up with Manfred, say our goodbyes at dinner that night and fly home to our respective cities or countries.
Shona and Phyllis take the 4 day ‘Golden Triangle’ tour out of Delhi to the Taj Mahal in Agra then to Jaipur in Rajasthan making the most of their time in India before heading back home also.
A fond farewell
Suresh is a magnificant tour guide and I highly recommend booking your Indian adventure with him. Our grateful thanks to Suresh and Kartik for their supurb leadership and Kumud for looking after the home while we were having fun in the mountains: Book your Indian adventure here
What more can be said but, once again, this was a very satisfying and fulfilling journey. As usual, Suresh and I have started talking about the next trip… Watch this space!
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