Nachiketa Tal

Uttarkashi Travel Blog

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Life in Rishikesh was going well, but I was beginning to get a little antsy.  I just didn’t want to spend the remainder of my trip in that dirty, congested town.  Luckily, by chance, I had run into Mia Nathanson and her mother, Vicente, while I was in Jaipur.  It was a strange encounter: I was walking through the hotel and noticed this girl that looked like Mia.  As I got closer, I realized that, my god, it was Mia! I didn’t even know that she was in India!  What was even stranger was that Mia was leaving the hotel at that very moment.  Hence, if I had walked through the hotel five minutes later, I would have bypassed her.  Interestingly enough, Mia and her mother were on their way to Rishikesh. So I planned to stay at the same hotel as them, and hopefully run into them again, which I did.

            As I was pondering over what to do next, I figured I would try to call Devin one more time before I made a decision.  To my surprise, Devin picked up the phone!  Devin had just returned to Uttarkashi from a town named Gongotri which hosts the glacier that gives birth to the mighty Ganga.  Devin convinced me to go to Uttarkashi so that we could go camping.  I loved the idea – camping in the Himalayas where it was cool, clean, and away from the all the clamor.  Devin did advise me that it was definitely a serious car ride from Rishikesh to Uttarkashi.  I figured this is India: it’s always a near-death experience whenever you get in a car.

            Being driven to Uttarkashi was one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life (and I am saying this after being in a bad car accident).  I really thought that I was going to die for the whole five hour trip.  First of all, the road to Uttarkashi is carved out of the sides of the Himalaya mountains.  Essentially, you are snaking around the mountains with at least a five-hundred foot drop on one side without any guardrails.  Secondly, it is a one-way road for two-way traffic, and that doesn’t mean one vehicle pulls over, stops, and lets the other vehicle pass.  No, no. Instead, the driver maintains his speed and drives right up to the edge of the cliff in order to go around oncoming traffic.  My driver, in particular, was going so fast that he was usually skidding around the turns on the loose gravel.  I asked him to slow down, but even going slower was still equally as scary.  Thirdly, there is the likelihood of being hit by falling rocks or being caught in a landslide.  The only thing that was working in my favor was that it wasn’t raining and therefore loosening the earth.

I definitely made a few prayers that generally followed these two lines: (1) thank you god for this life, I have enjoyed it immensely.  I have lived well, I’ve had a wonderful family, boyfriend, and friends, and I greatly appreciate what I have experienced in my life – as short as it may be. (2) Please God, don’t let me die, I don’t want to die yet.  My parents would be really upset if I died under such conditions.  If you get me to my destination safely, I will never do (several possibilities) ever again!

To my avail, my prayers had been answered; I made it to Uttarkashi in one piece, and finally, after a month, I met up with Devin. The following day, we had our friend Amud drive us up to a good place to go camping.  We drove up a windy road to a small town at the base of NachiketaTal Lake mountain.  It was a small town, roughly located 100 km from the Tibet boarder.  The town is so small that you can’t even find it on a map. There were a few mechanic shops, convenient stores, and a few restaurants each serving a specialty dish.

Devin and I hiked to our designation: Nachiketa Lake.  Upon arrival, I was utterly mesmerized by the mountain’s beauty.  There were large spruce trees covered with moss, strange bird calls, rhodendrum trees with giant red blossoms, clean cool air, and yellow butterflies fluttering around.  There was a large clan of giant gray monkeys, beautiful birds with long tails, flying squirrels, and apparently this area had it share of mountain lions, tigers, and wild boar.  I honestly felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz because this place had such an other-worldly feel to it. 

After we setup camp, we were greeted by the resident baba who would yell out “Adi Ohm” every time he approached our camp.  This baba had lived alone on the mountain for six years.  He explained to us the mountains mythical background.  According to legend, the lake was where a discussion took place between Nachiketa and Yama, and Death.  Death offered Nachiketa three boons of his choice. Nachiketa did not want the boons.  Instead, Nachiketa wanted to know about the great mystery that comes after death.  Yama explains that the mystery is Om, and whoever comprehends the word is thus released from the cycle of life and death.  Having this wisdom imparted from Yama, Nachiketa finds god, or Brahman, and is freed from death.  With this in mind, Devin and I laid under the moonlight and talked about life and philosophy.  I have to say, again I this was a place where I felt a certain peace and quiet of mind as I had felt in Mandrem.

            The next day, as we were packing up, a bevy of beautiful mountain girls had arrived in order to collect firewood.  The girls, ranging between the ages of 15 and 25, looked like they were from another period of time.  Everyday or so, they would walk from their village about 7 kilometers away in order to gather firewood.  They climb all the way to the tippy top of the trees in order to chop down dead branches.  I’m sure that the women in their families had been doing the same thing for a hundred, maybe even a thousand, years.

            The girls seemed like they were relatively isolated from the rest of the world.  I don’t think that it is very common for them to see any foreigner.  So, at first encounter the girls were very shy.  Devin, being the charming man that he is, went up to them and struck up a conversation and made the girls giggled (and this is without them knowing a lick of English).  Eventually we were all cracking up with each other.  I love it how you can laugh, I mean really laugh, with someone from an entirely different culture even though you both don’t really know what you are laughing at.  At the end, they all made an effort to shake my hand as they were leaving.  This was probably due to how women do not normally shake hands.  When Devin tried to shake their hands, they all ran away screaming as if he had cooties! 

All in all, I would have to say this was not a very bad experience for my second time camping.

I definitely made a few prayers that generally followed these two lines: (1) thank you god for this life, I have enjoyed it immensely.  I have lived well, I’ve had a wonderful family, boyfriend, and friends, and I greatly appreciate what I have experienced in my life – as short as it may be. (2) Please God, don’t let me die, I don’t want to die yet.  My parents would be really upset if I died under such conditions.  If you get me to my destination safely, I will never do (several possibilities) ever again!

To my avail, my prayers had been answered; I made it to Uttarkashi in one piece, and finally, after a month, I met up with Devin. The following day, we had our friend Amud drive us up to a good place to go camping.  We drove up a windy road to a small town at the base of mountain.  It was a small town, roughly located 100 km from the boarder.  The town is so small that you can’t even find it on a map. There were a few mechanic shops, convenient stores, and a few restaurants each serving a specialty dish.

Devin and I hiked to our designation: .  Upon arrival, I was utterly mesmerized by the mountain’s beauty.  There were large spruce trees covered with moss, strange bird calls, rhodendrum trees with giant red blossoms, clean cool air, and yellow butterflies fluttering around.  There was a large clan of giant gray monkeys, beautiful birds with long tails, flying squirrels, and apparently this area had it share of mountain lions, tigers, and wild boar.  I honestly felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz because this place had such an other-worldly feel to it. 

After we setup camp, we were greeted by the resident baba who would yell out “Adi Ohm” every time he approached our camp.  This baba had lived alone on the mountain for six years.  He explained to us the mountains mythical background.  According to legend, the lake was where a discussion took place between Nachiketa and Yama, and Death.  Death offered Nachiketa three boons of his choice. Nachiketa did not want the boons.  Instead, Nachiketa wanted to know about the great mystery that comes after death.  Yama explains that the mystery is , and whoever comprehends the word is thus released from the cycle of life and death.  Having this wisdom imparted from Yama, Nachiketa finds god, or Brahman, and is freed from death.  With this in mind, Devin and I laid under the moonlight and talked about life and philosophy.  I have to say, again I this was a place where I felt a certain peace and quiet of mind as I had felt in Mandrem.

            The next day, as we were packing up, a bevy of beautiful mountain girls had arrived in order to collect firewood.  The girls, ranging between the ages of 15 and 25, looked like they were from another period of time.  Everyday or so, they would walk from their village about 7 kilometers away in order to gather firewood.  They climb all the way to the tippy top of the trees in order to chop down dead branches.  I’m sure that the women in their families had been doing the same thing for a hundred, maybe even a thousand, years.

            The girls seemed like they were relatively isolated from the rest of the world.  I don’t think that it is very common for them to see any foreigner.  So, at first encounter the girls were very shy.  Devin, being the charming man that he is, went up to them and struck up a conversation and made the girls giggled (and this is without them knowing a lick of English).  Eventually we were all cracking up with each other.  I love it how you can laugh, I mean really laugh, with someone from an entirely different culture even though you both don’t really know what you are laughing at.  At the end, they all made an effort to shake my hand as they were leaving.  This was probably due to how women do not normally shake hands.  When Devin tried to shake their hands, they all ran away screaming as if he had cooties! 

All in all, I would have to say this was not a very bad experience for my second time camping.

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