Meet the Zumeners - Episode 05

July 07, 2022

“To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles” – Marie Davis.

We all love the beauty and miracles of nature. Our mother nature teaches and inspires us in many magical ways. She goes through crests and troughs, facing many struggles. Yet, despite the ebbs and flows, her miracles never cease to stop. 

Miracles can be in the changing color of leaves in the Fall, in the magnificent yet calming visage of the towering mountain peaks, and in the stark contrast of the ferociousness of volcanic eruptions.  

Even trees bent in weird ways are beautiful to look at. If one truly loves and respects nature, one will be able to find beauty and miracles all around. And even the smallest part of miracles, like the sounds of nature, do not go unnoticed.

One of the most surreal experiences of nature I have ever had in my life is visiting the mountain peaks. I had the golden opportunity to participate in the Gaumukh Tapovan Trek organized by the Garwhal Mandal Vikas Nigam of the Uttrakhand Government.


A Journey to the Source of River Ganga 

The Gaumukh Tapovan Trek, part of the Gangotri National Park, is one of the most rewarding and awe-inspiring treks you can ever do. I had the chance to visit this glorious place during my college days. 

Twenty-one-year wait for a stretch of 46 kilometers – totally worth it!

The trail snakes within the confines of the Gangotri Nation Park.   

It consisted of the summit and ‘big’ summit views. You not only get to see the summit of Mt. Shivling, but you can see Mt. Shivling right from the base to its summit. Mt. Shivling is part of the Gangotri group of peaks in the western Garwhal Himalayas. It is near the snout of the Gangotri glacier, one of the largest glaciers in the Himalayas, and Tapovan, a beautiful lush meadow in the northern Indian state of Uttrakhand. It is one of the most beautiful-looking mountains in the country. Moreover, the Bhagirathi sisters accompany Mt Shivling, and sometimes it looks as if the Bhagirathi sisters tower over Mt Shivling because the three of them form a massif, which dominates the landscape.


The Trek        

The trek troop consisted of 5 members – a guide, an old couple from Mumbai, my father, and myself. Our adventurous day started at 3:00 AM, and the best thing in the morning was washing my face with icy cold water. We all got freshened up, gobbled our breakfast, and winded up our campsite. The trek started from the Gangotri temple. We planned to first travel to Bhojbasa via Chirbasa on the first day. The next day we planned to trek back to Gangotri from Chirbasa, visiting Gaumukh and returning via Bhojbasa and Chirbasa.

Bhojbasa – Gangotri National Park: Named after a tree called Bhojpatra, which is sacred according to Hindu Mythology. It is believed that Ramayana and Mahabharata were written on the bark of this tree. 

Chirbasa – Gangotri National Park: The name comes from the pine tree forest. Chir is Pine in English. This place is famous for its pine trees. 

The trek started from Gangotri, and we ascended slowly. As time passed, somewhere in the middle of the trek passage, I realized that only my father and I were present. There was no one else in the 5-kilometer radius. An experience that I will never forget. Because I consider my father my best friend, and to spend such beautiful moments with him felt surreal. We talked a lot, and time flew before we reached and joined our companions. 

Before moving further, let me tell you a few anecdotes about the people I met who have influenced me in many ways. You learn a lot listening to their life experiences – one of the pros of going on a trek with people from all walks of life.      

Age is just a number: The retired couple from Mumbai were frequent trekkers. They had no children and were in their sixties. My heart felt a little older than theirs after walking with them for 46 kilometers. They trekked with full vigor showing no signs of their age. We got along with them really well. I learned from them that irrespective of age, one should live life to the fullest and do what one loves.  

Living with the Chills: The guide, who is a local, helped us throughout the trek and was very knowledgeable. He can easily withstand the chills of the cold glacier winds. I realized this when my father while clicking some photos with his digital camera, dropped his lens cap in the freezing water. His index finger froze immediately as he accidentally touched the cold water to pick up the lens cap. One of the reasons I am quoting this rather trite incident is that the guide jumped into the icy cold river for a bath and came back unscathed. A moment that gave me the chills. 

The Legend of Gaumukh

Trekking on, we reached Gaumukh on the second day as planned, and the view was splendid. Gaumukh which stands at 13,400 ft above sea level, is the primary source of the Bhagirathi river, an important tributary of the Ganga.

The legend has it that a boy, who, while searching for his lost sheep, reached a point near the glacier whose snout looked like that of a cow’s mouth and named it Gaumukh. It resembled so until the heavy rains in the year 2016 affected its natural appearance.   

All along this 46-kilometer trek, I met a few people who have inspired me in many ways. The journey taught me that there is life outside of my home too. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey, not a destination”. 

It felt good to be lost in the right direction. And I wish to get lost in the world of treks, meeting people, learning from their experiences, and enriching myself with the knowledge I gain throughout the journey.