Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Bath in a Cow's Mouth

Gaumukh: Hindi for Cow's Mouth.
Gaumukh is a glacier, which is one of the main starting points of the River Ganga. It is said to be one of the holiest places in India, as the River Ganga is the holiest river in India. A cow is a very holy animal in India, and so, putting 2 and 2 together, apparently you get a Cow's Mouth. Makes sense, right?The hike to Gaumukh is an 18 kilometer trek up and, of course 18 kilometer trek back to a small mountain town called Gangotri. No Cartman's or Kenny's here, but there is a small mountain ashram here, which, of course, offered nothing but the best. On the left is Olat, from Spain, hanging out in her room, which is just big enough for a small single bed with little cushioning, a narrow entryway for standing purposes, and a sweet tapestry pre-hung. I shared a room with another fellow in about the same size room as Olat's, but without the colorful tapestry. Of course, before our long trek up, none of us got more than an hour to two of sleep.

On the right, we met a really charasmatic sadhu, whose English was remarkable, telling us his life of living inside a cave, meditating all day, and coming down to the town for some rice and dahl, all while loading a bidi filled with tobacco and hash.

We get out of bed bright and early to commence our hike. We don't go the full 18 kms the first day because there is another ashram near the glacier that we stayed at. We hike 14 kms up, and rest for the evening at the most secluded, silent, and stunning ashram. There are no other people here at this time, people don't generally come early May for this trek. There is good reason for this, too: it gets to be extremely cold in the evening. But again, we all manage to sneak in an hour or two of sleep at the most as we all shared a room, which was just as cozy as the previous nights' sleep. Again, we get up bright and early to hike the remaining 4 km's to Gaumukh.

We arrive an hour or two later at the glacier, and the river, well, it is a flowing.

And it is really really cold. Only few are senseless enough to submerge one's body into river water 20 ft from the melting glacier. Well, when in the Mouth of a Cow!

Really cold!

On our way back, as we now have 4 km to the ashram plus 18 km back to Gangotri, we periodically glance back to see the sights of the towering mountains releasing our sins into the thin air of nothingness. No better way to descend back to where we came from than a visit from over 50 Himalayan Big Horn Sheep crossing our paths in the line of the mountain.

We arrive with our legs shaking and our conscious clear.

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