|ahymsin newsletter, issue - 14, October - November ' 2009|
An Insight – Seeing Tour
The newly born Travel Department of the Ashram (SRSG Travels) organized a unique tour around interesting temples in the Kedarnath range of the Garhwal Himalayas.
“Base camp” was a new tourist facility 300 meters above Guptakashi, which is a 170 kilometers, 9 hour drive from Rishikesh through an inspiring landscape.
The quality of the base camp was a pleasant surprise: spacious tents secured on a concrete base with electricity and fully equipped attached bathroom. And what a view from the tents: snow covered peaks of the Himalaya over the full horizon, and eagles circling above our heads. And in the daytime, when it was really quiet, monkeys played hide and seek around the tents.
Participants were in India to follow the Teacher Training Programme coming from Thailand, the Netherlands and France. From the Travel Department, Silvia Baratta was coordinating the activities with Mr. Manish Khanduri. Together they had planned the trip. Mr. Khanduri directed much of the staff and took care of the participants in an incredibly empathetic way. The pleasant surprises included a hot water bottle delivered to your tent at bed time (the nights cooled down to 8 degrees C) and hot snacks and tea served upon returning from day excursions.
The trips made included the Omkarewshwar Shiva temple, which is the winter seat of the famous Kedarnath shrine, the Kalimath temple devoted to the Goddess Kali, the Vishwanath temple at Guptakashi, the Tunganath Shiva temple at a 3 km trek and 800 meter upward climb from Chopta Village, the Lord Vishnu temple at the village of Triyuganarayan, and as an incredible dessert the Kartik Swami temple, a 3 kilometer trek from Kanakchowry. Indeed a dazzling number of temples, which might have been too much for non-Hindu’s when visited in isolation. What made it so exciting for all of us was the breath taking scenery all the way up and down, and above all the villages that we passed on the trek and the countryside with friendly peasant working on the fields, harvesting or threshing the grain. After all, about 80% of Indians still live in the countryside, and when do we foreigners get the occasion of getting in touch with them and see a glimpse of their lives? Thanks to the local guides that were hired, the villagers got explanations about who we were and why we were there. They were taken seriously and we were less seen as intruders. This created some very heartwarming encounters that were certainly among the highlights of the tour.
To sum up, this tour, however relatively expensive, was certainly worth every rupee of it, a short but intensive confrontation with Indian culture, past and present, taking place in an exciting landscape while being taken care of in an incredibly attentive way. Insight-seeing, those words were well chosen.
By Allman Metten – Guest at the Ashram, participant of the Insight tour, from the Netherlands.