DEPARTURE FROM SRI. HEMKUND SAHIB
Then we felt a little jerk. The horses had started moving in tandem. The time was a little past 2:30 p.m. The sky was now overcast with roving clouds. There were no winged creatures or primates in view anywhere. The Hemkund Gurudwara and the Sarovar were now occupying our mental parameters, as we were proceeding farther.
The zigzag path was terrific and we were negotiating it on horse back for the first time. As we felt horrified to see the deep valley, the horseman repeated his instruction i.e. keep leaning backwards, hold the saddle firmly, grip the horse chest strongly with legs and do not panic at U-turns. We felt so awkward and bound that at times we preferred to terminate the hiring. The horseman treated us courage as the circuitous path bedeviled us, when the animals passed through sharp turns and dislocated stones. When any of the front foot of the animal slipped over a stone, real danger to life confronted the rider. Our nerves had stretched to ends and we were riding very tense.
The animals continued down hill journey. After quite some time, we were at the foot of the first welcome gate from where we had started ascent on stone stairs. It was not less than double the stairway. Returning yatris were seen coming down the stairs. Very near was the stream of gushing water which we crossed over a simple bridge and then we were back at the glacier path. It was very slippery. Horses and pedestrian yatris had to tread it very cautiously. The white snow had become soiled due to ceaseless trampling under feet of humans and animals. On the uphill side of the glacier, rainwater had left ripple marks on it which were distinctly visible due to perhaps dust particles. Similar marks were also conspicuous on the slopy side. Looking down the slope was as if one was getting pulled down.
Thank God! We were now on the other end of the snow passage.
The black high cliff mountain was now on our right side. Our path osculated its base at close bends. The dhabas erected at vintage places were being bid good-bye in succession. The pilgrims returning from above were seen having rest in the dhabas or wayside spots of their choice. At times, companions of our own jatha were also seen on the way. Those, who had undertaken upward journey on horse back and returning on foot, were enjoying the journey due to less fatigue. Those, who were pedestrians both ways, were proceeding under blessings of Guruji.
Having sensed thirst, the horseman led the animals to the nearby water spring. The animals having got their fill neighed, and activated their feet to move on. Just at the same time another horseman came from behind with his horses and tried to bye-pass ours. The path was not so wide. We had narrow escape of accidental touch amongst the horses. Such minor mishaps at risk prone paths could cause unpredictable damages. So prayer unto the Saviour was the only safety belt for the yatris. The horsemen take such incidents easy, as they are face to face at these odds almost daily.
We were travelling about two kilometer from Gobind Dham. The horseman was lost in his low profile songs. Rani and Barkha were marking the distance in their own mood. The feeling of nearness of the destination was perceptible in all of us. Soon, we would be back in the Gurudwara, the animals in the stable and their owner with a hot pocket back to his house. That feeling influenced us all. Further, we were now travelling at comparatively lower altitude and at lesser risk. Way-bends were also fewer now. The path being better at that height, the horses were descending at better speed.
Leaving behind the vastness of the valley, beauty of the glaciers, cliffs and the great heights of the mountains, we were back at the bridge under which the glacier water passed. Although we were on horsebacks, yet, fatigue of a different nature accumulated in our bodies and we wanted to get down at the earliest. But the Gurudwara was still some distance away from the bridge.