Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids

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Photo of Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids by Vartika Sharma Lekhak

What makes my itinerary special:

Crowd-less destinations in peak tourist season, couple friendly, child friendly, self-managed, peek into rural life, insight about what all goes into family travel plans, not-regular stuff, pocket friendly yet comfortable travel.

What we have explored so far: Uttarakhand, Himachal, Leh-Ladakh, Kutch, Konkan coast.

Enjoy our Travel Tale:

Finally, it was time to introduce our little daughter to the joys of untamed trails and trekking. Earlier we had tested her stamina in a short one-day trek to Triund in Mcleodganj when she had turned 5. So, under-6 size trekking shoes were bought, a kiddie Trek pole, jungle hat, and a bright pink backpack.

Quick Summary of the Post:

The Legend

Trek Summary

The Route

The Trek begins

Madmaheshwar and Buda Madmaheshwar

What's in our bag

Alternate Treks

Some travel tips

Where to stay and useful contact numbers

The Legend

The temple is located in Mansoona village in Garhwal Himalayas of Uttrakhand. It is believed to be built by Pandavas. Legend says that Shiva, displeased with Pandavas who had killed their own blood, refused to give darshan to them. He dived into the earth at Kedarnath. His navel portion (Madhya) appeared at Madmaheshwar, hence the name. It is one of the five Panch Kedars, Shiva shrines.

Route: Dehradun to Ransi (Basecamp) via Dhanaulti

Mode: Car

Road: Okay, Bad in some stretch

Season: May 

Trek Summary:

Total Time: 2 days climb plus 2 days descent

Distance: 22 km one side

Height: 3497 m

Base camp: Ransi

Halt places: Bantoli, Nanu, Madmaheshwar

Level: Moderate

The Route:

The road more or less is okay, except some stretches like Srinagar, near Tehri. Because of the ongoing Chardham highway project, lots of construction work is going on along the route.

All of a sudden the hailstorm started. The Hails as big as golf balls were knocking the roof of the car dangerously. We were looking for a shelter desperately for the car. But there was nothing in sight. The winding mountain road was soon flooded with ‘barsaati nullahs,’ which were falling like waterfall from the hill slopes. The road was covered in the white blanket of the icy balls. There was just no visibility. Seeing no alternative, we stopped the car at one safe spot where the road looked sturdy. It was foolish to park it next to a slope as there is a danger of a landslide. We covered the windshield with a yoga mat to save it from the hammering hails. With every moment the route was getting trickier. As soon as the hailstorm subsided, we started the car to get away quickly because soon the rainwater streams will overflow the roads. Sometimes the current is so strong that it will sweep the vehicles off the road. Another fear was the landslides. We were fortunate enough to escape in time because soon after them, the road was blocked by a landslide and many vehicles were stuck. An important travel tip: Don’t underestimate Accuweather.

The Trek begins:

Day O: Halt at Ransi.

Photo of Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids 1/15 by Vartika Sharma Lekhak
The warm hosts at Ransi preparing delicious local cuisine.

There are 4-5 homestays available at the base camp. The rooms are neat, with attached toilets and provision of hot water on demand. The best part is the home cooked meal. We had the meal of local delicacy of ferns and buttermilk. Ukhimath is the nearest town to Ransi, at the distance of about 20km. One can halt at Ukhimath also. There is a GMVN guesthouse there.

Day 01: Halt at Nanu

These are the following villages that fall along the route. Ransi – Gaundhar (6km) – Bantoli (2 km) – Khatara – Nanu - Madmaheshwar

Photo of Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids 2/15 by Vartika Sharma Lekhak
The Trail

The Trek starts 2 km after the Ransi village. One can either leave the vehicle in the village or park it at the beginning point.

It is a well-paved hilly trail, passing through the jungle and small hamlets. Unlike other trekking destination, there is not much rush on this route. Ponies and porters are also available. There are drinking water taps from natural springs at regular intervals. The settlements which fall along the route have lodging facility and refreshments. Till Bantoli the trail is down-slope, after that, it is a continuous climb.

Photo of Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids 3/15 by Vartika Sharma Lekhak
The pahadi women gave the young trekker the nickname -- Goli‘

Goli! Goli!,’ the two pahadi women called out our little trekker who was hopping like a mountain goat on the trail. ‘I am not Goli,’ little one turned and waved at the women who had now stopped their task of cutting the grass and were watching her with open admiration. ‘‘In our mountains, a girl who is restless and naughty is called goli.’ And that’s how she got her nickname. True it was. Like a goli (bullet) she was whizzing past us as we were shamelessly panting after every ten meters. She would take random routes and outrun our old bones, perhaps to tease us.

"German ki ladai aur nanu ki chadai, dono khatarnaak hai -- A local saying.

Slow and steady, slow and steady we walked the trail and by lunch hour we reached Khatara. After a hearty meal of local delicacies, we decided to walk further two kilometers and halt at Nanu. But the climb to Nanu is considered the steepest stretch of the trek.

Photo of Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids 4/15 by Vartika Sharma Lekhak
Nanu's steep climb

Nanu’s climb took the wind out of everyone. The promise of candy somehow kept Goli going for a few more meters. Her legs were aching horribly and she would stop after every ten steps to take deep breaths. She looked at her cruel parents angrily,

Stop!!!! I can’t do it anymore’

The lure of candy was not working anymore. ‘Here, take my hand,’ I held her hand reassuringly. ‘Have I told you the story how your grandfather once forgot your Maasi in zoo.......’

‘No, you haven’t told me...Tell me!!’ She was up excitedly, the pain forgotten and ready to walk again. The promise of childhood stories of her parents kept her going for another two hours and finally, we reached Nanu.

Photo of Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids 5/15 by Vartika Sharma Lekhak

There are just one or two huts in Nanu. There is a small campsite also where a group of trekkers heading to Nandikund had pitched their tent. It started to rain and the temperature dropped down further. Thankfully rooms had warm bedding. Guests were served a hot meal of dal, chappati and ferns. After Bartoli there is no regular electricity. The villagers depend upon solar charging lights.

I rubbed sesame oil on the legs of Goli, to prepare her for the trek the next day. But she was now fully charged and eager to play with the fellow trekkers. Two women mounted on ponies gave her a cheerful wave. Their ponies had briefly halted at Nanu. They planned to reach Madmaheshwar on the same day itself.

Day 2 : Halt at Madmaheshwar

Photo of Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids 6/15 by Vartika Sharma Lekhak
Being the youngest one out there, little horsie was a star at the camp. Someone was sharing jungle berries with her, someone playing the word game. From a porter, she learned how to light campfire using the twigs.

Early morning, after a quick meal of oily paranthas and milky tea we resumed the trek. By lunch we reached Madmaheshwar temple, nestled in a lush meadow. There are many neat rooms with attached toilets available at the site. Unlike other tourist destinations, here there is no rush to entice the customers. The locals follow a number system so that everyone gets a fair share in the business as it is just these four-five months when the locals earn money from the tourists. The rates are fixed and everyone follows them. The lodge number 3, having a capacity of 6-7 people, was assigned to our travellers @ 700 INR. It was a makeshift hut, with a tin shed. The room had an attached toilet and enough warm beddings. As there is no electricity, the locals depend upon their tiny arrangement of solar lights.

Photo of Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids 7/15 by Vartika Sharma Lekhak

Devi, have some dry fruits,’ the old man smiled at Goli and gave her some goodies from his bag. ‘You are like a little goddess, I love your mischievous grin,’ he joined the palms in a respectful salutation. The old man, originally from Gujarat, was a diamond merchant turned ascetic. With a light sling bag as his only possession, the ascetic had begun the trek/pilgrimage early morning and planned to reach Madmaeshwar the same day and then go up further. Handing over his prosperous business to his sons, the man was wandering in Himalayas from past several years in search of that true Light that his precious stones could not give.

The Temple

The temple is a small stone structure built in black stones in north Indian style. The sanctum has a navel-shaped lingam. The old shrine, Budha-Maheshwar, is further 1.5 km up the meadow. The temple timings are 6am to 9pm. The worship at the temple starts from May/June till October/November. For the rest of the duration the temple is inaccessible because of snow and thus the symbolic idol is shifted to Ukhimath for worship. The temple complex has a dharamshala and a health camp run by six sigma, which has basic aid available.

Photo of Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids 8/15 by Vartika Sharma Lekhak
The Temple Complex: Dharamsala on the right and Six-Sigma first aid center in the center

The generator roared into life for two hours in the evening for the puja. A burly priest, with jet black wavy hair, and wearing only a silken dhoti in this chilling temperature began the preparations of the evening Aarti. As per the tradition, the priests at this temple are South Indians. They are called Jangamas and belong to Lingayat sect of Mysore.

We huddled in one corner of the Mandapa which was crammed with devotees. Goli settled down on a rug, happy to escape the freezing cold floor which had begun to numb our feet. The Jangama lifted the lit up brass diyas in one hand and jingled the prayer bell. He closed his eyes and began the magical chants. Then he danced delicately, swaying his body from one foot to another, gently moving across the sanctum sanctorum. For the next one hour he danced like a blissful lover for his beloved deity, oblivious to the world outside. His eyes were closed and a feeling of deep adoration was floating on his face. Everyone in that room was bewitched by his devotion and chanting with him. This was an altogether different spiritual experience for us. We watched with beaming heart our eccentric child who was as mesmerized as we were.

Day 3 (Buda Madmaheshwar and Return)

Further up the meadow is Buda Madmaheshwar. After 2 km of the trek, one reaches the top of the meadow. The view is breathtaking. It’s like a huge football ground amidst the peaks. One gets the clear view of Chaukhamba. There is a small temple in the meadow, which trekkers worship with candies.

Photo of Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids 9/15 by Vartika Sharma Lekhak
Buda or old Madhyamaheshwar
Photo of Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids 10/15 by Vartika Sharma Lekhak
The meadow at Buda Madmaheshwar. One can see the reflection of the peaks in the small pools of water of melted snow, but at this time the pools were all dried up (or was it climate change?).

Soaked in the glory of nature for some unforgettable moments we finally bade goodbye to the view and headed back.

Photo of Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids 11/15 by Vartika Sharma Lekhak
The Tribe with Chaukhamba in backdrop.
Photo of Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids 12/15 by Vartika Sharma Lekhak

Picking up our belongings from Madmaheshwar, we began the return journey. We had initially planned to reach the basecamp the same day but fatigue had overpowered our daughter. So, we halted at Gaundar for the night. Gaundar is a tiny hamlet along the route from where one gets a good view of Madmaheswar Ganga. It was a typical pahadi house made in wood.The Natural hollow of the trees are used by locals to hide newborn calves from cold and predators.

Photo of Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids 13/15 by Vartika Sharma Lekhak
The Natural hollow of the trees are used by locals to hide newborn calves from cold and predators.

The sound of slurping waves in the river down below the valley was reverberating in the air. Gently the hamlet was falling into the sleep. Wrapped up in warm blankets, we watched the open clear sky glittering with endless stars. How self-sufficient and independent these people are, we thought. The world of politics and the economy is of no use to them, because for them nature is the provider and caregiver.

Day 4

This was the last day of the trek. After Bartoli, it was again the climb. By noon we reached Ransi and headed back to Dehradun.

What’s in Our bag: (Kid special)

Khukri, pepper-spray, lighter

Extra socks: You may need a double layer at the greater height

Dryfruits, candies, chocolates. ORS

Trek Pole

powerbank

Torch

First Aid kit: PCM and anti-allergen for child

Muscle relaxant and sesame oil for massage (nothing works better than this)

Woollen caps, ear muffs and hat

Toiletries (make small packs to travel light)

Talcum powder and Vaseline (comes handy to avoid friction from clothes)

Deodorant (You may not get warm water to bath everytime)

Sunglasses, sunscreen

Warm clothing

Easy drying tees and trek pants

Extra polythene bags: Comes real handy during rain

Rainproof clothing

Trekking shoes

Floaters (In descent, floaters more comfortable than the shoes as the toes don’t get hurt)

Camera

Mobile (though not much of the use if it’s not BSNL)

Nearby Treks

For trekking enthusiasts, they can trek further up to (graded difficult) Kanchani Tal, Nadikund and Pandusera. But for these treks one needs to hire trained guides, porters and tents as there is no settlement after Madhymaheshwar.

Some Travel Tips:

1. These are the following villages that fall along the route. Ransi – Gaundhar (6km) – Bantoli (1km) – Khatara – Nanu – Madyamaheshwar.  They have lodges and food facility.

2. The Trek to Madyamaheswar is do-able in 2-4 days depending upon your stamina and purpose.

3. This is one of the well-organised treks with the minimum of fuss. Locals are kind, there is the availability of home-cooked meal, spring water along the route, little rush of travellers.

4. Ponies, porters and guides available.

5. Invest in some solar mobile chargers. No electricity after Bantoli, people depend on solar lights. 

6. At Madmaheswar the generator is switched on for one hour in the evening for the Arti, you can charge your phones in the temple complex on request.

7. No ATM, Only BSNL and Jio connectivity Ransi onwards.

8. The usual temple timings are 6am to 9pm. The worship at the temple starts from May/June till October/November. Before planning for the trek get an update from temple website.

9. If caught in a hailstorm in a hilly area, try to cross the area quickly, because nullahs will over flow when the ice melts and there will be fear of landslides.

10. At higher altitudes, like Buda-Madmaheswar, there is fear of wild animals, thus avoid venturing out alone after sunset.

Photo of Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids 14/15 by Vartika Sharma Lekhak
To protect the sheep-dogs from the attack of leopard, the dogs are provided with a home-made iron collar.

Where to Stay and useful contact numbers:

1. Basecamp:  One can either stay at Ransi where homestays are available @ cost of 500-800INR. There is also an option to spend the night in GMVN Tourist guest house at Ukhimath, for which one needs to do pre-booking online. Phone number 095680 06692.

2. Along the Trek: There is option to stay in decent homestays or tin-shed rooms in villages along the route. The rates varies from 300-800INR for a room having occupancy upto 8 people. Thankfully there is availability of good home-cooked local cuisine (within 150INR per meal) and free spring drinking water. The locals are kind and helping people.

Photo of Trek to Madmaheshwar: Trekking with kids 15/15 by Vartika Sharma Lekhak
One of the lodges along the way

Tents: One can also carry their own tent or hire a guide, though it is not advisable if one plans to go only till Madmaheshwar. Mr. Balbir Rana (07579408125, 08449057996) is one of the local guides, who is proficient in Panch Kedar treks. The rates vary from 1000-1500 INR per day for the guide and tents plus food at 800INR per day extra.

....

Happy Reading and Happy Travelling

To read more of our travel stories, you can check out my blog: Travels of Mast Malang

You can watch our video journey here:

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