On way to Bhimtal, from Kathgodam, there is this rock which has become a stop over point for many tourists. Some click selfies and others just sit there. The rock is located just before the town of Bhimtal and on the side of the road. Some of the locals are scared of going near it. What is it that attracts tourists to this point and why is that bad?
(The frog shaped rock – a mystery for few and a headache for the government)
With a plan to solve the mystery of this rock, I set off for the place, early in the morning, with my camera and a flask full of hot chocolate milk. It was still dark and the drive through the forest was a quiet one. With my windows open, I could hear a few owls hooting in the forest. The noise of the car engine and the wind through my open windows could not suppress them. The hoot made me slow down the car further. Slowly cruising my car, with windows open, I was hoping to hear some more sounds from the forest. These sounds are pure music. Forests sing out to people who are ready to hear them. A few minutes later, I heard the early morning chirping of some small birds. I could not spot them or identify them. Their chirping made me realize that soon the sky would start to get bright.
(Sunrise near Bhimtal – Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G lens, captured at f/5.6 on Auto-ISO and aperture priority. Shutter speed 1/50 sec and ISO 3200. Noise reduction done on Affinity Photo.)
Slowly and slowly, I drove on and reached the spot near the rock. It was still very dark. The sky was now faintly lit with dark orange color. The mountains had a blue-violet haze to them, which made them very surreal.
The rock itself was barricaded by a metal grill. Seemingly to reduce the number of people going to the spot. From what I have noticed, this grill tends to attract more and more people. It draws attention to itself and therefore tourists stop and try to see why it is set up. I have witnessed hordes of tourists flocking the rock behind the barricade and clicking photographs.
Within a few quick minutes, the sky had changed colors and the red-orange glow was gone. Now the sky was covered in pastel colors of blue and pink. The hills too were not bluish. The golden hour at dawn lasts for a very short time here and witnessing the dark shades that I saw, is rare. However this was a lucky day. I was there when the golden hour started with its riot of colors and transformed to pastel tints. (Time of the day)
(Rock on the Cliff – A certain death awaits those who happen to fall off this cliff)
With my camera dangling from my hand, I strolled towards the side of the road. The rock was perched at the corner of a cliff. Behind the rock was a steep fall. The steep cliff may be the reason why the authorities want people to stay away from the rock. An accidental slip near the rock maybe a sure-shot invitation to death. Me, being an easily scared person, did not venture out beyond the barricade.
An eagle flew by above my head. Not too far off. Then it glided down into the valley, forcing me to look down at the graceful turn it made in the valley below. My bird photography colleagues would have been happy. There was a large nest too, on the cliff, towards the other side of the road. Another large eagle was perched there. Even a 200mm lens mounted on a camera with APS-C sized sensor would have captured them in full glory. The eagles really were beautiful.
The main reason for my visit was to photograph the rock itself. Every-time, I had passed the rock, I had visualized a couple of photographs. Today was the chance to capture one of those. The rock looked attractive against the valley in its pastel hues. The warm colors had almost completely disappeared. A faint overcast sky added a touch of coldness to the rock.
(Frog Rock – photographed through the opening in the barricade. The barricade itself provided a support for the camera when I held it firmly against the iron bar. I was able to photograph at 0.6 sec exposure at f/8 aperture with an ISO of 400.)
The coldness of the rock with its overpowering stance is nicely visible in the photograph. The blue colored valley in the background with a few dry twigs on the right hand of the frame balance the composition. This image is going to be enlarged and framed for one of the walls that I have in mind. A photograph well captured!
It was already daylight now. Some vehicles were now visible on the road. Mostly small pick-ups carrying things up and down the hills. A couple of villagers walked by me, staring at me. What was I doing wrong? I was dressed up conventionally, my camera was not with a large attractive lens. In fact, I had not ventured to the other side of the barricade. Another old villager walked by, giving me the same look. I stopped him with the best smile that I could muster up. He told me in a heavy voice to stay away from the rock.
According to him, it is haunted by the spirits of the people who have fallen to their death here. The first death occurred many decades back. The road was a narrow stretch then and the rock did not have any barricade. After that first death a series of accidents happened. Sometimes young local peoples, sometimes tourists, once an old man. According to him, most of them fell because the spirits forced them to. Some of those spirits are reborn as eagles waiting to coax others to follow their fate! The beautiful eagles that fly around, circling this rock. This place after dark, is a no-go zone for the people who know about it.
(After hearing the story, this is how I visualized the place. Processed on Affinity Photo)
The rock does have an air of mystery about it but there it stands, tall and beautiful, against the backdrop of hills and valley. The mighty eagles fly by and the wind carries the sound of their cries and a fresh smell of early morning dew.
A morning walker’s delight? A photographer’s delight? A place to be scared of? or a headache for administration? … whatever it is, the view from this stretch of road is fabulous. And yes, the rock does look like a frog!