My itinerary 7

Howrah – Pathankot – Chamba – Bharmor – Hadsar – Manimahesh – Hadsar- Kugti – Chamba – Khajjiyar – Dalhausie ( chamara Lake -Dainkund etc )- Dharamsala ( Masroor Rock cut Temple – Kangra devi – Kangra fort -Jwalamukhi – Chamunda Devi ) – Macleodgung (Bhagsu Naag temple- Vaagsu falls- Daal Lake – St. John’s Church- Dalai Lama’s house etc)- Pathankot – Kolkata

Manimahesh Kailash is a pilgrimage in Himachal Pradesh which is considered as the abode of Manimahesh Shiv, it is not so popular like Kedarnath for its difficult accessibility. The altitude of the Manimahesh Peak is 5653 meter and the height of the Manimahesh lake is 4040 meter ( 13, 390 ft) which is a high altitude lake situated at the foot of the peak. The lake is the venue of a highly revered pilgrimage trek undertaken during the month of August/September.

When I planned the trip I also planned for visiting Kugti Village. It’s an Eco village. There is Kathik Swami temple 7 kilometer up hill from the village. There is no motorable road up to Kugti. One has to walk 2 km to reach the village. There is no hotel, only one forest rest house is there but locals give shelter for night.

I also planned to cover a major part of Dhauladhar circuit of Himachal pradesh. I could not see Dhauladhar range in this trip because it was all covered with cloud and mist. Kajjiyar looked mystic with clouds. Dalhausie is a typical Himalayan hill station established by British. McLeodgunge is also a very beautiful place and the market there is alluring for those who love shopping.

The end of the trip was a fiasco for me. When the car reached near Pathankot, the driver informed us that all the trains had been cancelled due to political chaos. On that day the verdict against Baba Ram Rahim was announced, he had been accused for several crimes. His disciples started breaking government properties, attacked press and media people. Curfew was declared in several places, transport services were detained for unlimited time. Communication services were withheld. I became too much worried and called my son over phone. He was in Bengaluru then. He asked me which was the nearest airport. The nearest airports were Chandigarh and Amritsar, but it was not possible to travel within Punjab so I preferred Jammu airport to get flight to come back to kolkata. I went to the interstate bus terminus to inquire about the bus service to go to Jammu from Pathankot. When I came back the flight tickets of next two days were already sold, so I went to Jammu and waited there two days to get the flight. It was my 4th Jammu visit, so there was nothing much left to see. I went to the Raghunathji temple and roamed around the market, and had Kebabs from Papa Di Hatti.

Tirthan Valley adventure

Tirthan is a beautiful valley in Himachal Pradesh near Kullu. Normally I read a lot before planning a trip. But sometimes those information do not work. It happened in the Tirthan trip also. According to the information, which I received from a travel forum, I took HP tourism’s Volvo bus “Himsuta” from Delhi ISBT for Manali to get down at Aut. It was instructed that one should get down before Aut tunnel, where the road bifurcated, to get a bus for Banjar. The Volvo started at 6 PM from Delhi. My co-passenger was an old man from Bhuntar. When I informed him that I had to get down before Aut tunnel he discouraged me to do so saying that it would not be wise to get down there as the place would remain absolutely deserted at 5 AM in the morning. He instructed the conductor to drop me after crossing the tunnel where there would be light and locality.

It was completely dark when the bus dropped me on the road of Aut at 5 o’clock in the morning. It was drizzling. I found an ATM where there was light. I walked in front of it with my luggage. Three dogs came running towards me. I had an old newspaper in my hand. One of them snatched it and two others started sniffing my bags. I felt scared. Then suddenly the burglar alarm of the ATM started ringing. I felt completely bewildered. There were vehicles on the highway which passed by very fast.

I saw a carrier van was coming down slowly along an unmetalled road. As soon as it took a turn in front of the ATM I shouted desperately for help. There were two persons in the van. They asked me to enter into the car. If it was a big city I would prefer to be bitten by the dogs than to ask help from two strangers. But it was Aut, so without any hesitation I accepted the lift. They took me to a nearby tea shop, offered me tea. They were two civil engineers who were on duty for some construction work. They came down to the tea stall to have morning tea and snacks.

In the shop there were three men sitting and having tea, two of them also experienced the same like me taking shelter in the ATM, and later came to the tea stall. I waited there for the local bus to go to Banjar. In the mean time I had my breakfast there. Then a taxi came for distributing news paper in the morning. The tea stall owner negotiated with the driver and managed a lift for me up-to Banjar instead of hundred rupees. The taxi driver dropped me at Banjar bus stand. He suggested me to stay at Sairopa instead of Nagini. I boarded a local bus and reached Sairopa. It was a nice place.

There is Himalayan National Park in Sairopa. It is also famous for trout fishing. One has to get permit for fishing and to trek into the forest from the Forest office. There is a Forest Rest house in Sairopa. Himalayan Magpies are in plenty in this valley with other species of birds.

My itinerary 5

Kolkata – Haridwar – Barkot – Yamunotri – Hanumanchatti – Uttarkashi – Gangotri-Gaumukh- Harsil – Chamba – Tehri dam – Dhanaulti – Mussauri – Haridwar – kolkata.

Gangotri and Yamunotri are two important pilgrimage of Uttarakhand. The temples there normally open on the day of Akshay Tritiya. In the year 2016 it opened on 9th May. According to that I planned my trip in the next week to avoid opening rush. But then summer vacation already started. This was my second solo trip. I did not have much idea that how much the rush remains during summer vacation.

I reached Haridwar in the evening by Kumbh Express. It was 3 hours late. I kept my luggage in GMVN tourist rest house near the railway station which I booked from kolkata. Then I went to the bus stand to know when could I get the bus for Barkot. I came to know that no bus was going to Barkot from Haridwar then. In the season getting public transport was quite difficult. Jeeps and buses were mostly hired by the pilgrims. Only one bus plies to Barkot from Dehradoon which leaves at 7 o’clock in the morning and the first bus for Dehradoon leaves at 5 AM from Haridwar.

I woke up at 4 o’clock and got myself prepared to catch the first bus. when I went to the bus stand and was asking for the bus, a guy, who seemed to be a conductor of a bus, was clearing his account there. As I told the attendant in the counter that I must not miss the first bus for Dehradoon because I had to catch the bus for Barkot from there, then that person said that his bus would go to a place which was just 10 km away from Barkot. I could easily go to Barkot from there by shared jeep. I went with him and he offered me his seat just beside the driver as all seats were already filled up. I started the journey. As soon as we reached the destination the driver showed me the bus from Dehra also reached there. He shifted my luggage and asked the other driver to drop me at the proper place.

The trip was full of incidents. I enjoyed all of them whether good or bad, they enriched my experience. I saw forest fire while going to Uttarkashi from Barkot. One can not imagine it without watching the destruction caused by the nature. For more than an hour the bus went through the highway where in both the sides forest was burning. The heat could be felt and there was burning smell all over. After Harsil I wanted to visit Nelang valley but could not manage it alone, instead I went to Dhanaulti.

My itinerary 4

Kolkata – Haridwar – Joshimath – Ghangharia ( Valley of Flowers + Hemkund Sahib)- Gobindghat – Badrinath – Auli – Karnprayag – Rudraprayag Hrishikesh – Haridwar – Kolkata.

Valley of flowers is a unique place in the Garhwal Himalaya at the altitude of 3658 meters from the sea level where hundreds of variety of flowers bloom only in the monsoon season. They start blooming in the month of July. They bloom in different phases and wither away gradually till the end of September. Rest of the years the valley remains covered by snow. It is a world heritage site and no camping is allowed there. One has to trek 7 km up hill to visit the valley from Ghangharia.

Broken bridge on Laxman Ganga

Hemkund Sahib is at the altitude of 4,633 meters which is a famous Sikh pilgrimage. It is 10 km from Ghangharia. Ponies and porters are available for them who can not trek.

I booked a package of GMVN for Valley of flowers, Hemkund Sahib and Badrinath. Unfortunately, or I can say now fortunately, the package was cancelled due to natural calamity. I decided not to cancel my train tickets and try on my own. So I boarded the train on time . It was a great experience for me. I realized that in Himalayas no one is alone and if one comes out alone on the roads of Himalayas with a bit of courage the path automatically opens. I did not expect I could make it but when I came back from the valley tears came rolling out unceasingly with joy from my eyes. I felt the blessings of Almighty.

After covering the places planned by GMVN I found I had few days in hand which I utilized staying in Auli, Karnprayag, Rudrapayag and Rishikesh. When I came back successfully my confidence increased and I decided to travel alone in future.

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Amarnath and Vaishno Devi

I always wanted to visit Amarnath since my teenage years. When I got the opportunity in July 2014 then I crossed 50. I was hesitant to plan this trip alone. So I took help of a reputed travel agency of Kolkata. Vaishno Devi was also included in that package. I liked their plan because they had been starting from Chandanbari and ending at Baltal. I was happy that I could be able to travel both the routes.

That was the first year when medical checkup from fixed nominated government hospital and issuing of fit certificate was introduced and the yatra permit had to be taken from the assigned bank paying a nominal sum as fees for yatra. We reached Pehelgham. The manager of the tour arranged doli and pony for us. But they took Rs 7500 from us though they only paid 5000 to the pony owner, they made profit of Rs 2500 for each horse. Everything went fine otherwise. Reaching the cave at the height of 12,756 ft was a unique as well as spiritual experience. I was fortunate to witness not only the huge ice Shiva but also natural ice made Sri Ganapati and mother Parvati beside Him.

On the way back to Baltal I fell from the horse 4 times due to the negligence of my syce who did not tie the saddle on the horse back properly, it was really a terrible experience. I became very much scared and panic stricken. The last time I started shouting as soon as my saddle tilted from the horse back. Indian army, everywhere on the way to Amarnath, was very active and helpful. They rescued me in the forth time and threatened the syce to take care of me. Then he checked and tightened the saddle properly.

We rested two nights in Srinagar and enjoyed local sightseeing, boating on Shikara in the Dal Lake, and shopping as well. Then we went to Katra . Vaishno Devi trip was nice, though the day was quite rainy. After that we all came back to Jammu and caught our train.

Traveling through an agency gave me some good and bad experiences. I got few good friends from that package though they are not in contact now. It is beneficial for them who can not make a trip on their own, specially aged people. One doesn’t need to bother about hotel booking or arranging food when one is dead tired. There are few members who are always discontented and complaining even on trivial issues which is disturbing. There are always few people who are very curious and keep on asking personal questions which is annoying. These travel agencies normally provide trips to conventional places. For off beat places one has to take initiative on one’s own.

My itinerary 6

Kolkata – Lalkuyan – Tanakpur – Mayavati- Patal Bhubaneshwar- Munshiyari – Almora- Nainital – Kathgogam – Lucknow- Kolkata .

Mayavati and Almorah were the places I planned to go with my father many years ago. My father traveled Mayavati, Almora, Ranikhet, Kaushani, Nainital etc twice with my mother but unfortunately I could not go then. I planned my trip in 2017 March. I preferred Lalkuan express than Kathgodam because it takes less time though it is a weekly train.

I did not have any idea that to reach Tanakpur From Lalkuan or Berily was the better option to get down from the train. Buses ply in regular intervals from Berily to Tanakpur. When I was telling someone of my co passengers about my itinerary before reaching Lalkuan, the two TTE were doing some work in the next cabin of the train. They overheard the discussion and called me : ” Come here Madam. Sit here . You want to go to Tanakpur from Lalkuan? You are alone ? Why didn’t you get down at Berily. ” I expressed my ignorance. One of them suggested me to go to Haldwani Bus stand to get the bus for Tanakpur. Another passenger from the next cabin became interested and came to advise me. He was a local. He instructed me to go to Kichchha by a tempo auto from where I could get the bus for Tanakpur. When I reached Kichchha bus stand I came to know the bus for Tanakpur would leave late. They asked me to go to Khatima and take another bus from Khatima for Tanakpur.

Khatima was a transit where two roads met and crossed each other. After getting down at Khatima I stood in front of a shop according to the direction of the conductor of the previous bus. A person was standing there. Seeing me with my rucksack he asked me where I was going. When he knew my destination he informed that he was also going there and ordered me to follow him. He caught a car which was going back after dropping someone and I went with him. He directed the driver to drop me in front of KMVN guest house and asked me to pay the driver 30 rupees. I reached Tanakpur at 12-30 PM.

Karthikswami of Kanakchauri

Kartikeya is not very popular like his brother Lord Ganesha and not frequently worshiped by everyone. He is the Hindu god of war according to Indian mythology. There are very few temples of Kartikeya in India. One of them is in Uttarakhand. It is a 3 kilometer uphill trek from Kanakchauri village.

I reached Kanakchauri from Rudraprayag by bus in the month of April. There were very few hotels in Kanakchauri. I stayed in Mayadeep Holiday Home. There was no other tourist at Kanakchauri then. I talked to the attendant of the hotel. He arranged a local guide for me who was a boy of 18, and had just appeared in the State Board Higher Secondary exam then. For watching sunrise from Karthikswami temple we started at 4 o’clock in the morning.

The sky was starry. The Milky-way galaxy and innumerable known as well as unknown constellations of stars were clearly visible. I felt spellbound watching the sky. It was absolutely dark. We were going through the dense woods. Different types of eerie sounds could be hard. Unknown nocturnal birds were making strange sounds and insects were shrieking. I asked the boy if there was any chance of ferocious animals to come across on the way. He replied very casually that cheetahs and bears could come out. I asked with doubt if they were deadly, he said occasionally they attacked. I got very much scared. I kept on talking with him and made sounds with my walking stick so that animals did not appear. I had heard that all animals were afraid of human.

My guide

Gradually the day light started coming out behind the mountain range of the eastern side. I could not reach the top on time due to my weak legs and heart. But I saw the first rays of sun from the staircases of the temple. There was haze but still the mountain range was visible all over. I felt very much grateful, I bowed Lord Kartikeya for appearing in front of me, took few snaps, then came down. Coming down was easier, and we met few local devotees and ponies carrying loads who were going upward then.