I was late to book accommodation at Janki Chatti GMVN Tourist lodge. I preferred to stay in Government run tourist rest houses in my initial days of solo traveling. I had to book the TRH at Hanuman Chatti which was 10/15 km away from Janki Chatti. Hanuman Chatti had been the last motorable point for Yamunotri few years ago. Since road has been extended to Janki Chatti, it has lost its previous importance. I came down to Hanuman Chatti, from Janki Chatti, after visiting Yamunotri temple.
It was afternoon and the GMVN rest house was in the gorge of Yamuna which was quite a down hill walk from the main road. None was there. I entered and saw a person who requested me to wait as he was going to inform the caretaker. The caretaker came, he was a morose person, checked all my documents, and allotted a room. The flush of the toilet and the bathroom light were not working, he smiled ashamedly and repaired them with quick efficiency. He asked if I wanted dinner, I said that 2 roti and any vegetable would work for me. There was no mobile network. He informed that as the rest house was in the deep gorge, so to get network I have to go to the main road. I went up, messaged my son and called at home to inform about my night halt. Then I visited Hanuman Mandir and had a cup of tea and snacks from a roadside tea stall. At 8 o’clock in the evening the caretaker called me in the dining hall and served roti and Aloo-tomatar. It was tasty and healthy with less spices and oil, I was hungry too. After having dinner I told him that the vegetable was very tasty at the same time healthy. His eyes flushed with satisfaction. It seemed that he had been working for long there. He has seen the glorious past of that tourist rest house when it had been always filled up and on great demand. Presently he was the only employee there. I left the rest house in the next early morning.
I had been my father’s advisor about deciding the tour plans and I was always fond of places that were not so popular. After doing the trip to Andaman in 1980, which was a rare destination then, I asked my father if we could go Laskadweep. At that time sufficient information was not available and it didn’t happen. As soon as I revived traveling after a long period, I started planning for Lakshadweep. The package preponed and postponed and ultimately we got confirmation letter from the local agent of SPORTS.
It was an amazing experience to travel on a ship for five days. My son and I both enjoyed extremely. I did not know swimming then, that is why I could not take risk for going scuba diving, just enjoyed snorkeling. I missed it really, so, after coming back I learnt swimming at the age of 48, so that if I get another chance I do not have to miss it. All the beaches are pristine because it is not as commercialized as Andaman at present and one needs permission of the authority to go there. Alcohol consumption is absolutely banned.
When the ship started everyone was excited. A tugboat pulled the ship out of Cochin harbour. It went through the Vembanad Lake and reached Arabian sea. The night fell on the vast sea.There was nothing except water all around. The ship seemed like an island. At night it was alarmingly beautiful. In the early morning we saw the coast of Kalpeni island. The whole package is unique in its own way. We visited Kavaratti next day and Minicoy on the the 4th day. It was a 5 days and 4 nights package from Cochin to Cochin.
After finishing my target of Valley of Flowers, Hemkund Saheb and Badrinath I found that I have 2/3 days extra in my hand. I booked a package of GMVN which had been cancelled due to a natural calamity, so I came out alone with my mission. As it was a package and there is always a chance for landslide during monsoon in the Himalayas, I kept 2 buffer days within my plan. Now I thought to utilize them. I came down to Joshimath at 12 noon. I inquired about Auli and whether it was possible to go by rope-way which was very famous. This cable car holds a record of the longest in Asia for covering total length of 4.15 km. I was informed by the counter that the cable car would run only at 3 pm because it was off season. I kept my luggage under their custody and had my lunch. The cable car dropped me on tower number 8 as I wished to stay at GMVN tourist lodge. I got down from the tower and reached the point descending about 200 staircases from where the chair car plies for that tourist lodge. It was drizzling. The operator said that he could not run the chair car for a single traveler. He needed at least two. I was desperate, there was no other option for me except buying two tickets. The experience was unique, it was just like a dream where I was the queen of the place.
I reached the tourist lodge. None was there in the reception. I called if someone was there. One person came out and asked me to wait, and called the manager, who allotted me an economy room. Room was good and cozy with basic amenities of geyser, room heater, et cetera. I put the geyser on and removed the blanket from the bed to rest for a while. I found that the bed was wet at one part. I was going to call the attendant but saw that he himself was coming with another key. He said that the manager had asked him to shift me to the super deluxe room beside the reception. I objected because I could not afford such a room. He comforted me saying that it didn’t matter. It was quite a luxury room. In the morning when I woke up it was raining, it was a rare moment of my experiences because I realized that the whole tourist lodge was within the cloud. I enjoyed every bit of moment in Auli, the memory is still fresh in my mind.
N.B. Auli is accessible from Joshimath by car or by ropeway.
My parents and I went to Amritsar in July 1983 on our way back from Kashmir trip. We reached in the evening and stayed in a hotel near the railway station. In the morning after breakfast we went for Golden Temple. We entered the temple through the main gate crossing the stream of water which is made for the purpose to wash the feet of the pilgrims. After entering we waited few minutes to think from which way to reach the temple . It was a sunny morning , an old man had been talking to few young college going boys. As soon as he saw us he came to us leaving those guys behind and introduced himself as an honorary guide who gives service to the temple on Sundays. He guided us all through.
We had “Halwa” prasad in the temple, reached the top floor of the temple, then he made my mother and me do “Kar Seva”, then we went to the huge Langar where we had daal and roti. One roti and one ladle of daal was more than enough for our Bengali stomach of three. When we were giving a round within the temple we saw many half underground closed rooms and many men with brain gun and stain gun moving around. My mother asked what were the rooms for and my father inquired why were people with weapons present within the Temple premises. The man replied that those are store rooms of the temple and the Sikhs believe in Vakti and Shakti (devotion and power)together. Then the old man saw us off till we boarded on a Tonga, after taking us to the temple book shop where my parents bought some books and mementos. From there we went to the famous Jalianwala Baag .
After several months, on June 1984 there was operation BLUE STAR. It revealed that, there were lots of visitors along with few foreigners, they were kept imprisoned naked in the half underground rooms of the temple, who were rescued by the army after confrontation. We then realized and felt grateful to that old man. My mother called him an angel who saved us from being captured. We all know that as an aftermath of this decision Mrs Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31st October 1984.
I reached Gangotri at 1-30 PM after waiting from 6-30 to 10 AM with few young stars in Uttarkashi until the shared jeep filled up. As I was walking towards GMVN guest house, a man came to me. He introduced himself as a guide. Initially I hesitated and refused saying that I had to hire a pony because I was unable to walk 15 km and the syce would guide me, but he persisted on following me saying that he would carry my luggage as well as arrange my pony and permit, and one has to walk on feet after Bhojobasa, so syce would never go to accompany me till the snout point. After a long bargain I agreed at the cost of Rs 1000, I said to him to leave me at Bhojobasa after visiting Gaumukh. He made my permit in the evening and booked a pony. He said he would come next morning at 6 o’clock.
I started in the morning at 6 AM, I rode the pony. After going for a while the pony denied to go ahead and turned backward. It seemed that she was unwilling to carry me. Somehow the syce and the guide made her going on the way. Then I came to know that the pony was a very young one and the syce was a new one. This is his first trip on the way to Bhojobasa. The guide said that there was nothing to worry because he was quite acquainted with the region. But I had not been comfortable on the back of the pony and had a feeling that my seat was moving. The syce said to me not to get afraid and stick on to the seat. Then suddenly the saddle tilted completely and I fell from the pony where the path was hardly 3 feet wide and river gorge was straight 200 metres deep beside the path. Suddenly the guide came, as I was slipping down under the horse, he caught my legs and saved me from falling. I was terribly scared, he asked to rest, then I walked about one and half kilometer, after that I somehow reached Bhojobasa on the back of the pony.
I talked to the guide while walking on the way to Gaumukh. He informed that he has 2 children, wife and parents in a village of Nepal which was completely devastated due to the earthquake of 2015. Previous day he had no money that is why he was so persistent. I agreed to pay him for another day and also to provide his food. I asked him to accompany till I return to Gangotri. It was a beautiful experience to see the snout point and coming back. I stayed that night at GMVN dormitory and came back next day by another pony which was well trained as well as it’s syce.
N.B. To reach Gangotri one can catch bus directly from Hariwar or reach Uttarkashi by shared jeep or bus from Haridwar to break a long road journey. Till Bhojobasa, which is 10 kilometer from Gangotri, pony is available for those who can not walk so long, but after Bhojobasa it is now 5/6 kilometer trek. At Bhojobasa there are very few accommodations for stay.
It was 1976. I had been traveling through South India for weeks with my parents. We visited Rameshwaram . We reached early at the railway station for the next destination. We had circular tickets which is probably not available now a days. The train was on the platform, we boarded and settled with our luggage. There was about 2/3 hours left for the scheduled departure. In those days there was neither so much rush of people nor trains. There were many steam engines still working. I was roaming on the platform. I found a food shop owner on the platform who was loudly reviling a foreigner in his native language. The foreigner wore soggy torn out clothes. During that period there were lots of hippies found in India. So I thought there might be some misunderstandings between the shopkeeper and the foreigner. I asked him what happened. He informed that the foreigner often begs for bread. It is not possible for him to help him gratis regularly. I inquired to the foreigner and come to know that he had been swindled by a local guy and lost everything except his passport. He somehow managed to contact one of his acquaintances in Srilanka to inform to his house and expecting to be rescued within few days. I gave him 10 rupees from my meager savings and bought a large bread and gave him. He glanced at me thankfully.
I came back to the compartment and narrated the incident to my mother. She did not scold me, rather appreciated me. I still remembered that guy, if he had been able to reach his own country. By the way, he was an Australian.
It was 2015 July 15th, I boarded on Doon express, and settled down on my birth. The train started on time, everyone had their dinner and slept. I was pondering whether I am crazy. It thus happened that my GMVN package for Valley of Flowers, Hemkund Sahib and Badrinath had been cancelled due to natural calamity. I am always crazy about traveling. Once I make up my mind to go somewhere I become mad if it is cancelled. So I decided to move on my own. I was a bit scared and doubtful if I should be able to manage it. A family of four with a kid was my co-passenger. The kid became a very good friend of mine. His parents were teachers in Woodstock school in Landour and his grandmother was also there. The day was well spent with them.
Next early morning I got down from the train in Haridwar and asked a rickshaw puller to take me to the bus stand from where I could catch the bus for Joshimath. The rickshaw puller took me to the shared jeep stand instead of bus. He told the jeep driver that I want to go to Joshimath. I sat on a jeep and waited till it was filled up. On the way to Joshimath the leaf spring of the car broke 3 times, at the last phase the driver drove in such a reckless manner, that made me panicky, because he had to reach there before 6 o’clock in the evening. Ultimately it reached. I found the GMVN Tourist rest house, and lodged there. I was mentally as well as physically fatigued. After a shower and dinner I cried bitterly and prayed to God that it didn’t matter whether I could complete my tour, but I must reach home safely. God heard my prayer and not only I finished the tour safely, but also enjoyed everything to my heart’s content.
N.B. To reach Valley of Flowers one has to reach Haridwar. Buses, shared jeeps and hired taxis ply to Joshimath from Haridwar or one can go directly to Gobindghat. One has to walk or go by pony from Gobindghat To Ghangharia which is 12/14 kilometer distance. From Ghangharia Valley of Flowers is 7 kilometer trek. There is Hemkund Saheb too, which is a pilgrimage of Sikhs and a worth visiting place. One can avail pony to go there. It is a 10 kilometer trek.