My Itinerary(Uttarakhand)

Garhwal

Howrah- Haridwar- Helang- Kalpeshwar- Gopeshwar- Chopta- Tunganath- Sari gaon- Deoria Tal- Ukhi Math- Rudraprayag- Kanakchauri ( Karthik Swami Temple )- Rudraprayag- Khirsu- Kaudiyala- Haridwar- Howrah

April 2018

On the way to Tungnath

I received a message in the early morning from IRCTC that Kumbh Express would start at 8 PM instead of 1PM. I felt a bit disturbed and anxious. Thank God! The train was not cancelled. As it started late it reached at 7-30 AM after two nights’ journey. I did not want to waste time in Haridwar though I had accommodation, booked previously in GMVN’s Rahi Motel. I got the last bus for Joshi Math from the bus stand and boarded immediately. I could not get a window seat but it did not matter much to me because it was not my first journey towards Joshi Math. When the bus dropped me at Helang the sun had already set down behind the hills. I lodged in a hotel on the highway.

On the way to Kalpeshwar

Next day I waited for shared jeep at Helang since 7 o’clock in the morning till 12 noon. When at last the jeep came I forcefully stuffed myself within the jeep in a desperate manner and reached Devgram. I trekked quite fast and reached Kalpeshwar temple, though construction work was going on, the workers helped me to cross the difficult parts. I came back at 3PM and then went for Gopeshwar.

Tungnath Temple gate

I spent the night at Gopeshwar GMVN. I went to Chopta from there at 12 noon by a bus that plied from Gopeshwar to Ukhimath. I spent the night at Chopta. Early morning I started for Tunganath. As it rained heavily at night so there was haze. I could not capture sunrise on the mountain range. There was plenty snow on the top. The weather in Himalayas is absolutely unpredictable. I did not expect so much haze everywhere in the month of April. After coming down from Tunganath I went to Sari village taking lift in Lakhpat Singji’s car who owned a hotel also and I was acquainted with his name through the travel vlog of Chinmay Nath in You Tube.

Karthik Swami Temple

After visiting Deoria Tal I went to Ukhimath. Luckily Kedarnathji and Madmahewarji had been staying in Omkareshwar Temple at that time. I felt myself blessed visiting them. Then I went to Kanakchauri via Rudrapyayag.

Chopta

After coming back to Rudraprayag I thought to go to Pauri and Khirshu. I spent one leisurely day at Khirshu and another day at Kaudiyala. The end was not very smooth and pleasant as the tour was. Kumbha Express left Haridwar at 7-30 in the morning instead of 11 pm at the previous night. The co-passengers were terrible. They were two students of Doon Valley school who had appeared for 12 class board examination. They were extremely smelly in every way and very much ill behaved. I came to know that one’s father was a politician of Mughal Sarai and other’s father had real estate business at Patna. They were the burning example that money can not buy culture. When they got down I felt a bit relieved but they left their smell till I came back home and washed all my clothes.

Deoria Tal

Sarkanda Devi

Sarkanda devi temple

I had never heard about Sarkanda devi before I reached Dhanaulti. I went to Dhanaulti from Chamba via Tehri Dam. On the way to Dhanaulti I saw a place where there were few shops on the highway, cars and motorcycles were also standing there. It seemed that there was a temple. I asked the driver, he informed that there was a famous temple of Devi Sarkanda on the hill top, which was two and half kilometer uphill walk from that place. I reached Dhanaulti and lodged in a hotel. After having a sumptuous lunch with chicken after a long vegetarian diet, I asked the hotelier about the temple. He arranged a local shared jeep which ply regularly taking the teachers of the local government run school from Dhanaulti to Chamba. The jeep dropped me at the same place which I had seen while coming.

I started walking. I found few people walking down who said that they could not reach because it was too long a walk. I was in full confidence after coming down from Gaumukh, so I continued. There were steps and railings. I got tired after sometime and thought that I should not go forward. I sat on a rock beside a rhododendron tree. A boy and a girl came up, sat beside me to take rest, they were friends, one from Hyderabad, another from Mumbai. They came to Mussoorie for trekking. I told them that I had given up and thinking of going down. The boy said, “I will take you.” I objected saying that I can not walk fast, specially uphill. He took me up holding my hands and I reached the top and visited the shrine. I felt blessed. According to Indian mythology Sarkanda Devi temple is a Shakti pith where head ( sar ) of Sati had fallen during Dakhayagna.

N.B. Sarkanda devi is on the way to Dhanaulti from Chamba or Mussoorie

My experiences at Hanuman Chatti.

Uttarakhand

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.

Confluence of Hanuman Ganga and Yamuna

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 very hungry. After having dinner I told him that the vegetable was very tasty and at the same time healthy. His eyes flushed with satisfaction. It seemed that he had been working for long there. He saw 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.

Auli, an unplanned attempt.

After finishing my target of Valley of Flowers, Hemkund Saheb and Badrinath I found that I have 4 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 was always a chance for landslide during monsoon in the Himalayas, I kept 2 buffer days within my plan and as I had shortened my stay at Ghangharia and Badrinath I had another 2 days extra. 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 due to its length. 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. At 3-30 PM 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. The 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 before bathing. 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 costly 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. It was cloudy so I could not get the view the Nandadevi peak.

After breakfast at around 10 o’clock the manger informed me to avail the chair car and to go to the tower number 8 to go back to Joshimath again. I went back to Joshimath and started for Karn Prayag.

N.B. Auli is accessible from Joshimath by car or by ropeway.

On The way to Gaumukh

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.

Mt Shivling

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.

Bharal or Himalayan goat

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 rest house at Bhojobasa and came back next day by another pony which was well trained as well as it’s syce.

Gangotri glacier

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.

My first solo trip- Valley of flowers, Hemkund Sahib And Badrinath.

Valley Of Flowers

It was 2015 July 15th, I boarded on Doon express, and settled down on my berth. The train started on time, everyone had their dinner and slept. I was pondering whether I was 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 skeptic 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 of 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 wanted 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 Joshimath 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.

In the next morning when I reached Gobindghat it was quite late as it took time to get the shared jeep filled up. But Providence was with me, so there was a pony owner, who could not get any customer, and was waiting with his two ponies. I waited for sometime so that he could get another customer, but none came. At last after a little bargain I agreed to pay for two ponies. When we reached Ghangharia it was 4pm. I settled in a hotel and asked the manager to arrange a porter cum guide for me to go to Valley of flowers. Next day I started early in the morning after breakfast for Valley of Flowers. The first phase was difficult to climb. But after reaching the valley it was a steady slope. I took many pictures but later got tired and enjoyed the beauty of nature only which was surreal. When I came back in the afternoon my legs were shaking but tear rolled down from my eyes with joy.

Next morning I went to Hemkund Sahib by pony. This road was tougher and steeper than Valley of flowers. There was a Gurudwara at Hemkund. The water of the lake was partly frozen though pilgrims were bathing in it. I visited the sacred lake and the Gurdwara, sat there for sometimes, then had food from langar and waited for the other two Sikh pilgrims who came with me on ponies. There was a temple of Lakshman behind the Gurdwara. Laksman Ganga flowed by its side. I visited that temple. When I came down to Ghangharia it was 1 pm. In front of my hotel I found the same pony owner who brought me to Ghangharia. He asked me if I wanted to go back. I asked him to wait for me a while. I packed my things and came out. I wanted to leave the place because mobile net work was not available there, and I was afraid that if any disaster happened again I should be trapped there, and my son would get terribly worried for me.

I came down to Gobindghat at 4pm. I stayed there that night. Next early morning I went to Badrinath by a jeep arranged by my hotel owner. I reached there early in the morning. Due to the spread of the news of natural calamity all tour packages of that area had been cancelled. So the temple was almost empty. I did “darshan” and watched “aarti” of the holy deity. I got the ambrosial “kheer prasad”. I offered “pind” to my late parents. After taking breakfast I decided to come back to Joshimath because it had been drizzling since last evening and I was expecting another landslide. So I came back to Joshi math. I was in the ninth cloud for the mission was successful and decided to spend the rest of the days in different places on the way back. I spent one day each in Auli, Karprayag, Rudraprayag and Rishikesh.

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.

Hemkund Sahib