Tunganath (12,000 ft app ) is considered as the highest Kedar among Panch(5) Kedars, though it is not as difficult or long trek as Rudranath, Madmaheshwar or Kedarnath. It is just 3/4 kilometers walking from Chopta. The path gradually goes up to the temple. Only the way to Chandrashila from Tungnath is a bit difficult as it is quite narrow in places as well as steep and ponies only go up to Tunganath Temple gate.
I went to Tunganath in the month of April 2018. I reached Chopta from Gopeshwar by bus which was going to Ukhimath. Chopta is a beautiful small hamlet on the road, from where the trek for Tungnath starts. I took accommodation in a small hotel. The hotel owner arranged pony for me. As it was off season I had to pay for two ponies because there was no other person. Ponies normally prefer to go with their companion. The weather started getting cloudy from the afternoon and it started raining at night.
Early in the morning, before dawn the pony owner came with his ponies and we started for Tungnath. There were three hill dogs who accompanied me on the way. In the middle of the road we got a small tea shop which had just opened at that time. We had tea and I asked the shop owner to feed biscuit to the dogs. I took some snaps of myself and the mountain range though it was not very clear due to fog. As we started going up we saw plenty of snow which fell at night. At the temple gate the pony owner dropped me and left.
I had no idea about the path of Chandrashila. It was just a kilometer trek. I thought I could manage to go to the top on my own. Two dogs left us midway but one followed me. I started climbing but gradually the path became too narrow and slippery due to snow. After a certain point I realized that it would be very risky if I tried. No one was there, and if I had fallen I would fall directly into a deep bottomless saddle, no one would ever come to know that what had happened to me except the dog. So I abandoned my adventure. The dog was climbing before me. I looked at it helplessly and said in my mother tongue, “Lets go back, it is too slippery to walk due to snow ! I don’t have courage either to go with you !!!!” He understood and immediately came down. We then gradually walked downwards. He walked before me. I took lots of snaps of mountains and beautiful Chopta Valley. When I got down more than half a way I found tourists going upward. I met several people on my way back and I got acquainted with two very congenial persons and they are still my Facebook friend. One is a young enthusiastic solo trekker, and another is a mature aged Bengali lady doctor from Pune who travels all over the world. Meeting such people and interacting with them enrich my travel experiences. The dog was with me till I came down to the hotel.
When I came down it was 12 o’clock. I wanted to go to Deoria Tal. It was drizzling. The hotel owner was persuading me to spend another night there, but as it was raining and there was no chance to witness sunset at Chopta that evening, I wanted to leave. But by that time the local bus had gone, there was no car to hire, my pony owner helped me to make an arrangement with Lakhpat Sing Ji, who brought four ladies from Sari. I was acquainted with his name and about his hospitality from a blog. So I started for Sari Gaon in his car with four Bengaluru based ladies. It was raining heavily with small pieces of ice.
I reached Ukhimath one April morning of 2018 from Sari by a shared jeep. It is a transit point on the way to Madmaheswar and Kedarnath from Haridwar. Ukhimath is famous for Omkareshwar temple. According to Indian Mythology, Usha, the daughter of Vanasur and Anirudh, son of Krishna, got married here. Ukhimath is probably the distorted form of Ushamath.
In this whole trip I did not get proper views of Himalayas due to haze and fog. My Deoria Tal trek was good but neither I witnessed Himalayan range nor reflection of Chaukhamba peak in the lake, for which most people visit that place, so I was a bit disappointed, but I was happy after reaching Ukhimath meeting Kedarnathji and Madmaheshwarji at Omkareshwar temple and felt blessed. After the closing of Kedarnath temple and Madmaheshwar temple, on the next day of Deepavali, the deities remain here till the temples open again after Akshaytritiya
There is Bharat Sebashram Sangha where many people prefer to stay. It is situated on the highway, a bit away from the center of the town. I preferred to stay near the market because bus stand and jeep stand were there. So it was easy for me to catch bus or jeep for the next destination. I got a suitable accommodation very near to the market. As it was off season and I was the only boarder, they informed that they could not provide me food.
In the afternoon, I went to Omkareshwar temple through a shortcut, guided by the local people, which was quite steep. Coming back through the same way was stressful and risky for me specially after sun down, because there was no light. So I took the regular path. On the way I met a woman of my age. We were walking on the same way. She introduced herself and said that it would be easier to walk if we talk and walk together. I made friendship with her. She informed that she was a widow and stayed with her daughters. She earned her livelihood making woolen garments on machine. She came to the temple gate to deliver her goods in a shop. We talked a lot about our personal life, shared feelings and thoughts as if we had been known to each other since ages. It was a one and half kilometer walk. When we parted at the market, it seemed to me that I was leaving an old friend of mine. I always revere these hill women who are simple and hardworking but full of knowledge and philosophy of life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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 rest house at Bhojobasa 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.