My itinerary (Uttarakhand)

Garhwal.

Yamunotri, Gaumukh, Harshil, Chamba, Tehri dam and Dhanaulti.

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

May 2016

Phul Chatti

Gangotri and Yamunotri are two important pilgrimages 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 would remain during summer vacation.

On the way to Gaumukh

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.

Shiv Kund, Gangotri

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.

Harsil

At Barkot I stayed in GMVN annexe. There I met an intellectual happy couple from Chennai, Sunil and Swati. The former was an IAS officer who was also an engineer from IIT Madras and his wife, a professor of Hindi. They had two daughters and their parents with them. I had a nice chat with them. Next day I went to Yamunotri by Shared jeep. There I hired a pony, did darshan and came back. What really hurt me was offerings of saris in the river Yamuna, which I considered not only a cause of water pollution but also a wastage of money, in a poor country like ours,, which could be utilized in a much better way.

Yamuna river at Yamunotri temple

I spent the night at Hanuman Chatti as I did not get accommodation at Janki Chatti. Next early morning I went back to Janki Chatti by a matador truck to catch the bus for Uttarkashi. In Uttarkashi I visited Viswanath temple. Then in the next morning I went to Gangotri. In the afternoon I booked for a pony and made my permit with the help of my guide for Gaumukh and watched Ganga arti. I spent one night at Bhojobasa GMVN rest house. Next day I came down to Gangotri and took a shared jeep to reach Harsil. Harsil is a beautiful hamlet on the way to Gangotri from Uttarkashi, established by an absconded British army officer Mr Wilson.

Tehri Dam

From Harsil I went to Chamba via Uttarkashi. I went to Tehri dam hiring a jeep from Chamba. Tehri dam had a huge reservoir cum lake where I had a water scooter ride. The same jeep dropped me at Dhanaulti. I visited Sarkanda Devi temple and came down to Mussoorie and then caught train from Haridwar.

Mussoorie

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 hghway 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 (Uttarakhand)

Garhwal

Valley Of Flowers, Hemkund Sahib and Badrinath.

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

Time – July 2nd half 2015.

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 in July 2015. 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.

On the way to Badrinath

From Haridwar I went to Joshimath by a shared jeep. At Joshimath I stayed in GMVN tourist rest house. Next morning I took another shared jeep from jeep stand and reached Gobindghat. I was quite late to reach there as it took almost 3 hours to get 10 local passengers. Normally those who go to VOF reach Gobinghat directly from Haridwar and stay there at night. They start early morning for Ghangharia. I felt quite fortunate that there was one pony-owner with his two ponies. I had to hire both because there was none to share. I reached Ghangharia at 3 PM and lodged in a hotel. I arranged a porter cum guide for VOF asking the hotel manager.

First I visited the paradisaical valley because I had to walk there and I wanted to go there with full energy. Second day in the early morning I went to Hemkund Sahib by pony. I came down from there at 1 PM and happened to meet the same pony owner boy in front of my hotel. He asked me whether I wanted to go back to Gobindghat. I went back with him and spend the night at Gobindghat. Next early morning my hotel owner arranged a jeep for me who took me to Badrinath. I did my darshan very peacefully, watched morning aarti and got kheer prasaad as there was hardly 15/20 pilgrims there. I did “pind daan” for my late parents. Actually it was a tribute to their memory. As it was my second time Badrinath darshan I did not want to stay there. It was raining also, so there was a fair chance of land slide again. I came down to Joshimath.

Glacier onthe way to Hemkund Sahib

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. I went to Auli GMVN rest house by Gandola and chair car.I spent one noght there and came back in the same way. It was a divine experience staying there.Then I went to Karan Prayag. I stayed one day there. It is a place where Alaknanda and Pindar river meet. I stayed another day in Rrdraprayag. There I visited Jim Corbett bark where he killed “Man eater of Rudraprayag”. Then I spent one day in Hrishikesh and one day in Haridwar. When I came back successfully my confidence increased and I decided to travel alone in future.

.

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 (Uttarakhand)

Kumayun

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

Kumayun is famous for its natural beauty and attracts tourists from different parts of India. One can see many peaks and ranges of Himalayas from many tourist destinations of Kumayun like Chaukori, Almorah, Kaushani etc. 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 join them. It was a long desired trip that I planned in 2017 March. I preferred Lalkuan Express than Kathgodam Express because it took less time though it was a weekly train.

I did not have any idea that to reach Tanakpur , Berily was the better option to get down from the train than Lalkuan. 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 Kichha 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 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 to Tanakpur and ordered me to follow him. He caught a car which was going back after dropping someone in Lalkuan, 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.


At Tanakpur I visited Punyagiri Mata temple which was 3+3 km trek from the jeep-stand, where the shared jeep dropped me. I visied the temple. The view of Kaligandaki was spectacular from the top. Next day I went to Lohaghat by a shared Alto which dropped me at Mayavati Ashram after dropping other passengers at Lohaghat. Staying in Mayavati Ashram was a unique experience. A local school teacher who was at that time staying there advised me to take bus for Gangolihat from Lohaghat and then to take a taxi for Patal Bhubneshwar would be convenient for me to reach there. I had accommodation previously booked in KMVN guest house at Patal Bhubneshwar.

Patal Bhubneshwar is a natural cave in the under-surface of the mountain. There are different formation of stalactite and a stalagmite within the cave. It is said that there are many such caves in that region and many mythological stories are related with them. From Patal Bhubneshwar I wanted to go to Munshiyari. But in Kumayun local bus service or shared jeeps were not available everywhere like Garhwal. So I paid the same taxi driver to take me to Raiyagarh, a nearby transit town next morning. From Raiyagarh I went to Berinag by a shared jeep. From Berinaag a person who was going to Thal, a larger transit town, by his own car, gave me a lift instead of Rupees 100. Later I realized that this kind of service was common there because of the lack of public transport. Those who own cars give lifts in their cars while going to their work places and take few bucks instead, which is helpful for both parties. From Thal I got a shared jeep, and reached Munshiyari in the afternoon at 4 O’clock. There also I stayed in KMVN guest house. Munshiyari is a spectacular place with Panchachulli peaks visible from everywhere. I stayed there 2 nights and visited Nanda Devi temple, Maheshwari kund and Thamri kund. KMVN manager arranged my shared car to go to Almorah.

Almorah is a large and famous town in Kumayun. I stayed in R K Mission guest house being a member of Ramakrishna Mission disciples family. It is located at one end of the town called Bright End Corner. Maharaj arranged a car for me to visit Goludevta temple, Kasar Devi temple and Sarada Math near Kasar Devi temple. While coming back in the afternoon from Golu Devta temple I asked the driver how could I get a bus for Nainital next morning. He informed me that the morning bus would pass through Bright End Corner at 6 AM. He would inform the driver to pick me up. The next morning the bus came and picked me up for Nainital. At Nainital I stayed at KMVN guest house. I had to hire a car here also for local sight seeing. I did paragliding too here. It was a memorable moment of my life.

I went to Kathgodam by local bus from where I caught train. As Kathgodam Express was too slow and did not have pantry car so I preferred to make a break journey. I got down in Lucknow, stayed there one day, visited Bhulbhulaiya, Bada and Chota Imambara, British residency and museum, ate Galawati kebab and biriyani, bought few Lucknow chikon kurtis and caught Kumbh Express next day and reached Howrah.

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 of Rudraprayag district.

I reached Kanakchauri from Rudraprayag by bus in the month of April 2018. 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 years, 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 informed occasionally they attacked. I got very much scared. I kept on talking with him and made sounds with my walking stick so that no animal did 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.

Mt itinerary (Ladakh)

Kolkata- Delhi- Leh- Delhi – Kolkata.

Nubra ( Diskit Monastery – Hundar – Turtuk)- Leh – Thiksey monestary – Pangong Tso – Hemis monestary – Leh – Shyam Valley ( Shanti stupa – Hall of Fame – Magnetic hill- Gurdwara Pathar saheb – confluence of Indus and Zanskar river-Alchi monestary – Likir Monastary – Lamayuru – Leh – Chumathang – Tso Moriri – Leh .

I planned Ladakh trip in the second half of April. Going by road, that is starting from Srinagar and end at Manali or vice versa, and at the same time spending 10 days within Ladakh to go the main points takes at list 18 to 20 days. Taking so long a vacation was not possible for either my son or for me. Secondly fare of Delhi -Leh flights remain quite affordable from November to April . Renting car is also cheaper during this period. They give 15% discount. Hotels do not open till the end of May but there are few home-stays that remain open all over the year. Within Ladakh roads are kept open all over the year. There are several military camps in different strategic places and being a border region army trucks ply allover the year from those places. One can see plenty of snow and a different kind of beauty this time. Temperature is also bearable during this period.

We stayed in Sia-La guest house. In 2013 it was affordable for us. The home-stay owner and his wife were very congenial. Being off season there were only two foreigners there in the home-stay. So they gave us a lot of attention. They arranged our SUV. The driver was very good and helpful. My son had primary altitude sickness, he had to take Diamox tablet and kept on drinking a lot of fruit juice. We managed the trip comfortably with the help of our driver and the local people wherever we went.

My itinerary (Lakshadwip & Kerala)

Kolkata – Chennai – Cochin (Ernakulam ) -Lakshadweep – Cochin – Munnar -Periyar- Cochin -Kolkata

Lakshadwip was my childhood dream destination. I made a contact with the local agent of SPORTS, an agency that conduct cruise package for Lakshadwip. We bought train tickets to reach Cochin and air tickets for coming back from Cochin to Kolkata. I included Munnar and Periyar in the same plan. I wanted to go to Aleppy by backwater but my son was not interested in it as according to his opinion after a cruise tour to Lakshadweep it would not be a worthy one to enjoy.

Nilgiri Thar

After finishing our Lakshadwip package we went to Cochin Inter-state bus stand and caught a bus for Munnar at 3 PM and reached there in the evening .There are quite a number of hotels in the mall and road side food stall. Munnar is a small hill station in Western Ghat range. Anaimudi is the highest peak of Western ghat. There is Eraviculam National Park. There are several places to visit. The whole area is covered with tea gardens and Sandalwood forest . We stayed 2 nights in Munnar and booked a car for local sight seeing.

Then we went to Periyar. There was local bus service from Munnar to go to Periyar, but we hired a car. The journey from Munnar to Periyar was pleasant due to the scenic beauty. Periyar is also a very nice place with a reserve forest, lake and spice market. We stayed in a home-stay there.