Dhanaulti is a small hill station, at an altitude of 7500 ft, situated at the foothills of the Garhwal Himalaya located 24 km (15 mi) away from the very popular hill station Mussoorie . There are few hotels and GMVN tourist rest house for the tourists. There are few good restaurants too for the day travelers who come from Musoorie or Chamba.
I went to Dhanaulti from Chamba via Tehri Dam . As I could not manage to go to Nelang valley so I had two days extra which I decided to spend in Dhanaulti. There was Sarkanda Devi temple which I visited on the day I arrived. Sarkanada Devi is a Sati Pith where the scull of Sati fell. Next day I just idled away walking on the roads and visiting the two Eco parks watching people enjoying leisure time with their families. The weather was pleasant even in the end of May.
Dhanauti is full of deodar and ceder trees, orchards of apple and walnuts , fields full of green vegetables on the slope of the mountain. It is away from the hustle bustle of the crowd not being so popular as Mussoorie. It is a pleasant place for those who want to spend peaceful leisure time.
I enjoyed good food there. The hotel owner was a congenial person. He arranged a jeep for me to go to Sarkanda devi temple. He was quite worried and concerned about me because I was traveling alone. He asked me to go down to Mussoorie because public transport was uncertain from that place and advised me that I should not take risk to reach Haridwar from there on the day of my return journey to catch train. So after spending two relaxed night there I came down to Mussoorie by a shared jeep that was going to Dehradoon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kumayun is famous for its natural beauty and attracts tourists from different parts of India. One can see different peaks and ranges of Himalayas from many destinations of Kumayun. 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 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 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 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 where the shared jeep dropped me. 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. 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. 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 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. 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 peaksvisible 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 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.
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.
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.
I came across this name while planning my Tungnath trip, so I decided if everything went smoothly according to my plan I would visit Khirshu. Khirshu is a small village in Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. It is for those travelers who prefer off beat destinations. I came to know that buses for Pauri ply from Srinagar in regular intervals. I reached Srinagar from Rudrapayag and caught a bus for Pauri. Pauri is the district town of Pauri Garhwal district. I took a shared Jeep from the jeep stand to reach Khirshu from Pauri.
There is a GMVN tourist rest house in Khirshu. It is hardly half a kilometer walk from the main road where the shared jeeps drop their passengers. It is a good and peaceful place. There is a forest behind the rest house where many types of birds can be found. One can say it is a bird watchers’ paradise.
The range of Himalayas and snow peaks can be seen from Pauri and Khirshu, but I was unlucky. There was forest fire all over the hills at that time. At night fire could be seen in the far away hills. In some parts there was natural fire, in some parts it was man made. Locals put fire in the forest to increase their grazing field or making land for cultivation. The whole atmosphere was full of smoke and haze. No peak was visible, but still Khirsu seemed very beautiful with it’s natural beauty and every garden was full of different types of roses. Chirping of birds woke up everyone in the morning. It is a good place for some days repose.