Kaudiyala is a small village on Badrinath Road or National Highway 58. It is 40 kilometer away from Rishikesh. It is famous for adventure tourism like river rafting, rock climbing etc. On my first solo trip I came across this place when our shared jeep broke its leaf spring here for 3rd time and was impressed by its beauty. I had breakfast here and roamed around for sometimes while the driver had been busy for repairing.
I planned to spend here one night in April 2018 when I was coming down to Haridwar to catch the train. presently Haridwar and Rishikesh have become too much crowded. I came to Kaudiyala from Pauri. There is a GMVN luxury tourist rest house which is at the bank of the river. I wanted to do river rafting but could not because it was organized only in the weekends as they informed. I was not very much interested for it so I did not make further inquiry in other places. River Ganga is very clean here though wide and in full force. At some places it is quite deep. It takes a sharp turn here towards Rishikesh after Devprayag.
The colour of the water was greenish blue then. One can spend hours here watching the panoramic beauty of the place from the garden of the tourist rest house. I roamed along the river in the evening. It is a very suitable place to spend leisure time. There are few hotels, trekkers camps etc for stay. Since early morning the roadside restaurants remain opened till the late night for the travellers who take a break here on their journey to Chardham .
Harsil is a quaint hamlet in Uttakashi district at an altitude of 7,860 ft. Its beauty is still unspoiled. Spending some days here can rejuvenate mind as well as health of a nature lover.
I went to Harsil from Gangotri on the way back to Uttarkashi. I came down from Bhojobasa in the morning and caught a shared jeep which was going to Uttarkashi from Gangotri jeep stand. It dropped me on the highway at the entrance of Harsil. There were few staircases and then crossing a bridge on the river Bhagirathi I reached Harsil.
GMVN tourist rest house is in the interior of the village. It is located at the bank of the river Bhagirathi. I kept my luggage in the room and went to the backyard of the rest house beside the bank of the river. I sat there for a long time. The beauty of the place was addictive. In the month of May the water was muddy due to the fast melting and breaking of huge ice blocks from Gangotri glacier at its source. There were woods on the both side of the river. Snow peaks could be seen from there.
I roamed around the village in the afternoon. There were many apple orchards with very tiny green apples on them. I found young shepherds with their flocks of sheep coming back home. Village dogs were following me, they looked handsome, as many tourists would feed them biscuits they were expecting some food from me too. I was scared, one local rescued me from them. As the manager came to know that I was from Kolkata , he offered me egg curry in the dinner, which I denied. I met a family from Gujrat, all of them looked very morose including their children. Only the man said “hello” to me when the manager introduced us at the time of dinner. At that time no other boarder was there in the guest house.
Harsil is the gateway of several trek routes. One can reach there directly from Haridwar or from Uttarkashi. There are few hotels and road side restaurant at the market place. I wanted to visit Nelang from there but could not manage the permit.
Karanprayag is a place on the confluence of Alakananda and Pindar rivers. It is on the way to Badrinath. Pindar river is also called Khuni ( Killer) Ganga because it flows with so much force all over the year and there are so many huge deadly stones in the stream that nobody remains alive if falls into it accidentally.
I was coming down from Joshimath in a shared jeep to Rudrapayag. I did get seat neither in the front nor in the middle row. The travel made me uncomfortable and dizzy for some reason. So when the jeep reached Karanprayag I decided not to proceed further on that day. There was a hotel in front of the jeep stand. I entered into that hotel and asked in the reception if there was any accommodation. I planned to stay there one day. The hotel’s position was good. At the rear side of the hotel there were large balconies on every floor from where the sangam ( confluence) of Alakanada and Pindar rivers could be seen.
I rested there after having lunch. In the afternoon I went out to buy some medicine. The owner of the hotel was sitting in the lobby. I asked him if it was going to rain and how distant the medicine shop was. It was very much cloudy and there had been frequent lightning. I could see that it was raining heavily in the distant hills. The owner assured me that it would not rain and I could go to see Ganga Aarti at sangam which was very near to the hotel. As soon as I reached sangam it started raining heavily. I took refuge at the lodging of the temple priest. There were two or three sadhus. I talked with them for a long time. When the rain stopped I went out to buy medicine. When I reached the hotel it was quite dark. I severely reproached the hotel owner for misleading me. He bore that with a patient smile.
While having my dinner the manager expressed his regret that due to the spread of the news of natural calamity at Badrinath Highway the rush of tourist decreased in such a way that previous day there had been eight boarders, but that day I was the only boarder. I became a bit scared and expressed my feelings. The hotel was large and three storied. The manager gave me assurance that there was nothing to be afraid of being alone as they were there for security. I found the people of Himalayas always simple, honest and sincere.
Next early morning I went to the temple of Karan, the son of Queen Kunti as depicted in Mahabharata. There were many mythical stories about the place. There was a place called the seat of Karan beside the river Alaknanda where he worshiped the Sun god. There was another temple of Uma Devi or Parvati which was also an ancient temple. After coming back I had my breakfast and left the hotel. An employee of the hotel put my luggage in a shared jeep for Rudraprayag. When I was waiting in the jeep I saw a political banner of a party where I saw the photo of our hotel owner whom I had scolded severely the previous evening. I asked the driver and came to know he was the MLA of that place.
Kumbh Express was 15 hours late. I reached Haridwar at 7-30 in the morning instead of 4-30 PM in the previous afternoon. I had booking at Rahi Motel for one night stay. I did not feel to waste another day staying there. I went to the bus stand directly from the station. The last bus of the day for Joshimath was standing there. The driver was calling out for passengers. I boarded the bus. In the evening when I reached Helang, which was 20 kilometer away from Joshimath, it was 5 oclock in the evening. The sun light at Helang was fading out. I took shelter in a hotel where the road bifurcated for Devgram.
The hotel owner informed that the shared jeeps would come from Joshimath at around 7-30 in the morning. It was 3rd week of April. Chardham Yatra season did not start yet. So there was no rush of pilgrims, except locals. Kalpeshwar is not a very popular pilgrimage like Kedarnath or Badrinath. I took my breakfast early and got ready before 7-30. I kept on waiting. I met a Swiss traveler who came back from Kalpeshwar staying 2/3 days there. He could speak very good Garhwali and Hindi. He informed that Uttarakhand was his favorite holiday destination. I talked to him for sometime. He was going to Anusuya Devi temple from there.
Devgram is 12 kilometers from Helang. Previously People would trek from Helang. After a long waiting till 12 noon the jeep came. It was full with passengers. I somehow forcefully managed some space for myself, there was no other option. I reached Devgram at 1 PM, Kalpeshwar was 3 kilometer walking from Devgram. I stared walking with a local woman. She lived in Devgram. She informed that she had three sons and two daughters. Sons and daughters were all married. She went to Joshimath to meet her daughters. Their husbands were Jeep drivers. She had some land in Devgram where she grew crops with the help of her daughter in laws. Her sons grazed cattle.
When I reached Kalpeshwar temple the bridge on Kalpganga had been broken due to natural calamity, instead repairing it, a motorable road and bridge construction was going on. I visited the temple going downward crossing a temporary wooden bridge. I came back in haste with the fear of missing the last shared jeep.
I had a strong desire to visit Mayavati ashram since a long time. My father visited the place twice and had unique experiences. I missed the chance to accompany him because of my personal problems. My family is influenced by the ideals of Lord Ramakrishna and were initiated into R K Mission. I am also not an exception. As soon as I planned to visit Kumayun I included Mayavati in my itinerary. To go and stay at Mayavati one needs to get permission from Advaita Ashrama ( Entally, Kolkata ) which is a wing of R K Mission.
I went to kolkata branch of Advaita Ashrama. Initially Maharaj, who is the assigned in charge of booking, was hesitant to give permission to a solo female traveler for stay and tried to dissuade me. After a long argument when the in charge was convinced that I am quite determined to visit the place he informed me about the procedure to book accommodation.
When I got down from Lalkuan express I came to know that the best way to go there is through Berily( UP ), but it was too late to mend. I felt puzzled for some time. Few locals rescued me by giving information. At last I reached Mayavati on time via Tanakpur and Lohaghat.
It had been a unique experience staying there. It was pretty cold in March after a thundershower. Within 3 kilometer periphery of Mayavati there is no village, only forest, leopards are often seen there. We were instructed not to walk alone. The guest house is half a kilometer walk from the ashram. One has to walk 4 kilometers daily up and down to have breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. The ashram is self sufficient, they produce food crops, vegetables and there is also a dairy farm. They run a charitable hospital where local people come for free treatment. Normally guests are not allowed to stay there more than 3 nights but doctors are allowed to stay more on condition that they have to give voluntary service in the hospital.
It was 12 o’clock at noon when I reached Tanakpur. Tanakpur is a small transit town in the foot hill of Kumayun Himalayas. I went there for going to Mayavati Ashram. I had booking for a night stay at KMVN tourist rest house. As I lodged there and asked for afternoon meal, they said it was not possible for them to provide food without previous notice. They informed that the market area was not far away from the place and it would cost 20 rupees by tuktuk to go there where I could get lunch . So I hired a tuktuk, and reached the market area where there were few places for lunch. After having lunch I started inquiring about the places of importance there.
I heard that there is a famous temple called Punyagiri or Purnagiri. I wished to visit there and got a shared jeep for that purpose. After a long wait it filled up and started. When it reached in front of the temple gate the sky was covered with thick cloud. The taxi driver told me that he would go back as soon as he got required number of passengers, and there was no hope for next taxi. I came to know that Holi was celebrated there with great grandeur and a fair was organized during that time. The preparation was full on for the festival. I started walking, after few minutes I realized if I went to the top of the hill where the temple was, it would take at least 3 hours to come back. It was almost 3 km uphill trek. I decided to return because if I could not come back in time I would be in great trouble. As I turned I found the taxi driver standing there, I told him why I planned to return. He was very enthusiastic and devoted, he said he would accompany me, so that I would not miss the taxi, he forced me to visit the temple. It was a tedious walk for me, I felt tired, but he was persistent.
When I reached the last phase it started raining, but that part of the stairs was covered with tin shade. I reached the temple. I feel blessed, it was a beautiful sight of the Kaligandaki river that I witnessed from the temple. When I came down it was raining cats and dogs. The driver started his jeep. Lots of people were waiting under different shelters. As soon as he started they rushed into the jeep.
N.B. From Lalkuan I took auto-rickshaw to reach Kichchha. From Kichchha bus stand I took a local bus by which I went to Khatima. From Khatima I got a shared taxi which dropped me in front of the KMVN guest house at Tanakpur. Buses ply in regular intervals from Berily to Tanakpur.
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