With Deepawali holidays coming up it was time to move North and I had a hugetrip plan in my head and as I told about it to my parents, surprisingly they too agreed upon to the idea and hence all I had to do now was wait for my bro to come from Delhi and we were all set for our trip to higher Garhwal Himalayas on trip to Kedarnath, Tungnath and Chandrashila.
We started off at around 11:00 A.M. from Haldwani and got a bus to Haridwar (Fare = Rs. 130 per person). It’s a 8 hour bus ride from Haldwani to Haridwar and we managed to pass most time discussing about earlier trips and my mummy’s talks about my marriage :). Our bus reached Haridwar around 6:45 P.M. and it was already dark. As we inquired about bus to Rishikesh, we found that it was much easier to get a bus or rickshaw to Rishikesh by standing outside Haridwar bus station. We must’ve waited for half an hour and we found an autorickshaw who happily gave us ride to Rishikesh (Fare = Rs. 25 per person). Finally we managed to reach Rishikesh by 9:00 P.M. and it was time to find a decent and economical hotel. Had I been a lone traveller or with friends, we would’ve opted for any hotel, but with my mother accompanying me things were a bit tough and after some searching, we managed to find a decent hotel named Hotel Akash Ganga near Delhi bus station on Haridwar Rishikesh road. The fare was quite okey at Rs. 400 for a 3 bed room with TV and Water Heater. Having settled in our room it was time to order some food and hit bed as tommorrow was going to be a long day of journey to Gauri Kund.
As was expected none of us heard the morning alarm and we woke up around 7:30 A.M. Getting over with our daily chores it was 8:30 A.M. and we rushed to Tehri Garhwal bus station near Laxman Jhula. As expected the buses to Gauri kund had already left and we now had option to move upto Rudraprayag. The buses to Gauri Kund (this is the place from where the 14 Km trek to Kedarnath begins) move out from Rishikesh by 5:30 A.M. with first bus starting as early as 3:30 A.M. However there are plenty of buses to Badrinath. The main reason for difference in frequency of buses being large volume of pilgrims opting for Badrinath as against Kedarnath. The bus journey from Rishikesh to Rudraprayag takes one through Shivpuri (this is place which became famous for rafting in Ganges), Dev Prayag (Bhagirathi meets Alaknanda here and runs down to plains with name Ganga) and Srinagar. It’s a nice journey of around 4 hours costing Rs. 130 per person. As we were about to reach Srinagar the pipe which supplies air pressure to brakes of bus developed a leak and it as scarey ride of 4 Kms before we landed up at Srinagar. The bus manager asked us to shift to another bus and luckily we found another bus waiting and finally we reached Rudraprayag around 3:00 P.M.
It was time to search for a ride to Gauri Kund and I couldn’t see any bus or taxi lined up for Gauri Kund, however there was a bus to Gupt Kashi which is a major station enroute Kedarnath and we boarded that bus. It was a 2.5 hour journey to Gupt Kashi and costed us Rs. 30 per person. Gupt Kashi is a busy place and we were told that we could easily find some vehicle to Gauri Kund and so we did, and finally after a lot of break ups we were finally at Gauri Kund around 6:30 P.M. As we landed at Gauri Kund I felt cool breeze for first time during the entire journey and to our luck we found a room really quickly near bus station. The rooms at Gauri Kund are fairly priced at Rs. 100 to Rs. 200 and ours was a 3 bed room with attached toilet,bathroom and costed us Rs. 150. Having taken food at near by restaurant (you can find plenty of restaurants serving all kind of cuisines at Gauri Kund) it was time to hit bed and soon I was in my fantasy world dreaming of next day trek to Kedarnath.
We all woke up early around 6:30 A.M. Mummy and bro went to Gauri Kund for a bath in hot water spring while I packed up all our stuff and made arrangements for the 14 Km trek to Kedarnath, which included purchase of 2 sticks for mummy and bro and some edibles like biscuits etc. Around 8:00 A.M. we started off our trek to Kedarnath. The weather was beautiful with clear blue sky and a pleasent cool breeze blowing across our face. As we walked up, for first time we saw the horse stand at Gauri Kund and the place was full of horse dung which gave me terrible feeling down my stomach but once through it was a nice route which laid ahead of us. Having taken some pics of Gauri Kund we continued our hike up. The route to Kedarnath is extremely beautiful with Mandakini flowing across on right flonked by high hills covered in thick rhoderon forest and as once moves up one can see mighty Himalayas at distance and right below the foot of Meru, Sumeru lies the holy temple of Kedarnath. The view is just too overwhelming. We would have walked for 2 Kms when we saw the snow laden peaks of Kedar range for first time and it looked as if someone had bathed the mountains in silver. One can have real good view of Himalayas all along the route. But it’s not only the Himalayas but lots of waterfalls like Rudrafall, Mahadev fall etc which add to the beauty of the route and despite the straneous climb we managed to reach Rambara which is 7 Kms from Gauri Kund pretty easily. Mummy was a big reason of worry for me but she was doing pretty good and we all were in high spirits. Along the way we also managed to capture some wild life in our camera and surprisingly I found a bird along the way which was not at all camera shy and was even posing in different angles for me 🙂
We had short stoppage at Rambara and enjoyed tea with Paranthas and this was a stop worth taking as ascent from Rambara to Kedarnath is much steeper as compared to hike so far and we’d to take several halts as my mummy was not feeling real good. We must’ve walked for 3 Kms when we found a shortcut which would’ve reduced the distance by almost 1 Km and despite relunctance of my mother we decided to take the path and it was a decision worth taking as for one it did reduce the distance and also provided magnificent view of valley. The route took us upto Garudchatti and it’s almost 2 Kms to Kedarnath from this place and this is one of the places where if a person is not mentally strong then he/she can be in a state of mind where you just want to sit down and not move an inch. However as my mother saw the Kedarnath temple at a distance some sort of energy came to her body and despite all the troubles she managed to make it upto Kedarnath. Now we were literally in abode of Gods and one reason why I feel they call it abode of Gods is because of fear of human beings from such tall and seemingly un surmountable mountains. It was an awesome experience being flocked from 3 sides by high Himalayas and as were strolling towards the temple we landed up at a guy who took us to a lodge and we easily got a nice 3 bed room for Rs. 200 near Maharashtra Seva Sadan. It was a nice lodge and to top of our comfort was the fact that the temple was just 5 min. walking from the lodge. My mother and my bro went to see aarti at 6:30 P.M. while I decided to take a nap due to severe headache. There are quite a few restaurants and lodges in Kedarnath but due to the fact that temple was going to close down on 19th, Oct and it was already 14th, most of the people had gone down to their native villages and there was a restaurant named Shankar restaurant which luckily for us was open and had good food. As my mother and bro returned from Aarti at Temple they also brought along food with them and after taking food, it was time to hit bed. The weather was real cold and temperature at 1:00 A.M. was around -2 deg, but the blankets were really warm and we’d a nice cozy sleep.
I woke up at 6:30 A.M. today and me and my bro had plans to visit Vasuki taal and Chorbari taal (also known as Gandhi Sarovar lake) today, however as we inquired from locals we were asked to drop the idea of visiting Vasuki taal as the weather was really unpredictable at this time of year and we were not carrying trekking gear with us as well. So with Vasuki taal out of option we decided to march ahead to Chorbari taal while my mother went to temple for conducting a pooja. Their is a well defined path to Chorbari taal and it’s around 3.5 Kms from Kedarnath dham. The weather was again beautiful with bright sun shine and crystal clear views of Himalayas right at an arm distance from us. As we were marching towards Chorbari taal we found a small waterfall on the way and to our surprise the water was frozen at bottom and it was a wonderful site to watch. The trek to Chorbari taal is a nice trek with a bit of ascent to climb up and soon we reached the lake. It was a wonderful site as the lake was partially frozen and we could see Chorbari glacier which was feeding water to this lake. It was pretty windy here and wind was really chilling. We spent around an hour here appreciating the beauty of the place and taking photographs before leaving off to Kedarnath. Surprisingly there was no one except for me and my bro at this place and while sitting on a rock admiring the beauty of the place I had a feeling of tranquility which was really wonderful. I just wanted to sit there for as long as possible but alas every journey has to come to an end and with heavy heart and a resolve to be back and decision to climb one of the mountains in higher Himalayas next year, we came back to Kedarnath. My mother had also returned from her pooja and after taking some food and few more photographs we finally started our journey on our way back. Due to heavy trekking in Maharashtra, I found it quite easy to come down but it was an all together different story for my mother and bro and though they managed to reach Rambara pretty easily but once we moved further down, my mother started complaining of pain in her foot and soon she reached a state where she just couldn’t move ahead an inch and this was perhaps the scariest time of the entire trip as she neither wanted to move down on pony nor was she able to move by herself. However it’s for her strong will that she finally managed to move down slowly and we reached Gauri Kund around 5:30 P.M. I went down to Gauri Kund first to find a room and found a decent room for Rs. 200 and finally we were all well settled in our beds with me and my bro in a terrible condition due to feets which were really in serious pain. My mother had a toe nail which was severally bruised and a swolen ankle while my bro had a swolen foot and a knee cap. However none of us was complaining and we went for a deep sleep after some food.
We woke up at 7:00 A.M. and my mother and bro went to Gauri Kund for bath in hot water spring. More then bath, the excellent feeling that one gets my putting one’s feet in the hot spring after a long journey to Kedarnath is something that one can’t explain in words. I packed all the stuff and finally we were at Gauri Kund bus station by 8:30 A.M. We’d to move to Ukhimath from where we wanted to move to Tungnath. However due to heavy rush all the taxi were booked and we too had to book a taxi to Ukhimath (Rs. 1000 from Gauri Kund to Ukhimath). This was a decision which I initially regretted but later on I appreciated it as my mother and bro were not in a condition to travel in crowded taxi and despite twice the cost the journey from Gauri Kund to Ukhimath was a comfortable one. While we were moving down we managed to get a glimpse of Chaukhamba and Kedar range. I had a thought that this was last time that I was seeing these magnificent mountains but I was to be proven wrong later on. We reached Ukhimath around 11:30 A.M. and as I inquired about availability of buses to Chopta I was told that there was no direct bus during the day and only on next day could we get a bus. This meant that we’d need to halt at Ukhimath. Though I hate to stay at a place during a journey but this was a decision worth taken considering the condition of mummy and bro. We found a nice lodge in form of Bagwari Lodge at Ukhimath near Ukhimath bus station. As we were settling down at our lodge we also managed to book a taxi to-and-from Ukhimath to Chopta for Rs. 1200. The lodge was really beautiful and was owned by an aunty who took just Rs. 300 for a room whoes fare was Rs. 500 in actual. Their was even a balcony and we took luxury of spending entire day basking in sun with good view of Himalayas right infront of us. However as day progressed the weather in high Himalayas starting turing bad and by evening it seemed real bad. However we decided to leave it on fate as to what will happen the next day (The weather in high Himalayas is highly unpredictable and in most cases the weather is clear during morning hours and turns bad during later day after 12:00 noon). I got food during the day from Dev Bhoomi Restaurant and it was a good home like food for a reasonable price and during the night also we decided to take food from same restaurant. While going to take food in night, I found that today was Dhanteras and hence the roads were pretty crowded with people busy in purchasing things. I find it really strange as to why people are so concerned about earthly things like home and other stuff and why don’t they instead spend their fortune and time in exploring places and learning new things.
I woke up around 5:00 A.M. and we’d to get over with our daily chores quickly as our taxi was scheduled to arrive at 6:00 A.M. As I moved out to balcony for some fresh air I was surprised to see clear weather in higher Himalayas and right ahead of us were some peaks which were glittering like gold as first rays of sun were touching the snow lying on them. It was a mesmerizing view and I managed to take few photographs just in time. It was 6:00 A.M. and there was no sign of our taxi so I called the driver named Manoj and he said he’ll be there in 10 min and we took the oppurtunity to click some more photographs. It was as if no matter how many photographs you take, the thirst won’t quench. Finally our taxi arrived and we paid our good byes to Aunty and left for ride to Chopta.
Ride to Chopta takes one through road to Badrinath and it’s a pictureque route with views unparalleled elsewhere. We could see lots of small grassland which gave way to dense forest at some distance which were further followed by barren rocky mountains which finally turned to higher Himalayas. It was a view which I will never forget in my life and after 1.5 hours we finally reached Chopta. Chopta is also called mini Switzerland of Uttaranchal and it’s not a wrong comparison as the views are simply fantastic. We reached Chopta by 8:00 and my mother and bro decided to stay back while I moved ahead to a trek of 3.5 kms of steep ascent to Tungnath. Tungnath is one of the 5 Kedars along with Kedarnath, Rudranath, Madhmaheshwar and Kalpeshwar. It’s also supposed to be the highest Shiva temple in entire world at an altitude of 12,073 ft.
The trek is not of large distance but the ascent is steep and one gains an altitude of more than 4,000 ft. as one climbs from Chopta to Chandrashila which is 1 Km ahead of Tungnath. The view is just wonderful all along the trek and one can see entire Garhwal range from Gangotri, Yamunotri to Kedar range on right and to Chaukhamba and Neelkanth on further right. The view is made all that much more magnificent by the lush green grasslands or Bugyals as they are locally called. There is a botanical research centre as well near Tungnath temple.
I managed to reach the temple of Tungnath by 9:30 A.M. and after offering prayers at temple it was time to move up to Chandrashila. As against the route to Tungnath which is well paved way the route to Chandrashila is like a route formed by water flowing down the hill in a gully. The ascent is steep and the high altitude can make the climb even more difficult. However within an hour I was just below the summit and as I reached the top the view that welcomed me was more than overwhelming. It was a view which I just explain. One can see entire range of Himalayas from Kumaon region to Garhwal region. There is a temple at top where a board is placed mentioning that height of the top is 13,124 ft and it seemed just great to reach this place. There are several small pile of stones placed on top of the summit which gives this place an all together different look and feel. I spent half an hour there at top admiring the beauty of the place and taking some photographs before moving down. Finally I reached Chopta by 11:20 A.M. only to find my mother waiting worriedly at stairs. I find this habit of parents most discomforting. Any way having completed the journey it was time to say good bye to Chopta and we moved back to Ukhimath.
As we reached Ukhimath, it was 1:30 P.M. and upon inquiring we were told that bus to Rudraprayag was scheduled to arrive at 2:00 P.M. and finally we were on our way back. We reached Rudraprayag around 4:00 P.M. only to find that there was no bus to Rishikesh. However we managed to find a bus to Srinagar and conductor of bus was a fellow whom I will never forget as I’ve never seen a person who is so carefree as him. We reached Srinagar around 6:00 P.M. and the conductor was kind enough to show us the place from where we could get a taxi to Rishikesh. The taxi was waiting there and we immediately booked 4 seats at Rs. 120 per person and we were on our way back to Rishikesh.
As it was Deepwali the festival of lights so we couldn’t get any bus to Haldwani and hence we decided to board train to Kathgodam from Haridwar which was scheduled to depart at 12:00 night and hence we’d entire day to explore Rishikesh and Haridwar. After exploring few places Rishikesh we moved to Haridwar and spent entire day at Railway station. Mummy and bro went to Har ki Pauri during evening to see Maha Aarti and it was time to wait for train to arrive and bring the magnificent journey to conclusion.
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