Table of contents for Himalayan-Pilgrimage
Hi, what follows is a detailed account of my yatra to the Badrinath and Kedarnath Shrines with a family friend SPV and our families and parents, making it a group of 8 adults and three children- two mine and one SPVs. Hope it will go well as a trip report as weel as a guide to the prospective travellers.
Well, It started with SPV casually asking whether I am interested in joining his trip to Badrinath Kedarnath. He was planning to take his parents to Yatra. I consulted my parents and they were eager to join. We decided upon 27th May as the start date. So, the preparations Started.
First we planned itinerary taking cues from those of Garhval Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) and other tour operators’ conducted tours. We planned a Seven nights Ex Delhi trip with night Halts at
Muni Ki Reti(Rishikesh)(27/05/06)(MKR),
The Planning and Preparations:
Travel: The GMVN conducted tours are also okay and value for money, but we wanted more independence and a relaxed itinerary, with not more than 125km of drive a day, considering ages of the parents. Therefore, we decided to have our own conveyance in the form of a Taxi. We considered Qualis, Tavera and Innova. The going rate for Qualis is Rs.2400-3000 a day. Yes, on this route the Rates are on per day basis. One taxi operator told us that he would take Rs.7.5 Per KM, but it sounded too good to be true and it was indeed. When I visited the TO, he told that it was his ignorant younger brother who told that rate. However he offered Rs. 2100 a day +Rs.100.0 driver charges for a private number Qualis. However, eventually we settled for a Taxi number Qualis (non ac) at 2400 a day from another operator in Delhi. We also ensured that the driver should have done the route earlier.
It is always better to book a Taxi number, even if it is a bit costlier. It saves from multiple harassment at various check posts en route.
Innova and Tavera were costlier by about Rs.500/-. Though Innova is a more comfortable car, it has lesser seating capacity in the third row. Moreover, in retrospect I felt happy for not taking it when I observed that the window glass in the third row is fixed. As it was, I had to sit in the rear seats for most part of Journey. And you cannot run AC and car both on the Hill route in question!
We entrusted GMVN for accommodation all along our Trip. On 13th May we went to their Delhi Office in Indraprakash Building, Barakhamba Road and gave our requisition, which they would in turn fax to their Yatra Booking office in Rishikesh. The latter would check and reply regarding the availability of said accommodation to the Delhi office. We asked for 4 Double bedded Rooms or 2 Family Suits (FS). We did not ask for the return halt at Rishikesh as we let the option of driving straight to Delhi on 3rd June remain open. After two days, on enquiry, GMVN Delhi told us that we were getting 2 FS at MKR, 8 bed Dorm at Gopeshwar, 8 bed Dorm at Badrinath and 2 FS at Karnprayag. There was no accommodation available at KN and RP. We were apprehensive of the Dormitory option w.r.t. the access to toilets and privacy (these apprehensions were pleasantly proved to be unfounded later on). Nonetheless, we booked all the available accommodations and were seeking a place for halt on second day in place of Rudraprayag on the way to KN. Interestingly, the GMVN site showed 8 bed dorm available on the date. So while I was paying for the four bookings above, I asked SPV to book online for Rudraprayag. Unfortunately (not really, as it will turn out later), some payment gateway error caused the payment to fail and the accommodation was also blocked. Ultimately, despite many phone calls to the GMVN Rishikesh and Delhi offices, we could not get the RP accommodation. The GMVN personnel however gave us the option of booking 8-bed dormitory cottage at Chandrapuri which is located 25Km after RP, which we eventually accepted. We came to know Chandrapuri as a small Hamlet on the banks of River Mandakini, where only accommodation available is that of GMVN. More on this place later.
We packed everything: Winter clothing, Toiletries, Shoes, Slippers, Medicines including those for altitude giddiness, lots of chewing gum, a torch, Cameras, Water Keg (for journey), water bottles, Booking receipts, tarpaulin for covering the luggage (usually the Taxis carry it) etc. One should not forget to carry raincoats, as rain keeps flip flopping during the trek to Kedarnath.
The Yatra Begins:
As planned the cab arrived at SPVs home in NOIDA at about 6:00 on 27/05/06. Then they came to my place in Indirapuram, where we loaded the luggage(8-9items) at the carrier and the driver who wanted to be called Dev tied it up nicely. The food stuff from both the families and the water container were kept in the rear cabin. So finally, escorted by the gods and goddesses like Kedarnath (SPV’s Father), Rama – Krishna (my father), Sarvesh (SPV), Ashutosh (my son), Aparna (my daughter), we departed at 7:30 from Ghaziabad check post. Our fears about the driver were soon allayed by his careful and steady but crisp driving.
Our First Halt was the Cheetal Grand motel just after Khatauli. This halt is a must for any one doing NH-58, as Cheetal is beautifully horticultured, with clean public conveniences and has got great varieties of tasty food. It runs full to the capacity throughout the year, round the clock. A very interesting spotting there: near the bird cages there was board appealing guests, “Please do not trouble the Birds”. There was a neat graffiti done by a guest below these words, “Yes, set them free”.
We passed Hardwar at about 12:00 sighting the ever crowded Har Ki Pauri and the silty Ganga. We reached the Muni Ki Reti Tourist Rest House (TRH) at about 1:00pm and were joy-ed to see the beautiful and clean TRH. It was located near the Ram Jhula. As soon as we reached we would order for 8 cups of tea, which turned into a ritual at every arrival ahead. The rooms (FS) had four beds each and were spacious enough to accommodate four more! Bathrooms were well maintained and clean.
The lawns, TRH, Muni ki Reti
Well, the time was to address the Poori Kachori, Pua and Sabjis that both the families had brought. After this lunch, which was the first and last meal of the home made stuff on the trip, it was decided to have a nap. But my father was not interested, “is it sleeping that we are here for?” Valid. The Sun was strong. Me and him took a round of the place and started building momentum by ordering another round of tea for the rest of the members to get up and hit the Ghat.
While in the TRH reception office, I encountered a young couple complaining to the reception staff that they had come there thinking Rishikesh to be a hilly place but it was all plains! Unfortunately for them the rafting season was also over, with the onset of rains. I hope they could go to the nearby Neelkanth Mahadev temple route which is hilly enough to provide beautiful sights and shots.
In the meantime our driver was fulfilling the formalities of Yatra, in which he had to submit a list of all the members along with their age and addresses. Finally at about 6:00pm we reached the Ram Jhula from where we took a ferry for the Geeta Bhavan across the river.
There we all took a bath in the bone chilling river and witnessed the Ganga Arti at the Geeta Bhavan. I observed here that every second person was carrying a Handycam. So the Camera Nirvana was reaching here, I though. I regretted for a while my decision not to carry mine. Although I made up to some extent by making short movies of the Arti on my Sony W5 (which I no more have, thanks to hand bag lifters at New Delhi Railway Station).
In the GMVN TRHs the guests have to order for the meals in advance, based on which the groceries etc. are bought and food prepared and each party allotted a time slot in the dining hall. We had ordered our food before leaving for the Ghat. The food was tasty and like home made with soft Chapaties and all. However, their service bowls are smaller than average and we decided to take this fact into account while ordering the next time.
Next day (28/05) morning we had bed tea at 5:30 and were ready to leave at 6:30, which was a general schedule for all future checkouts. After about 1 and half hours we were driving through the floating clouds and enjoying the serpentine route along the Ganga at the heights of 800m approx. My camera was working full time to capture the shots from running cab. We crossed Srinagar after ‘stealing’ two mangoes from a small orchard near the petrol pump where we refueled, and halted at DevPrayag.
DevPrayag is the place of confluence of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda. The sight is breathtaking. The colours of the two river are clearly distinguished. The Bhagirathi was greenish with cleaner stream, whereas Alaknanda was brown with silt. There at the Sangam, our parents did the ‘Tarpan’ Ritual, offering obeisance to the foreparents.
We drove through Rudraprayag. It is the Junction for routes to Kedarnath and Badrinath logically so as it is the confluence of River Mandakini from Kedarnath and Alaknanda from Badrinath. Mandakini is again greenish and clean and Alaknanda as usual silty brown. We did not halt here, as it was difficult to sight any parking place while on the move. Instead, we drove down to a secluded hotel en route to Chandrapuri and did lunch there by the side of Mandakini. It was drizzling by the time we finished our lunch.
We reached Chandrapuri at about 6pm. The TRH is developed as a small picnic spot, with riverside cottages. To our delight, the Dormitories were four bedded cottages with attached baths right at the shore of Mandakini. The riverbed there was shallow and full of stones/boulders. There were stairs to climb down to the river. We settled for a short rest in our cottages with the customary chai. Then all of us went down for our share of water sports. We enjoyed the water till the sunset. Father of SPV, who is a Professor of Geology, discussed with me the reasons of different appearances of the boulders.
There were other guests who were on the way back from Kedarnath and going to Badrinath. They gave us some useful tips for KN trek, for example, to purchase raincoats, not to trek on foot, to ask for the blanket cushion with the horse owner, etc.
The same customized dinner followed late in the evening and we retired for the day enjoying the song of Mandakini.
Next morning (29/05) was sunny and we set off for KN. This leg of our journey was the greenest one but I shall spare you the trek for some more time.
In part 2, we would go to Gaurikund and beyond.