Table of contents for Char Dham Yatra
After visiting the holy shrine of Gangotri, now we were heading back to Uttarkashi for our journey towards Kedarnath.
The entire route was looking much better and the traffic also was free flowing. We reached the same petrol pump by 12 pm. We had lunch again in the same hotel. There we asked some of the locals for the route to Kedarnath ji. That was another mistake we made. The local transporters, they guided us towards a newly constructed road, saying that this would save around 2 hrs. I don’t know the time we would have take by using the regular NH, but this road though very good in condition, but becomes very narrow at certain points and has too many curves. With no vehicles passing by (from any direction), we were constantly checking with the locals, whoever visible, that we are on the right track. Any how we have made our mind that I will drive till 8 pm (gates will close at 8 pm). We will take all necessary breaks (for snacks, snaps, rest or to freshen up). But surprisingly we took our next break only at around 6 pm near Ghansali. The next name appearing on the milestone was Tilwara, and the tea maker informed us that we can get good place to stay if we reach Tilwara. But reaching Tilwara was looking bit difficult, as it was still 60-65 km ahead and we were covering the distance in no more than 25 km in an hour.
After taking 15 mins break, we start back with the same plan that lets drive till 8 pm and then stop for the night. By 8 pm, we reached near a small village, I could hardly see 4-5 houses and one double story dharamshala type building and the gate with couple of police personal guarding it. We stopped our car there and checked the room conditions, which was horrible, especially when the person told us that there is only one common toilet on ground floor. I asked the police person for any other place to stay. He told me to that we will get good hotels only at Tilwara, which was still around 25 odd km away from that place. When I asked that the gates were supposed to be closed by 8 pm, he informed me that since the weather is clear and the road to Tilwara is good, there is not stoppage of any vehicle on that route. I discussed the things with other, and since they all have seen the condition of this dharamshala, all agreed to go to Tilwara. So we were back on road. The road was really very good with proper reflectors and broad enough to drive freely. I felt driving in night on ghats would be more easy if proper reflectors were placed. We reached Tilwara by 9 pm, covering this 25 km in around 40-45 mins provided enough boost to me to drive further. And the best part was that we were back on NH. The milestone was showing Agastmuni, 11 km ahead. I immediately asked other if they can sit for another 30 mins, we can stay near Agastmuni. They said, if I can drive, they can sit. Any how we reached Agastmuni by 9:15 pm. We took rooms in a small but clean hotel. Had dinner and straight away went to bed.
From Dharali to Gangotri to Agastmuni (via Ghansali & Tilwara) – 280 km; time taken – 14 hrs; breaks – 3 (60+60+15 mins)
Road condition – Excellent/ Good (Quit remote, too much altitude some times, sometimes very narrow curves, need to be very careful while taking turns)
1. I feel taking the NH, which goes round Tehri dam would be much better. One could also see the power project on the way.
After breakfast, we started towards Gaurikund (about 55 km from Agastmuni) at 8 am. The road was excellent and quite wider, this was the first time I was seeing such a wide road on hilly areas. We reached Ukhimath (18 km from Agastmuni) in less than 30 mins. After that the ghats started again. We reached Phata around 10 am. There you can find lots of helicopter services to take you directly up to the Kedarnath ji temple. Though, it has to be booked well in advance. You can book them through various sites. We didn’t had the booking, but looking the helicopter flying by the hills is giving such a thrilling feel (one can remember Jurassic park helicopter landing) that we tried almost all the providers if they have any cancelled slot or empty seats. But no luck. We almost wasted 1 hr to find a helicopter ride till Kedarnath ji. After Phata the road also deteriorate, reducing the speed to 15 km/hr. The biggest challenge was to find a parking place. Though there are two/three parking slots near Gaurikund, but you will find difficulties to get a proper parking. We waited/struggled for more than an hour to convince the parking provider to park our car on one corner. Once we parked the vehicle, we went along with a panda, who arranged the ponies for all of us.
From Gaurikund to Kedarnath ji temple you have 14 km of trekking. One can walk till their or take pony or palki. For kids and thin old people one can take pittu. Last year the rate for round trip on pony was Rs. 1600 for one person. The trekking road is very narrow, and with ponies coming from both side, it really gives very limited or no road for the walkers. A few times our foot brushed with some gentlemen walking by, though we all were feeling bad for that, and we were continuously asking the pandas to take the ponies carefully. But it’s of no use. At one point my right knee collided with another person’s knee that was coming down. It was a painful blow for both of us. We both shouted on our panda’s to have more control of ponies. Btw, we didn’t stop. It took us around 4 hours to reach on the top with 20-25 minutes break on the midway (Rambara). After reaching on the top of the hill, we walked towards the temple. It’s about 500-700 meter from the pony stand. You can find lot of dharamshala (some of them were state specific) to stay. It took two more hours for darshan and pooja.
The temple and surroundings were so beautiful that for a movement I thought to stay there for a day or two, but then, I changed my mind, as I remembered that I am from IT industry. We do have weekend offs but don’t know how many of us can take more than 5 days leave just to roam around. Anyway, we stick to our original plan, that we will ride down and I will try to drive as much as possible (and allowed). We started back at around 6:30 pm, it was already started getting dark, the panda told me that it will take around three hours to reach Gaurikund, but as it was getting dark, it might take 4 hrs. The pony ride was very comfortable, when we were climbing up, but now when we were coming down, the experience was totally different. The ponies were skidding frequently (you can see spark, when the horseshoe skids on the rocky track). To increase my fear, the panda informed me that I should sit carefully, and tilt my body backward, when the pony gets to a steep slope, because in past he has seen many fall down and got injuries. Though the track was pity empty as hardly people were coming up, but time by time bunches of running empty/free ponies crossed us, injecting more fear. Due to all this, I kept my legs very stiff, and after an hour journey, my back and thigh started giving pain. I asked the panda to stop the pony for 5-10 mins but he didn’t listen. He kept on saying that we will be very late if we stop in between. By the time we reached Rambara, I have completely given up and asked him to stop for some refreshment. We stopped, and there I found it was not only me but all others having the same problem. We were not tired, but the ride was taking its toll on us. My wife was almost about to faint. We had tea and some snacks. I asked the panda’s also to have something, as it will give us more time to take rest. Gaurikund was still 7 kms away.
I asked my wife if she can continue on pony, she refused, even I am also not willing to ride the pony again. I took census from others, my mother-in-law suggested that we should take the ride for another 3-4 kms and if we are not feeling well, we can start walking for rest of the track. This was a sensible advice, but others were in a favor of walking down the rest of distance, as walking down will be easy. We let the ponies go, and started walking down. After walking for 2 kms, we started regretting our decision. Anyhow, it took another 3 hrs to cover the 7 kms. It was around 11:30 pm, when we reached Gaurikund. We thought to stay in Gaurikund for that day. But for our luck, we didn’t found any good clean hotel/lodge there. I asked my in-laws to wait near the first car parking slot, and I went along with my brother-in-law and wife to see the car’s status. As I parked it on one corner near the entrance, I was worried that it may get damage by other vehicles coming out. We went near the car and asked couple of locals about some good staying place, they suggested us to drive down the hill, and we can get some good accommodations. I picked up my in-laws and we started back, down the hill. After holding the steering, I was feeling alive, no cramps and no tiredness. We reached Guptkashi by 1 am. We got a good hotel for night stay. While going to bed, we decided to take good sleep before starting for next day. So, no alarm for next morning.
From Agastmuni to Gaurikund (via Guptkashi & Phata) – 60 km; time taken – 3 hrs;
Road condition – Good (Rough patches after Phata)
1. If you have budget, I would suggest taking helicopter ride instead of taking ponies and taking your car till Gaurikund. This will save a lot of time and will give you wonderful view of Himalayas. But you have to book them well in advance.
2. If you are not staying in Gaurikund, try to park you vehicle as soon as possible possibly on first parking point) If you have driver, who is not coming up with you, then you can come till Gaurikund, with the driver in car.
On to Baba Badri now.