A Himalayan Pilgrimage – 1

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),

Rudraprayag(28/05/06)(RP),

Kedarnath(29/05/06)(KN),

Gopeshwar(30/05/06),

Badrinath(01/06/06)(BN),

KarnPrayag(02/07/06)(KP) and

Rishikesh/Haidwar(03/07/06).

At cloud-1

First floating cloud sighting

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!

Accommodation:

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.

Packing:

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.

Cheetal Grand:

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”.

Ashu at Cheetal

Ashu at Cheetal

The group-1 at Cheetal

The group-1 at Cheetal

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

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.

At Geeta Bhavan, Rishikesh

At Geeta Bhavan, Rishikesh

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).

Ganga Aarti at Rishikesh

Ganga Aarti at Rishikesh

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

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.

Devprayag

Alaknanda and Bhagirathi and confluence at Devprayag

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.

 Chandrapuri riverbed

Dad Duo on the weathered boulders in Mandakini stream at Chandrapuri

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.

29 Comments

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Welcome aboard Rajeev.

    What a great ride to begin with, the visit to holy shrines of Kedarnath and Badrinath. I have been to Okhimath by chance. We were on a vacation/leisure trip to a place called ‘Syalsaur’, which is on the same route. On the 2nd day, the itinerary was scheduled for some ski/snow-fun kind a place and a small group decided to trek to Okhimath, unaware that the Kedarnath deity is there during winters. Deciding to be away from the group worked in our favor.

    It was a long walk but totally worth it.

    Neve been to Badrinath though.

    Your post is very informative and has lot of useful details. I am sure that fellow ghumakkars would gain a lot. Looking fwd to part 2.

  • nh24 says:

    Thanks Nandan.
    I hope my report would encourage and help people in planning for a trip.
    I have kept the narrative simple and flat to keep distractions off.

    Ukhimath is the winter abode of the KN deity.

    Right now i do not have access to the snaps but i hope to load some stuff next week.
    Rajeev

  • ajeet says:

    Splendid Rajeev. To read you feels like travelling with you. The route is the same where i often go to, but i travel in the night, have rarely seen Cheetal grand open in my trips. It is good to be travelling with you in the day. Can wait to read all about it. Hope to see the fotos soon…

  • nh24 says:

    Thanks Ajeet.
    I think I would be able to load some pics today itself.
    Rajeev

  • Patrick Jasper says:

    Lovely Rajeev – Waiting for part 2. is it possible to a rudimentary route map along with the next post????

  • nh24 says:

    Thanks Patrick.
    Now I feel that this makes the next past of the report awaited. i an sure with support from Nandan we would be able to add a route map as well.
    Rajeev

  • nandanjha says:

    Yeah, sure. We can certainly add a map, an interactive one.

  • Rahul says:

    This reminds of my trip to Kedarnath and Badrinath 8 years ago. We stayed at Gaurikund and Joshimath. River Mandakini on way to Gauri Kund is the most sparkling and dancing river I’ve ever seen. Did you actually halt overnight at Kedar Nath or Gauri Kund? My parents couldn’t stay at the KedarNath temple for more than 4-5 hours due to the altitude…

  • nh24 says:

    Hi Rahul,
    That’s true- we had planned so and halted at KN and BN. In our group, many were bitten by the altitude and cold. My wife almost collapsed off the pony after a couple of km beyond Rambara. We got camphor from fellow travellers which helped.
    It was continuously drizzling and once we alighted the horses at KN, everyone of us was shivering for our lives. My friend, wife, son were down by the time we checked in.
    However living up to the adage of Purana Ghee all four parents were very much up and kicking. most of up bathed in the midnight before the Darshana.
    It was some experience.
    As the idea was to spend nights in the God’s valleys, we stayed overnight in BN as well, but here none of us felt any of those altitude and temp pangs. It was sunny when we arrived. However, I got some taste of the cold, bang in the night when I had to suddenly leave my bed for some reasons. You will find this and more in the second part.
    Rajeev

  • Anand says:

    I am 70 yrs old. I would like to visit 4 Dham in 20 days. Is it possible?
    Can I do it physically? What is the best time? I am under the impression that May 5 th is good starting time but it will be crowded and may not get accommodation. What other dates are advisable. I plan to go by private car. Please advise.
    Thanks.
    May GOD BLESS YOU

  • nh24 says:

    You can very much perform the Char Dham Yatra.
    However it is advisable to have company. Two of the parents in our group were seventy plus.
    Though is is very much possible to do Gangotri-Yamunotri-Kedarnath-Badrinath circuit, the chardham, in 15 days, it would be very tiring by the end. it is better to break it in two parts.
    First half of May is good and you can try booking a package from GMVN- the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam, in advance. Apart from the regular tours, they also conduct customized tours for various group sizes. The package includes transport and boarding.
    Thanks and Best Wishes.
    Rajeev

  • Celine says:

    Hi Rajeev,

    I intend to go on a trip along most of the route you mentioned except instead of Kedarnath, I’m planning VoF and hopefully, Hemkund too. So reading this has been exciting.

    Just a few questions:
    – Was not the travel from Rudraprayag to Kedarnath a long trip? I thought almost 100 kms along mountainous roads can be pretty taxing.

    – Was it easy and is it recommended to travel from Badrinath up to Karnaprayag in one day? Did you include sightseeing at Badrinath on the day you reached or did you set aside a separate day for that?

    Thank you for an interesting post.

  • Rajeev Tivari says:

    Hi Celine, I am sorry for a late response.

    Travel from Rudraprayag was a long trip and it is true that by the time we arrived at KP, a few members were in bad shape. Though it was also partly due to the fact that it got about 9:30am before we could actually leave BN, as there is a one way arrangement between Joshimath and BN and we missed the early morning gate. So the drive was in scorching sun.

    We arrived the day before in afternoon at BN and went straight to Manna village, after checking in the TRH. After manna there is a spot called BHEEM Ka PUL, which is known as a makeshift bridge made by BHEEM pushing a huge rock across river called ‘Saraswati'(though that is debatable) for Draupadi. That was all sightseeing in BN. Mext morning we would leave straightawy for KP.

    I did not feel much uncomforted. I would recommend that the AULI trip (ropeway) from Joshimath should be made a part of the itinerary, hence one can plan a halt at Joshimath instead of BN.

    Thanks for your comment and hope the above helps. I would recommend to check out the GMVN site also. Do rememeber to read the forthcoming parts of the report.

  • nh24 says:

    Celine,

    I have replied wrt Badrinath to Karnprayag instead of RP to KN as inquired by you.
    Rudraprayag to Kedarnath was not as tiresome, though many people also break the trek afterwards form Gaurikund to KN at Rambara midway and halt there.

    I admit that you might find our itinerary slightly quirky:)

  • nandanjha says:

    This comment is mostly for drivers :)

    Any good driver worth his salt would look really well at the mile stones, the stones on which place and KMs is written. I have seen milestones for Mana and always wondered that where is this Mana, now I know.

  • Celine says:

    Rajeev,
    Thank you very much for the useful information on the journey from RP to KN and BN to KP too. I’m now aware that, though tiring, a journey from BN to KP in one day is possible.

    Once in Badrinath, in addition to the main temple area, I also intend to pass by Mana, Bheem-ka-Pul and also by the Vasudhara Falls. Btw, I already have included in my itinerary a day/night in Auli.:)

    Nandan,
    It’s not just about the number of miles to cover, but rather about the practical difficulty in traversing in the high altitude Garhwal mountain terrain that should be considered.:)

  • nandanjha says:

    Here’s a road map of this leg. Its an interactive map, so you can navigate up/down, right/left

    Delhi – Haridwar – Rishikesh – Devprayag – Rudraprayag


    View Larger Map

  • Rajeev Tivari says:

    Nandan,
    Yeah, Mana is the border terminus of NH-58, which we normally identify with Delhi-HW/DDN. Thanks for the map.

    Celine, I am sure you are going to have a great trip, as Vasudhara and and Auli are two great points. Now a days there are bad news about landslides etc. Garhwal mountains are most prone to breaches in rain due to the composition of rocks.

    Rajeev

  • manish khamesra says:

    Very well written Rajeev. I have never been to these areas and hence the urge has increased after reading the write-up. Moreover you have given very practical and useful hints.

    Thanks for sharing this great travel account.

  • Rajeev Tivari says:

    Thanks a lot, dear Manish.
    Yeah, even whil I was posting this trip, I was getting all nostalgic and kind of longing for another trip, such is teh charms of these hills.

    I am sure soon we will find a trip report from you from one of such places-may be Gangotri/Yamunotri.

    I have glanced through your splendid posts on Kerala, Naukuchia and Fatehpur Sikri and have put them on my must read list.

    Rajeev

  • manish khamesra says:

    Thanks Rajeev for wishing me trip to these blissfully beautiful places. We recently have a new addition in our family, so I don’t know how long it will take us to venture out to the hilly regions.

    I would be looking forward to your comments and mine on the other two posts would be coming soon too. Needless to say it again that I enjoyed reading the travelogue a lot. And with so many practical hints, it seems not so difficult to take this journey :)

  • Vishal M says:

    Hi all…who have done 4 dhams…..Pl advice is it fine to drive yourself with family to 4 Dhams in a Honda City…..without driver!!!! How many days…. as such time wont be a constraint….regards vishal

  • RT says:

    I have done two only. for them i will say, if time is not a constraint and one can adopt to ways of hill driving, then why not!

  • ChatpataDun says:

    A nicely written. Just a small update – Hotel Grand Cheetal, no more lies on the highway of Haridwar – Delhi. Govt has created a bypass for Khatauli (city on the way). So, in case, you plan to take the bypass, Grand Cheetal will not be on the way. There are now better options, I must say. There is a new hotel – MoolChand, which is quite good.

    From not to miss perspective, Ganga Aarti at Rishikesh is an awesome experience. There is a small place called Neelkanth, around 50km from Rishikesh, which is quite good! There are shared jeeps available from Rishikesh for Neelkanth.

  • Rajeev says:

    Yes, thanks a lot for the update. The Khatauli bypass has eclipsed the good old Cheetal. Still there are die-hard taste addicts who just might take the detour. However, Moolchand has a bigger edge in the fact that they were serving on tables when I stopped by last month.

    Ganga Aarti at Rishikesh is really not to miss. I guess I would have covered Neelkanth Mahadev in the latter parts.

  • Enjoyed reading this beautiful post again !

    Cheetal is no more on the way now , lot of new food joints on new highway like Haldiram , MacDonald , Bikano etc……..

  • Rajeev says:

    Wow, Thanks Ghumakkar for re-publishing this one.
    Indeed, a lot a changed since then and a lot still remains the same.

    Thank you Mahesh ji, for the kind words, Cheetal is no more but there is Moolchand, alongwith those mentioned by you. How is the drive otherwise from Delhi to Hardiwar?

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Thanks Rajeev for helping us re-publish this story.

    After last year’s havoc, I guess things would change for better. Today I noticed a half-page advt in local daily with dates of when the char dham is opening and it seems that Govt is at least provisioning for better telecom infrastructure, helplines, police etc.

    I drove to Lansdowne a couple of months back and I remember a new Cheetal coming up right on the highway. In old days, there was a ‘Grand Cheetal’ and a ‘Chhota Cheetal’ and of course no-roads. :-)

  • Gypsy says:

    I have been an ardent fan of the Uttrakhand Himalayas and its beauty for the last 25 years or so. I have been to all the places mentioned herein above. I would like to update the recent position of the roads in Uttrakhand, as of now.

    The Uttrakhand Govt has declared that the Char Dham Yatra will commence from 4/5 May, but, I am sorry to say that the place is a total mess. No roads at all beyond Rudraprayag. No one can travel to Kedarnath by road. The heavens like ‘The Syalsaur’ & ‘The Chandrapuri’ have just vanished from this good Earth due to the flash-floods.

    Though it would be devastating for the economy of the Uttrakhand, I would still recommend nobody to be overly optimistic to venture into the Uttrakhand for the next two years, to be on the safer side.

    Just google to know more about the Chandrapuri & the Syalsaur! I would love to get some more authentic info about the places.

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