And of course some places are meant to be visited or rather they happen to you at the right time! This trip was just that!
As I caught a glimpse of the Kedarnath temple far ahead, the path didn’t seem tedious any more. Right at that moment, the clouds gave away and showered flakes of snow right when we were about 2 kms away from the temple. The air seemed heavier and cooler. We had trekked up about 6000 odd feet in the last 9 hours. Just as we made ourselves comfortable in the GMVN at Kedarnath, it rained and snowed throughout the night.
Kedarnath, the name resounded in my ears when my friend and I had finally zeroed in on this to set out for a trek in October. Once we took care of the flight bookings, we finalized our stay at Uttrakhand in GMVN office here in Bangalore. Thanks to the officer who helped us out with our itinerary and provided us some information on places to visit in Uttarakhand.
Our main to-do places were Kedarnath-Tungnath-Badrinath!
Day 1: BLR-Dehradun-Rishikesh
Well the D-day arrived and we flew to Dehradun from Bangalore. And then drove to Rishikesh in a taxi arranged by the Skyard home-stay folks. Skyard is on the likes of Zostel and we did have a comfortable stay out there, thanks to the courteous folks. You must try it out when you are in Rishikesh.
Rishikesh is a place of pilgrimage at the foothills of Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is rightfully known as the ‘Gateway to Garhwal Himalayas’ and also ‘Yoga Capital of the World!’ Ganga flows through Rishikesh right from Shivalik hills in the Himalayas. Rishikesh is home to the famous Ram Jhula, Laxman Jhula and whole lot of Yoga Ashrams and centers.
After a quick lunch, almost in the late noon in the German bakery close by to the Laxman Jhula, we headed to Parmarth Niketan, the largest Ashram in Rishikesh for the Ganga Aarti. Hearing to chants by the Ganga and taking part in the Aarti was truly blissful and energizing. I soaked myself to the chants. My tummy too soaked the fresh fruit juices from a nearby cafe as I stared at the Ganga going on her way blissfully unaware of the tumultuous crowd.
Day 2: Rishikesh-Rudraprayag-Sonprayag-Gaurikund
As we wanted to try out the local transport throughout our travel, we left early and caught a private tourist bus to Rudraprayag. One can also take the State transport bus.
So of course our drive to Rudraprayag took about 4 hours, we had our packed lunch of Paranthas on the ride and then we caught a bus to Sonprayag from Rudraparayag, it was a rickety dusty ride along the mountains. A drunk uncle on the bus was quite amazed that only two of us girls were travelling and he as a good Samaritan advised on being careful and alert! Well it was quite amusing to listen to him. After a couple of hours we reached Sonprayag. Here we had to take the next means of transportation which was a jeep. After a quick hot chai, we left to Gaurikund which took about 20 mins to reach.
Must say, the GMVN facility and rooms is a boon to the weary travelers. Very well-maintained and the caretakers are very courteous and helpful. After a sumptuous dinner of Roti, Dal, we took to the bed early as we had to trek all the way to Kedarnath the following day.
Day 3: Gaurikund-Kedarnath
The trek to Kedarnath is about 16-17 kms long and of course steep as the trail starts from 6000 feet and goes upto 11740 feet.
We started at 6 in the morning. The trail was paved with cobbled stones and it was beautifully maintained but was decorated with horse dung along the way thanks to the mules, ponies and horses. The trail was beautiful and it wasn’t much crowded. We had a quick Maggi break and then trekked the trail which was getting steeper gradually. At about 11am, we were almost half way through and had some Paranthas to energize ourselves. Later, we took to the trail which was a bit narrow now considering the construction along the path.
As we hobbled on, the last stretch was truly tedious as before us was a serpentine trail. This certainly took our breath away which had us taking short breaks in between. Finally, we managed to reach the final flat path before the temple. The horsemen were really amazed at our strength and madness for trekking all the way up with heavy backpacks!( Well not that much really! ;))
It was about 3pm when we reached Kedarnath. And yes we were welcomed by the rain and snow which continued well into the night.
Day 4: Kedarnath-GandhiSarovar-Bhairavnath-Kedarnath
Kedarnath is about 225 kms from Rishikesh and is one of the Chota Char Dham (Kedarnath-Badrinath-Yamunotri-Gangotri). It has been a famous and prominent pilgrimage center since the ancient times. Owing to the flash floods in 2013, the entire place, settlements were washed away except for the temple which was protected by a huge stone standing behind the temple(it is still present behind the temple). The place is still on the restoration mode and there are thousands of volunteers and villagers building and shaping the place 24*7 in the non-winter months. It is a sight to see all these spirited people building the place inch by inch.
In the morning, we were all set to visit the temple and as we got out of the room, the mountains were snow dressed and they looked utterly fabulous!
A pandit met us inside and took us through some rituals inside the temple. And we were back outside within half an hour.
The Kedar Dome and Kedar peaks provide a scintillating backdrop to the Kedarnath temple. The chants from the temple and the surrounding mountains would enchant any soul!
After a quick breakfast at GMVN, we headed towards the Chorabari glacier. It is about 13000 feet and as we trudged along the narrow trail cut across the mountain and we reached a small waterfall. There was no proper path from here on and the trail seemed very slippery owing to loose gravel and stones. So we stuck to the waterfall as the end point and enjoyed the views.
We later got back to GMVN and after a siesta, we climbed toward Bhairavnath, who is said to be the protector of the place. It is a 10 mins walk up the path and the view from the small sacred place is scintillating as Kedarnath and the mountains put up a majestic show. There were three other Uncles who were performing and chanting to Bhairavnath. We joined in the chanting and the place is electrifying in a way. They say, you need to first visit Bhairavnath before heading to Kedarnath.
We quickly went to the temple for the Evening Aarti. Before the Aarti started we were allowed to go inside and catch a glimpse of Kedarnath. The Shiv Ling was beautifully decorated with purple flowers and other decorative items. The joy of seeing it had me in tears and I went about another couple of times sequentially making a round three times just to see the Shiv Ling!
Then the Aarti took place and we were allowed to visit the temple one last time before the it closed for the day.
I am not sure if it was just me but the place was reverberating with energy and it was very subtle yet knocking on the soul! Or probably I was on a high, in the mountains.
Day 5: Kedarnath- Sersi – Triyuginarayan-Sonprayag-Guptkashi
We wanted to fly back to Gaurikund and we were excited on taking the helicopter services. That very morning we booked a helicopter to Sersi. We planned to visit Triyuginarayan temple and then head to Guptkashi for the night via Sonprayag.
It was surely a day of miracles; firstly we were the only two people along with the pilot in the helicopter. We had a brilliant and spectacular ride for about 10 mins until we reached Sersi.
Just as were figuring out how to get to Triyuginarayan, we came across the same driver who had dropped us to Gaurikund and he was the one who had mentioned about Triyuginarayan temple and that we must visit it. Lo and behold, he was right in front of us just as we were about to call him- second miracle. So after breakfast, we visited this old, beautiful temple which happens to be the place where Lord Shiva and Parvati got married. The temple was supposedly constructed by Adi Shankaracharya and is situated at 6500 feet.
We then headed to Gaurikund to collect our bags from GMVN and waited for the driver to fill the rest of the seats. We had a quick lunch by the road side dhaba which was exceptionally delicious. Finally as we reached Sonprayag, we were lucky enough to get onto a jeep to Guptkashi as we were told there were no vehicles running that day owing to some issue!
But we finally made it to Guptkashi by about 2pm. We freshened ourselves up and had a hearty lunch at the GMVN. In the evening, we made a visit to the Guptkashi temple. It is another ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva (Vishwanath) similar to the one in Kashi. It also has a small temple dedicated to Ardhanareshvara (a half-man half-woman form of Shiva and Parvati). The temple is old and very blissful.
In the small pond called the Manikarnika Kund as seen in the picture below, Shiva Ling is bathed by two springs; Ganga and Yamuna. The Yamuna spring water emanates from a goumukh (spout in the shape of a cow’s mouth) and the Bhagirathi spring flows through trunk of an elephant strategically placed above the linga.
Later we retired for the night, only to get up to a beautiful view of the mountains. One can get a view of the marvelous Neelkanth, Chaukamba and Kedarnath peaks!
Day 6: Guptkashi-Mastura-Sari-DeoriaTal-Chopta
We caught an early bus to go to Sari village. The bus conductor suggested that we can walk to Sari through Mastura village. We eagerly said yes and got out of the bus.
What we thought would be a walk for 10 mins, turned out to be a walk of about 40 mins. But it was a beautiful trail traversing across the mountains, corn fields and the village of Sari. Sari is a small village near Chopta on the way to Deoria Tal at about 6500 odd feet. The village was undoubtedly beautiful as the sun sprayed its rays on to the lush green fields, it turned out to be utterly marvelous. After a tiresome trek, we reached the starting point of the Deoria Tal trek where we had a quick breakfast.
Later we started our hike up to Deoria Tal (the lake of the Gods) which is at a height of about 7800 odd feet; it is a popular place as the reflection of majestic Himalayan peaks falls on to the lake and the scene is mesmerizing! The trail is adorned with rhododendron flowers in the months of February-March.
It was very hot and we hobbled along the trail waiting to reach Deoria Tal. On the way, we had rhododendron juice at a small shack which was run by a villager. After about 45 mins, we reached the lush meadows facing the splendid array of mountain ranges. And we could catch a glimpse of the reflection of the mountains in the lake. It was very pristine and a trail of lavender flowers adorned the lake.
After capturing a few shots, we started our way back to Sari. Close by to the Village, we came across a small Shiva temple. We thought we would visit and go along the way.
As I struck a conversation with the Pandit who happened to be an ex-army officer, my friend and I had the most delightful conversation with him on the lines of life, spirituality and of course Tungnath for the next one hour!
Thanking him for a cup of tea we bid goodbye to him and as we reached Sari, we hailed a cab which took us to Chopta.
Chopta is again a place laden with beautiful lush green meadows, evergreen forests and is part of the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary. Situated at about 8790 feet, it is surrounded by pine, deodar and rhododendron forests and is also a haven for many birds. It is the base for the trek to Tungnath and we were staying at a home-stay right in front of the gateway to Tungnath.
Day 7: Chopta-Tungnath-Chopta
We started trekking at 3 AM in the morning to Tungnath. I was stunned to see shooting stars across the star studded sky! And I was too excited as it was my first time watching shooting stars!
Tungnath hosts the second highest Shiva temple in the world at a height of about 12000 odd feet after Muktinath in Nepal. And it is one of the Panch Kedar temples in Uttarakhand.
A dog accompanied us on 1/4th of the trail. All we could see was the trail and the starry sky and nothing else. We reached Tungnath by about 5:15 AM and we started our way up to Chandrashila Peak, which was at a height of about 13000 feet and one can catch a 360 deg view of the mountains and majestic peaks.
We were just in time for the sunrise and what a view! I was utterly blown over by the view and the marvel of the mountains!
As we got a Darshan at the Tungnath, we headed our way back to Chopta. The view which we were unable to see in the wee ours of the morning, we certainly did now. The sprawling meadows and the lovely valleys painted our trail.
We had lunch at Chopta and spent the day playing and just staring up at the sky. We were surely on a high!
Day 8: Chopta- Chamoli-Joshimath-Badrinath
We caught a bus to Chamoli from Chopta and from there hopped on a shared taxi to Joshimath and then again took a shared jeep to Badrinath. The entire day we traveled along the mountain roads. The view was spectacular. But the ride was too tiring!
We reached Badrinath at about 3:30 PM and we quickly hired a taxi to go to Mana Village. It is the last village before China. We visited Ganesh Gufa, Vyas Gufa(where Sage Vyasa recited the Mahabharatha to Ganesha), Bheem Phul, we watched the Vasudhara Falls from a distance and headed back to Badrinath for the darshan.
Badrinath is a holy town located at about 11000 feet and is one of the Chota Char Dham. The reigning deity is Lord Vishnu in the form of Nara-Narayana.
The temple was way too crowded and we were happy to catch a glimpse of the deity and head back.
Day 9: Badrinath – Rishikesh
This was one hell of a journey by bus for about 12 hours. The journey was through the mountains and valleys and it was truly adventurous! The ride keeps you swaying along the valleys!
As we reached Rishikesh, we hit the sack after dinner!
Day 10: Rishikesh
With all the time on our hands, we got up late and had breakfast at German bakery.
We walked to the Beatles Ashram or Chaurasi Kutia and saw the dilapidated Meditation structures which were built for the students of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who brought about the Transcendental Meditation technique. It is popularly called as the Beatles ashram as the famous band came to learn Meditation out here from the Mahesh yogi. The site was abandoned in 1990s and given back to the Forestry department. It was only post 2015 that it was opened for the public as a tourist spot.
We later hired a two-wheeler to go to Vashishta Gufa which is about 25 kms from Rishikesh on the Rishikesh-Badrinath road!
Vasishtha Gufa is where one of the Saptarishis, Sage Vashishtha meditated and there is also a small cave facing the Ganga where his wife Arundhati also meditated.
It was quite a scary ride along the mountainous roads and with heavy trucks passing by. But we reached safely to bask at the shores of the Ganga. I was intrigued by the color of the rocks and stones out here as they were lavender or lilac. As I sat near the Arundhati Gufa and meditated, the meditation was truly overwhelming and so was it at Vashishta Gufa. I guess they are still pristine and the sanctity is very protected.
We got back to the scary adventurous ride and reached Rishikesh. Later we rode to the Triveni Ghat to enjoy the Aarti by the Ganga.
The last night in Rishikesh and the last night of our trip was lovely and we had had a quite an adventurous trip.
Day 11: Rishikesh-Dehradun-BLR
Today happened to be our Rafting Day and we were waiting for it since ages!
The experience was surprising, adventurous and exhausting. But it was quite a rush of Adrenalin as we approached a series of rapids along the Ganga.
Must say, it was the icing on the cake.
After a delicious Burger down our throats we took to packing and getting back to Bangalore.
Some guidelines/tips if you are planning to visit the above places:
- Month of our Visit: October ( It was not that crowded at Kedarnath and Tungnath as opposed to the month of May-the season for Kedarnath trek)
- Weather: Pretty Cold in Kedarnath, Badrinath and Tungnath
- Accommodation: Mostly at GMVN across places in Uttarakhand
- Means of transport: Flight to Dehradun to and fro Bangalore, Public transport across the state to various places – there is connectivity to all places, please leave early in the morning to make use of the public transport buses, shared taxis, jeeps.
- Tips: Enquire about the taxis or buses from the hotel / stay / taxi stands a day prior to your departure at each of the places. This would help you plan on the travel for the next day smoothly.