Wednesday, 23 July, 2008

Detailed journey.....

OK everybody!The promise finally gets fulfilled.

This itinerary would help anybody wanting to visit Badrinath and Kedarnath,so if you are planning to go there anytime in the near future,I hope this will help you,and even if you aren't planning to,I believe you would enjoy reading these experiences.

In a group of 14,we took the package tour offered by Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam.We had opted for a mini bus over a Sumo or any other small vehicle so that it would offer us some extra space which would prevent us from getting cramped during the long journey.The bus which had been given to us was pretty rickety,and not in the best shape,but there were other buses which we saw and which were much better.So lesson no.1.Check the bus being given to you and ensure it's in good condition.

We had travelled from New Delhi to Haridwar by train and had directly proceeded to Muni ki Reti from the station,where we had a booking for rooms.As I mentioned,the lodgings were pretty comfortable with coolers provided and a restaurant situated right there.The food is vegetarian and pretty tasty,but you don't have too much of variety,but don't start complaining about that right now,but a lot is left to happen.In the evening we walked down to the ghats and had a bath in the Ganga.The river looks dirty but when we felt the bed,it was the kind of mud usually found on the beaches,so I think what was really making it looking murky was just this mud,nothing harmful.But there isn't really any proper place for changing clothes after the bath and I think it's pretty pathetic,given the fact that loads and loads of people come there simply for the purpose of bathing.So,lesson no.2Wear dark clothes,just incase you may have to stay in your wet clothes,and a warning,the water is very very cold.Along the ghats,there's a Ram jhoola, which is apparently quite famous out there.Also,there are a number of good food restaurants nearby which are pretty famous and have been up and running for quite a long time.One of them is Chotiwala which has been around for a number of years,about 20 at the very least.

From Muni ki Reti we took the bus alloted to us and proceeded to Kedarnath first.The conductor and driver of our bus were quite experienced and took good care of us throughout the whole journey despite the meagre salary that's offered to them by the government.They guided us throughout the whole journey.We crossed the Panch Prayags Deoprayag, Nandprayag, Rudraprayag, Karnaprayag and Vishuprayag all of which have signifance as religious grounds.We climbed the heights amidst the scenic beauty.A word of advice-keep your camera ready throughout the journey,you won't be disappointed.After a long travel,we reached Guptakashi,which is the place from where you have to go on foot to complete 14 kms of the remaining journey.

We stayed overnight at Guptakashi,and left early in the morning.Since you have to climb such a large distance,only required stuff should be taken.The rest of the bag and baggage is locked into a cloakroom provided by the hotel management specially for the purpose.A small distance by the bus from the hotel took us to the one way journey route.No,I don't mean it literally,I just mean that there's a stretch of the road which is one way and traffic is altermated from both the sides.But since there are several people who feel that they can carve a way through the mountains for themselves,try to leave out of turn, and block the pathway,leading to regular traffic jams at the place,and with the lax authorities,we had to wait for almost 3-4 hrs at the post,and it was almost 1p.m. by the time we could proceed.So,another lesson,leave very very early in the morning and maybe you'll be lucky enough to escape this painful ordeal.

Anyway,we finally reached the place from where you have to travel on foot.From there you can proceed either on foot,or take a horse from the prepaid booths,or take a palanquin or for the very young and very old,who can travel on neither,there are pitthus available which carry you on their backs.As far as time required to cover this distance is concerned,different people gave us several different versions,but it actually takes around 4 hours if you're travelling by a horse or a palanquin or a pitthu,and maybe around 5-6 hrs on foot,but it depends on the speed.

A long list on what to carry-Do not carry anything more than necessary.Those who get dizzy of heights,consult a doctor before embarking on the journey.Carry the most basic medicines with you for fever,headache,dehydration,cough and cold,those who get inflamed tonsils in extreme cold should also consult a doctor before leaving.Carry meruinges or chewing gums with you to combat thirst.Don't carry water bottles,they can easily be bought on the wayDo carry a camera with you to capture the breath taking sceneries.Oxygen masks can easily be rented near the snan kund that is situated very near to from where you rent the horses or palanquins.Those who feel the need to carry one just in case may do so for a fare of Rs.500 which is refundable(not completely,of course) if the mask is not used.The usage is explained by the vendors themselves.Those travelling on foot should carry even lesser stuff.Just a change of clothes,maybe,and some essentials.But a dampener for those willing to travel on foot,it is very difficult because the path to Kedarnath, for horses and on foot travellers is the same.The incoming and outgoing horses make life very difficult,especially later on.For those wanting to atleast try travelling on foot,it is feasible because horses are available(illegally though)almost throughout the journey.

And incoming and outgoing reminds me of the most important gizmo in everybody's life,i.e. a mobile.As of now,Reliance is the only network which worked throughout almost the whole journey.Idea,Airtel were of no use at all.Vodafone was strong till Guptkashi.Even Reliance was not available throughout the 14 kms.,but was the best under the circumstances.So,another important lesson,take a Relinace connection,even if specially for the journey.And no,I'm not a secret brand ambassador for the company,it's a fact!

The journey is divided into two parts,wherin a stop is taken normally at Rambada at 6-7 kms from the start point.At Rambada you can rest for about 20-30 minutes because sitting on a horse can make you go Ouch!!! especially for the men:P Anyway,it does give cramps because you have to sit almost still with your centre of gravity slightly towards the front because you are constantly going uphill,and vice versa for the downhill journey.And,yeah,this was something we didn't know,but found out too late,there are gaddis available for placing them beneath you on the saddle of the horses because the saddle is very very hard to sit upon.It gets really agonising and after two journeys(going and coming back) you find yourselves incapable of walking properly.

It rains every single day at Kedarnath,and therefore you nay either carry your own raincoat or buy one cheaply available for 15-20 rupees throughout the journey.While travelling by bus and even by horse we'd seen a lot of plastic kind of material dumped in the river(Yes,the river view is still with us)and not until we'd seen the raincoats did we realise that it was actually the raincoats that the people had dumped into them.These raincoats are not of a very good quality and usually don't last for more than one use,but this is a sincere appeal,PLEASE DO NOT THROW THEM INTO THE GANGES.You can give it to the horse owners if they are in good enough condition and even if they aren't please carry tham back with you.

As you proceed through the heights,it starts getting very cold and therefore please carry enough warm clothes with you,more so if there are young kids with you.In Kedarnath,it is freezing and one blanket isn't enough at night.From near the temple you can see the snow capped mountains and you feel like going and actually touching them.It's really awesome,so please don't forget to click pictures.

And now coming to the temple itself,as an agnostic,I have nothing much to report except that for those who can afford it,the temple offers special pooja for Rs.2100 per group of 6-7 people which is what we took.The only downside is that it usually takes place late in the night(Ours was at around 3a.m.)but the darshan is pretty smooth.But that is only hearsay,because the ventillation in the temple is so pathetic that there isn't enough oxygen even with such a less number of people inside,and the incense sticks and the diyas just add to one's discomfort.Since I hate confined spaces and this kind of discomfort specially,I spent more than half the time outside the temple.

The next day in the morning after a sumptuous breakfast we started on the journey back to Guptkashi.One good thing about the whole journey is that you don't have a problem anywhere when it comes to food,because Maggi is one eatable that is available almost evrywhere.From Rambada to Kedarnath,you have it everywhere and people prefer it to anything else because even if unhealthy under normal circumstances,it atleast gives a reassurance that it's nothing that could prove dangerous.

Anyway,this was the journey to Kedarnath,and although the reminiscences are a little rusty,I think it pretty much sums it up.And if there's anything that I missed out on,I'll put it later.

Watch out for:-Further journey to Badrinath and back

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