Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Day 4: Devaprayag--Srinagar--Rudraprayag--Karnaprayag

On the way to Badrinath
(click all pictures for better view)

Soon after crossing Rishikesh, starts the upward ascend to the mountains. Rishikesh nestles in the foothills of the Himalayas. I give Rishikesh a miss now as I intend to visit it on my way back from Badrinath.

Tip: If you are travelling for the first time beyond Rishikesh to Badrinath and want to view the scenery all thorugh the 8 hour journey, sit on the right hand side of the vehicle. This side will open you picturesque view of the Ganges and mountains.

10:10 am: Reach Vyasi, a little Hamlet

At Vyasi from a distance, I saw many small tents (click pic for better view) which served as resting points for many adventure sport agencies, who mostly deal with river rafting and trekking.

10:20: Reached Kaudilya

10:30 am I am so high above in the mountains. I do not know what height, but we have covered a lot of height. The interesting thiing is all through the route, the Ganges gives you company flowing mightily along. You wont be away from its view even for 5 minutes.

11:25 am Reached Devaprayag

Devaprayag is considered one of the most holiest places on earth, because the sacred Ganges is formed here. River Alakananda and river Bhagirathi meet here to form Ganges. Thats why this place holds a huge significance for millions of Indians. This is exactly where the two rivers: Bhagirathi and Alakananda meet. See the change in their color. Left one is Bhagirathi that originates from Gangotri and right side is the Alakanda that originates from Badrinath.

The bus stopped for snacks and I used the time for some pics.

12:55pm Reachged Srinagar.

Disclaimer: No this is not the Kashmir waala Srinagar, but nevertheless beautiful and a busy tourist place.

Srinagar looks like a very developed and busy town. Scanning the map, I learn that Srinagar is the hub to all important toruist attractions around. Its connected to Pauri , Rudraprayag, Tehri, and Deveparayag

I can see a lot of young crowd. And the girls here are so pretty.

The fellow traveller tells me that Srinagar boasts of having the Garhwal university.

1:45 pm: I am 12 kms from Rudraprayag and it starts drizzling. It looks awesome. Mausam yeh awesome bada...

2:15 pm: Got down at Rudraprayag.
This again looks a very busy place. I am starving. I see a non veg hotel offering fresh fish. I get attracted and hog.

I then try to get my next conveyance to Joshimath, where I have to stay overnight and then move for Badrinath early next day.

3:00 pm Its almost an hour now and I am still at Rudraprayag doing nothing but waiting for a commute to Joshimath. No one is willing to take me to Joshimath. I finally latch on to a Sumo that would take me till Karnaprayag. I have to catch something else once I reach there. In all probability it seems that I wont be able to make it Joshimath before dark.

Tip : If you want a direct commute till Joshimath from Rudraprayag, reach Rudraprayag before 2 pm. Thats what the locals said.

4 pm: Crossed Gaudhar. Another small town.

4:25 pm: Reached Karnaprayag. And I am dumbstruck with its beauty. In hindsight, I feel happy that I am taking these break journeys. Because I am able to spend some time to see each of these places.

Each of these places are jewels in themselves.

I am tempted to stay overnight at Karnaprayag. But I cant.

For the next half hour I run helter skelter and capture as many shots as I can.

This tunnel was amazing. The iron bridge that you see below lead to this tunnel, which in turn led you to this beautiful town. I ran across the tunnel to catch view from the other side.Can you see the bridge I am talking about? (click the pic for better view)

As the pic shows, Pindar river joins Alakananda here. Thus the place Karnaprayag.

4:45 pm: Got a mini bus to Chamoli. Its getting dark fast and I am still 85 kms from Joshimath.

6:30 pm: Reached Chamoli. The driver said I would get a commute from here to Joshimath which was still 50 kms away. But everyone I asked said its too late to get a vehicle. Few suggested not to go ahead as the stretch was dangerous and unsafe at night. Though I was tired and famished, I wanted to reach Joshimath anyhow tonite. I was hoping against hope to catch something, atleast hitchhike.
And then came a minibus. I frantically waved and the driver obliged. Climbed in. The bus reeked of womit. I felt bilious too. The stains at the window confirmed it. The bus was mostly carrying piligrims, elderly and middle aged alike. I darted out my deo and got myself a spray before my nostrils adapted to the stench.

The conducter said, it would take 2 hours to cover the next 50 kms to Joshimath. And I stand all through. My eyes were on the widshield. I could see nothing on either side of the road besides what its headlight bared. But I was aware that the left hand side of the muddy road was steep gorge and the might Alakananda flowing beneath.

7: 30 pm

We were welcomed with a queue of other vehicles ahead of us. The BRO police had blocked the road as the road ahead was blocked by a land slide. I got excited. Landslide was new for me. I smelt adventure. We couldnt move till morning, till the time the BRO cleared them off.
The place where we were blocked was Pipal Koti, again a small town with few hotels and shops. i checked into a cozy little double bed room for 100 bucks.

Had my dinner at a dhaba and went into a deep slumber cozily inside the room blanket.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Day 4: One the way to Badrinath: Rajaji National Park

8 am: The first bus that I got for Badrinath was ready to leave. I asked the conductor to get me a seat at the front adjacent to the driver but the bus was full. Though there were seats at the back, I wanted to take the front seat to view the route upfront.

I caught the following bus. But this was to go till Rudraprayag. From there I had to make some other arrangement. I hopped in and settled comfortable at the seat near the windshield. Meanwhile, i saw some hawkers selling warm gloves and caps to the bus passengers. I asked them if I will need the gloves and cap. They said the weather at Badrinath would be freezing. I picked up a pair of gloves and a monkey cap and a raincoat. The raincoat cost me Rs 10. :)

8:10 am: We cross Rajaji National Park.
We are driving amidst thick jungle and winding roads. It has started drizzling. I do not want that.
8:35 am: We are still in the national park. The bus is trundling ahead crossing various ravines, rivulets and streams.

It am ecstatic to find myself in the wilderness. My first time in a national park. I wish I could stay here for sometime in the guest house and see the wild animals in jeep safaris. But I will save that for next time.

I see numerous boards saying :

"Elephants crossing, go slow"

Peering hard into the woods, I hoped to catch a glimpse of the elephants through the window of my bus. The lady behind me is dozing. Preposterous! I mean how can one do that? I mean I know everyone is going to Badrinath. But how can you miss the charm of the journey.

And then magic happens. My concentration paid off. I spot a herd of elephant at a stone's throw distance.

8:45 am: We cross Rishikesh

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Day 4:Some more impressions of Haridwar

Dharamshalas(rest houses for piligrims) and Ashrams (hermitages and places of meditation) are synonymous with Haridwar. They have been established by various swamis and yogis and religious institutions over the years. I wanted to stay at a dharamshal in Haridwar but couldnt get a decent one there. I stayed at one in Rishikesh though.

Milk made sweets and delicacies of Haridwar are famous like, rasmalai, rabri and halwa. All hotels and restaurants at Haridwar serve vegetarian food. Alcohol is prohibited.

These mirror artifacts shops dot the busy streets of Haridwar.

You would find many such beads and malas in many shops in the streets of haridwar.

"Gangaji main tel sabun lagakar nahana kapde dhona sakhth mana hai. Aisa karne se paap lagega."
This is what the wall message reads. I smiled when I read it. It means, "Taking a bath at the Ganges with oil and soap is not allowed. If you do so, you would be cursed by the Gods". Nice ploy by the authorities to coerce the sentimental devotees to keep the Ganges clean.

The busy Haridwar

Lord Shiva manning Haridwar

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Day 3: Har Ki Pauri- Haridwar

Its 5:30 pm. I am sitting besides the Ganges at Har Ki Pauri. I secured a vantage point from where I would be able to witness the Aarti clearly. Aarti at Har Ki Pauri, of which I had heard so much about. My stopover at Haridwar was only to see the Aarti. All the reading and research that I did about Haridwar drove in one point: Do not miss the aarti at Har Ki Pauri.
And so I am here today in flesh and blood to witness the same. I can sense the ascent in the speed of the flowing river. I am careful to keep my shoes away from the waters, since it is considered disrespectful. I am waiting to get dark. People around me are gradually perching themselves over plastic sheets waiting for the Aarti to begin.

Yutaka, from Kyoto, Japan

I have a bunch of foreigners besides me who are getting restless waiting. I tell them, "Another 1 hour". They sigh. Meanwhile we click pictures and share information about each other. They are in India for an internship program in an NGO.

I look back and am stunned to see every inch of the ghats occupied by milling crowd. I felt elated to be occupying the front row.

And then the Aarti began with the rendition of "Om Jaye Gange Maate". I get goosebumps instantly when the whole gathering joins the aarti aloud. The whole of Har Ki Pauri reverberates with the chants. The experience is soul stirring.

Even the most hardened soul would begin to get the pious and sacred vibes within himself. I felt the same. The dark banks were now illumined with hundreds of diyas which were being offered to the Ganges.

I spent a quiet moment absorbing the experience. After the Aarti was over, I bade farewell to my foreign friends and strolled back towards my room.

DURING THE DAY at Har Ki Pauri:

Earlier at noon I had taken a quick dip in the Ganges before visiting the temple.
I had slowly and consciously touched the waters, realising the sanctity and relevance of the place. It was cold.
I was also scared to get into it. For some reason, the flow of the Ganges is too strong and mighty at the ghats in Har ki Pauri. I held on to the iron fetters and stepped into it gingerly. The waters stung me like bolt. I took a deep breath and took a full dip inside. It was invigorating. I braved the dip twice more and came out. Its widely believed that a dip here at the Ganges would wash away all your past sins. I felt cleansed. I felt really ;)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Day 3: The wierd looking tempos on Meerut Road

Soon after you hit the Meerut Road from Delhi, you will witness them dotting the roads and sideways rather imposingly. It looks terribly ugly, with its hood cover open laying bare its inner contraptions. When in motion, you can actually feel its interiors snorting, whishing, puffing and swooshing in comical orchestration.

I am not sure they were manufactured that way, or the hood has been removed. But they werent just one or two, but many many of them.

You wouldnt find them again after touching Roorkee. These species only inhabit this part of the world and may be are on the verge of extinction.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Day 3: Delhi to Haridwar on Bus

(Delhi Nizamuddin station)

4:40 am: Reachd Delhi Nizamuddin station. Got down the train rather groggily as I had slept like a log the night before. The kind TC had bestowed opon me a berth inspite of me not having a reservation. Though a bribe of 100 Rs did the trick, still I am very much thankful to him.
Getting a bath at the station waiting room got me fresh as a daisy for the day ahead. Meanwhile my gaze fell on the newspaper headlines:

"40 dead in Islamabad blasts"

Not a good note to start the trip to Haridwar. I shook myself out of it and caught an autorickshaw to ISBT bus stop, from where I would get my bus to Haridwar.

(ISBT Bus Depot)

6:30 am: Purchased a bus ticket to Haridwar for the Uttarakhand Pariwahan bus. It cost me 116 Rs. There was a tinge of chill in the air and with it the familiarity of the city. I have always loved Delhi. I have stayed here for two years. Got my first job here. Memories came gushing. A quick munch on 'chole bhature' and then I sat plumly in the front seat adjacent to the driver, snugging my leather jacket a little tighter and enjoying the early morning ride.


7:10 am: I crossed Meerut and am dissapointed that it is raining. I ask the driver and he said its been raining since a week. The newspaper carried a piece mentioning about 20 people being killed in land slides due to incessant rains in Himachal. Though I am not heading to Himachal, still not a good sign again. Lets see if I can salvage something good out of it.

( Kathauli)

9:05 am: I am at Kathauli. A busy town and its still raining. 20 minutes stop at Cheetal Hotel. Sipped tea and clicked photos.

10:00 am: Sky has cleared. Mist around. Feels good. Mood is ebulient. Can see sugar cane fields on either side of the road. Children on their way to school. As I write, the Sun is out beating down hard.

10:20 The milestone reads, Badrinath 399 kms

11:20 am: Enter Uttarakhand border.

11:50 am: Reach Roorkee
Roorkee to me is synonymous to IIT. Have heard about this place since ages. On face value it looked a very neat and planned town. Could be because of the army cantonments.

( Haridwar)

12: 15 am: Wow I am at Haridwar.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Day One: Secunderabad to Delhi

What a start to the much hyped trip of mine! At 8:30 pm at Secunderabad station, when I asked at the enquiry, on which platform Sampark Kranti would arrive, I invited a godamn-you-good-for-nothin look. I sensed danger. The guy smirked and said, "Sampark Kranti left at 5:30 pm already". I was flummoxed. It cant be. I had seen the ticket timings atleast a dozen times and registered in my mind. In a frustrating bid to prove him wrong, I pulled out the neatly folded sleeper class ticket and thrusted onto him. He gave me an even meaner look. "Dikhte to padhe likhe ho"(seem like an educated one), he retorted. I scanned the ticket again and realised my folly. I hadn't looked a bigger fool than now ever before. I had mistook the time of purchase on the ticket for the train timing. I beat a hasty retreat from the place, gathered my wits and pondered my next course of action.
I cancelled my ticket and picked the next following train, Dakshin Express at 11 pm without reservation.
My adventure had begun. But this was uncalled for.