My adventurous pilgrimage in Devbhoomi

sayshh

Member
This story is about my Chhota Char Dham Yatra undertaken in the year 2018. I know it has been more than 2 years since the trip, but as the saying goes - "better late than never". :D

So, the idea of doing another trek in Himalayas took shape after my trek to Sour Tal in 2017. While looking for such destinations, I realized there are many pilgrimages that are moderate to tough treks as well. So I started researching about:

  • Shrikhand Mahadev (5227m)
  • Kinnaur (Kinner) Kailash (4810m)
  • Adi (Chhota) Kailash (4572m)
  • Manimahesh (Chamba) Kailash (4080m)
  • Hemkund Sahib (4328m) and Valley of Flowers
  • Amarnath Yatra (3888m)
  • Panch Kedar Yatra (2200m - 3680m)
While looking at Panch Kedar Yatra, I saw that Kedarnath is also one among the 4 Dham of Uttarakhand. Now I was in a dilemma, and I started discussing this with my cousin with whom I usually travel, including Sour Tal trek. After many discussions the plan was slowly changing, and we agreed that this is a good chance to complete one of the important pilgrimages in India.

And that's how we arrived at a decision to undertake - Uttarakhand Char Dham Yatra!


A little bit about me before recounting my Yatra:

I grew up for a good part of my childhood in a town called Dewas, in Madhya Pradesh. Then we moved down South to Mysore in Karnataka for the rest of my education. When it was time to find employment, guess where I landed up? Of course, Bangalore! Since then I've settled down and spent the better part of 20 years here. Oops, I think I almost gave my age away there. ;)

Ok, but what I really wanted to convey, was that:

  • Any trip to North India requires extra planning, time, and money.
  • I have very less familiarity with the North Indian states, in this case - Uttarakhand.
I took the task of finalizing the trip details, itinerary, cost, etc. while frequently discussing the same with my cousin. In about a month, we were closing in on tour packages - in particular I was interested in GMVN (Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam) tour packages. Being a wing of Uttarakhand Tourism, good local knowledge and presence was assured. Finally we booked a tour package from Haridwar from 17-Sept-2018 to 27-Sept-2018, anticipating ideal weather throughout.

Some photos from the trip to start with...

Yamunotri Dham in the lap of mighty mountains
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Gangotri Dham in the open valley of Bhagirathi river
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Kedarnath Dham at the base of mountains on 3 sides
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Badrinath Dham on the banks of Alaknanda
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If you noticed something different about me in the Kedarnath photo, and also wondered what is the word "adventurous" doing in a pilgrimage. Then stay tuned...
 

sayshh

Member
I won't be covering much details of how we reached Haridwar (starting point of tour), suffice to say that we flew to Delhi, and reached Haridwar by a Volvo AC bus one day prior to the commencement of the tour package. What's worth mentioning is that we got the first glimpse of Ganga maiyya in dwindling light as the bus approached Haridwar at sunset.

The package tour included accommodation at Haridwar, and we had some time to explore Haridwar after checking into our room. As we were heading out, we got introduced to our tour guide. He briefed us about next day's plan. Then we took an e-rickshaw to reach Har ki Pauri, and what an exciting and hair-raising experience it turned out to be! Speeding through narrow lanes, markets, packed with pedestrians and cyclists. :eek: We heaved a sigh of relief upon the end of the ride. The relief was momentary.

As we neared the Ganga mata temple, a priest coaxed us to perform puja and earned a cool Rs. 100 per head in the process. This early experience created awareness to avoid such incidents further in the trip. I hadn't carried my camera and it was already dark, so just clicked couple of photos on the phone and spent some time at the ghat before walking back to the room. Hey we had our quota of excitement for the day already! :p


Temples on the ghat of Har ki Pauri
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The tour begins next day. Post on Yamunotri coming up next...
 

sayshh

Member
Yamunotri

18-Sept-2018: Haridwar to Janki Chatti


We had been asked to finish our breakfast and assemble for departure with our luggage by 8:00 AM. As we walked into the restaurant, we saw people who were probably our fellow yatris (travellers), but we didn't know for sure yet. It turned out to be true when all of us started gathering around the bus after breakfast. In all we were 15 yatris (against a seating capacity of 27), a guide, driver, and a helper. Seats were allocated after loading the luggage, and soon we rolled out of the motel with jai-jaikar (chanting praises) for all four deities - Yamuna maiyya, Ganga maiyya, Kedarnath bhagwan, and Badri Narayan.

Our guide and driver had decided to take the Rishikesh - Mussoorie route, apparently because of better roads. I have been Mussoorie before, and I was looking forward to relive some of the memories.


Approaching Kempty Falls
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By now we had traveled for almost 3 hours, and a break was due. So we stopped some distance after crossing Kempty falls.

View while having tea
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The bus kept making progress over meandering roads by the Yamuna river, and it was slowly becoming evident that we would not be able to reach Barkot for lunch as per schedule. Moreover, hunger pangs were increasing the urgency for a lunch break. Ultimately we stopped an hour short of Barkot for lunch.

View (of river Yamuna) from the restaurant where we stopped for lunch

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We crossed Barkot in some time, road conditions deteriorated after that. The already slow progress was further slowed down, and Sun started setting. We stopped for a tea break, but this time our driver was happier than us. :D Darkness started setting in, narrow roads with oncoming vehicles caused quite a few moments of anxiety. After what seemed like ages, we alighted at a parking lot half kilometer away from our stay in Janki Chatti. Though it was dark, we could hear the river rushing down the valley.

After the rooms got allotted, there was a briefing by our guide and he urged us to start as early as possible in the morning and return by afternoon as the weather can be unpredictable later in the day. So we decided to start by 7:00 AM, while many others chose to start as early as 6:00 AM!

19-Sept-2018: Janki Chatti to Yamunotri and back

We woke up excited that today we will visit the first dham of our tour. The 6 kilometer hike (one way) was supposed to take around 3 hours, and we were advised to take it easy and enjoy the scenery as we go. It made complete sense. The Sun was still behind mountains, air was fresh and cool, and it seemed like a perfect time to start. We decided to deal with breakfast on the way, in one of the shops that dot the route at regular intervals.

A little after we started walking

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There were very few people on the route, and it was a very pleasant walk. Though, waking up early and putting the body through physical activity has a side effect - hunger! So we stopped at the next shop we came across and had something to eat.

Breakfast with tea :-D

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Fueled up, we continued further. The gradient was steep and the gain in elevation could be felt. We could hear river Yamuna flowing through the deep gorge. In a short while we came across the temple of Bhairo Nath ji. We prayed briefly at the temple and proceeded. From here the gradient was gentle and easier. We were stopping frequently to catch our breath as well as immerse ourselves in the beautiful scenery.

In a short while we could see the temple in the distance. Seeing your destination does put a spring in your step and we marched forward with renewed vigour.

View of temple

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The temple was on the other side of the river and we had to cross a bridge, but before that we bought some items for offerings at the temple. At tapt kund (natural hot spring), we got our bag of rice boiled as prasad. Then we dipped our feet in the hot water pool where others were bathing. Finally paid our obeisance at the main deity. Then I headed to the river behind the temple, and decided to fill small bottles as a souvenir.

Can someone imagine how challenging it can be to fill 200 ml of water in plastic bottles here? I had a first hand experience. Not even half of the bottle was filled and I had to stop and rub my palms to prevent them from going numb! :shock: Anyway, bottles were sufficiently full and I decided to return. We stopped again to have a tea and some snacks sufficient to power us (hopefully) back to Janki Chatti.

There was noticeably more crowd now on the route, but it didn't bother us much as we were descending anyway. By now the valley was brightly lit by sunshine and had a beauty of its own.

View of mountain ranges

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View of the trek route - though concrete, but suspended in air :shock:
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The going was pretty smooth and enjoyable so far, but 1 km short of Janki Chatti I felt a little of pain in my left knee. It was bearable and I could manage to reach our stay with a little limp. I did not take it seriously as there was no warning or symptoms, and I had never experienced this before.

After lunch, we were lazing around and got a suggestion to go to Kharsali village on the opposite side. It is the winter abode (home) for Ma Yamuna. We could see the village and couple of temples. But as we walking towards it, it started raining, so we were forced to take shelter. After waiting for a while, considering the rain and my knee pain we decided to return.

Clouds clearing up after rain

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The night stay was at the same place, in Janki Chatti. Here we had a stay for two nights and possibly had the most leisurely time of the entire tour. Next day our tour will take us towards Gangotri.
 
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