Saturday, May 11, 2019

Uttarakhand - I - The making of the journey

Kedarnath trek
The mobile phone, which was idle for the most part of our journey, rang suddenly. The call was from a friend who had gone ahead. The friend who was along with me picked up the phone and put it on speaker.

We answered in somewhat of an excited manner, "Hey man!!!, Where have you reached ???".

Our friend on the other end spoke in a sombre tone, "There is a piece of good news and bad news".

I answered, "Hmmm...OK, What is it ???".

Our friend on the phone said, "The good news is, I have reached the base camp !!!".

"Wow!!!! Cool man!!!", we exclaimed.

Our friend not being affected by the euphoria from our end, responded calmly, "The bad news is, our cottages are 6 more km from here".

My companion friend and I looked at each other with disbelief, "How could that be ??", we enquired.

Our equally despondent friend said, " I have enquired with someone at the base camp, and they advised, our prebooked cottages were far and it would be better to stay put in one of the tents at the base camp".

We were perplexed, what to do, the sun had almost set for the day, we ourselves were quite behind, and to make matters worse, it started to drizzle & the call got disconnected as the network died.   

Such were the scenes from our trip to Kedarnath early this year. It had been 8 long years since our trip to the North. Over these years, whenever we met, the discussion always came up, whether we shall ever be able to replicate our North trip of 2011. We have had some family trips, but, never the Himalayan journey - a trekking expedition, which always seemed elusive. There were many such conversations of returning back to the Himalayas. One who has been there will admit a certain unexplained feeling that makes you want to go, experience the Himalayas again. We always wanted to do the Amarnath Yatra again, this time from the Pahalgam route, since, some of our friends had missed the magical and out of the world experience of the Pahalgam route. But, looking at the state of affairs in Kashmir in recent years, we dropped the idea. It turned out to be the right decision, because, Amarnath Yatra was called off this year mid-way.

There were clearly two distinct trains of thoughts among the group - Adventure & Spiritual, which made the core basis for the choice of the destination. Our most adventurous friend often said, "Let's go somewhere, where there is trekking involved". He had his priorities clear. Whereas, there was another line of thought, the destination needed to be a spiritual one, which anybody could do it. Which I agree to an extent, I often wondered, a journey without a spiritual exaltation, how exciting could that be, reach some mountain top and return back. May be its fun, but, I feel something is amiss. After going through a lot of difficulties, crossing one's own boundaries, physical and mental, to reach the lap of God is an experience, no other journey can ever match. Perhaps, its an experience from our own journey to Amarnath caves, that I relate to.

Early February this year, in one such conversation, Kedarnath - Badrinath came up. We felt this could be a trip where the contrasting ideas could converge. Kedarnath has a good 16 km trek, with a lot of options including horses, helicopter, pitthu, palki options available. And Badrinath can be reached by car. This could be the right destination. We quickly bounced the idea around. And luckily, it fell through with everyone. Quickly an itinerary was formed. We also included the Chopta trip with the famous Tungnath temple trek added to it, with the disclaimer, whoever has the fuel to make it after Kedarnath could go ahead. Those, who wished to take rest could enjoy the hotel stay. We included Rishikesh in the itinerary, as a place to relax after the intense & physically demanding days preceding to it. There was an option to do some river rafting as well. Here is the itinerary that finally took shape. One may think the itinerary is quite tight, considering there is no room for any unexpected delays, especially travelling in the mountains.
Itinerary map
  • 11th May Reach Delhi
  • 11th May Delhi to Haridwar overnight train
  • 12th May Reach Haridwar, sightseeing, leave for Sonprayag
  • 13th May Kedarnath yatra, Overnight stay at Kedarnath
  • 14th May Return from Kedarnath, proceed to Chopta, Overnight stay at Chopta
  • 15th May Trek to Tungnath temple, Return back, proceed to Badrinath
  • 16th May Badrinath Darshan. Proceed towards Rishikesh, Overnight stay at any mid-point (Karnaprayag/ Srinagar)
  • 17th May Reach Rishikesh, overnight stay at Rishikesh
  • 18th May Relax at Rishikesh, sightseeing, Ganga aarti, overnight stay
  • 19th May Travel to Dehradun. Dehradun to Delhi by train. Night flight to Home
We booked airline tickets and train tickets. Our stay at some of the places was also booked. Our rooms were booked at GMVN Rampur ( Ph No. - 9868006646). This is close to Sonprayag. We booked the Kedardome cottages - near Helipad (Ph.No. - 9412045813) at Kedarnath. It was said, it is quite close to the temple. In Chopta, we had booked our rooms at a hotel called Mayadeep Chopta, which offered a spa, herbal massage. After, the strenuous trek of Kedarnath, we felt, this could be a good place to halt. Rest of the places, we decided to book based on the fly, based on where we were at that point. We also registered ourselves for the yatra on the GMVN website.  For our travel itself, we reached out to GMVN tourism, however, their package didn't work for us. It was with stay and travel all-inclusive. However, we opted with a travel agent based out of Haridwar, Yatracare Tour and Travel (+91 9897 63 6681, +91 9045 33 7002, + 1334 22 0999). The office was just opposite to the Haridwar Railway Station and run by a person named as Gurvinder. And the estimates stated by him were found to be reasonable. But, this was only for the vehicle and travel. And any sightseeing was separate costs.

And with that, after eight long years, our journey to the Himalayas was set in motion. Each one of us, started some physical preparation, a little bit of running, walking, yoga etc. We used to egg each other on to keep up the good work. The motivation for the journey was enough to leave all the laziness behind and try to be in good shape for the event. As the event came closer, some of us, who had booked on Jet Airways found ourselves in a quandary. The airlines went bankrupt and got shut down. We had to rebook our tickets on another airline. We made all the purchases for the journey, right from warm socks to trekking shoes, rainwear, even a head torch. The night before is always the longest one, last-minute packing, deciding what to keep, what to leave out is never easy. There was excitement, at the same time some anxiety. A lot of things have changed in these 8 years, are we ready for the task? But, we all knew within, we were better prepared this time, as we knew, one key thing about these journeys, "Always expect the unexpected".  

2 comments:

  1. This deserves part two, with detailed events that unfolded during the journey

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes their should be second part and also how about contributing articles from co travelers

    ReplyDelete