8th Oct - Rudraprayag to Ukhimath (GMap of the route posted in my very next post)
Long before this day arrived I had a lot of confusion and dilemma as to where to set up my base before taking a crack at Tunganath Mandir. The most obvious choice was Dugalbitta which was about 7 km before you reach Chopta from where the trek to Tunganath starts. But the only hotel (they call it a resort) was somehow not offering any vistas to the magnificent snow capped peaks in the vicinity. The other stay option in Dugalbitta was the PWD bungalow, but could not trace as to how to book it.
So the most likely alternative was Ukhimath which was 30 km before Chopta, but had the tried and tested GMVN lodge and that too cottages for only Rs 800/- and most importantly could be booked from Kolkata. However the 3 days we wanted to stay here were not available as space is limited, but we did manage to get them for our required days through some pulling of strings and thus getting it from there Head Office Quota. So Ukhimath was where we were headed for the day.
But first thing for the day was we needed to get the Xylo window repaired as my portion was half lowered and had got stalled that way. And could not afford to drive that way as we were reaching the higher reaches of the Himalayas and it was getting colder.
The distance from Rudraprayag to Ukhimath was a mere 44 km and we were determined to enjoy waking up to a sort of a relaxed morning rather than rush. First tried ti find out some garages but the couple we found within the town were "not equipped" to handle electrical work like power windows. But we were told that we would get another one on our way in Augustmuni.
So at 9.45 am we started from Rudraprayag with my window half open and hit the mountain roads. The entire stretch had been broken and devastated due to the previous years landslides and floods. Uttarakhand and Gahrwal in particular was in the process of rebiulding itself. But luckily for us the roads were complete and were as smooth as a runway. Could not help but step on the gas and in some straights the Xylo was even hitting the 90 k/hr mark.
We hit upon a roadside garage exiting a place called Tilwara where the mechanic immediately attended to it and replaced the fuse wire. But he asked us to be cautious as the wire was weak and chances of a further blow up was not ruled out. I also took some spare wires from him in case we needed it later on.
My son was getting restless even as we had a quick bite as the fuse wire was being replaced.
Rudraprayag was where the route to Kedarnath and Badrinath divide and part ways. We were along the Mandakini en route to Kedar the area maximum devastated by previous year's natural calamity. Stopped to refuel in Augustmuni area. Was simply charmed by the petrol station which was overlooking the Mandakini. The name of the station was "Kedar Badri Fuel station".
We reached a place called Kund at 11.45 am. From here we bid good bye to the Kedarnath route as we were now on the Ukhimath Chopta route. The original road to Kedarnath will carry on to Guptakashi, Fata, Sonprayag and on to Gaurikund and Kedarnath. From Kund it was another 40 km to Kedar. But we took the road on the right which was the left bank of the Mandakini even as the Kedar route followed via the right bank. Kund to Ukhimath was a mere 7 km and we reached it before realising we have reached. But beyond Kund the road started climbing higher and this was the climb which we would continue the next day right upto Chopta.
The GMVN Lodge as usual presented a very warm and cosy feeling.
There was a classroom going on in the main corridor of the main cottage which was housing the kitchen and the Office. It was also having 2 rooms and the dormitory.
The students were local boys and girls. The teacher was the manager of the GMVN Lodge. Name Kuldeep Rautan. He would be a govt. servant and was slightly surprised with his philanthropic duties and thought that it would be out of his zeal to teach which made him do so. But later he clarified that its a central govt. initiative and funded also whereby they as managers have to impart these classes which taught them about hotel management and guest relations. But Rautan was enjoying his job and said the most important thing for him was this kept him engaged.
We got the last cottage which housed 2 big rooms both with attached baths. And yes all for Rs 800 each room per night. We straight away went into our relaxation mode with tea even as my son with full energy started jumping around.
The sky was not overcast but the Kedar range which is visible from here was under a cloud cover. But just before sunset and around dusk the clouds lifted and the entire range came visible in front of us from our cottage.
The town of Guptakashi could be seen right across on the other side of a mountain.
And a lonely bus sped along making its way from Guptakashi down to Rudraprayag area.
Night was cold but we sat out in this same enclosure watching the lights of Guptakashi come on one by one. Dinner of chicken curry rice and was fantastic. The cook out here was really good.
The next day we would embark on our final mission to Tunganath, the Highest Shiv temple in the World.