Garhwal - the abode of the gods , when they give you a call one has to make the trip. no matter how absurd the timing or how difficult the arrangements.
It was so that I found myself standing in Rishikesh railway station one morning at about 4 in the morning having done an unearthly 16 hour hurricane journey from Singapore involving flights, transfer from airport to railway station, overnight train journey etc etc.
The journey started with a visit to the german bakery at the end of Ramjhoola in Rishikesh and an quick phone call to Ajjubhai. our brother from yester lives who lives and remembers us in the holy city of Rishikesh.
Off we go. our destination for the day is the mountain town Joshimath - the gateway to Badrinath and Hemkund Shahib and the exotic Valley of Flowers.
Driving through the Garhwal mountains is always a fantastic experience but driving through the Garhwal during the monsoons was something I had not seen before. the greenery was astounding and a delight to the eyes. every waterfall from miniscule rivulets to big streams were filled to their brim and roaring down the mountainside. It was an incredible blast on the senses.
At every turn we felt like stopping the vehicle and incessantly taking pictures. until our "sharathi ( driver )" the good Garhwali Raj Kumar told us that we did not have any chance or reaching our destination if we continued like this.
All along the journey we are accompanied by the Alakananda full and moving at an incredible pace tossing and turning like an beautiful mare in heat. its beauty was awesome and scary at times and the greenery on the mountains accentuated its muddy colour until we could stand it no longer. On and on we went past the well known names and the age defined prayags after each of which the river became more and more untamed, wild and beautiful.
The prayags (Panch Prayag - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
) Devprayag. Rudraprayag, Karnaprayag, Nandaprayag went by in a blur of the swirling waters. Karnaprayag. The colours of the rivers were all the same - swirling bouncing madly rushing grey but the sheer volume of water was something I had never seens before in similar trips.
The most amazing was Karnaprayag where the Pindar Ganga meets the Alakananda. standing on the bridge and watching the two rivers meet in a tussle for supremacy until the Alakananda fights its way out was an etheral expereince and that seems amazing because all around in Karnaprayag life goes on as usual. its residents oblivious to this supreme battle.
And then we come to Birohi Ganga the river of sadness and devastation. this river is Mahadev's tears after Parvati died. the tears became a river and flowed down to join the Alakananda. the place so serene and flawless that you want to stand there and meditate just looking at the river in a moment you look up and see the massive destruction the mud slide all around has caused and you shiver in a cold wreath as u can almost feel the melancholy that shrouds the place away we go leaving behind Birohi flowing as it always will and has taking the sorrows of the every lover in its womb.
Just before Joshimath we stop and have 'chai' at the bridge 10Km from our destination. the beauty of Garhwal at this time was almost devilish, misty mountain tops. lush green trees and the sound of water gushing down throws u off guard and u bow to the might of the himalayas.
Joshimath - gateway mountain town with its usual colection of shops and amazing vegetarian food and home to Narsimha temple which is the winter abode of Lord Badrinath the holiest of the Char Dham.
Early morning we leave Joshimath in a slight drizzle and a quiver in our hearts as this is the day we tart our trek to Hemkund Shahib from GoVindghat 14 Kms from here. We wait in queue for the gate to open ( this is a one way route to Badrinath ) ..all around wafts around us bhajans and songs of religeon instilling a sense of Hinduttva and the feel for the holy saffron.
Finally we reach Govindghat and after a brief haggle with our porter the eversmiling Topinder (???) we are on the way. doing what we came to do - walk the mountains. The gruelling first 3 Kms as we rose dramatically from ground zero gave way to a beautiful lush green and waterfall ridden route with the Bhyundar Ganga flowing magnificently with us the chants of "bolo so ni haal" kept us going until we reached the village of Bhyundar which is the starting point for the trek to Kakbhusandi Tal (20 kms)
We are greeted by torrential rains but we are safe inside a food tent and we paned the time having hot tea and maggie watching the people who kept on going inspite of the rain little knowing what was yet to come
The river point where the road meets the river is beautiful and a wonderful place for a tea break and then started the last 3 km for Ghangria our halt for the day. It was steep , muddy , horse laden( carrying pilgrims ) and rainy. We plodded on in the rain ( our ponchos which we bought in Govindghat ) proving invaluable. Suddenly we emerged from the tree line and we are in a valley of lush green we have reached our destination - Ghangaria.
The Hotel LokNandapal Palace really felt like a palace, I would recommend to anyone the rooms are good ( with automatic air purifier) but the food was totally to die for. Look for Rajesh. he is the best in service.
We start out trek to Hemkund Shahib the holy waters of Hemkund Lake high up in the mountains. The day was not a good one. it was raining and the slush on the road made walking unbearable with thousands of horses going up and down pushing you around until one gets fed up and finally hires a horse to go up. the steep steep 6 km walk was one of the toughest I had faced. But as we went higher and higher the backdrop was breathtaking. The misty mountains the drzzling rain and the predictable ungainliness of sitting on a horse was nerve racking at one moment and memerising at the other and then you see your first Bhrahma kamal . all the tiredness and the hardhsips of the journey are forgotten as you see this ethereal flower. The first impulse is to uproot it and make it yours but after a moment you realise that its beauty and haunting melody is in it being there for the gods to savour their gardens and for others behind you to come and see. you look around and you see a sea of flowers bharahma kamals , blue poppies and a myriad of unknown nameless flowers.
You enter the Gurdwara shivering from cold , rain and are instantly warmed by the hot tea and khichri being served free of cost to any and everyone coming. its an amazing sight. The road down begins with a steep climb down amid broken steps huge boulders and lush green bugyals and waterfalls. The brahmakamals keep u company but as u come down they mysteriously vanish. YOu are so concentrated on the road down that you dont even realise it and then you suddenly look up and they are not there at all. almost making you wonder - " did I dream them " yes you did dream dreamt alive, you have been to the abode of the Gods. "Bolo so ni Haal saat sri akal"
Back to Ghangria after aching backs , blisters and innumerable cups of tea. the next day we go to the valley of flowers.
The day dawned clear and sunny ( unbeleivable after yesterday ) the valley of flowers is the valley of the roaring Pushpawati river and you are greeted by the Nanda Devi Mountain range and the Tipra Glacier when you reach there. The sea of flowers around you and the mind numbing beauty of the mountains makes you understand why one comes to the Himalayas. The myriad colours of flowers the gushing river the sparkling azure of the sky the signature snow peaks, we are going back. back to where we came from , going back to come back again and again, energised for some time to take on the complications and mundaneness of life in the city.