Completing the circuits of Chotadham: trip to kedarnath

I was not aware of the beauty and importance of the chardhams in Uttarakhand till in May 2010 my younger sister posted in Uttarkhand, invited us over for a trip to Badrinath. The itinerary was all arranged as well as decided by her and we just went by her instructions and choice. My other sister from Delhi joined us with her daughter. Both our husbands preferred to be at home ‘baby sitting’ and were happy that we did not pester them for their company. I was so captivated by the beauty of the  mountains that I decided to come back again next year.

As it so happened I joined the Ganga group and started understanding every aspect of the river Ganga. To explore more about the mighty Ganga I decided to take a trip to Yamunotri and Gangotri in May 2011 with my office staff and our kids in tow. I have described this trip in great details in my blog dated…

I had already fallen in love with the mountains and the virgin beauty at such heights. This summer i.e. 2012 the more I wanted to reach out to the mountains, the more obstacles I encountered. Firstly to get the right company to make the trip worthwhile was an issue. Whomsoever I approached either pretended to be busy or preferred to go with their families if at all ever possible. That left me wondering whether I should take on this quest alone in the wilderness. Then came to know that the Parmath parivaar based at Rishikesh is going to Gaumukh and it seemed like my prayers have been answered. I was all excited and geared for the great trip with Pujya Swamiji but as fate would have it my train was indefinitely late and I had to return back to Kanpur from Lucknow after 7 hours waiting. I was frustrated and all I knew was that I have to there amidst nature this summer too and I could hear the mountains calling me.

Then one not so fine day, I was walking back home weary and tired lost in my thoughts, when I met Veena and I immediately reminded of her promise for hiking together along the river. She happily agreed on certain dates to hike with me to the place of my choice. I opted for Kedarnath as that was my only dham left. She lured me to add Tungnath onto the list and I was more than willing to go anywhere she suggested. My only concern was that whether it was ok for the two of us to be on our own. Later I realized she was an experienced hiker and has been to these places n number of times. So all the reason for me not to worry about any warned health issues.  Once I decided the dates there was a lot of opposition from my family and sister but I did not budge from my plan of action. I had been told that it’s a  steep climb which becomes oxygen deficient towards the top. But then Veena told me that oxygen cylinders are available all over and there is plenty to eat and drink on the wayside shops. Besides if needed we have the alternative to take ponies or hire a  doli.

We did not plan much about the Kedarnath trip as I with my family left for unplanned Gandhinagar trip and I was to join Veena in Haridwar on 25th July morning which I did. Though I was told that we have a bigger group now I was mighty surprised to see five teenagers. My first thought was the age and energy difference between us and how will I cope with their speed expectations if any. But then I was equally relieved to see a lady of my age and type who was the only one to give me company for tea in the journey to start. She and Veena were a big consolation to my confidence which I was loosing due to the the prewarnings of my well wishesrs in all good faith.

Veena had booked a  12 seater traveler which was more than comfortable and we started from Haridwar GMVN around 7am. Very soon I was one with the teenagers travelling in the back seats of the traveler. Our first stop for the night was at GMVN Gaurikund which we reached around 6pm in the evening after having halted leisurely both for breakfast and lunch on the way. The GMVN guest house was at a  certain height and climbing those steep stairs made me out of breath and I was gasping for more air. The dormitory was a very cozy room and I could observe my new found friends more closely from such a  distance. From the guest house I could see the mountains and it started becoming chilly outside. After dinner though we decided to get up early and take  dip in gaurikund, noone seemed to be in a hurry. Moreso the teenagers were all in a  holiday mode so we three ladies decided to let them sleep some more time and ourselves go and take a dip in gaurikund, the hot springs. The sight of the crowd and half naked people bathing in the small hot kund was certainly not a treat to my eyes and I did not see any system for circulating the water. Though the kunds for ladies and gents were separate we voted against it and came back to the guest house. By now the kids were ready too and after a hearty bath we all set afoot for the climb upwards to Kedarnath.

It was decided everyone can have their own pace and if lost can meet at the GMVN in Kedarnath, though we should try to be in sight of each other. We started at 8am and after many small breaks for water, nimbu paani, maggi etc we reached the midpoint Ramchatti around 12.30. We happened to meet at a common point and enjoyed rajma chawal, maggi, parathas, choley etc. Only one teenage member was missing and we assumed she has moved on towards the target. We again set afoot and by 4pm had covered only 9 out of 14 kms. The weather was giving us some warning signals and though we were tired no one wanted to giveup. Another half an hour and we were now getting bored of the climb and we unanimously took a decision to take ponies for the next 4 kms uphill so as to reach our destination atleast before dark or before the weather gets rough if at all. Luckily it just drizzled for a while and the weather was back to normal soon. By 6pm we were in the GMVN guest house where we found Geeta cozily tucked in one of the warm beds.

Once settled we decided to do darshan and then have dinner at the guest house. The darshan again was not a very pleasant experience as it was very crowded, chaotic  and unmanaged. The pandas trying to catch your attention for doing some special pujas was another special feature of this place. The morning darshan turned out to be worse with the panda negotiating and finally agreeing to get us darshan for Rs. 1100. For this price we could skip the very long cue and enter the mandir with the heavy push of similar crowd and could even manage a small puja under such claustrophobic conditions.

From Kedarnath I must say its breathtaking beauty around and the snow clad mountains around seemed to stand at attention guarding and welcoming us in the lap of nature. One could stand for hours gazing at the Mandakini river lushing out from the lap of the mountains which seemed to be protecting it from the outside world notwithstanding that much of the outside world was already unknowingly disturbing its flow and pristine beauty.

We finally bid adieu to the Kedarnath shrine and took off around 9am. The downhill trek seemed so much simpler and doable though was actually trickier than the uphill climb.