We three crazy friends decided to do Gangotri-Gaumukh-Tapovan and Yamnotri in the first week of November, even when everybody whom we asked for guidance or help advised us against it. But tell you what! We found out that this time was the best time to go. No Char dham Yatra Crowds, mild to cold nights with sweet mornings, no traffic on roads and most hotels/accommodations at one third the season price!
Uttarakhand-which literally means ‘part of land In the North’ is primarily divided into two major regions ‘Kumaon’ and ‘Garhwal’. While Kumaon covers south-east part of the state consisting mostly Dhauladhars, Garhwal covers the big cities like Haridwar, Rishikesh on one end and high altitude holy towns of Badrinath and Kedarnath on the other.
Uttarakhand is known for its religious importance in Hinduism, consisting of four major ‘Dhams’ better known as ‘Char Dham’, a trip to which is considered as equivalent to attaining Moksha. These four are named Badrinath, Kedarnath ,Gangotri and Yamnotri. These places are flooded with tourists in peak season, which commences in late april and lasts till first week of November/Diwali. And the flash floods of 2013 have little impact on tourists and the life moves on in those sacred lands.
We started off by hiring a Maruti baleno(old sedan model) from a friend, which he would normally run in rallies. And indeed! This car stood up to its expectations and proved to be the most exciting part of our journey.
The journey to Gangotri is a long one, which can be done via two routes. The first one passes through busy cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh while the second one takes you to Dehradun and Mussorie.Upon completion, we realized that the second choice is the better one.
An overnight halt at Uttarkashi is required if you reach there by 3 pm in the afternoon or later. Road till Uttarkashi doesn’t offer much to travelers, but once you cross that densely populated town, flora and fauna start to attract your attention.
Harshil, a town on the way:
Uttarkashi to Gangotri is approx. 100 kms, with two notable towns of Harsil, which is famous for its apples, and Gangnani, which offers the luxury of Sulfurized hot water throughout the year.
Harsil has a lot to offer.Alpine trees, fresh apples and cool climate with snowfall in winters. Famous meadows of Dayara Burgyal are close by.
During our journey, we found a lot of devotees carrying Holy water of The Ganga in Claypots feeding only on fruits and vegetables. One such devotee was carrying water from Gaumukha and his next stop was Rameshwaram in Tamilnadu and he intended to complete his entire journey on foot.
After a sweet journey of three hours, we reached Gangotri.We attended the night Arti at the temple. Slept tight through the night.
We started our trek to Tapovan the next morning. Our target for the day was Bhojwasa, which required a distance of 14 kms to be covered from Gangotri, and offered a major change in the surroundings. From lush green alpine trees to wild shrubs to barren land, the landscape changed in minutes.
A tough and sleepless night followed, occasionally giving us shivers and chills from cold air seeping in through thin walls of our tents. But the Halwa and Noodles the next day provided good number of calories. We planned to touch Tapovan and come back to Bhojwasa the same day, and we loaded ourselves with sweets like dates and toffees.
Reaching Gaumukh is simple, and requires no assistance. However, reaching Tapovan requires Gaumukha to be crossed followed by a steep climb of about 700 mts. And melting ice of the glacier can pose unknown risks. Our guide cum porter told us about an accident that happened with four Bengali guys who dared to cross the Glacier on their own. Luckily, they were spotted by a group of Indian Army people on time when they were totally exhausted and had nothing to eat.
Tapovan offers a spectacular view of meadows and acts as a basecamp to Mount Shivling.Its inhabited by A Devotee better known as Mauni Baba who stays silent for years and a Bengali Lady.This Baba Goes to Gangotri once in 3-4 months to get essentials and comes back to meditate once Gangotri gets its first snowfall of the season.
After getting back to Bhojwasa the same day in the evening, we decided to spend that night in GMVn guest house in a cozy wooden room. And we were headed off to Uttarkashi the next day itself. We managed to reach Uttarkashi till 6 in the evening and spent another night at Birla Dharamshala before heading off to Yamnotri.
Yamnotri doesn’t offer much because it has paved track till Yamnotri mandir where a hot spring awaits you. Like gangotri, Yamnotri route is also populated by BABAs who stay there round the year and move to high lands in tourist season in search for serenity.
This marked the end of another high altitude trek until I return to Uttarakhand once again to experience the calm and serene lands to witness nature in its pure form and carry such experiences with me for my friends to know. Till then, Good Bye and Good Luck!
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