Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Valley Of Flowers,Part II,Haridwar and beyond....

We had to catch the Mussorie express from the old Delhi railway stattion to reach Haridwar . The meeting point for the KMA was the comesum hotel at the railway station(as someone in the group wisecracked, "some come and some dont come "!!).
On reaching Haridwar in the morning,we were stranded there for a couple of hours as it was the concluding day of the Kaavad mela.Hordes of pilgrims had camped all over haridwar and the traffic was at a stand still.

Kaavad Mela in Haridwar

After a long wait, we proceeded towards Rishikesh to the nearest garhwal mandal vikas nigam. There are GVMNs all over the Uttaranchal. These were built mainly for the promotion of tourism. Some of them are maintained well while others are in a decrepit state.

After freshening up and eating a hearty breakfast we started our bus journey towards JoshiMath to reach another GMVN. The journey itself was very pleasant and we spent our time looking at the passing landscape ,getting acquainted with the KMA group. The group was in top spirits as we started gaining altitude leaving behind the sweltering heat of Haridwar.

The next day was when all the hard work started.Our destination was the small hamlet Ghangria which is a 13 kilometres trek from Govindghat,about 30 kms from Joshimat. The distance sounded easy enough but turned out to be a killer as we had discounted the terrain and the heavily laden rucksacks.
The initial part of the trek was exciting as it was an easy walk up the hill with breath taking views of the mountains around and the gushing torrents of Ganga in the gorge beside us. As the initial adrenaline rush wore off,and the landscape remained unchanged, we began to experience fatigue.The 8-kg ruck-sack made things worse. The final descent was almost impossible and i was ready to give up. Only the thought of some hot food and a warm bed kept me going :D .

There are small dhabas all along the way for weary pilgrims and trekkers to rest and restore their energy levels with steaming hot chai,paranthas or maggi. Everything here is twice as expensive as the only means of carrying these goods are using mules.

One of the many dhabas on our way....

Roaring Ganga keeping us company throughout the trek.

We later realised that this was the toughest part of the trek! Some places it was almost a 90 degree incline.Once we reached Ghangaria, we were told to look for Hotel Priya which would be the place where we would be camping for the next three days .I was sure glad when atlast i spotted Hotel Priya!

The next day was the trek to the holy shrine of the Sikhs, Hemkund Sahib.
We started the trek around 6 AM in the morning. The visibility was almost zero. All along the way we heard the pilgrims periodically bursting into "Jo Bole So Nihaal,Satsri akaal".Sounded more like a war cry to me! And then there were others who would chant Ik Onkaar non-stop. It was amazing how these people effortlessly managed the climb, chanting all the while , when most of were focusing our efforts on just walking along the mountain.
We reached the peak after a 3 hour trek and we were in for a disappointment, the Hemkund lake was fully covered in mist. Having seen beautiful pictures of this place on the web, this turned out to be a major dampener.

Trudging along........

We decided to visit the gurudwara first before heading to the langar. Blankets are provided inside the shrine for all pilgrims. After warming ourselves ,we headed to the langar to eat some steaming hot kicchdi and drink some sickly sweet tea. It was manna for us weary trekkers.

Having my hunger pangs satisified, i felt guilty of not doing any Seva(volunteer work) in the langar. So a bunch of us sat down to the task of washing the vessels. It seemed like some people volunteered to this task becuase they got to soak their hands in hot water when it was freezing outside ;)

Inside the Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara.......

Having waited for a while for the mist to clear, we set out downhill. This seemed relatively easy and halfway through the mist cleared. That is when we realised how narrow the path was and how steep the precipice was!

We climbed down quickly enough and were delighted to be treated to hot hot Jalebis and chai!

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