It was happiness personified for me when I learnt that 3 of my friends had agreed to accompany me on my trip to Hemkund Sahib, Badrinath Temple and Valley Of Flowers . Over the last couple of years I had made numerous attempts to plan this trip but without success. I was thrilled to know that things were following in place and I would be able to realize my dream. I had heard a lot about Hemkund Sahib, Valley Of Flowers and Badrinath Temple from my mum and my maternal uncle and aunt. They had all visited the region in the early 1970 and it was my dream to follow in their foot steps. As a wise man said “Better late than never” quite true.
The characters in this road trip were yours truly Rana Sidhu, a very dear friend of mine Rajat Sarin, the fittest of us all Ravi and another good friend of mine Amit. The first step that we took was to sit together and chalk out our itinerary and plan the trip to the minutest of details. I and Rajat went on a shopping trip to look for suitable trekking shoes and other equipment which we might require for our journey. After collecting all the necessary paraphernalia I made sure that my car was in prime condition for the hard journey it had to face in the coming days. After days of planning it was time to implement our plan.
We started our trip early in the morning at 3 AM on 30 th June 2006. Our plan was to cover approximately 513Kms from Delhi to Govind Ghat from where the trek for Hemkund Sahib begins. With a prayer on my lips I started my Ford Ikon and viola the expedition had started. We had opted for early start so as to avoid traffic and the crowds at some of the small towns on our way to Haridwar. If you are planning to complete the road journey from Delhi to Govind Ghat in 1 day, it is important to start early because the last part of the journey from Joshimath till Govind Ghat( 23Kms) is a one way road. You will not be allowed to continue after 17:30 hrs. After this the gate closes and you have to stay at Joshimath.
Some of the major towns between Delhi and Rishikesh from where the hills begin are Gaziabad, Merrut, Muzffanagar, Rorreke and Haridwar.You have the option of taking a bypass for Merrut and Muzffinagar which would help in avoiding the city crowd.
The drive from Rishikesh to Govind Ghat is to say the least is very interesting. Hmm.you might be wondering about my choice of word to explain it, but believe me you would encounter slush, landslides, rock falls, and broken tarmac along the route. It is a very adventures and scenic drive with the gushing Alakananda by your side through out. We opted for a late breakfast at Devprayag at a GMVN guest house. After a hot cup of tea and a wholesome breakfast we proceeded onwards. We reached Govind Ghat by 07:30 PM, parked my car at a multiday parking lot and got a room for our night halt. All of us were in bed by 09:30 PM keeping in mind the early start we had planned for the next day.
Some of the major towns between Rishikesh and Govind Ghat were Shivpuri( famous for its exciting rafting on the Ganges), Devprayag, Srinagar ( not the Kashmir one), Rudurprayag, Karanprayag, Chomali, Joshimath.
Day 2 of our expedition saw everybody up and about by 06:00 AM in the morning. The plan of the day was to trek for 13 Kms from Govind Ghat till Govind Dham. It is a very tough trek over broken rocks and a continuous steep uphill winding track. You also have a option of hiring mountain horses for the journey. All of us were determined to complete the trek on foot and the option of hiring horses was never discussed. We started our trek at 07:40 AM from Govind Ghat. We had roughly covered 2 Kms when we encountered our first crisis of the trip. Rajat had developed a painful condition in his stomach and chest. It was decided to rest for a while and move in a group once Rajat had stabilized. After some deliberation, Rajat decided to continue the trek on a mountain horse. With Rajat safely ensconced on a horse we continued with the trek. We had opted to carry on a steady pace so as not to exhaust ourselves. After 3 hrs of steady climb we halted for a light breakfast to satiate our growling stomachs. The scenic beauty is to be seen to be believed, with a roaring stream on one side and sheer mountain wall on the other. The next break was taken at the 9 Km mark to rest our shrieking muscles. In some places we have to walk through slush and mud due to the regular rainfall that this region gets. You have to be a little careful of wet rocks as you can easily slip on them. It took us city boys 6 Hrs to complete the 13 Km trek to finally reach Govind Dham. With liberal pat on the back, words of encouragement we congratulated each other on completing the days trek. Let me tell you, it was by no way easy. Out of a scale of 5 with 5 being the most difficult I would rate it as 4. The last chore of the day was to look for a decent rest house. We opted for GMVN and settled down for some much deserved rest. After a sumptuous dinner it was decided to avail the services of a Masseur to take out the kinks in our tired muscles. Then it was snooze time for us tired folks.
The plan for day 3 was to trek for 12 Km. We had to trek 6 Km from Govind Dham till Hemkund Sahid which is a extremely steep climb. After spending some time at Hemkund Sahib we had to again cover 6 Km which was all down hill till Govind Dham. Our aim was for a early morning start at 05:30 AM which would leave us ample amount of time to complete the days journey. The best part was that Rajat was feeling much better and after some gentle prodding he also agreed to give it a shot to complete the trek on foot. Our plan was to take it easy as we had plenty of time. This part of the trek was extremely difficult because of the high altitude and exceptionally sheer climb. We covered the trek in 4 hrs and were in Hemkund Sahib by 09:45 AM. The scenic beauty was astounding. Snow covered mountains standing shrouded in misty clouds. I felt a amazing sense of satisfaction on reaching Hemkund Sahib. Years of thinking about it and finally I had realized my dream. Hemkund Sahib is nestled next to a sarovar , surrounded by sky high mountains. My first view of Hemkund Sahib next to the sarovar and mountains all around took my breath away. It will remain etched in my memory till eternity. This is a significant pilgrimage for people from all faiths. Right next to the Gurudwara is the Lakshman temple built on the bank of the holy sarovar(lake). Hemkund Sahib is the highest Sikh Shrine at a altitude of 4329 Mts. The first thing that we did after reaching Hemkund Sahib was to take a dip in the holy sarovar. The water was freezing cold and it is not advisable to stay in it for a extended period. All of us very completely refreshed and moved inside the premises of the Gurudwara to listen to the sermons. It was quite a spiritual experience which was fascinating and enthralling to the core. The return trek was a little easier on us as it was all down hill. A word of caution, you have to be a bit more cautious while on a steep downhill trek. It is easy to make a mistake and hurt yourself and ruin your trek. Even a small injury to your lower part of your body could impair your trekking ability. By 6 PM we were back in Govind Dham to rest our tired bodies. Night halt was again at the GMVN guest house.
Our plan for day 4 was to visit Valley Of Flowers and trek back to Govind Ghat. The schedule for day 4 was very tight. The Valley Of Flowers trek is 13 Km one way. The total distance back and forth was 26 Km. Then we had to trek for another 13 Km to reach Govind Ghat. We had planned a early morning start at about 05:00 AM, but after inquiring from the local people we got to know that it opens at 07:30 AM. Rajat and Ravi opted out for the Valley Of Flowers trek. Rajat thought that it might be a little tough after the previous days trek and did not want to take a chance to aggravate his condition. Ravi was all mush and wanted to do the Valley Of Flowers trek with his Fiancée. Only me and Amit were left and we decide not to miss the oppournity to visit the famed Valley Of Flowers . We reached the entry gate at exactly 07:30 and bought our entry tickets. Each ticket is for Rs 40. At the entry gate the warden informed us that due to heavy rainfall the track was in a very bad condition. Some of the bridges were also washed away. After some deliberation we decided to push on and try our luck. From the entry gate till the start of The Valley Of Flowers it is a trek of 3 Km. Much of this track was washed away due to the torrential rainfall the previous night and we had to wade through gushing streams and precarious landslides. I must say that some of these were very adventuress and exciting. The 3 Km trek from the entry gate till the start of the valley is quite steep and runs along the Pushpawati River . The thought that entered my mind after seeing the valley for the first time was that it is gods own garden. I would not be able to do justice to the beauty of the place, words are not enough. Rolling Meadows filled with flowers of different varieties till the eye can see. The valley is surrounded on all sides by towering peaks shrouded in mist and clouds. You can see number of waterfalls all along the valley which all merge into the Pushpawati River . The total length of the valley is 10 Km and nobody is allowed to camp inside the Valley Of Flowers . We could only cover 5 Km inside the valley as we were running short of time. After a quick lunch of Sandwiches and chocolates for desert, we decided to head back. Rajat and Ravi were waiting for us at Govind Dham for the onward trek to Govind Ghat. Amit was a little pooped out after our Valley Of Flowers trek and Rajat and he decide to avail the services of mountain horses. Ravi and I decided to complete the return journey by foot. The return journey was a little easier as most of it was downhill. Our night halt of the day was at Govind Ghat. By the time I reached Govind Ghat I was completely exhausted after trekking for 29 Km for the day. It was again a early night for the group keeping in mind the schedule for the next day.
Our plan was to visit Badrinath Shrine and drive back to Delhi on the same day. We had planned to start our journey by 07:30 AM as the barrier for Badrinath would only open by 07:40 AM. A word of caution, it is a one way road till Badrinath and the timings are regulated by the local police. If you are late then you would have to wait for at least 2 hrs before the gate is opened again. It is very important to check the timings so that you can plan accordingly. It is a 23 Km drive from Govind Ghat till Badrinath Temple . I was quite excited about our visit to the abode of Lord Vishnu. Badrinath Temple is located in the twin mountain ranges of Nar and Narayan and is considered to be the holiest of all shrines located in the Garhwal hills. The drive is very picturesque with the roaring Alaknanda on one side and stunning mountains on the other side. We had a number of stops in route for some photo opportunities to capture the dazzling images for eternity. Our plan was to cross Badrinath and go on till Mana village which is about 4 Km further. Mana is the last India village on this route and the road ends at this juncture. You can visit the Vyas Gufa and the Bhim Pul which is a natural bridge above the Saraswati River . After visit Mana Village it was time to head back to Badrinath Shrine. You can park your car and walk to the Badrinath Temple which is just 200 Mtrs from the road. Before visiting the shrine you can opt for a holy dip in Tapt Kund which is amazing feat of Mother Nature. It is a natural thermal spring on the bank of Alaknanda River and is supposed to have therapeutic powers. The water of the Kund is fairly hot and I could only dip my feet in it. Ravi and Amit opted for a dip in the holy Kund. After this we visited Badrinath Shrine to pay obeisance to Lord Vishnu. It is a beautifully made shrine and the complex has 15 major idols. After this it was time to start our return journey to Delhi . Our original plan was to stay overnight at Badrinath but due to some urgent work requirements Ravi had to rush back to Delhi . My motto is "the group who treks together stays together", so it was decided that all of us would go back. The return gate for Joshimath opened at 11:40 AM and we started our journey as soon as the gate opened. It was a drive of 520 Km till Delhi . I and Ravi decided to share the drive so as to cover the maximum distance possible with safety as foremost concern. The drive back was uneventful with all of us chatting away to glory. It was a fascinating road journey which all of us enjoyed to the fullest. With promises to plan a road trip every quarter, we bid adieu to each other on reaching Delhi .
The best part off a road journey is that you get to see the amalgamation of different cultures and how it fuses to show a riot of colors and festivals. You also get a feel of the people and the places that you cross during your road journey. I would like to sign off with the hope of many more such journeys to come which I would love to share with my fellow travelers.
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