Badrinath & Kedarnath

Religious or Adventurous?

This is the eternal dilemma faced by majority of Indians, when they start planning for this trip.

I don’t know about the millennial’s but the generation before Y2K has grown up listening ‘marne se pehle Badri-Kedar dham ki yatra pe jana hai’. To them I say “It is best of both”. And to make it more fulfilling one should see it as a Spiritual Journey. After all, anything that gives you ‘Peace of mind’ and makes you ‘One with Nature’, should qualify as a worthy trip.

I have been doing Badrinath circuit since 1999. Infact, Badrinath with Valley of flower and Hemkund Saheb is to my mind the ultimate combo one can plan.

This time round we wanted to go on a family trip. Our plan started with 2 families (in my XUV), but we ended up with 5 families and 13 members. So we decided to hire a 14 seater Tempo traveller.

Himalayas of Garhwal have a different charm. Their sheer size oomph’s off their might. Earlier the roads were mostly single and there were stretches where only one way movement of vehicles was allowed. Now more then 50% is like a 4 lane highway and the NH broadening work is in full swing.

7th to 13th Oct’19, in 7 days we covered 1300+ kms.

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Day 1 : Delhi to Gauchar

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The pickup of families from Delhi started early morning @4am. Starting from West Delhi, South Delhi, Noida and finally from Greater Noida. We finally left GN at 6.30am.

Took the Kotdwar road to avoid Haridwar/Rishikesh traffic. We had purposefully kept more miles for the first day, so that we are not stressed for time during the trip.

Including the Delhi pickups, we must have done 450+km on day-1 and reached our destination Gauchar by 8pm. Thoda jyada hi ho gaya tha. We had booked our stay on-line at GMVN’s tourist rest house. The rooms were OK but the service wrt food etc was pathetic.

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Day 2 : Gauchar to Badrinath

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Next day, started from Gauchar @ 7am to reach Joshimath (92km) by 10am. Had our breakfast there.

The drive from Joshimath to Badrinath is 46km taking 2 hours and is very pleasant. You first come down to cross Dhauliganga river, then make gradual ascent to Badrinath. Crossed Gurudwara Sri Govind ghat (this is where you start your trekking for Valley of flower and Hemkunt Saheb).

Reached Badrinath @ 1pm. We had made an online booking of 13 dormitory beds in GMVN’s TRH @450/bed/night. This was done with the sole objective of having something in our hand. Went and checked the facility.  Didn’t like it as the rooms were cold and a bit dingy. Scouted and found a decent property @ 3k per night in the main road itself. For the discerning ones, they have a Sarovar Portico property in Badrinath and room rate quoted to us was 10k/night.

From the time we arrived it was drizzling in Badrinath. Rested for an hour and when the rain stopped we decided to visit Mana gaon and Bheem pul.

Mana, the last Indian village and Bheem Pul, a bridge with one huge rock hanging over a gorge. One side of the bridge you see Saraswati river gushing  out in full force through huge boulders. However, when you see from the other side, the river flows deep down and is very calm. You would find loads of stories about this place on the net.

All this while it was freezing cold and my 11 year old son started shivering with cold. So we rushed back to the Hotel.

In the hotel we found that he had cold symptoms and was running 101 fever as well. Gave him medicine with hot soup and put him to sleep. I and my wife took turns and went in 2 separate batches for evening Aarti at Badri-Dham.

We both were a bit worried as to what happens to our Kedarnath trip. We knew it would be much tougher and weather would be sub-zero there.

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Day 3 : Badrinath to Guptakashi

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The morning was bright and sunny. Overnight it had snowed a bit and by Badri kripa, son’s fever had come down.

After morning Breakfast we packed and left Badrinath by 9am.

From Chamoli we took a right turn onto Gopeshwar road as we wanted to go via Chopta.

The road was a bit narrow and we were stuck in an hour long jam in Gopeshwar. Somewhere, after Gopeshwar we stopped near a small river and cooked our lunch (Matar Pulao). Full on mast picnic.

Reached Chopta just before sunset. Everyone rushed out to view the sun set from the meadows. It was very picturesque with clouds and himalayas forming a charming background. Relished our tea/coffee/soups before starting again.

Reached Guptakashi around 7+pm and found a decent hotel with cottages near helipads in Phata. Had done 190kms with 10+ hours on road.

Thankfully son was feeling OK. We again debated whether we should risk going to Kedarnath or we should stay back and let others go. The option of one of us staying back was also discussed before we decided to re-evaluate the situation in the morning.

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Day 4 : Guptakashi to Kedarnath

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Son’s condition had improved overnight and we decided to go for it. We had oxygen cylinder, electric kettle and all types of medicine in the group.

The stay in Guptakashi was planned as we had members with different abilities. 3 of us were going to take helicopter ride from different helipads in the vicinity. The remaining persons left in the bus for Sonparayag.

Sonprayag to a point before Gaurikund was done in a shared jeep. And from there we engaged a palki for one member and two porters, one for my son and another for luggage. Remaining 8 persons started the trek around 9am.

The 8.2 km upto Rambara bridge although tiring for you, is still a comfortable stretch. We did it in 3 hours. It felt good when people coming down from Kedarnath, egged you on.

At Rambara, you can see the devastation caused by 2013 floods. There was full fledged village earlier, now there is nothing. In fact as you cross the Mandakini river and reach a bit higher on the other side. You can still see tell-tale signs of village structures and the erstwhile track which was on the other side. As you follow the old track, you realise that after a point all of it is washed away and there are visible signs of mountain caving in from points which would have been above the track.

May god bless the souls of those pilgrims and give solace/courage to their families. 🙏🙏🙏

The new track from Ramban to Kedarnath is 11-12 kms. And while crossing it we realised why people were encouraging us earlier. After Ramban 70% stretch is with steep climbs and you have to keep stopping every 100-200 meter to catch your breath. Some members also fell for the short cuts, which one should avoid unless you are sure of your fitness levels.

Most of the information on the net says the complete track is 16 kms, whereas now it is 20+ kms and the second half is much more stiffer. Halfway this stretch around 3pm, I realised that as soon as the sun goes down it will be freezing cold. So I told my wife and others that I am going ahead with the porters and my son, so as to reach Kedarnath before sunset. Reached around 5-5.30pm

Like Badrinath, we had also booked dorms in Kedarnath.

Found that they were POTA Cabins with double decker beds. The Helicopter guys had reached earlier and were scouting for dharamshala etc. I also checked for Deluxe Rooms in nearby GMVN property but could not find more then 2 rooms. Decided to stay in our booked dorms.

The last batch reached almost after 2 hours. And some of them had severe muscle + complete body aches and zero leg movement.

Somehow managed to bring food from the market and slept. It was cold, must have been sub zero during the night.

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Day 5 : Kedarnath to Guptakashi

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The morning was clear and beautiful. We wanted to see the sunrise on Kedar peaks and Temple. So went out early around 6am.

The Temple, the Surroundings, the Peaks, the Glacier, the Devotees, the Atmosphere everything was so majestic. It was the 2nd last week before winter closure of temple and we were told that the rush was low.

Everyone had nice Darshan!

My son ‘Rudra’ was comfortable throughout yesterday/today. Jai Bholenath! 🙏

On our return one member switched places with Rudra. He was very happy to go for the helicopter ride.

We did not opt for it earlier bcoz we wanted to experience the trekking. And they do not book one way ride in helicopters.

The journey back from Kedarnath (for that matter any high point to lower point) is a bit tricky. With your leg muscles strained from previous days exertion. I explained to every one (prior trekking experience) to go slow while descending, avoid any jerks on the knees and calf muscles.

While most of us made it by 5pm. Some literally dragged themselves for last 2-3 kms. Finally everyone got into the bus by 7pm and we reached our hotel at Phata by 8pm.

Aaj raat Old Monk jindabad!!

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Day 6 : Guptakashi to Shivpuri

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Next day did Guptakashi to Shivpuri 180 kms, 10 am to 6pm, NH work was going on at lot of places.

Highlight of this part of journey was – various Prayag’s.

Found a new hotel at Shivpuri and stayed overnight.

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Day 7 : Rishikesh to Delhi

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Aaram se uthe gaadi mein baithe aur dilli ko chal diye.

And before reaching Delhi, we had to do a practise match in a food court.

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I want to sincerely thank all the previous generations for preserving the tradition of “Badri-Kedar Yatra”, and instilling it on us. It is a lifetime experience where you see the hardships, suffer the pains, care for others, cajole your self and the reward at the end of it is a pure bliss!

We were also lucky to have had nice company for this trip. With friends every journey becomes a Joy. Something that you treasure for your life.

Here’s wishing you get an opportunity to go for ‘The YATRA’ 🙏

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