DAY1: Bangalore to Delhi to Haridwar

We(Myself and Randhir) reached Bangalore airport at 4:30 in the morning.
The Indigo flight was quite good. No refreshments true , but no other fuss. It was correct on time and the take offs and landings were smooth , the crew were not sleepy and overtly friendly.
That was it and we reached Delhi in a whiz. When I awoke in the flight , I could see the beautiful country beneath me and the left wing of the aircraft. I took a quick snap of the aerial view and soon we landed in Delhi , collected our luggage and were out of the airport.
We spent some time at a friend's place in Delhi. Our next destination was Haridwar.

At Delhi we met the rest of the gang Dekar(Sekhar) , Halum(Prasun) , Podu(Avishek) to board the Jana Shatabdi train to Haridwar.

We reached Haridwar in a few hours. Although Jana Shatabdi was very little of Shatabdi quality and mostly filled with insensitive Jana , the simmering heat of Delhi in August was hardly discouraging. When we reached Haridwar it was raining. The station was literally taken over by pilgrims with grim faces. Not an inch of platform was left for movement and it was a lot of careful manoeuvrings between the filth and the platform dwellers that we managed to come out of the station. I do wonder with hundreds of pilgrims why don't they build proper retiring rooms , they can even charge on an hourly basis to keep the premises clean. Stations are lacking in fundamental facilities.

We had booked a hotel before hand. It was a nice hotel a short walk away from the station. After checking into the hotel (where I got a nice map of the place) we set off for an early dinner.Haridwar is a pure veg place and we are pure non-veg travelers. But then we enjoyed a dinner with hot rotis and dal in a nearby hotel which was rally cheap. But then again the notion of cleanliness was void. Haridwar is also a great place for excellent sweets of 'chana' or 'kheer' a processed form of milk. If you can get over the surroundings , the quality is pretty decent, and the price tag damn cheap.

DAY 2: Haridwar to NandaPrayag

We had booked a Tata Sumo in advance . It was scheduled for 9000 Rs to take us from Haridwar to NandaPrayag, RudraPrayag,Joshimath, Badrinath and finally wait at Gobindghat for 3 days for our return from the actual trek.

Singh ji , our driver was very well spoken . His Hindi was immaculate and precise. He was our natural guide on the route. We crossed Hrishikesh (or Rishikesh) , and proceeded towards Joshimath .
The first day journey was as eventful as life itself. It was a bright day with some light showers in between. The road was the best part of the trip , curving and twisting itself as if in the ecstasy of the great Himalayas. Yes , the Himalayas are great. As we ascended , and as the temperature dropped , the surroundings began to change.Greenery was visible everywhere and the mountains on all sides stood like awestruck ghosts. And as we rose , we saw the Alaknanda river en-route flowing down , its fury seemed to be decreasing as it came down from places unknown.
We had to stop for the day in a place called NandaPrayag. They had a decent room in a hotel nearby. The place was very small and with hardly a hotel or two. We bought some basic stuff and had a wonderful dinner at a nearby restaurant. We were on a pure veg track, the rotis were delicious, parathas were stuffed and sabzi was mostly potatoes and cauliflowers blended in different ways.

DAY 3: NandaPrayag to Joshimath to Govind Ghat to Badrinath and back to Govind Ghat: Joy Baba Badrinath

Next day when we started , it was already too late to reach Gobindghat and start the trek. Thats why we decided to go to Badrinath directly. Even 20 years back people had to travel on foot from PeepalKoti to Badrinath. It was a trek of a lifetime in itself. Being one of the most sacred places of the Hindus it attraced thousands of devotees all round the globe in the summer months. But in Winter it was closed and several miles down Joshimath was the maximum reach then. Things have changed a lot, and we were very fortunate that our vehicle almost stopped at the gates of Shree Badrinath. But again we started so late it was getting dark and we had to return quickly .

The temple was to open an hour after and the rule of the land did not allow vehicles to travel at night. I got a cyber cafe at Badrinath where I downloaded all my pics to a pen drive and refreshed my camera memory card.
The Ganges was flowing with awesome speed and the air was moist and the chill was so stunning that I did not want to leave without taking a glimpse of Badrinath.

But we had to leave because the gate would be closed after 4 o clock. ( That was a good decision else we would have been stuck for a few days there. There were major landslides all around)It was a beautiful journey back to Gobind Ghat . The sky suddenly cleared and the beauty once more showered on us. We bought some apples from a local vendor.
Then we spent the rest of the evening in Gobind Ghat . We were tired and as usual there was no geysers, so it was a chilling story of bathing , of organs fighting to stay fit.

DAY 4: Gobind Ghat to Ghangria ( 13 kms )

This is the actual trek. The initial part of the trek was quite tough. The body warms up too quickly. It is necessary to slow down and take rest. We were huffing and puffing even before crossing 1 km. There are several places to rest here and there. Most people enjoyed this part of the trek , it was almost a concrete road.

There is no need to carry bags. There are lots of mules around. We put all our bags on one mule, a few hundred rupees is the charge. The mules go fast and so does their owner. They drop the bag in Ghangria.

After a few kilometres the trek starts becoming more beautiful. The noise of the river adds to the jingle. There are numerous tea shops and little shops where one can get anything from a cup of tea to maggi , parathas, samosas, chewing gums, biscuits etc ,all at slightly premium prices.

Towards the end , there is a bridge to cross the river and continue the trek on the other side of the river. The bridge is stout , but because of incessant rain the path near to the bridge was almost washed away.

After the bridge and a slight mild ascent the final ascent is again quite steep. It passes through a small forest and a clearing.

After this day's trek there is hardly any chance that anyone will be able to go around Ghangria. But if someone wants there are quite a few small restaurants , a Gurudwara , telephone booths and small shops and lots of shabby ,smelly hotels to stay.
We stayed in such a hotel. Electricity is available only for a couple of hours during dinner time and early morning 4-6 am for people to get ready for the treks.

DAY 5 : Ghangria to Hemkund Sahib and return to Ghangria ( 12 kms total)

This is the trips toughest trek. If one has the capacity to make this trek easily then can do a lot I believe. There are mainly two reasons for the difficulty. There is a lot of altitude change, the trek is short but quite steep. At some places there are a few shortcuts , which I would suggest people to avoid. There are ascents that will test the knees and ankles. The other reason why this part is slightly treacherous is that if the weather is not good there are several parts which will send a shiver down he spine.

Mules are available in this stretch also and lots of people make good use of them.

I reached Hemkund Sahib, but a bit too late in the afternoon. My friend's told me that the Lake was sparkling in the sunlight and a treat to watch. The Gurudwara welcomes everyone. We had tea and khichdri to our filling.

This place is so heavenly that one would not feel like going down. But if weather is not good its better to try to come down , breathing becomes easier. I had no problems with the breathing but there were a few who had to be escorted down on mules.

Hemkund is also mesmerizing because of the exceptionally beautiful flowers, kamals or brahmakamals . There are different colored flowers which makes this trek very fruitful.

One must be careful while coming down from Hemkund as there are numerous twists and turns which are quite treacherous on the knees .

DAY 6 : Ghangria to Valley of Flowers ( 3 kms -Inside the valley 4 kms ) --> Return to Ghangria --> Return to GobindGhat

This is the most beautiful part of the trek for a nature lover. One of the reasons is that mules are not allowed in this trek and so no shit on the way. Its pristine.

The second reason is that very few people actually go to Valley of Flowers , only a small fraction of those who go to Hemkund Sahib. We did not repeat the mistake of the previous day and so we were the first ones to buy the tickets into the Valley of Flowers.

After entering the National Park we had to cover a long distance , a leisurely walk and then cross a river. There is a nice bridge built on the river. After the bridge the path starts becoming slightly difficult. But after Hemkund trek we made it very easily.

Then came one of the major roadblocks. There was a huge sheet of ice on the road , that came down right from the top of the mountain like a glacier and it went directly into the river to form a huge canopy of ice on the river.

With great patience, very slowly , one by one we managed to cross this ice block. I would say people should have walking sticks to help them balance.

But this was not the only difficulty. Right before entering the Valley there is a small bridge made of joined Tin sheets . The water lashes against the sheets and it seems like it'll fall apart any moment.

But the valley is simply awesome. There are very few words to describe it. Hundreds and thousands of variety of flowers. The grass is so green , the colors are so vibrant that it seems to be the garden in heaven.

We spent a lot of time in the valley and one can go 5 to 6 kms inside the valley and have a visual treat of a lifetime.

There are no shops here, no mules , no noise, just the mild hum of the river and the breeze. Within a few hours we saw few more tourists and photographers. Needless to say everyone was awestruck.

Just around lunchtime we bid adieu to Valley of Flowers and started our return to Ghangria.

The return to Ghangria was short and swift. People almost outpaced one another. Perhaps it was the fun that the trek was over. After having a late lunch in Ghangria we started off towards Govind Ghat.

Initially we thought that just like the Valley of Flowers we will make this swiftly. But that was not to be. This route is mostly mild, but takes time.

It was almost evening when we reached Govind Ghat. Singhji was ready with the car, I had a few huge blisters ( My shoe came off in the last 5 kms. I tried to manage with that and that resulted in monster blisters. Must carry quickfix )

When we reached Joshimath it was already dark. For the first time in last 3 days we took a proper bath.

DAY 7 : Josimath and Auli and back to Joshimath

We were supposed to start back from Joshimath today. But there was a huge landslide when we were in Hemkund that cut off Joshimath from Rudraprayag in 3 places.
So we decided to enjoy the day in Auli.

Auli is famous for skiing in winter. There is a ropeway from Joshimath to Auli. There are several different trek routes that start from this point.

Auli is very beautiful place and one can see the mighty mountains if the sky clears up.

DAY 8 Joshimath --> Rishikesh --> New Delhi ( by bus)

This was a busy day. With incoming news that the roads will clear today all vehicles were on road and all hotels were empty. Soon we discovered that it will take several more hours to clear the road. Everyone was waiting on the road while our great road was finally done. Vehicles were allowed to ply one at a time , and finally after a long wait we crossed the hurdles. The jam spread across several kms , but drivers were so careful and reasonable ,never once did it result in any deadlock.

It was evening when we reached Rishikesh. Singhji did not want to drive after some place saying it was getting too dark. We somehow convinced him with some talk and cash and finally with a Rs1000 extra he delivered.

Since we already missed the train at Haridwar , we took a bus at Rishikesh itself and started off for Delhi. That was one of the most horrible bus journeys I ever had. Somehow we reached Delhi at midnight and went to Kalibari( rooms were booked earlier)

DAY 9 Finally 'New Delhi' --> 'Bangalore'

Kalibari is a wonderful place. The food is excellent and so is the ambiance. We roamed around the place a little and soon it was time to catch the flight back to Bangalore.

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