Set in the backdrop of the majestic Neelkanth peak, Badrinath Temple is one of the most revered pilgrimage in the Indian sub-continent. As the abode of Lord Badri, Badrinath offers an ethereal ambiance of effervescent spirituality and proffers the dazzling beauty of snow capped mountains adorned with sparkling waterfalls. The largest of the Char Dham and bestowed with unparalleled natural beauty of the Garhwal Himalayas, Badrinath was my last stop in my solo backpacking expedition to Uttarkhand.
At 6 am on the 5th day of June, I left Guptkashi to Badrinath on a GMVN tour group bus. I was not a member of the group, but the driver and the tour operator offered me a ride with them the previous night which I had gladly accepted. If it weren’t for this offer, I’d have had to change 3 vehicles during this long journey to the abode of Lord Badri. Not that it was a free ride, but the bus was pretty good. And they had a few vacant spots and I took a good window seat. After a 2 hour ride, we had our breakfast at a place called Nagrasu and it was the usual Aloo Paratha.
During the course of the journey I came across 2 sangams, or the union of 2 rivers. One was at Rudraprayag, where river Ganga united with Alakananda. The second was between rivers Alakananda and Pindar at Karnaprayag. The Sangam points have a distinct boundary at the interface of union owing to the different colours of the water. Now, if you ask me about the roads, I can confirm your suspicion. They are horrible. But on the bright side, the view they offer is unparalleled. Riding by the edge of deep gorges, the adventurer in me could feel the surge of the adrenaline. At some points, the bus went so close to the edge that I could look straight down at the 1000+ ft canyon and the aggressive Alakananda, through the bus window. If you are a novice or a careless driver, this is definitely not a place you should be driving. I don’t have words to describe the artistry of nature. The coexistence of good roads and lack or roads make it a memorable ride for a travel enthusiast. If you have high BP or acrophobia, take my advise and stay away from any window in your vehicle. As per the driver, being a local person and highly experienced, the bus driver did an amazing job negotiating this treacherous stretch of roads. I could see the tensed faces of fellow passengers who believed that one small error and they were going to meet the Creator.
After lunch we arrived at Joshimath. It is the nearest town to Badrinath and if you are a skiing enthusiast take a note of Auli which is one of the best skiing slopes in India. Even though Auli was just 16km from Joshimath, I didn’t visit it as it was off season due to lack of snow. My sole destination was Badrinath. As if the road till Joshimath wasn’t beautiful enough, the rest of the road was even better. Too good! Let me just leave it there. The gushing Alakananda river and the huge undulating mountains that run aside the twisting and wining 40 km road to Badrinath. Well, challenges do come wrapped in good-looking covers – they lure you, tempt you and promise you a smooth ride. They hide any hint of what you’d come across as you venture ahead. Since I wasn’t behind the wheel, I decided to just leave it to the driver and enjoy the nature’s bounty. I could also see the Vishuprayag Hydel Project by the road side. Half way through, I reached Govindghat, the starting point to the 17 km trek to Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Saheb. If it weren’t for the deadly flood that devastated Uttarakhand and Govindghat about a week later, I’d have come again in a month or two to visit the Valley of Flowers National Park. Guess, that’ll have to wait for a few years. After driving through 3 waterfalls, the bus finally arrived at Badrinath at 4.30 pm. The good news is, the Badrinath temple is just a few 100 meters from the road and no trekking is required.
“Houston, we have a problem!”
Where am I gonna stay? Before I break my head over that basic question, I decided to visit the temple. Colorful, pretty and small, the Badrinath temple radiates an aura of spiritual energy around it. Since the queue to enter into the temple was too long, i just walked around it and decided to call it a day.There was a waterfall nearby, but it was not natural. But who cares, when it offers a good view. The small town of Badrinath itself is a sight to cherish. The beautiful high snow covered peaks guarding the city of Lord Badri made my trip worthwhile. I walked around the city, through the lesser known alleys and streets, getting a feel of the life at this remote town. I did spend some time shopping too. But, the million dollar problem still remained. Where am I gonna stay. I asked for a room in over a dozen hotels, and the only room I got had a tariff of Rs.1600. Pricey!! There were even 2 hotels that asked me for my caste! Anyway, by 6.30 pm I was sure that I’m in deep trouble. So plan B. Go to Joshimath: 40km away. But the problem, no bus. The last one left at 6 pm. Now, if i tell u that I wasn’t worried, I’d be lying. I was seriously concerned. N the temperature dropped below 5 degrees and it was freezing. But then luck came to my rescue. I managed to get a share taxi making its return to Joshimath.
Luck favored me again, when I met Praduman from Delhi, a retired senior military auditor who was also an English – Hindi translator. We had a really interesting chat during the 2 hour ride to Joshimath. With his help, I searched for dorms in Joshimath. I did get a few, but they didn’t appear safe to me. So finally, I took a room in the hotel he was staying and I got a bath attached double bed at hotel Deepshika for just Rs.250. After settling in my room, I took a small stroll around Joshimath town and after dinner, settled for a much deserved sleep. The next morning at 5:30 am, I caught an Uttarakhand Roadways bus to Dehradun right in front of my hotel.
Even though my trip still extended to Mussoorie, my blog would end here. And if it weren’t for the helping hands of numerous people I met on the way, I wouldn’t have made it back safe and sound. I’d like to extend my sincere gratitude to all the friends I made in Uttarakhand and all the people who guided and helped me trough the way. With this I conclude my Uttarkhand expedition. Can’t wait to go on the next trip.
As usual with all the series,I’d like to post my route map.