After being locked down for 2 years and with the aftermath of COVID still fresh in my memory , I wanted to revive my travel dairies with a hope !
India being a country, where God is fancied in any strange shaped stone by lighting a lamp in front of it, we had no dearth of choices .However, I did not have to linger much on the choices as I was very clear on where I wanted to go. Not because its one of the most famous pilgrimage , or one of the 120 Jyotirlingas, or because its believed that once you are there you will get whatever you wish for but because the idea of walking 22 km amidst the Himalayas to reach the door step of Lord Shiva(the only reflection of God that I sternly adore), gave me the adrenaline rush.For me Lord Shiva is the only God that resonates the idea of an ideal human being, indifferent to all worldly pleasures, treating everything and anything as an equal, not expecting any staunch ritual to be followed to please him but just a pure heart full of love ,is all that he seeks. Moreover, every time i went for a trek, I had always wished my son to feel the warmth of the Himalayas and hence , without a second thought it was The Kedarnath this time.
*All the thoughts for Lord Shiva are purely personal based on my likings and not to be taken as any radical propanganda
Travel to Kedarnath is considered to be the toughest of all Jyotirlingas but I hardly gave it a thought considering the number of people that were travelling together. We were a group of 7 namely Me, my husband(Jeetu) and my son(Yashu) and 4 of our other friends Alok, Sandeep, Gunjan and Ujjwal. The strength gave me the confidence that we will plan together and easily get through it but who knew that even on the evening before our journey, they would not be aware of the time of our departure and I would be constantly on call answering their queries as to what to pack and when to reach airport 😇.
Thus, having done single handed execution of the plan, I can readily share my experience for others to refer .
Kedarnath opens in the month of May and remains open till October end, but the monsoon months i.e. end of June till august should be avoided at all cost because this is the time of land slides and heavy rainfall. Furthermore, while most of the travel blogs suggest that May-June and then September-October are the best times to visit Kedarnath , I advise avoiding May-June as well because of the crowd that follows, unless, the whole country reads my blog and starts following the same, which will then shift the whole May-June crowd to Sept-Oct 😉
Being closed for 2 years due to the pandemic, this season was heavily ingested with the tourists and the pilgrims .To add to the woes, the same route was followed by the walkers , the pithus (people carrying the pilgrims and the tourists on their head) and the mules, both to and fro. Moreover , the muddy roads due to the heavy rain and the excreta of the mules, added to the discomfort in movement.The only thing that kept us moving was the incantation of “Har Har Mahadev” and the vision of watching him in the backdrop of the snow cladded Himalayas.
Tips to carry forward : September – October should be preferred over May-June although they are colder but lot more peaceful and less chaotic.
Ohh by the way ! Are you wondering what happened to the COVID protocols ? Well, it seemed they had gone for a vacation too👽
How to reach Gaurikund – the starting point of the trek??
It is said that out of all the 12 jyotirlingas, Kedarnath is the toughest and hence needs proper planning. However, having done high altitude treks like Roopkund and Goechala before , we assumed Kedarnath trek to be a piece of cake . Moreover, all of us are marathon runners except Sandeep and Yashu,(who ultimately turned out to be the show stoppers), hence a trek of 20km on a well paved route did not seemed difficult to us.But we overlooked the fact that this was not any normal trekking route but a pilgrimage and hence that exotic feeling of being amidst the Himalayas while stepping each foot ,unlike my previous treks, was beyond expectation. More than the physical adversity, it was the mental stress that we were suffering from due to the crowd .
The trek starts from Gaurikund which is approximately 20 km from the temple. Our itinerary was as follows:
- Flight from Bhubaneshwar to Delhi
- Train from Delhi to Haridwar.
- Local transport form Haridwar to Rishikesh
- Overnight stay at Rishikesh
- Hire a car from Rishikesh to Sonprayag(Approx 210 Km)
- Local transport from Sonprayag to Gaurikund
- Overnight stay at Gaurikund
- Start early next morning for the trek.
All the above points were pre-booked , except #3,#5 & #6 and that turned out to be the biggest mistake I had ever committed on any trip. We reached Haridwar around 9 P.M and after dinner booked a local tempo for Rishikesh which is hardly 20 km from Haridwar.Considering the good road condition, we assumed to reach by 11 P.M and then talk in the locality to book the car from Rishikesh to Sonprayag . Everything seemed set.
However, Rishikesh had different plans for us .The 20 km journey from Haridwar to Rishikesh took us 4 hours and we reached around 3:00 A.M in the night due to heavy traffic jam.Although,could not quite figure out the reason for the jam ,one thing was certain, it was like a festival in Rishikesh. People had come from all over the country to feel the ethnicity and to top that, it was a weekend. However, even after the unxpected delay, we were happy to have at least reached our hostel unknown of the fact that this was just the beginning of the chaos that we were about to encounter 🙃
Next day we woke up at leisure, thinking that the only job we had to do was to book the vehicle from Rishikesh to Sonprayag which is just around 210 km and we would reach in 8 hours .Well, the whole plan went for a toss when we came to know that not a single vehicle is available due to the rush in Kedarnath. With lot of effort we got a Bolero at 2:00 P.M in the afternoon to fit 7 of us at a whopping cost of Rs 25000 – to and fro.
Choiceless, we hopped into the conjusted bolero and started off for the 12 hour long ride to Sonprayag. Yesss ! estimation of 8 hours for 210 km was again a miscalculation. We reached at a point in Sonprayag at 2:00 A.M beyond which no outstation vehicle is allowed. None of the excuses like we are travelling with a kid , one of our fellow traveller is sick etc worked infront of the Uttrakhand police. All of us had to get down there unsure of the journey ahead.Our accomodation was booked in Gaurikund, where we should have ideally reached by 8:00 In the evening, and then start our trek early in the morning. But now here we were at 2:00 A.M in the night (or early morning as you may say) still not sure how to reach Gaurikund. However, considering the distance from Sonprayag to Gaurikund which was just 5 km , we did not think it to be much of a problem and followed the crowd hoping to easily get a vehicle but…
What a sight it was …Hundreds of Boleros/Scorpios lined up ,surrounded by people begging the drivers to take them to Gaurikund. Without a second thought ,we also joined the crowd jumping from one vehicle to another. With lots of argument and requests we finally managed to get one as we won the bid by offering Rs 1000. However, this was not the end to our agony .Our hotel was another 2 km from the drop point at Gaurikund and walking was the only option. Nevertheless, assuming it to be the practise session before the main trek, we merrily started walking.
Finally, at 4:30 in the morning, the time at which we were suppose to start the trek from Gaurikund, we reached Gaurikund, arguing amongst ourselves , over the fact that wether we should start the trek immediately or take rest for some time .
What we actually did is to be followed in the second part of this blog .Stay tuned !
Tips to carry forward –
- Do not leave any booking for the last moment.
- Its better to book accomodation at Sonprayag than Gaurikund because although the distance from Gaurikund to Sonprayag is only 5 km , commute is a problem.
- Leave as early as possible from Rishikesh ,because the journey till Sonprayag is unpredictable and can take anything between 8-12 hours.
- Just before reaching Sonprayag, passes are checked at a check post,hence, make sure to register yourself for the yatra here
- Carry cash along with you , as no mode of e-money works there.
- Make sure to keep some warm clothing on top of your back pack , because the temperature drops suddenly as you reach Sonprayag.
- Lastly, no matter how troublesome the journey seems to be , do not give up as the end will be totally worth it 😊
However, do let me know about any of your queries regarding Kedarnath trek and I will be happy to help 😊😊 !