KEDARNATH – The Destination – Part 2

Well, of course we slept and we slept like a log at Gaurikund! Read here to know why ๐Ÿ˜Š

The alarm was set at 5:30 as the plan was to start the trek by 6 ,although each one of us knew very well that the target was unachievable.Moreover, all the blogs that I followed ,mentioned that the trek route is open only between 4 A.M – 1:30 P.M because of the bear threat as Kedarnath lies inside a wildlife sanctuary. It was only when I witnessed people moving whole night on the route (to and fro), I understood the importance of documenting genuine experiences.

All set to begin the trek @Gaurikund

At 9:15 ,after numerous photo shoots by the selfie freaks of my gang exchanging goggles and caps and a nice sumptuous breakfast of aloo paratha(flat bread stuffed with potato) and tea, we were ready to start the trek with a high wave of excitement within us , amidst the ocean of people who were all walking towards the same destination .

The Trek

All high in spirits, we switched on our GPS tracking right at the moment we left our hotel and were very confident to cover the first 11 km(where I had booked our first halt, just 5 km below the temple because I was travelling with Yashu , my 9 year old son, and hence did not take chance to cover the whole distance in a day, but it turned out that each of my group members were equally thankful for that๐Ÿ˜‡) , considering the on-paper distance calculation form Gaurikund to Kedarnath main temple as 16 km, by evening , rest for the night and then leave early morning next day for the Main Temple.

But that was a trap again .

The people packed market of Gaurikund

The count of 16 km doesnot start from Gaurikund .From Gaurikund you need to reach the gate (shown below) through the market, which is close to 4 km .Hence, the total distance to the main temple is approx 21~22 km from Gaurikund.

Infront of the gate , from where the count of 16 km actually starts.

The trek has 4 major stops before the main temple :-Jungle Chatti, Bheembali, Leenchauli and Badi Leenchauli at approximately 4 , 3, 4 and 1 km from its previous destinations correspondingly.

But inspite of this straight forward calculation ,this trek was totally unpredictable for us, not because of the distance or the difficulty or the harsh weather , but mainly because of the crowd.We started at 9:15 from Gaurikund but reached Badi Leenchauli at 9 in the night.12 hours to cover 16 km ,which could have been easliy done in 6-7 hours. Every step that we took depended on the commuter ahead ,only when they moved we moved and to top all of that there were mules and pithoos barging from both the ways only until some time after Rambada bridge where the routes thankfully separated for the mules and the humans, although not for a longer distance but still a relief.

Rain and Rest

Having been on Himalayn treks before, I was excited to get awestruck once again by the beauty of the Himalayas, but unfortunately could not take my eyes away from the road even for a bit to avoid getting hit by the mules.

Yes, that’s how bad it was !

Anyways, after lots of rest yet not giving up at any moment, being drenched in rain yet not letting the chill dampen the spirit , loosing track of one of our friend-Gunjan on the way yet not stopping to look for him everywhere, feeling tired yet not being less enthusiatstic about the coffee at Rahul Ji’s tea shop and being pushed and stuffed in the crowd yet not regretting a single moment for chosing Kedarnath as our holiday destination , we reached Badi Leencahuli ,threw our backpack, changed into warm clothes and immeditely dozed off.

After getting lost, promising to stick together for the rest of the journey ! @Shivalok Cottage, Badi Leenchauli

And Oh Yes ! just to solve the mystery about our lost friend, we did find Gunjan in the tent shivering inside his sleeping bag with a towel, as all his clothes and backpack was drenched in the rain .It seems some high inteligent quotient of his brain had advised him to enter the mule line and not of the humans and that’s how we lost him(Remember , the line I mentioned above where the mules and human tracks diverted?).Anyways, none of us had the energy to do any further post mortem and kept it recorded in our memories to curse him forever after returning.We donated clothes to him in bits and pieces and dozed off worried about the morning trek to Kedarnath.

Tips to Carry forward :-

  • If trekking in a group, its better to wear neon coloured similar clothing , as it will be easier to track each other.
  • Waterproof trekking shoes ,a raincoat / a poncho and a backpack cover is a must
  • It really gets windy as you climg high so do not forget to cover your neck,nose and mouth with a balaclava.
  • Do not forget to carry a trekking pole or a buy a stick which you can get @30 rs in Gaurikund/Sonprayag
  • Keep away from the mules and do not try to lead with your stick, they might get anxious and hit back badly
  • Its better to be late than getting sick so when it rains heavily, look for a shade
  • Carry bare minimum clothings, a pair of extra pant and tshirt is sufficient but do not compromise on warm clothings.

Where to stay

Each one of the pit stops mentioned before , has a decent stay run by the GMVN(Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam). They have fixed tents all on sharing basis with 2 options 1-sleeping bag facility on the ground(400 per bag) and 2- with very basic cots(800 per cot). It’s highly recommended to do the bookings at least 2-3 months prior to the travel date during the peak seasons. GMVN also provides accommodation at Gaurikund and near to the temple as well , but it’s very difficult to book a stay due to the rush. Apart from GMVN, there are many private hotels but they are extremely costly.For a very basic dharamshala kind of room , we ended up paying Rs 6500 for 2 rooms at Gaurikund inspite of booking 2 months prior to the travel date.

Our stuffed yet happy stay in Badi Leenchauli ,Shivalok Cottage by GMVN

People who had not booked an accomodation were begging the tent occupants for a corner inside to rest for sometime as everyone was tired after walking the whole day , but the truth was that each of the tents were already stuffed to let anyone in.It was chaos all around .

Tips to carry forward :-

  • Do not forget to book your accomodations at any of the pit stops depending on your capacity.Do not get overconfident about the distance.
  • As soon as you get into your sleeping bags, change into warm clothes.
  • All the tents are on sharing basis of 6-8 sleeping bags, so its better if you plan the trek in a group.
  • As understood,food gets costlier as you move up, but its also very important to fuel up .So you either carry your food with yourself or do not feel bad to spend .
  • You will get full network once you reach Badi Lennchauli, yet do not waste your time binging, as proper rest is mandatory.

The Destination

Getting closer with each step !

It was a bright sunny morning the next day and there were pilgrims who were returning from the temple with elated incantation of “Har Har Mahadev”.They had travelled whole night , drenched in rain ,with broken slippers ,in ragged condition yet high in spirits for having completed the journey. It was surprising to see aged people , may be around 65-70 years , walking and with just a slipper on.Some were not even able to walk properly, but still the enthusiasm they carried was incredible. Devotion or madness its difficult to decide, but it definitely motivated us to be stronger and wiser.

May be all we need ,is just a belief to know what we are actually capable of !

We spoke to some of the returning pilgrims and they said that there is a big line for Darshan, which slightly intimidated us , but then there was no returning back so we left it on fate and just kept walking.The milestones kept ditching us as usual and after some time we gave up on them.Moreover,the route after Badi Leenchauli was not that difficult, it has just 1 or 2 ascent followed by a straight road till the temple, hence we walked merily.

The Destiny

And then…. after 1-2 hours , we saw it! Standing humbly amidst the mighty Himalayas, yet more magnificent than any of the huge commercialised temples built nowadays . Yes ! there was a long line to enter the temple , but then we were so overwhelmed to reach there that the wait seemed nothing. The line kept moving and so did we and did not even realise when we got stuffed in the crowd, entered the temple and came out as well …all in a fraction of a second…Just like that !

And the question popped in …So much planning ,execution and trouble just for this fraction of second?? I looked around for an answer but then standing amidst those thousands of ovewhelmed people I observed …..

For some it was not just a stone structure but their only hope….for some an adventurous ride, while for some their only destination to go to…..for some just an instagram reel , while for some a moment of self realisation…..for some just a chaos while for some an awestruck moment …for some a blank canvas while for some a long endless conversation with Lord Shiva…..everyone who visited had a different story and a different ask and for me …. it was indeed the journey for which I was destined.

Tips to carry forward :-

  • Do not forget to visit the Adi Guru Shankaracharya Samadhi at the back side of the temple.It’s a beautiful place.
  • Do spend some time with the Babas(saints) sitting outside the temple.They have amazing stories to share.
  • Try to book an accomodation near the temple for a night to enjoy the beauty of the temple in the backdrop of starry night and shining Himalayas.

The Irony

Kedarnath is trending ! that is all I can say…. But who are we trying to impress? Is it the social media or Lord Shiva?

Well, the nuisance that is being spread in the name of pilgrimage , Lord Shiva is defenitely not happy and may be that was the reason of Kedarnath tragedy in 2013 and 2015. Places like Kedarnath were once considered to be exclusive ,because reaching there needed lot of will power ,determination and admiration but with the increase in the number of mule owners and pithoos , all of these has taken a back seat and insta reels are driving the whole show. This should be checked.However, not to take away the business oppertunity from them, these privileges should be strictly restricted for the aged and the physically challenged .

After all, lets not forget that Kedarnath is a pilgrimage more than a tourist destination and the onus of preserving the beauty of this journey lies on us.Lets be respectful and maintain the sanctity of the place before it takes out its wrath on us like it did in 2013 and 2015.

It’s not a water fall it’s a garbage dump

Finally, Some morals to carry within :-

  1. Walk ! Please do not hire a mule if you are physically fit and young. It is a torcherous journey for the poor animals. We did see one dead mule on our way and the saddest part is that it was just left like that there to decompose on its own.
  2. Helicopter is still a better option for people who are reluctant to walk as they are costed at reasonable price.
  3. and lastly Do not litter ! It is disheartening to see the garbage spilled around.Keep a track of your single use plastic and bring your trash back to the base .

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