the next morning, we woke up early and headed towards Joshimath bazaar. That was the main place where the gate was (the gate refers to the accumulation of vehicles headed for Badrinath that were given permission to hit the roads at regular intervals – something that I explained in my earlier post).
Joshimath is an important junction in this route. It has significance in multiple aspects. Not only it is a big town on this route, but it is also the place where the puja for Badrinath (Narayan or Lord Vishnu) takes place during the six months of November to April (dates vary across years) when the actual shrine becomes inaccessible due to winter snow. Joshimath also is an important junction on this route when it comes to trekkers. It is from here, trekking routes go to the interior of the Nanda Devi National Park to places like Mallari, Niti valley and other wonderful routes. There are accounts of ancient routes to Kailash and Man Sarovar through this area, but those routes seize to exist nowadays after the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962.
We boarded a bus that was carrying pilgrims to char dhaam yatra (Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath). The road initially moved downwards from Joshimath through its cantonment area and then spiralled down till we reached the banks of Alaknanda river, where it crossed over to its other bank and moved towards Govindghat. We often crossed areas where road was damaged by fallen rocks from the upper mountains. The entire route to Badrinath from Rudraprayag and particularly this section of it between Joshimath to Badrinath is prone to landslides. We went through places, where people were posted to keep a watch on falling rocks from upper slopes of the mountains in order to alert the passing vehicles. When we reached Govindghat, I was excited once again as this is the place from where the trek starts for another amazing route in the interior of The Himalayas – the Valley of flowers and Hemkund Sahib. Many years after this trip, we had the fortune of visiting these places, but that’s a tale to be told another day.
It took us about 2.5 hrs to reach Badrinath. We off boarded at the bus stand, but our place of stay was at Kedia Cottage of Kali Kamli which was about 1.5 km walk from there. Kali Kamli had many rest houses at Badrinath. Kedia Cottage was located on the banks of Alaknanda just opposite the Badrinath shrine.
Badrinath is a bustling town, much larger than Kedarnath with the Alaknanda river flowing right through the middle of it. After settling down at the rest house, we went to offer the puja at the shrine. The priests surrounded us trying to convince the importance of offering a puja of higher amount. We spent the afternoon at the rest house. A dry cold wind flowed from the north and was lashing at our faces. In the evening, my mother discovered that my father was running high temperature. That was surely a cause of concern. I went out in search of a doctor and luckily found one. He gave some medicines. We went to bed that night concerned about how the fever might play out. We still had to get down to Haridwar which was a journey of at least 12-13 hours by bus.
We woke up to a cloudy day the next morning. I had to drop my plans to visit Mana, a place about 5 km from Badrinath and was the last Indian village before the Sino-Indian border. My father still had high temperature so we chose to stay at the rest house. A local boy came up to us and offered to provide buckets full of warm water. He’d be bringing them from the hot spring near the Badrinath shrine and asked for Rs 15 for two buckets! The rate was in no match for the effort involved (the hot spring was on the other bank of Alaknanda). He pleaded us not to take the services from anybody else and even agreed to carry our luggage to the bus stand the next day morning when we were supposed to board the bus for Haridwar. He represented the extreme poverty and the hardship of the locals. What we view as tourism, is a necessity for them to survive.
When we woke up the next morning, it was still dark. As we prepared ourselves, the light gradually started to spread. That’s the first time I noticed the dark outline of a distant mountain right behind the hills on the opposite banks of the Alaknanda river. As the first rays of sun fell on it, the tip of the mountain turned golden and swathe of gold gradually expanded and a beautiful peak appeared in front of us. It was Neelkanth. We haven’t had a view of it till now and just before we were about to leave Badrinath, it was kind enough to appear before us.
The local lad came and helped us by carrying our luggage to the bus stand. After giving tips, we exchanged wishes with him and boarded the bus. The bus started at 7 AM. I had a mixed feeling during our return journey. On one hand, I was a bit sad as we moved back towards the plains, but on the other hand, it gave comfort that the next 2 days we were to relax at Haridwar and our days of toil were coming to an end.
We spent 2 days at Haridwar and the next day, we went to the station for a train to Dehradoon. Our next destination was the hill station of Mussourie. Local people at Haridwar suggested to board any train and they said reservation wasn’t going to be required as the journey was merely for an hour or so. The Delhi-Mussourie express entered the station and we boarded a compartment. The train stops at Haridwar for a long time as some of its coaches get detached at Haridwar with the rest going to Dehradoon. After we boarded, the train started to move backwards and after sometime, it moved to a different line before coming to a halt. We knew that trains stopped for a significant time at Haridwar. There were other local people who sat with us in the compartment. But when it didn’t start even after a long time, I got nervous and started to ask others and that’s when I came to know that the Delhi-Mussourie express had already left for Dehradoon. As it turned out, the coach we boarded (along with a few others) were slated to be detached at Haridwar and were not destined for Dehradoon. While we waited in them, the rest of the train had already departed! We had to get down in somewhat awkward manner as the coaches were not standing beside a platform. We literally had to jump from the door and walk back to the platform along with the luggage. This time around, I made arrangements with a coolie (persons who carry luggage) that he would arrange for seats in the next train and that too, in a compartment that was destined for Dehradoon (the act of detachment of coaches happens for all trains headed to Dehradoon via Haridwar). He kept his words and we boarded the next train and we were finally headed for Dehradoon.
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