Thursday, 21 February 2019

Family tour to Uttarakhand in JUNE 2018

Planning phase of 10 day trip to 2 Dhams and Nainital

Part I   From Mangalore to Badrinath 

“What you seek is seeking you” 

What you want will find its way to you –only if you work towards it, stay focused, and utilize the opportunities

Plannng for the trip
A lazy Sunday afternoon in May 2018 impulsively spent to check the airfares and possible dates for Badrinath tour was wrapped up by evening booking to-and-fro air tickets from Mangalore to Dehradun . Motive for this tour was to participate in Kashimathadipathi H.H. Samyamindra Thirtha Swamiji’s Badrinath Yatra 2018 and visit Kedarnath, Nainital. In the meantime we also enrolled (registered?) in GSB Seva Mandal, Mumbai that organized the yatra ,this is to ensure access to   prerogatives such as GSB food, accommodation  at Badri . 
So the arrangements made were:
  • Departure from Mangalore IXE Airport to Bengaluru : 15/06/18  at 9:30 am        
  • Travel from Bengaluru airport to Jolly Grant airport, Dehradun 12:50 p.m  to 3: 50 p.m
  • A  Taxi was also booked for the entire 10 days travel  to pick us from Jolly Grant Airport on 15/6 and drop us at same point on 24/6/18.
  • To and fro Helicopter ride tickets from Phata to Kedarnath

Previous night  14/6/18 we stayed at my sister Sujatha Prabhu’s residence, Mangalore.

Day 1 to Day 5 Departure from Mangalore(15/618) to departure from Badrinath

Day 1

The flight was as per the schedule. The first day was not devoid of any tension, as the tourist cars were off the road on 15/6/18 due to the strike called by the Tourist Taxi association in Uttarkhand   to protest against the fitting of speed   governors  in Vehicles.  It was a relief when a  Private car was arranged  to drive us  till Rishikesh  .
 Every evening as the dusk descends ,(remember sunset is at 7pm in Uttarkhand),its time for Ganga arti at these holy cities Haridwar, Rishikesh, Varanasi. Incidentally  Triveni Ghat was nearby to our  Hotel ,we left to the Ghats passing through the market. It is the confluence of  3 rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.
Entrance to Triveni Ghat, Rishikesh

Evening at the Ghats
Waiting for the Ganga Arti
Ganga arti in progress

 Happy to dip our feet in the horlicks color Ganga waters, more happy to find that there was a place to sit very near to the stage. A very well organized daily evening ritual, priests arrived at the Pandal by 6 pm.Live music and Bhajans makes the divine experience unparalleled. Anyone  interested  can buy a ticket and perform the Ganga  pooja under  the directions of priest before main arti starts. When the 16 priests perform the  Maha arti in synchronizing movements one forgets all the things and feels as if fresh energy is fed into life .The diya held by Pandit is huge with  21 vaats in all directions…. we also felt privileged to perform Arti when some devotee passed the arti thali to the audience.  Walking back to hotel  feeling blissful after  the event ,simply divine experience. 
A buffet was arranged at Hotel for dinner, pay Rs 180 per head and eat as much as you want..Dal,chawal,papad,salad roti,dahi, icecream. 

Day 2  Towards Phata

Cab driver Ritesh –( a young chap in late 20 s )arrived at 9.a.m to hotel .I turn to find that its a Hyundai Accent Taxi that can handle punishment on the mountain roads,at the same time keep us safe.At the mercy of Ritesh’s driving skills we steadily delved into Uttarkhand soon getting accustomed   to the roaring sound of flowing Ganges on one side of the road .
Approach to Tera Manzil temple

Dilip leaning on Lakshman Jhula ( Tera Manzil temple in the background)

 Tera Manzil temple and the suspension bridge can be spotted  from a long distance. As the name suggests the holy shrine has 13 storeys, with each storey housing several idols of Gods and Goddess. There is no lift, one has to Circumambulate the temple to get to  the next staircase flight. The perspective  view of Ganges and Laxman Jhula  gets splendid from higher storey, we cut down  after 5th storey,to comply within the time  precincts. Walking on the Lakshman Jhula through the squished crowd , looking down at the flowing Ganges in awe, at the same time being alert with 2 wheeler riders , clicking pictures  from different angles was a sense of accomplishment .Had tea at a stall watching the locals rescuing a monkey getting trapped in a power transformer.

While we were enjoying the journey, suddenly driver stopped the car saying tyre puncture ,he changed the tyre  in few minutes. On the way we stopped at Devprayag, more than its spiritual significance I’m attracted to the beauty of  earthly and emerald colored gushing waters of Alakananda and Bhaghirathi. Wayback in June 2016 during our chardham yatra, I had seen it up above from the road side , so not to miss the pristine beauty we descended down the steps .As the most photographed and posted confluence on Himalyan Club ,I have seen countless edited pictures of this Sangam . Dilip posted 360 view of this sangam in fb and instagram.  Aloo parota and a cup of tea satiated our hunger pangs after that tasks.
Pristine Sangam at Devprayag (Alakananda +Bhaghirathi= Ganga) (Unedited pic)

That night, accommodation  had been booked at Hotel Thulsi outskirts of Guptakashi, we did not like its location and its isolation, no human beings, so we moved on to  Phata from where our helicopter ride was booked nest day morning at 8.0 AM. The distance from Guptakashi to Phata is merely 15 kms, but as that stretch is prone to landslides it took nearly an hour to muddle through bumpy patches. We had to forego the amount paid at Thulsi for the sake of anxieties, but the one pitched up at Phata was spacious with all the topical amenities. The view of valley from the hotel was mind blowing; no one cannot resist trolling the hamlet.

 We met some Kannadigas from Gokarna who had come all the way driving, one gentlemen said that after having waited for Helicopter for past 3 days in vain he went to Kedarnathji by trek. No helicopters took off for past 3 days due to rains and mist, suddenly we started feeling doubtful, but the optimistic soul in us  maintained “in Himalayas everything is unpredictable “. To call it a day, we had early dinner, one can choose the vegetables for the curry, the cooking will definitely impress the taste buds and tired bodies. It was a feeling of staying in a hill station enjoying the climate, watching the scenery.

Day 3
Early morning we did Photometric registration, had a butter- bread toast and left to Helicopter boarding point. It was drizzling at Kedarnath ,very much disappointed to hear that  rides were cancelled. Clung to hopes of resuming the flight and allaying fears of hiring a pony to Kedarnath we waited till 1.00p.m .There was no chance of rains stopping nor skies becoming clear.

 We cancelled our journey to Kedarnath, returned to our room, and continued our journey. The other option was to stay that day and hire a pony from Gaurikund next morning. But the fear of getting drenched in the rains during the first leg of our journey was not an acceptable idea. Pradeepji words “Lord Kedarnath blesses his devotees who pray at Guptakashi with fervor”, satiated our seeking minds. Performed Pooja at  Guptakashi and Ukhimutt .

Passing through Picturesque town of Chamoli and  Gopeshwar was a brilliant feeling.  After a long journey for overnight stay ,our driver chose Birahi- a scenic hamlet on the banks of Alakananda and Birahi Ganga .Its a beautiful place surrounded by mountains, valleys, river, trees. The customer service acumen of young lads at the road side hotel is to die for-the way they persuade the tourists, instantly bring the luggage, arrange for hot water. The mulee ka parota and dishes served for dinner was a treat to savor.

Day 4
Next morning after enjoying the early morning sights of rugged green mountains  and sounds of flowing rivers, at Birahi,we hit the highway for Badrinath. On the  way, we paid a visit to the Lord Narasimha temple at Joshimut. When the Badrinath temple closes its  alters after Diwali every year, the sacred murthy of Badrinathji is brought down and worshipped here for 6 months. Birahi to Badrinath is 80 kms, Birahi to Joshimath is 37 kms and Joshimath to Badrinath is 43 kms

After crossing Joshimath, the roads ahead are challenging , with curves and cataract of rocks. A first time visitor Dilip, found the height of the mountains and cut through the valleys incredible, but could not enjoy the view. The short winding roads and driving put him to travel sickness. We reached the sacred soil of Badrinath by 1.00p.m.  It was absolutely ecstatic to view Nara Narayan Parvat , mountains with glaciers and the Badrinathji temple from the entry gate.  Our driver helped us in locating an ashram very near to Sri Kashimutt where our Swamiji had camped. Although accommodation was arranged at GMVN guest house for all GSB devotees; we preferred to have a personal and private accommodation.

 We proceeded to Mutt for Trikala pooja , the arrangements decoration especially the Chandeliers in the congregation area were divinely appealing .After enjoying a 3 course satvik and  sumptuous lunch followed by a short nap we visited the temple in the evening.  I was just spellbound with the views and vistas surrounding the sacred temple. Draped in a jamboree of bright and colorful hues, temple looked magnificent, yet close to heart while standing on the narrow footbridge over the Alaknanda river. Experiencing a sense of calmness in its salubrious air and gorgeous natural settings that even this din of pilgrim traffic could not rob away from us. The evening was chilly, to remain warm we purchase woolen hand gloves . Night attended Bhagavatha sapthaham at Badarinath Kashimath, the audience were 5 members. Devotees were arriving in small numbers, expected to around 6000 during Swamijis visit to temple.  We spent a cold night at the Ashram room kept  windows closed.

Day 5
 Early morning took bath at the Tapt Kund .Its very refreshing,feels like body is relieved of  pain atleast for some time. Dilip liked bathing at the Kund, but when he saw a boy fall sick due to long  exposure he cut short the time.This day we planned to spend at Mana. Its on the border between India and Tibet also identified as Last Indian village , just 3 kms from Badrinath.