Friday, August 07, 2015

फूलों की घाटी (Valley of Flowers) Trip -- Day: 2

19-July-2015

Today plan was to get up early & start towards Govindhat, via: Rishikesh - Devaprayag - Srinagar - Karnaprayag - Chamoli - Joshimath.

We were told to be ready by 6 AM & that the tempo will start with or without us at 6 AM from the hotel.  This transport was arranged by our tour operator.  Otherwise, one can take state-transport Haridwar - Joshimath bus as well.

We were also told that sometimes the road gets blocked due to landslide & it is better to start early.

The tempo came at 7 AM & our batch of 9 got into it.  Rest 7 were new faces.  Had no idea who they are & where are they from.  We loaded our luggage, took our seats & started.  Who would have said at this time that these 7 new members will become friends for life during next 7 days :-)...

As soon as we left Rishikesh, the drive was all "ghats" & nothing else.  Mountains, forest, green everywhere + the Ganga river on one side all the time.  Time to sit back & enjoy the drive.  Weather was also good.  Not very sunny & no rains.

video

On the way, passed Devaprayag.  This is where "Bhagirathi River" flowing form left joins "Alaknanda River" flowing form right and continues towards Rishikesh as "Ganga River".  Did not go down to the Sangam for want of time.  Had seen this confluence in many pictures.  It was nice to see the two rivers bringing in water that has distinct color.


Confluence of Bhagirathi & Alaknansa rivers to form Ganga

video

Here onward, Alaknanda River would be with us all the time.  Further up, Alaknanda River, is at Badrinath, then Mana village & if you check it on google earth, it is seen starting near "Bhagirath Kharak Glacier".

By 10:30 AM, we had crossed Srinagar village.  About 30 min later, near Kalyasaur village, the tempo driver found his friend who was driving other tempo form our group.  He stopped our tempo saying "lunch" break.  We had our b'fast at 8 AM & nobody was hungry for lunch.  After getting down, we got to know that 4 KM ahead, the road is blocked due to land-slide & police has stopped all the vehicles at Kalyasaur village.  People were telling that it may take 1 day to clear the road.  This was our 1st encounter with nature, at the beginning of the trip itself.

To kill time, myself & Dnyanesh, we decided to walk up to the land-slide spot & see it for ourselves.  It was bright & sunny so we took our umbrellas with us.  This is probably 1st time in life that I used umbrella for sun :-).


Border Road Organisation's (BRO) sign board.
"Shivalik" is name of the project that BRO took up for laying roads in this part of Uttarakhand.  For more check this link -- Shivalik

While we were walking casually towards the land-slide spot, one Sardarji crossed us on bicycle.  He should be 50+.  With 1 bag on his career & 1 hanging from handle.  As the road had a steep incline, he was pushing his bicycle.  When we asked him "where is he from?" & "where is he going?".  He told us that he is form Punjab & going to "Hemkund Saheb".  From the point where we met him, Hemkund Saheb is about 175 KM.  And he was going there on bicycle !  Amazing !!  During next few days we saw many more devote Sikhs going to Hemkund Saheb for the pilgrimage.  More about that later...

1 KM before the land-slide spot, suddenly we saw bikes coming form opposite direction & the riders were shouting that the road has been opened.  As expected, vehicles started coming form Kalyasaur village.  Everybody was in such a hurry that most of them started going ahead on wrong side & this resulted in traffic jam.  Vehicles coming from front had no way to move out & it became a chaos.  We called our tempo driver & asked him not to leave the hotel as there was traffic jam.  We then took a state transport bus back to our tempo.  We had lunch & then left to join the traffic jam :-)

Our tempo could hardly go 2 KM & we got stuck behind a big line.  Dnyanesh again decided to walk ahead & see if the traffic jam can be managed.  Meanwhile, it was 4 PM & all other members in the tempo were getting worried that the traffic jam will not clear & no way to find out how long will this take.  We then called the tour operator & asked him to check for hotel for us at Srinagar town back towards Haridwar + we decided to wait there for 1 hr more & if the traffic clears, then we had chance to move out & reach Govindghat.

Suddenly it rained heavily for about 15 - 20 min.  Once the rains stopped, I decided to walk towards the land-slide spot.  And the situation (नजारा) was horrible & scary...


Uttarakhand Police & PWD at work

Only a single vehicle can pass through this stretch of road

Landslide from both: above mountains & below the road
One one side, huge mountain + continuous rocks falling form there + such small road that only 1 vehicle can pass at a time + the road itself is in dangerous condition, rocks & soil caved out below the road itself + down, other side, the mighty Alaknanda River, god only knows how deep it is...

Police told us that this is a usual happening.  सब लोग आके गये, PWD, BRO.  IIT भी आया, लेकिन किसीको इसका उपाय नही मालूम.  There is a proposal for an alternative road up in the mountains, but its half done.

This situation was in NEWS as well -- Uttarakhand: Landslides and rainfall leave pilgrims on Char Dham Yatra stranded

I was lucky to spot a mountain goat here, up on the side from where the rocks were falling.



Dnyanesh crossed this stretch by walk.  He told us later that the road got clear for a while & vehicles had started moving.  But then all eager drivers created traffic jam.  State transport buses were ahead of all in creating the chaos.  These bus drivers are super expert.  They drive the buses on these dangerous roads as of driving a toy...

Again rocks started falling form top & the road got blocked.  Finally, around 6 PM, after the work by the earth movers + a lot of police intervention, the traffic started moving slowly.  We had to wait for 7 hrs at this spot before we crossed it.

As per plan, we should have reached Govindgath by 5 or 6 PM max.  It was still 150 KM away & with the ghat all the way, it was 4 - 5 hrs ride more.  We took a quick dinner break & started towards Chamoli.  The roads all along were dangerous, with small land slides at many places & only enough road left to drive a tempo or a jeep.

When we reached Chamoli, the police check-post there blocked us.  In this hilly area, it is not allowed to drive between 8 PM & 5 AM.  Now we were stuck at 9 PM with no way to go forward & back as well.  Luckily, we had 3 buses taking 3 diff teams to Govindgath.  All were stopped at this police check-post.  The drivers then called the tour operator & somehow convinced the police to allow us to go ahead.

We drove for 1 more & again one more police check-post stopped us for the same reason.  This time, they asked us to give in writing that all of us are going ahead late night on our own risk.  Finally, at 11:30 PM, we reached our hotel at Pipalkoti.  All along the roads were really dangerous.  God knows how the driver drove the tempo in pitch dark with mountain on right side & a deep valley on left side with the river flowing with full force...

फूलों की घाटी (Valley of Flowers) Trip -- Day: 1

18-July-2015


Background:

Had been to Nainital - Kausani - Ranikhet during Jun-2011.  Was mesmerized by the Himalayas, snow clad mountains & the greenery (forest) there.

Valley of Flowers trip was pending since 2013:
-- 2013, there was devastation (आपदा) in Uttarakhand, due to heavy rains.  We had our Bangalore - Delhi flight tickets booked but had to cancel it as there was no way to go beyond Delhi.

-- 2014, I again attempted but Valley was closed as one of bridge connecting Valley to Ghangria was not yet open.
---- We went up to Delhi but had to change our plan to: Dalhousie - Dharamshala - Manali
---- Manali to Rohtang-pass & the glaciers there was again an impressive stretch.

-- 2015, finally things were falling in like & I could make this trip & what a trip it was, simply "amazing".

-- Glad that Dnyanesh decided to join me for this Valley-of-Flowers Trek.  He is the best "company" that one can have.  Always smiling, always happy & biggest thing is always cracking "practical" jokes.

---- About 6 weeks early, we started preparation for the trek.
---- Dnyanesh made a nice check-list of items to carry, like: diff kind of clothing, back-pack, food, medicine.
---- He also did a lot of googling & studied feedback from earlier travelers + instructions provided by diff tour operators.
---- We were keeping a tab on the weather as well & praying that both Sun & Rain god blesses our trip.

---- To verify our stamina, we did a trek to Nandi Hill on one Saturday evening.  Nandi Hill is our own hill-station, for Bengalurians.  We went to the base, parked our car there & started climbing the hill on foot.  It took is 2+ hrs to cover 8 KM.  I actually did 3 such attempts on 3 subsequent week-ends.
***Honestly, this 8 KM distance + the elevation of about 550 meters, proved to be very amateur compared to what was in store for us. 

Itinerary:


DayFromToDistanceModeElevationElevation
MetersFeet
Day-1BangaloreDelhi2172 KMFlight216709
DelhiHaridwar220 KMTrain250819
Day-2HaridwarGovindghat295 KMBy Road1,8285,997
Day-3GovindghatGhangaria13 KM1st Trek3,04910,003
Day-4GhangariaValley of Flowers & back to Ghangaria6 KM2nd Trek3,352 to 3,65810,995 to 12,000
Day-5GhangariaValley of Flowers & back to Ghangaria12 KM3rd Trek3,352 to 3,65810,995 to 12,000
Day-6GhangariaHemkund Saheb & back to Ghangaria12 KM4th Trek4,633.0015,200
Day-7GhangariaGovindghat & to Badrinath & back to Govindghat13 KM + 74 KM5th Trek + By Road1,8285,997
Day-8GovindghatHaridwar + evening at Haridwar295 KMBy Road250819
Day-9HaridwarFull day at Haridwar--------
Day-10HaridwarDelhi220 KMTrain216709
DelhiBangalore2172 KMFlight9203020

Uttarakhand Govt Map for "Char-Dham-Yatra"

Day-1:

Airline rescheduled my Bangalore - Delhi flight & made it leave 45 min early.  Had to start 4 AM from home.  The road was clear.  Taxi took 15 min to reach Hebbal (11 KM) & 25 form Hebbal to Airport (31 KM).

As soon as I got out of the Airplane at Delhi, even though the temp was told to be 29 C, I started sweating.  It was very humid outside.

Was surprised to see the Airport Metro service operational.  There is a shuttle bus form Terminal 1 of Delhi Airport to the nearest Airport Metro Station.  Its an AC bus it they charge रु 30/-.  Every 10 - 15 min there is a bus.

Our Train to Haridwar was at 3:30 PM.  We took the Airport Metro up to New Delhi Railway Station & kept our luggage at the Cloak Room.  Spent 3 hrs roaming at Connaught Place (CP) & came back to Railway Station.  We had one more group with trek back-packs in our train compartment.  Upon inquiring got to know that they were from Thane & were also heading for Valley-of-Flowers like us.