Day 1 : Delhi – Dehradun
We reach Dehradun by the Shatabdi Express. It was a typical hazy morning in Delhi. Every time I saw sunshine peeking through the window, I felt a sense of joy. My friends had informed that rains had not gone away this year. However, bright sunshine greeted us when we had reached Dehradun around noon time. We had stayed at our company guest house (ONGC), which provided us almost free accommodation @Rs.40/- for AC room. Staying at Haridwar or Rishikesh would have cost us more.
The rain had returned by afternoon. I had a talk with the driver of the cab we had hired from a local agency for the trip. His casual attitude had an assuaging effect on me. In fact we became subject of tea time gossip for colleagues posted in Dehradun to whom it was near to impossible travel as the monsoon was stills active. The layback life in Dehradun had taken its toll on them. The deal was stuck for Rs.10000/- for 5 days and Rs.11,100/- if we extend it to the sixth day. We sought a bigger vehicle as we were 4 adults and 2 five year kids. We were offered a Qualis which is a good vehicle for hilly roads.
If one plans to travel by bus, this is how you can do it: There is a private co-operative which runs buses on almost all the routes in the Garhwal Region. It is called the GMOU Ltd. These buses starts from their office right outside the state roadways bus stand at Haridwar. But most of the buses leaves very early, around 5:30 am as they travels all day in the hills to reach their destinations like Badrinath, Gangotri, etc.
Day2: Dehradun - Joshimath
Morning shows the day. We were greeted by bright sunshine that accompanied us all the day. Even though it had been raining in Dehradun, it appeared that it had not rained around Rishikesh for last few days. But we could see the devastation of landslides on the road between Rishikesh and Byashi. It made one appreciate the forces of nature. A lesson out of the National Geographic programs. The second stretch of landslide affected area was near Gauchar. The third and the worst were between Pipolkoti and Joshimath. The road here has started sinking and may disappear if rain and landslides continues. This will severe the road link. By 6 in the evening we had reached Joshimath and checked into the same hotel where we had stayed last time (in 2005). The peak Yatra season is over and so the room rate was a mere Rs.250/-. The hotel rooms are decent. More importantly, it provides a towel and clean bed sheets. We had paid more last time as it was in June, the peak Yatra season.
There is a SBI ATM located on the ground floor of this hotel which I found to very useful. I saw two ATMs at Badrinath as well, one of SBI and another of PNB.
Day3 : Joshimath - Badrinath - Govindgaht
We had reached Badrinath by 10 am. A deserted bus stand greeted us. It was almost a shock for us. The last time we were here, the bus stand was bursting with activities. There were hardly any devotees in the temple premises. No queues for entering the temple. This is quite a change from our last visit when we had to stand in long queues for hours. Yatra season is almost over for this year. We had a peaceful darshan taking our own time. The driver told us that the traders at Badrinath are now waiting for the Bangali Season. How do you define a Bangali Season ? Well the Bengalis travel a lot during Puja vacations which will start in end September to mid October. They normally come here in large numbers. Off season travelers? May be. Because Bengalis are known to extract every paisa’s worth.
This time we decided to have a bath in the natural hot water spring called the Tapt Kund (तप्त कुण्ड), located just outside the temple. One can find mention of this spring at Badrinath in Puranas. This is where Lord Shiva and Parvati used to take bath when Badrinath was their abode. Doubting Thomas like me would find it hard to believe that Lord Shiva used to take bath ! Anyway, the water at the spring is very hot, quite in contrast to the icy cold water of river Alaknanda flowing just few feet below it. I never had a bath in such public bathing places having natural hot water spring obviously for hygiene reasons. I had seen a few of them. But this one has flowing water rather than stale water. Probably because of this we had little hesitation in taking a dip. May be we had to come back here for a second time for taking the bath!
This time we did not go to Mana village. We took the 3 pm gate from Badrinath and reached Govindghat by about 4:30 pm.