We were never ready when we said we would be. The others, not Vijay and I. But we were happy with the unhurried pace of the whole trip. After planning to be ready by 6am, we all left the hotel for the temple at 7:30. Still early, some might say.
No scramble to leave your shoes, none for making your purchases of the offerings. Again we were the exceptions, choosing to say quiet prayers with our hands folded in reverence (Vijay, the non-believer that he is, probably didn’t do either).
Steam rising from hot springs at the foot of the temple; the street market
Nestled in the lofty Himalayas are the char dhams (four pilgrim places), Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, four of the most holy of pilgrimages for Hindus. Scenic mountains combined with holy waters (the Yamuna at Yamunotri, the Ganga at Gangotri, the Mandakini at Kedarnath, and the Alaknanda at Badrinath) present a picture of sacred tranquility.
Modern roads have made these remote places easily accessible and, at peak times, the queues for the darshan have become the rule, taking away from the spiritual experience; the reason behind the remoteness of the sacred spots, much diluted. It really is in the journey, not the destination. All of the four dhams are snow bound and inaccessible for much of the year. He must need the time to recover!
I can now check one dham on my list, though the order that they ought be visited is Yamunotri-Gangotri-Kedarnath-Badrinath. Trust us to start at the end!
After a hearty breakfast of idli-dosa we were on our way to Auli famous as a ski resort. We took the ropeway to the top through the most beautiful meadows and forests. The oak forest gradually turned to majestic pines and then the open meadow with lazily grazing cows. At last,we knew the reason behind the sweetness in the milk and the reason I did not need to sweeten my tea. Seems to me free-grazing cows do give tastier milk. Now I understand what Barbara, over at Tigers and Strawberries, has been talking about all this time!
The clouds would descend and disappear around us, and the mountain with its dense pine trees rose behind. There was not much choice at the restaurant – the summer over and the ski season still far – but the deficiency in the omelets was more than made up by the surroundings. We wanted to linger.
A night hault would have been heavenly but we were booked at Pipalkoti, 35-40km down of Joshimath. We found the best accommodation of our trip here, at hotel Udai Palace, on the outskirts of this sleepy town. Big airy rooms, no musty carpets, views of the mountains (and celestial lawns up above), and best of all, clean white sheets!
tea break-you can’t see it but it was accompanied by the sound of falling water, and a view to boot
We stepped out for a walk and were rewarded with a find. In the fading light (it was almost nightfall) we first thought we had spotted a firefly. But the movement made us think it was a firefly caught another bugs mouth. Turned out it was a creepy-crawly, about 3 inches long, with a flashlight at the rear! It was too dark so we had to use the flash – can anyone tell what this ‘thing’ is?
what in the world?
After another breakfast, this time idli-vada, and some shopping in the Pipalkoti bazar, we started our descent to the plains.
one of these now keeps my onions (Pipalkoti)
The local cucumbers were huge! Yet tender and juicy. Slit, sprinkled with a dash of spiced salt and a squeeze of lemon – on the go.
Haridwar – Har ki Pauri
We made it in time to offer flowers and incense to the holiest of Indian rivers, the Ganga, at Haridwar. Despite the crowds, one could sense the life-giving force in its eternal waters.
evening aarti at Har ki Pauri, Haridwar