Trip to Kedarnath [part 1]

One day in January last year, Basak aunty and her son (Ashish) came to visit us. While talking in general, they told us about their plan to visit kedarnath in September. I was a bit over excited hearing their travel plan – seeing me being super excited, they asked us to join them. We happily agreed and made sure we had no other plans in September.

Meanwhile all these months, I read many blogs on Kedarnath and also watched the song “Kafirana” from the movie “Kedarnath” many a times (just to get the feel of it). I tried to imagine the landscape in my mind, esp. the trek that leads to the temple Kedarnath.

Finally our plan to travel was like this :

Day 1: Take the night bus from Kashmiri Gate to Rishikesh.

Day 2: Take a cab [which stayed along the whole journey] to Sonprayag. Stay overnight there.

Day 3: By 6 – 7 am start the trek for Kedarnath temple – reach whenever possible (but before evening) – visit the temple and stay overnight in GMVN Rest House at Kedarnath.

Day 4: Come back to Sonprayag – by 12. And by 1 pm leave for Badrinath. Visit the temple – then come down to Joshimath – stay overnight there.

Day 5: Travel back to Rishikesh by evening – take the night bus to New Delhi (so as to reach Delhi early morning).

So this was the plan but we could not make it to Badrinath on the same day. Stayed at Mandal in Chopta – only this bit changed otherwise we traveled as planned.

So let me start the journey in detail. We’re six people travelling together : Me n my Maa – Basak uncle n aunty and their son (Ashish – who actually organised the whole trip : it was a Awesome one) – and Ashish maternal uncle.

Day 1:

From Kashmiri Gate, we took the night sleeper bus for Rishikesh. This was my first time in a sleeper bus. The experience was good and pretty comfortable and inexpensive too. The bus provided us with packaged 500ml drinking water bottles each (I know it’s not a eco-friendly thing and we should avoid it) – blanket and a pillow sort of pillow that you can use as pillow (hope this makes sense). The sleeping space was quite enough for two. Over all, night journey was pretty comfortable till Rishikesh.

There are many companies running these buses. One can book the tickets online. You can book the ticket on the spot too but most of the best seats get booked online in advance so you don’t get the best deal. Here I wanted to mention that not all buses are the same – in terms of providing water or blanket or the comfortable sleeping space or the cleanliness of the bus and so on – like the one we took at our return journey from Rishikesh to Delhi. They hardly provided any essential and the cleaniess too was not satisfying – of course, cost wise it was less too (Rs.700 for Delhi to Rishikesh n Rs.630 for Rishikesh to Delhi).

So I guess if you take a more expensive sleeper bus, they may provided more cleaner n spacious sleeping area making the journey more comfortable. But yes, they will all stop at the same roadside dhaba (or restaurant as they call it) for food n rest (at around 1:30 am if traveling from Delhi and nearly 3 am while returning from Rishikesh). This means one gets to use the same washroom which was okay-okay type – they charge Rs. 5 and it was stinking on our first stop while going to Rishikesh.

How i now wish i had taken out my DSLR … the sky looked like it was burning coal … seriously !

Day 2:

In the morning (around 5:30 am), the bus dropped us at Rishikesh and moved on for Dehradun. We witness a colorful sunrise.

There are many hotels and lodges that you can book for few hours to freshen-up and have a quick breakfast – like we did before we started our onward journey to Sonprayag.

Ashish had booked a cab online which charged Rs.20,000 for 5 day trip to Kedarnath-Badrinath-n back to Rishikesh.

Boulders from the landslide are gathered by the roadside … making the narrow road more narrower. Creating difficulty for the vehicle to pass, hence stopping one side traffic to let the other side pass. Result – taking a long time to cover a short distance.

By 9 am, we made ourselves comfortable in the AC Innova. We were feeling very lively and happy, listening to Bengali & Hindi songs. Everybody’s mood was super cool in the cool AC breeze … but this did not stay for long. As we drove up in the mountains, the heat of the rising sun was getting hotter and to make the matter worse, the driver decided to switched off the car AC. We had a heated argument with the driver as he said that he could not switch on the AC while driving up the mountain … otherwise his car engine would get damage and so on.

A better view of the road work … mending and widening of the road !

We at last could not do much but to open up the car windows … but there was not much relief. At many places, road mending work was going on, so all the dust was getting inside the car through the window. We could have bear the dust too but because of road work, we had to stop at many places and the bright burning sun was getting on our nerves – making us sweat like … I don’t even have words for that . On top of that we all had a bad mood because of the AC fight (i like to call it that).

The long waiting … as road work was in progress !

In between all this, we never fail to enjoy the beauty of nature : the mountain covered with green and the blueish Ganga meandering in its deep gorge – fluffy white clouds floating around the mountain top sometimes accompanied by mist. Only nature can be so beautiful. We kept staring and saying “wow…” and with every bend (on the road) we crossed, the volume of the “wow” got bigger.

Though we were all sweating and dying of the heat … the waiting or the dust from the road – watching the amazing view out of the car window actually erases all the restlessness and calms the heated head …

The heat and the frequent bending of the road got the better of me, made me feel sick. I soon fell asleep, as I tried to sit still with eyes closed.

Devprayag – Confluence of the two great river : Bhagirathi river (left) and Alaknanda river (right) merging to form Ganga river – one of the holiest river in India !

I woke up at Devprayag. Prayag means the confluence of two rivers. At Devprayag, the Bhagirati river which is flowing from Gangotri meets Alaknanda river which is flowing from Badrinath to form river Ganga. So this is a very auspicious n holy place. We didn’t went down on the river bank but saw it from the above road which actually gave a beautiful scenario. Took few photos there and i was feeling good outside the car too. From there we crossed Bhagirati river and headed towards Srinagar with Alaknanda flowing by our side all the way up to Rudraprayag (another confluence where Alaknanda river meets Mandakini river from Kedarnath).

A closeup at the Devprayag … water of Bagirathi River (left) is muddy whereas the water of Alaknanda river (right) is pretty clear.

We had stopped for lunch at a roadside dhaba (which was somewhere between Devprayag and Lamchin). It was a small and very normal dhaba but their food was seriously good. By the time we reached that dhaba, i was badly feeling sick. I took a anti-vomiting tablet – God knows why I hadn’t taken it before – maybe I won’t have suffered so much – but this was just the beginning, more suffering was on my way.

Growing population and over tourism demand more construction … more houses more hotels wider road – resulting in more landslide … sad !

I didn’t want to eat but my Maa insisted i eat. She made me eat one chapati (roti) with potato & bringal (egg plant) sabzi. Thank God she made me eat – as the food was super tasty. I feel sad that I couldn’t eat more – i still miss it.

And the view from the dhaba was marvelous too.

The breathtaking view at the ordinary dhaba with extraordinary delicious food … there was a mango tree just near by (can see a bit of it on the left side of the pic.) how i wished to sit beneath it for a little longer … can see the river meandering down there too !

After 1/2 an hour to 40 minutes break, we got on the road again. This time i didn’t sleep and was feeling somehow okay. One wish crossed my mind thousand times while looking out of the car window, “i wish to break my journey here and spend the rest of the day on the riverside walking on the white sand beach”. It was so very beautiful.

And this beautiful Alaknanda river made the journey so more picturesque … there’re many a place where i really felt like getting down and stay the day there.
It seems as if i am trying to jump off the bridge – but actually i was trying to see the wild grass growing on the rock in the middle of the river and the gushing water looks pretty scary too !

At late afternoon, we stopped for a quick tea & snack break. There we took few more photos and ate chips n spicy peanuts. With in 1/2 an hour, we finished our photo session and others finished their tea. Back on the road again. After some time, i felt a slight toothache (wisdom toothache which eventually always gives me headache). By the time we reached our hotel “Maa Akash Ganga”, my head was screaming with pain. I could barely keep my eyes open.

I couldn’t eat more than two spoon of “dal & rice” – took an aspirin and went to sleep. Everybody was worried for me, especially as we were to trek the next day to Kedarnath shrine.

This place is called Gauri Kund … all the shared taxis drop the devotees here and the real adventure or the hard work or the thrill whatever you may call starts from here …

Day 3:

As always, the next day i was feeling just fine – no headache – no pain – 100% perfectly fine – everybody felt relieved n happy. So with a feeling of refreshment and excitement we started our trek.

From Sonprayag we took a shared taxi to Gurikund (fare Rs.10/person) – as the real trek starts from there. We started our walk from the taxi stand – crossed the Gurikund market, everything essential is available in that market : rain coat, warmer, sweater, jackets, socks & shoes, gloves and many things more. From there, we bought walking stick (it looks cool to walk with the stick – you look more professional trekker … ha ha ha).

Now there are many boring yet important information to tell at this point of time.

  1. Carry sufficient cash for your stay at Sonprayag or Kedarnath. There are ATMs at Sonprayag but don’t entirely depend on it – it may run out of cash. And there’s no ATM after Sonprayag. Our hotels at Sonprayag and Kedarnath didn’t except card for payment. So be little wise-able to get sufficient cash at Rishikesh.
  2. Registration is a must for all devotees traveling to Kedarnath shrine.
    1. This is compulsory after 2013 massive flood.
    2. The government want to limit the flocking in of tourist to a certain number (maybe 1500 or 5000 not very sure) and hence the mandatory.
    3. There are registration counter at Haridwar, Rishikesh, Guptkahi, Phata, Sonprayag, and another near the Kedarnath shrine.
    4. Can also register online.
    5. For registration, either online or from the counter, one must carry the following documents with them ie. Mobile phone and a ID card (it can be one of these : Aadhar card – Voter id – Pan card – Driving License – or Passport).
  3. As it is a long and steep trek, there are many option rather than walking. I personally feel walking is the best option though. I love walking and to be with the nature at its closest – I can’t ask for more. The other options are
    1. Hire a pony/horse for Rs. 4500/person – round trip.
    2. Rs. 2500/person (one way) Sonprayag to Kedarnath –
    3. Rs. 2000/person from Kedarnath to Sonprayag –
    4. Rs.2300/person from Gaurikund to Kedarnath –
    5. Rs. 1500 Kedarnath to Gaurikund.
  4. Disadvantage : horse or pony may slip on those stone paved pathway. Coming down hill is more painful than climbing up the mountain. Of course cruelty to animals was our concerned (my Maa is a big PETA follower)
  5. One can also hire a palanquins where four people lift it and you sit in a laying position (it’s the most comfortable one). Fare depends on the person weight – up to 75kg
    1. Gaurikund to Kedarnath – Rs. 4550.
    2. Round trip (ie.) Gaurikund-Kedarnath-Gaurikund – Rs.7950
    3. If return next day – ie. Gaurikund-stay at Kedarnath-next day Gaurikund – Rs. 9550.
    4. If a person weigh up to 90 kg then the fare would be Rs. Rs.5050 – Rs. 8450 – Rs. 10050 respectively.
  6. Get a Pittu/Kandi (a person carries you on his back in a cushioned basket type carriage).
    1. Person weighing up to 50 kg. – round trip – Rs. 3350. Gaurikund to Kedarnath – Rs. 2900.
  7. Another great way to get to Kedarnath temple is by a helicopter. There are helipad at Phata, Guptkashi, Sersi.
    1. Each year booking starts in February. It is wise-able to book the tickets in advance.
    2. Cost of the ticket range between Rs. 6500 to Rs.8000 depending upon the months in which you plan to travel.
    3. If you want to book it for the next day, it might cost Rs 9000 or no availability (you tried it in September).
    4. There are round trip ticket ie. Phata-Kedarnath-Phata. One can also buy one way ticket ie. Phata-Kedarnath or Kedarnath-Phata depends on the seat availability.
    5. 10% discount on children below 2 years old (without seat). Full ticket for the rest.
  8. Do carry warm clothes as it is always slight cold up at Kedarnath.
    1. A rain coat as you never know when it may starts to rain in the Kedar valley.
    2. Refillable water bottles – so that you can refill drinking water from the taps installed at the trek way. The water is icy cold though.
    3. Carry essential medicine if required on the trek – otherwise there is medical camps at Gaurikund and near Kedarnath shrine.
  9. There are many food stall on the trekking route. One can buy tea, chips, biscuits (nothing fancy – so if you want to eat Oreo on the way – you have to bring your own) cold drinks, and of course maggie. At many places even puri and sabzi was also available.
  10. There are many government and private hotels or lodge available near the Kedernath shrine which you can book in advance and make our stay more comfortable.

The pony drinking water and relaxing before they get to go to work … i personally feel we should not harm or put them in a difficult situation. Many believe that they are made for that work … but they are living being and feel pain and on top cannot complain !

i will write about our really trek in my next post …. which was the most happening thing in 2019 !