In continuation with Road Trip from Lucknow to Tungnath
On our return leg from Tungnath we arrived at Chamoli in the evening next day and instead of planning any stay there we decided to continue our onward journey. Crossing Vishnuprayag, the confluence of river Alaknanda and Saraswati we reached Pipalkoti. It was getting dark so we took a hotel near the bus stand for overnight stay. I had stayed there before and I remember that the place would be overcrowded but that day there were hardly any tourist.
We had vegetable pakoras at the bus stand and on enquiry our doubts were put to rest. After the Kedarnath disaster two years ago, the tourists are not going to the higher destinations and there fears have been further compounded by the last year’s Nepal earthquake. I do appreciate that it is helping the nature but on the other side you have sulking eyes of these local residents who are searching for whatever benefits they can have from the brave tourists still trickling in.
Pipalkoti to Joshimath, 52 Kms – 2 Hours: Next day we started early and we reached Joshimath at around 10 am. At Joshimath gate our names and our vehicle numbers were noted down by the concerned officials. From the gate the road descends sharply through hair pin curves till it reaches down to the bridge over the river the Alaknanda. One can also admire the construction work in Joshimath by the Jaypees and also their massive Hydro electric project.
Just as you cross the river the roads starts ascending again. It is here that you realize the extent of damage done to the roads by the torrential rains 2 years ago. The washed away bridges, the rubble left of roads and dangerously hanging loose rocks up above bore a testimony to the facts that we had watched on TV in our cozy rooms an year ago. We salute the BRO [Border Roads Organization] and their workers for their painstaking continuous efforts in keeping the roads worthy of traffic all the time.
Leg 10: [Joshimath to Badrinath, 57 Kms – 5 hours]: As the destination gets closer the going does get tough. Till Govindghat, the road was in good condition and we would get occasional company of sikh tourists riding on bikes to Hem Kund Sahib on the road. At Govindghat the trek to Hem Kund Sahib, the holy shrine of Sikhs, commences.
I would like to mention specially the grit and determination of Sikh lads. These days where Biking has become a fad with youngsters going to different destinations on costliest of specially designed cruise bikes, armed with latest digital gadgets, clothing and protective gears, on the Hem Kund route you will see them on regular 100 cc bikes in down to earth attires and a small bag slung at their backs, coming from small villages of Punjab and other states. It once again cements the fact that one does not need the resources for biking. It is the heart and passion that is primary.
As we crossed Govidghat the air was chilly with rain clouds ready to spoil our ride. The roads were more or less washed off and at some places the restoration work was in progress. Just about 3 kms short of Badrinath the rain began to come down hard and we were forced to take shelter. The wait was 2 hours long but the site opposite to us was worth the wait. There was a small water fall and some lush green slopes which just turned white when the clouds over them lifted.
As if it was not enough, one of the bike got punctured. We had no option but to ride along as there was no other option. After crossing 14 – 15 feet high ice walls on road sides we reached the last turn from where we had a clear view of the Badrinath bus stand.
Moving slightly ahead we had the first glimpse of the eternal Badrinath temple shining brightly amidst the dark snow clad backdrop. The Nar and Narayan mountains were not green that day, as I have experienced them in my earlier trips, instead they were grey and covered with snow and Neelkanth peak towering atop was all white and nestled in between was the colourful temple glistening as if radiating in its own holiness.
Our bigger concern was to find a tyre tube mechanic at Badrinath as we were told that there was only one and he was not ready to do the needful because of the frosty conditions. The other mechanic shop was 24 kms far at Govindghat so we had to cajole him for the repair works. He agreed when we were relentless in our efforts.
We stayed at the hotel just opposite to the temple. I have visited Badrinath thrice before but never before I had the luxury of walking into the temple without being in the queue but this time there was no crowd at all neither was the commotion in the market ways. We also had a bath in Tapt Kund [the hot springs] before we offered our prayers to Lord Vishnu [Badri Narayan].
One thing I can assure everyone, eat anywhere you want you are sure to get good food at Haridwar and anywhere all the way to Badrinath. There are langars [where food is served for free as Prasad] organized for the pilgrims going to Hemkund Sahib or Badrinath. At Badrinath we had lunch and dinner at Hotel Saket [One cannot miss the restaurant because of its location and also because it serves the best food]
Given the bad weather conditions, we decided to cut short our visit to Vasudhara Falls. Instead we had a long walk [1 Kms] to village Mana, which is heavily advertised to be the last village of India after lunch. The weather quickly turned dark and heavy clouds made us return back as fast as we could because we could not afford to get wet knowing well the long return journey on bike.
Return Leg: It is understood that when you return, the same stretch that was so picturesque turns uninteresting. It was no different with us. We started off in the morning and reached Haridwar after 13 hours of journey with very few halts, only noticeable one was lunch at Baba Ka Dhaba at Karna Prayag.
Our backs were literally on fire with towels on our seats providing no cushion anymore. Next day we continued the same routine from Haridwar to Lucknow with halts only when the back burns were unbearable. The most tedious and painful were the last few kilometers as they seemed unending. Finally at 11 pm we were at home with some awesome memories for lifetime.
Ps: We all did not ride a bike for next week or so.