Uttarakhand Trip: Part II – Onward to Ghangria
Late afternoon on 15th August, we left for Joshimath from Auli. The morning, as I have already mentioned, was spent lazing about reading Thirteen Moons, and watching the rains and the mist-wrapped mountains. GMVN also had a short flag hoisting ceremony for Independence day in the morning. It must have been around 3:00 when we left for Joshimath. We stopped a bit on the way to do some bird-watching, but with the rain showing no signs of abating, the birds stayed wherever they stay when it rains, and we abandoned the birding plans and continued on our way to Joshimath.
We were there in an hour’s time, and having checked in to the GMVN hotel there, we left to see the ancient Narasimha temple, also where Adi Shankara is believed to have spent his last days after establishing his fourth Matha. This is also the temple where the statue of Lord Badrinath (Vishnu) is kept during winter when the main Badrinath temple is closed. While I generally do not prefer big temples, I found this rather peaceful. It appeared people stayed within the temple premises and a small group, who seemed to be residents of the temple community, was singing Shiv Bhajans when we went there. I listened to their chants for a few minutes and felt a sense of serenity permeate within. There is truly something about Bhajans being sung with devotion. We then went to see the Kalpavruksh tree which was believed to be two thousand years old, which I found rather hard to believe. The temple records from the Math indicated that Shankara lived during the 500 BC period, whereas I had always been under the impression he was born in the late 8th century AD. (A quick reading of Wikipedia indicates that that latter date is the more likely one).
We spent the night at Joshimath and next morning headed to Govindghat, from where we were to trek uphill to Ghangria, the base camp for our VoF and Hemkund Saheb treks. We bought walking sticks at Govindghat, dumped most of our baggage on the horses and the camera gear with the porters (or Bittus as they are called there) and proceeded to climb the 14 kms steep slope up to Ghangria. Vivek and I quickly left the others behind as they stopped early for breakfast. Loads of horse shit and mule dung all the way up, and it rained incessantly as well (in hindsight, I am no longer sure if it did rain all the time), nevertheless, we did reach Ghangria by 4. It had taken me almost 7 hours to get there, but I was just glad that I had actually been able to make it. Relatively speaking, the Govindghat-Ghangria trek was probably the least beautiful route of the entire trip. However, the Laxman Ganga (one of the tributaries of the Ganga) kept us company pretty much all the way through, and several waterfalls lit up the route here and there.
The horses had reached before us, but when I opened my bags in the hotel room, to my chagrin, I found that all the clothes in my bag were completely wet as well. As good as the Quechua bag was, water proof it certainly wasn’t. Ghangria was busy and dreadfully cold, and after making a call home, I quickly tumbled into bed shivering within the blankets that needed me to warm them up before they warmed me back. We ordered dinner in the room, before retiring for the night.
|Govindghat – Ghanghria|