Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Drive through the mountains – Rishikesh to Joshimath

Two full months after the trip, and still no trip-report. This has some reasons - albeit frivolous. One, work pretty much sucks. Second, I have come to realize that words just do not make justice to the wonders that we witnessed during that week. It is truly befitting that Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) on "Bucket List" chose ‘seeing the Himalayas’ to tick off the "Witness something magnificent".

Our journey from Rishikesh to Joshimath may have been ordinary and routine for the locals (like our driver - Jaypal Khanduri). But for some of us who were seeing the Himalaya's for the first time, it was nothing short of magnificent. Yesterday, I saw Ganga for the first time. Today, I am seeing Himalayas for the first time. We saw numerous rope bridges built across the Ganga. One of the first was at Marine Drive. A beautiful winding drive of about 4-5 Kms clinging to the Ganga, just like its name sake in Mumbai. It is maintained in top form and aptly named by the BRO - Border Roads Organization. One is bound to imagine what would happen if BRO were not there... All our destinations would be multi-day treks instead of 12 hour drives. Not too bad.. eh?

The early morning fog on the Ganga looked nothing less mystic as the Amazon. (My knowledge of the Amazon is only from the movie with J Lo and the snake). The river passes through valleys and bends around mountains to make wonderful beaches at the bends. It is difficult to believe that water takes the path of least resistance. Looking at the tall trees, boulders and parts of mountain devoured by Ganga along her way, it only looks like she does not choose least resistance. She just chooses a path on her whim and quells all resistance on that path. We just have got the cause and effect wrong.

The rest of the morning was interestingly-boring. It is a new term, when people get bored of seeing too many interesting things. We had a late breakfast at Kaudiyala (at Monal Restaurant. I guess?). We had Alu-parantha and Onion-parantha - loads of them. Little did we know that our familiarity with these two specific dishes would only increase as we gain altitude? Beyond that point, the roads got more treacherous and scenery got more beautiful. Deep gorges, Rock cut roads, Landslides, terrace farming, rope bridges, rain and shine became the order of the day.

We reached Joshimath a little after sunset. Joshimath is a town bustling with travelers. It is small pack of activity amidst total wilderness. For six winter months in an year, this is the last bit of active town along this route. We quickly finished darshan of some of the most holy shrines for Hindus. A cave where Adi Shankara performed long term penance and composed some of his best works, the present Jyotirmath - winter office of the Shankara Math of Badri and so on... By night fall, we again were faced with the same old question. What to eat? And where? Thanks to some heightened level of cleanliness consciousness, we shuttled from hotel to hotel before finally ordering food from a restaurant with open kitchen. However, we could never be sure where the food came from... since restaurants seemed to loan food whenever there was some kind of liquidity (turn-over) crisis ;-)) We retired to the cozy beds under the thick blankets wishing it were a long night. Ha ha ha... we had to be up by 4:30 to be on time for the next-day's oprdeal.

Breakfast at Kaudiayala, lunch at Rudra Prayag, tea at Pipalkoti and dinner at Joshimath. That pretty much describes day-two of our trip which saw us drive past three of the four holy prayags - Dev Prayag - confluence of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi, Rudra Prayag - Alaknanda and Mandakini, Karna Prayag - Alaknanda and Pindari.

(from Left: Dev Prayag, Rudra Prayag, Karna Prayag)

No comments: