Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day 6: Travel to Badarinath

Day 6 was in a way continuation of the previous evening. Descent... descent and descent. Temperature was not pleasant either. I think it was my new found knowledge about the importance of high altitude sun scream - I felt that sun was extremely sharp. Hm... wonder which cream was Ms K (Ms H.K, Canada to be precise) using. Those UV rays that purported to have burnt my nose en route to Hemkund only seemed to have managed to increase the glow in her face. Nevertheless, she decided to descend to Govindghat on 4 legs - those of the mule. Little did I know that it would be last time I would see her. Well, farewell.

After having seen the high mountain passes at Hemkund, the descent did not seem much interesting. More-of-the-same syndrome kept haunting. Well, even when we had gravity on our side getting down the mountain was not easy - thanks to some serious horse shit. We did not make progress as fast as we had imagined we would. One of the reasons we wanted to hurry was to beat the gate-closure-time towards Badrinath. It was becoming increasingly tiring. Only saving grace was that prices of fruit juices were reducing as we climbed down. A glass of nimbu-pani now costed only Rs 5/- compared to Rs 20/- in Ganghria.

Finally we reached Govindghat a little after noon. The Pittus took leave of us here. Nice people. A big thanks to them. Our brief search for our Qualis ended when we saw the smiling face of Khanduriji. Smiling, he told us that we would not make the gate-cut-off and hence we could take it easy. All of us abandoned our mountaineering (sic) sticks and got into the vehicle. As it started moving... I felt weird. It was the first time in 3 days that we were moving without putting any effort. It felt great. Lunch @ Hotel Bhagat and we were off to an hour drive to Badari Nath. Before we knew it... we were there - Hotel Dev Lok (New). The "new" in the bracket is important because there are many Hotel Dev Lok in Badri as well as the rest of Uttarakhand. It was the first time we had good mobile reception (only reliance) in three days. After about an hour frantic calling home, family and friends it was time for hot (yes, hot) bath.

The hot bath was not in the shower... but at the tapta kunda - the natural hot spring. Water from the hot spring is made to pass through 3 tanks. One is for the ladies and hence is covered from all sides ;-). Another one has only the roof and no walls. The last one is out in the open. The water in the covered tanks is obviously hotter. With enough apprehension, we got into least hot one... one by one. Quite a few men from the IQuest gang were also there. I am sorry to drag the comparison of liquour at a holy place... but our minds were just like a bottle of champagne just popped. We were laughing uncontrollably, splashing water at each other like four-year-olds. The place is naturally crowded. There had to be some one to look after the luggage at all time. A piece of advice - go there with as less luggage as possible... so that you can relax and soak in the hot sauna as long as you want.

There were further programs for the day. So we had to get out of the water and got into dry clothes. But alas!! we had to wait for the ladies. Luckily, in Badarinath any place where 10 people can sit - there will be a bhajan organised. We just sat in one of them right next to the tapta kund. After a bunch of songs, the girls were also ready and we proceeded to the shrine. Since it is one of the four matths that Sri Shankara himself started, it is a very holy shrine for Hindus. For that reason, it is also high on terror alert. Consequently, there is prominent security cover. Once inside I realized that it was just like how my 5th standard Hindi text book described it. There are birds chirping and flying anxiously all around. Some sparrows have made their home inside the sanctum also. So nice. I was so excited to see crows with yellow beaks and yellow feet. Only later did Mamu told that they were not crows but yellow-billed-chough.

After the ashtottara (reciting 108 different names of the Lord) we took prasad and joined another Bhajan group that was singing inside the temple. There is some intoxicating powers that these bhajans have. Here is where we picked up our slogan for the rest of the trip "Jai Badari Vishal!!!". We reserved our places in tomorrow's morning prayers and retired for the day. In the background we could here the priests performing the "shyana pooja" and putting Badari Vishaal to sleep.

Tomorrow promises to be an out-of-the-world experience. Behold.

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