Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gangotri - The Pristine Beauty

Thanks to the wonderful aspect of our education called tests, yours truly could not write the next entry. Well, as that ordeal has been done now we continue on the journey to Gangotri.....

Leaving Yamunotri behind, we had to come back to Barkot before branching out towards Gangotri. Our destination, Uttarkshi, was a valley and the district headquarters of that region. Soon, all we could hear of Yamuna were the faint echoes of her fight with the rocks and only caught glimpses of her glimmering in the welcome sun, snaking her way past the monstrous mountains. Even the forests started changing around us. The tropical mystique gave way to happy coniferous trees and shrubbery.
It was almost as though the forests had become friendlier. The sweet smell of pine cones wafting through the air never lettin you find the source of the scent. Mountains with the latest spiked hairstyles are part of the exhilirating view. The leaves of the pines and other coniferous trees cover the mountain and the gorund making a soft greenish brown inviting carpet.

A few hours into the journey on a beautiful day after the ordeal of the previous night, our company comprised of the occasional insect sounding like a mobile ringtone, the bluest of skies with small white puffy clouds and a smiling sun amongst others. Stopping for a tea break, we stumbled upon this obscure little temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. We climbed about 30-40 steps to reach it. It was the most unique temple I have ever seen. It's situated in a cave one has to climb down to and that's not all. The bottom has a perpetual supply of the most freezing water ever to be found and the stalactites and stalagmites take the form of the idols. There we found Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesh and a few others comfortable and still growing in the cold clime.

Moving on, our eyes fell on trees dressed in terraced farms right from the top to the narrow valley below. It kind of makes you speechless and understand the importance of the rivers as all your eyes can take in is a range of mountains with countless farms and fields on them, all of them feeding off the water predominantly from the rivers. It makes you thankful for the bounty of Nature as she selflessly allows us to take whatever she has to offer, of course without hurting her. Soon, we
reached the valley that was home to Uttarkashi's inhabitants. After settling down, we went to a temple through the tiny but vibrant bylanes of the town. By now, River Bhagirathi was our new companion and the town was on her banks. Gangotri, you see, implies the source of River Bhagirathi.

Leaving early next morning, we continued to move towards Gangotri, tracking river Bhagirathi. Apparently, the roads to Gangotri had just opened that morning after being closed for two days due to heavy landsliding. The roads led through the construction of a 600MW Hydel Powerstation in the banks of the Bhagirathi and roads were a challenge here due to the heavy traffic of monstrous machinery. The roads were down to the bare minimum-rugged mud trails- making us very thankful for not getting stuck in the muck with an Ambi, almost as though Providence had intervened to give us the Innova. The mountain had also become very weak with all the blasting and tunnelling occuring for the turbines of the poewerstation. Cracks could be clearly seen and the precariously placed rocks didn't seem to require a reason to break away at any time! Carefully navigating through all of this, the next challenge was came in the form of Sukhi Top.

One mountain, whose peak was called Sukhi Top, was navigated in a very interesting manner. It was kind of pyramidal and to climb, one face of the pyramid was used, and to come back to lower levels anoher face. There had been a devastating landslide on one of the faces, tearing through the various levels of the roads, bringing a big rock right to the bottom of the mountain. At a particular point at every level, the chaos at each level would be encoutered, a mix of muck and water left for a road. Pretty apple orchards adorn the mountain near the top and red and green juicy apples can just about be made out on looking hard.

After Sukhi top, the roads move close to the river in an almost constant valley. We came across this particular rivulet reaching the river a few hundred metres away from the road. A tiny bridge over it is the road. A singularly quaint and delightful place for a picnic, no for anything at all, it had direct access from the road. The water was the clearest one I have ever seen with the telltale greenish tinge showing its origin from a glacier hidden from view. Freezing enough to make one forget the existence of one's limbs, its water is our souvenir from the journey. Its beauty is
quite hard to explain through words except that it was like a very happy place from one of Disney's cartoons. I was loath to move away from but, the journey had to go on. Further on, the pleasant village of Harshil nestling in the river (the river enters the village at 3 points and it is bang in the middle of the river's path), the winter home to the defense forms a perfect picture.

Gangotri was soon reached without any more distractions. A very tiny town, our place of stay was across the bank of the river, reched through a bridge. Nothing could have prepared me for the view! The river was in full spate and much more aggressive than the Yamuna. The cherry on the icing on the cake was this awe inspiring waterfall called the Surya Kund right in front of the GMVN property. One can't observe it from close without getting wet from the spray, or speak softly thanks to the roar of the surging water. The staggering amount of water that has been crossing this point every minute for all of time is beyond the scope of comprehension. It is so large, it just makes you giddy. A small trek of about 1.5 km from the hotel to a cave used by the Pandavas was refreshing. Walking through the forests, the cares of our worldly life seemed so irrelevant. We visited the temple for a Darshan of Goddess Ganga, enjoyed the breathtaking panaroma around us and returned for a hot dinner in the cold that pervaded the area. The sun setting early forces one to hit the sack early. After that getting up early from under the warm quilts was the most unpleasant and cruel task which nevertheless had to be done as we were leaving early next morning for Kedarnath via Tehri.

More on that later though......