Monday, July 8, 2013

Tour of Uttarakhand - Badrinath

Part 1 National Chambal Sanctuary is here.
Part 2 Lansdowne is here.
Part 3 Enroute Joshimath is here.
Part 4 Badrinath is here.
Part 5 Auli - Tapovan - Kanchula Kharak is here.
Part 6 Chopta Tunganath is here.
Part 7 Devariyatal (Deoriatal) is here.
Part 8 Kakdagaad Haridwar is here. 

Day 6


The gate system being eliminated this year... we had the luxury of starting out after breakfast. By 0700 hrs we were on our way to Badrinath.


Govindghat, Pandukeshwar, Hanuman Chatti.... lovely little settlements along the river, each with their own set of legends attached. Govindghat of course, the gateway to Hemkund Sahib and the Valley of Flowers. Pandukeshwar, legend has it that the Pandavas spent their exile here. Hanuman Chatti has a predictable saffron coloured temple dedicated to (who else??) Lord Hanuman. 


Hanuman Chatti

The Alaknanda flowing alongside the road to Badrinath



Right after Hanuman Chatti starts the steep, sharply winding and dusty part of the route. Negotiating that part needs intense concentration since the visibility is barely a few metres due to the dust kicked up by the vehicle ahead. Additionally, the road is potholed and intermittently swamped by small rivulets of icy water from the snow melt higher up.


The dust kicked up by vehicles

Little rivulets running across the road

Neelkanth in the background

Neelkanth
 The first glimpse of Badrinath is mesmerising!! The little settlement alongside the temple is but a minuscule patchwork of colours in a vast landscape meant to command... dominate... enthral... hypnotise... inspire...
The lofty snow capped peaks and the meandering Alaknanda far below ... this is the place which has so much spirituality that you can almost reach out and touch it. Nothing is godlier than nature itself!
It really puts things into perspective. One senses how small, insignificant and petty are human egos, wants and conflicts in a scale this extravagant. I’ll let the pictures do the talking...




Badrinath temple



After Badrinath (which was chaotic in the extreme for parking, darshan!!) we proceeded to Mana, the last village on the frontier. Parking woes followed us there too. We parked half a mile away and walked up to the village with some reluctance at seeing the enormous crowds going both up and down.

Across the river on the other bank were many small fields freshly ploughed. We noticed what looked like pigeons flocking there except that they were oddly coloured. Realisation dawned on us that we were looking at 150 to 200 worth flocks of Snow Pigeons!! What a sight!


Snow pigeons

Village of Mana

Snow pigeons in flight




Walking up towards the famed Vyas and Ganapati Gufas as well as the Bhim Pul, our attention was caught by a pink browed Rosefinch perched deep in the branches of a flowering tree. He didn’t seem particularly perturbed by the human presence but refused to come out in the open either. The Rock Bunting, the Yellow billed Choughs and numerous Rosefinches kept us company all along.

Rock Bunting

Pink browed Rosefinch




On the path leading to Bhim Pul was a Naga Sadhu seated in a shallow little cave along the sidewalk. The pilgrims were stopping by to take his blessings. 

The Naga Sadhu

The spectacle of the gushing waters of the Saraswati cascading down from under the Bhim Pul and then just as suddenly, forming a calm pool below is awe-inspiring! There is a temple dedicated to ‘Maa Saraswati’ near the river.  The fine spray from the fall forms a lovely little rainbow which sparkles in the sunlight lending an ethereal feel to the place.  


Bhim Pul

According to legend, the Pandavas crossed the Saraswati (via the Bhim Pul) and ascended to heaven... Certainly feels ‘heavenly’ enough to stay there forever!

The rainbow at the Bhim Pul

We climbed up to the Vyas Gufa where a panditji was narrating the story of Rishi Ved Vyas and how he related the Mahabharat to Ganapati who took on the job of a scribe to pen it down. A few metres below the Vyas Gufa is the Ganapati Gufa.

The darshans done, decided to head back to Badrinath. Just short, we saw many cab drivers having lunch at a tiny store selling soft drinks and chips. The owner was serving Kadhi-chawal and some green leafy vegetable. Halted for lunch and had what proved to be one of the best meals of the trip! Lip smacking, delicious home cooked food!!


Neelkanth covered by clouds on the way back





The journey back was without incident except for a small rock fall near Vishnuprayag. Looking up we saw a herd of Ibex grazing on the slopes above causing small stones and loose mud to slide down.

Back from one of the most awe-inspiring and spectacular locations on earth. Truely, the ‘Abode of the Gods!’ 
Ibex



Sunday, July 7, 2013

Tour of Uttarakhand - Enroute Joshimath

Part 1 National Chambal Sanctuary is here.
Part 2 Lansdowne is here.
Part 3 Enroute Joshimath is here.
Part 4 Badrinath is here.
Part 5 Auli - Tapovan - Kanchula Kharak is here.
Part 6 Chopta Tunganath is here.
Part 7 Devariyatal (Deoriatal) is here.
Part 8 Kakdagaad Haridwar is here. 

DAY 5

A 0445 hrs start on our drive to Joshimath gave us ample time to stop for birding and halts at scenic places to take in the natural splendour of the Himalayas. Satpuli was one such place which was spread out in the valley below looking absolutely enchanting in the morning light. 


Satpuli

Jacarandas

Plum headed Parakeet

 Moving on... the road getting narrower and higher taking us to Paudi and then to Shrinagar was quite a lonesome stretch where we went for tens of kilometres without sighting a soul!

Shrinagar was a bustling town and also the point where we joined the regular yatra route making for extremely long lines of vehicles going up towards Kedar/Badrinath. At points we were barely crawling along... tiresome really!


Shrinagar

Himalayan Griffon

Stopped for lunch at Karnaprayag and looked for the sangam there in vain! I thought there was one ....! Only on ascending the road further towards Joshimath did we manage to see it. The beautiful green waters of the Pindar joining the frantic turbulence of the Alaknanda! A beautiful sight indeed!


Pindar before the sangam at Karnaprayag

Nandaprayag

Made Joshimath quite uneventfully that evening and settled in early for the night in anticipation of the next day’s outing to Badrinath!

View from Joshimath



Tour of Uttarakhand - Lansdowne

Part 1 National Chambal Sanctuary is here.
Part 2 Lansdowne is here.
Part 3 Enroute Joshimath is here.
Part 4 Badrinath is here.
Part 5 Auli - Tapovan - Kanchula Kharak is here.
Part 6 Chopta Tunganath is here.
Part 7 Devariyatal (Deoriatal) is here.
Part 8 Kakdagaad Haridwar is here. 

DAY 2

Directly after the safari, we drove off to Meerut via Agra. The Yamuna expressway is really very good... our first experience on it.  That stress free drive ended as we took the turnoff to Bulandshahr and onwards to Meerut. Some stretches were really beautiful tree lined avenues... others were potholed and narrow. In all, a decent drive. 

Enroute Meerut

DAY 3 and 4


The next day we made an early start to Lansdowne. Had breakfast of Chole-Bhature from a ‘thela’ in Miranpur which was yummm! Skirting Bijnor, drove past Najibabad, Kotdwar and then onto Lansdowne. The scenery changed after Kotdwar dramatically as the hills began. One particular signboard had us in splits...’Be gentee on the curves’.  Lovely roads and picturesque settings all the way to Lansdowne. 



Close to Lansdowne

I was surprised that despite the place being not particularly high up (in altitude), it was cold indoors even in the afternoon! The most striking thing on reaching was the profusion of flowers everywhere. The tiniest place be it on the mountainside or along the road was blooming with wild flowers. Many moss-laden trees had orchids on them in full bloom. Coming from the hot, dry and dusty plains, this was pure bliss!


The two days in Lansdowne, all we did was bird watching and enjoying the long walks in and around the place. For us from the plains, it was a completely new set of birds we saw there and the Plum headed and Slaty headed Parakeets caught our attention with their raucous screeching. Thus began our acquaintance with birding in the Himalayas...Himalayan Bulbuls,  Russet Sparrows, Lesser Yellownape, Brown fronted and Himalayan woodpeckers, the Eurasian and Black headed Jays, the numerous Tits, Flycatchers, Barbets, the list is endless. Kept us enthralled for the entire duration of our stay there...

Himalayan Bulbul

Slaty headed Parakeet

Black headed Jay


Verditer Flycatcher

Bulla Tal

Great Barbet

Orchids...!





Tour of Uttarakhand - National Chambal Sanctuary

This is Part 1 of our trip.
Part 2 Lansdowne is here.
Part 3 Enroute Joshimath is here.
Part 4 Badrinath is here.
Part 5 Auli - Tapovan - Kanchula Kharak is here.
Part 6 Chopta Tunganath is here.
Part 7 Devariyatal (Deoriatal) is here.
Part 8 Kakdagaad Haridwar is here. 

This was a driving trip from Bhopal to Badrinath and back. This travelogue will take you through the trip in smaller installments since the report is very long.

Day 1

The first leg of the trip was Bhopal to Devri (6 Kms ahead of Morena, near Gwalior). The reason for this fairly obscure destination was the boat safari on the chambal river slated for the next morning. Checked in at the FRH in Devri in sweltering heat. The place was absolutely burning up!! No power that day, though we were told that this was a one off... this generally never happened. When the situation did not improve till late evening and after nightfall, we had dinner at the FRH (which was very good) and decided to fall back to Morena and stayed at the circuit house there.

Day 2

The boat safari on the chambal was mesmerizing to put it mildly!! Our target was the endangered Indian Skimmer and the equally endangered Gangetic dolphin. Got to see them both to our heart's content. The dolphins are majestic creatures and being blind, do their hunting as well as navigation by sonar in the bump on their foreheads... We could not manage any pics since it is very difficult to predict where and when they will surface...
Ghadial

River Lapwing

Magar


The Ghadials and Magars are all around living up to the name of the sanctuary... National Chambal Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary.

Some pics of the Skimmer in Chambal...