A SIGHTSEER'S ADVENTUROUS SAIL
The reflections of my experience in this post are an inspiration from my trip to Kedarnath.
A TOUR TO KEDARNATH
Our family decided to TRAVEL
To a pilgrimage place of MARVEL
A Diwali vacation tour by FIVE
To Kedarnath we decided to DRIVE
Kedarnath in Uttarakhand LOCATED
On the Garhwal Himalayan range SITUATED
With the Mandakini river so NEAR
A sacred pilgrimage site very DEAR
The landscape is so MESMERISING
The chill breeze HYPNOTISING
Slowly crossed the roads with LANDSLIDE
Although baffled during the CAR RIDE
Enchanted by the snow-capped BEAUTY
To the eyes and soul, a fantastic PARTY
A region named as Kedarkand in HISTORY
How the temple was built a MYSTERY
By the seer and saint of FAME
Jagadguru Adi Sankaracharya by NAME
In eighth century was the CONSTRUCTION
The fifth Jothirling as per CLASSIFICATION
As Jyotirling in the sacred SHRINE
Resides lord Shiva the DIVINE
Amidst scenic snowy MOUNTAINS
Streams spraying on path as FOUNTAINS
On diwali with the fireworks LIGHTENED
The surrounding of the temple BRIGHTENED
A visit in the lifetime a MUST
To spiritually experience the BEST
A tour of such a PLEASURE
With memories stored as a TREASURE
THE TOUR PLAN
As a person who likes to travel, I have visited quite a number of places and temples. But the trip to Kedarnath was something very different. The experience and joy were totally amazing to such an extent that made me feel, that I should share my happiness, experiences and ofcourse the challenges also which I faced. Therefore, this blog post. It was during the last week of September (2022) my family (my husband, my elder son, daughter in law & my younger son) decided that we should travel together during the Diwali holidays. So we were thoughtfully busy deciding about the place to which we all can and should go. A place where both the elder and younger generations would enjoy. The children, who were always passionate about trekking the mountainous terrains suggested that we all should go to Kedarnath and Badrinath, so that they can enjoy the trek whilst me and my husband the pilgrimage. Having heard about the Char dham, I have always yearned to go there. But the distance and the cost of the package tour never motivated me. When it was decided that we shall go to Kedarnath and Badrinath, my joy knew no bounds. It was a one-week trip reserving the weekends for onward and return journeys from Secunderabad. After deciding the place, we started googling to gather the travel related information, and to our dismay, realised that the Kedarnath temple will be closed from the 27th of October for six months due to severe winter and snowfall, and Badrinath will remain closed from the last week of November. I was disappointed thinking that the trip to Kedarnath may not materialise. But with a boost of confidence from my elder son, we decided to make it to this auspicious place on the 24th and 25th and booked our travel tickets. Later was, another shock in store for us. We came to know that the Kedarnath temple would remain closed on the 25th due to a solar eclipse. Having booked our tickets, we did not know what to do. But still, we decided to continue and give it a try with the hope that we could make it to Badrinath at least.
THE STARTING POINT
My husband and I left Secunderabad on the 19th of October, made it to Agra, Mathura and Brindavan, and reached Delhi on the night of 22nd. The children were waiting in Delhi to join us, and we travelled together to Deharadun by train. We reached Deharadun on the 23rd morning at around 5.30, booked a car for rent, and started our journey towards the most longed place. Being October, the weather was quite chill. As we drove towards Sonprayag en route, we crossed Devprayag and Rudraprayag, we had lunch at Rudraprayag and continued our journey. The way we drove through was surrounded by mountains, we crossed many mountain streams, managed slowly through the landslid routes and reached Sonprayag at around 6.30 in the evening. We checked into a hotel, refreshed ourselves, had our dinner, went out for a stroll, and tried to adjust to the chill and the wintery cold weather (acclimatise). We met two youngsters who had just returned downhill after having darshan of lord Kedarnath and enquired them about the path and the level of difficulty climbing uphill. They said that it took them 10 hrs to reach the temple. Initially, we thought it would be a five-hour trek and that we all could manage. Seeing me, they advised us (the elders) to go on the mules or by helicopter rather than by foot. The children who were habituated trekkers said they would easily do it and asked us about our (my and my husband's) willingness to trek. My husband and I were overconfident and overestimated our stamina and said we would prefer to climb on foot alongwith them. After a cup of hot tea came back to the room, we went to sleep early so that we could start our day early in the morning.
OUR ADVENTUROUS DECISION
As planned , we all got up early in the morning (24th) and got ready. Infact I was the one to get ready much early with a sporty backpack, posing a challenging spirit.We packed some essentials (water, biscuit etc.) and very excitedly started the day. We walked for 15 minutes from where we stayed to board the van to reach Gaurikund(private vehicles were not allowed from Sonprayag to Gaurikund). Gaurikund is the place from where the trek of 16 km begins leading to the sacred shrine of Kedarnath. After reaching Gaurikund ( the base Camp), we started trekking enthusiastically. I, especially an enthusiastic and adventurous by nature, challenged my children that I would be on pace with them. The children who were habituated trekkers tried dissuading us from trekking and asked us to go by mules or helicopter. I avoided a helicopter ride because I wanted to be close to the nature enjoying it's beauty, and was not in favour of being carried by a mule also.To admit frankly, I overestimated my capability and copability and underestimated the difficulty level of climbing the mountainous terrain. The first one hour of the trek went out well, as I was admiring the nature's beauty. Being for the first time in such a marvellous place surrounded by snow-capped mountains, flowing streams and a gushing river, the first one-hour trek was truely very exciting.
As we progressed uphill , I started realising that it is quite difficult to trek (wisdom in hindsight ). It was a reverse situation now. Instead of us keeping on pace with the children, they had to keep in pace with me and my husband . Their speed slowed down due to us, as we were taking a break every now and then. I had cups of tea, chocolates, and Glucon D also to gain (regain ) strength to walk uphill. From 7.30 am to 10.30 am with great difficulty, I trekked a distance of 3 km. My husband also started to feel exhausted. But still managed. My daughter-in-law motivated me,by saying that I could do it, and made me walk by giving me the target reach of the next rest point which was ahead of us.The next 1 km, I was literally pushed from behind by my elder son , supported by my daughter-in-law from the front and by my younger son from the left side. The passers by were throwing a quizzical look. Puffing and panting I managed the fourth kilometer and gave up and sat on a stone, thinking to resume after a while. A few descending people gave a sympathetic look, which made us feel delicate and embarrassed. A young couple who were descending saw my exhausted plight and advised the children that I should use the mule to cover the remaining distance or go by a palki or palanquin. A suggestion in time. Now the search for a mule began, and we realised that getting a mule from the mule station at the base camp would have been easier than from midway because the ones which were mounting up were with pilgrims. So we had to wait for the mules which were returning down after dropping the pilgrims on top. Now the fare would also be a dynamic one as we were in a desperate situation. Hiring a mule from the mule station at the starting point would have been much cheaper . My husband, who was masking a sportive spirit all the while, now felt that he should also travel on a mule and with the pretext of giving me company, asked the children to look out for two mules.
THE JOURNEY ON THE MULE
Having decided that we would go on the mules, now the challenge was getting them. My sons moved in the uphill and downhill directions to find the mule transport. Finally, we managed to hire two mules and both of us started (re-started) our journey at 11.30 am on the mules, accompanied by their handlers. The mule walked quite fast and I had to hold on to the saddle tightly lest I would fall. The daytime temperature was slowly soaring up along with the cold waves blowing from the snow-capped mountains. Continuous sips of water were required as we felt exhausted and thirsty. It was pretty scary when the mule walked along the edge of the hill, which was not fenced. I was leaning forward when the mule was climbing the upper slopes and steps. I was leaning backwards when it was descending the downward slanting slopes/steps. Thus balancing myself to avoid a fall. Despite all the tiredness, the nature's beauty which surrounded us, was a blessing. It was a boon being amidst the picturesque landscape, which was a feast to the eyes. The sound of the gushing river was a feast to the ears. Overall it was a feast to the soul. After a two hours journey, the mules took a break for their rest and lunch and so did we. We had some noodles and a cup of tea, and after a short while, we resumed our journey, and at around 3.00 pm, we were dropped at Linchauli, which was about 1 to 1.50 km away from the temple.
THE DIFFICULT PART OF OUR JOURNEY
Having reached our destination , we were excited and thought that now we could easily make it to the temple in no time and will be ahead of our children.Now the last leg of our journey towards the temple began, and it was even more challenging. Being drained out and exhausted we were not able to walk also even though the terrain was moderately plain . For every four steps me and my husband had to hunt for a stone or seat to take rest. It was nothing but a musical chair game for us . We were looking out for all possible places were we could sit down,relax and take our breath. It took us two hours to cover that 1.5 km distance . We reached the temple at 5.00pm only to find that it was closed and would open for darshan at 5.30pm. The chidren also made it to the temple at the same time.
THE REWARDING REACH
An extensive line of devotees was waiting for the temple to open and have Darshan. We also fell in line and stayed in the queue for our turn. The temple opened at around 6 pm, and we had our darshan. The joy of having darshan of the omnipresent and omnipotent in the form of a jothirling was immeasurable, I felt blessed to have this great opportunity, it was nothing but a dream come true. All the pains of trekking vanished due to the inexplicable joy. After Darshan, we waited outside (near) the temple so that the children could look out for an accommodation for the night's stay. It was darkening, the chillness intensifying and me very much shivering despite all the protective warm wear. The temple was well lit and the devotees with festive spirit celebrated Diwali with fireworks and crackers, and oil lamps were lit all around the temple. It was a wonderful sight. But I couldn't participate as the temperature was falling and it was becoming very cold. The people around were making small bonfires to warm up. I managed myself to one such bonfire and tried to keep myself warm. The very thought that the night temperature would dip down to -1 c gave me more shivers. In the meantime the children managed to get a room for the night's stay, and we went to rest at around 8.00 pm. The next day (the 25th morning ), we got ready at around 9.00 am, had breakfast and went to the temple, only to find it closed due to solar eclipse. Then we went to the samadhi of the great saint Adi Sankaracharya which was behind the kedarnath temple and prayed. We sat for some time near the temple, enjoying the beauty of the surrounding nature. We took some pictures and bought some souvenirs. Later, at around 11 am, the children hired two mules to ferry me and my husband downhill, and they trekked down. We reached Son Prayag at around 3.00 pm and left for Badrinath. It was a trip memorable for our lifetime. Everything was so wonderful and divine. It was a blessing to have been there. The joy and memories thus experienced unravelled as a poem which I dedicate to the divine.