Back in 2020 after my trip to Gujarat in February, I was stuck in my home for the next eight months in Haryana. Inspire of my house being in the countryside, close to farms and the river Yamuna, I was bored to my bones. Life was all about work & Netflixing all day. But when a friend suggested that we take a trip to Kedarnath Mandir in Uttrakhand in October, I was elated. The state had just opened itself to the tourists after a dip in Covid-19 cases. After brief preparations for traveling, necessary permissions, we packed our bags and were ready to leave for 4 days of adventure.
As most of you would already know, Kedarnath is a Himalayan town in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. It got fame because of Kedarnath Temple, situated 22 km uphill of Gaurikund near Sonprayag. Kedarnath temple, situated on the Mandakini river, is dedicated to the Hindu Deity Lord Shiva. We started out from my hometown in a cab via NH1 to the Delhi Railway station. There are several ways to reach Kedarnath from Delhi. You can take a bus from the Kashmere Gate Bus Station to Dehradun then take a cab or a bus to Sonprayag. Or you can take a Cab directly till Sonprayag. But the six of us preferred to take a train to the state capital Dehradun and travel in a taxi to Sonprayag.
Day 1: Delhi to Dehradun to Sonprayag.
We had booked our tickets on a train from Nizamuddin Railway station. The train was supposed to start at 10.30 pm, but as usual, reached the station at 12.30 am. We boarded the train and slept all the way till Haridwar. We reached Haridwar at about 6 am in the morning the next day. The train then proceeded to enter the Dun through a picturesque gorge, all green and serene.
We could see the wet leaves with droplets of dew fresh on them, trees of the lower reaches of terai, and small farms of various crops filled with water. One could not help but open the window or stand on the gates to experience the fresh air of the lower reaches of the Himalayas. From there we entered the Semi-urban areas of Dehradun filled with small houses and big farms.
We reached the Dehradun Railway station at 7.15 am. Upon deboarding, the Local authorities wrote down our details as a precautionary measure. We had our Innova Crysta waiting for us outside of the Station. We greeted the chauffeur, loaded our luggage, and left for Sonprayag. On the way, we experienced amazing views of various small towns, valleys, and hilltops including the Tehri Dam (Tallest Dam in India) on the Bhagirathi river. After stopping several times for snacks, lunch, and pictures, it took us around 8 hours to reach Sonprayag.
At a distance of 4 km from Gaurikund, 18 km from Kedarnath and 70 km from Rudraprayag, Sonprayag lies at an altitude of 1829 meters. It lies at a confluence of 2 holy river Basuki and Mandakini. There is a belief that a dip the holy water of these rivers can wash away sins.
Sonprayag is not like other developed hill towns that you may have seen in Himanchal pradesh or other towns of Uttarakhand. The state of roads is not very good, there are no good budget hotels or food chains. It took us 2 hours of search around the town to find a Government Holiday home (GMVN) worth renting. We took two cottages for Rs. 3000 post a lot of bargaining. After a below average meal from the hotel diner, planning the next day’s itinerary, we retired for the night. We needed to be well rested as the road ahead was long and treacherous.
Day 2 : Sonprayag to Gaurikund to Kedarnath Dham.
We woke up early at 4 am to start for the Shrine. Our goal for that day was to reach the temple before 1 pm so that we could enjoy the beautiful sceneries around the premises. Our cabbie dropped us at the Sonprayag checkpoint where we ditched our Cab and took a local Taxi till Gaurikund. The local Taxi generally charges Rs. 20 per person for the ride. Gaurikund is a small Village and the base camp for the trek to Kedar Dham, where the Mandakini makes away towards the populace.
Even at 6 am we could see a lot of hustle bustle around the markets of Gaurikund. People catering to their animals, red clad local women walking with groceries, shopkeepers saying hymns in their shops. Smell of the wet soil, and hot dal cooking in the Dhabas, flowed with the cold breeze. Our Journey had begin. Another 22 kms to witness the Jyotirling of the Mahabharat era. To reiterate the temple is not accessible by roads, there is uphill trek to reach it. Pony and Helicopter service is available to reach the temple. Few of us decided to take the choppers to the shrine while rest of us starting walking. (Choppers cost around Rs.4500 for the round trip)
The road to Kedarnath is not as well maintained as Vaishno devi temple, but is not bad either. There are small shops at distances all along the trek. Water taps, Water falls, benches, washrooms are frequent too. Also, you can find wifi hotspots at two different places on the trek. The trek is pleasantly scenic with lot of flaura and fauna. You can find beautiful and exotic trees and flowers all over. I personally collected some flowers and made a few colourful bouquets. After walking for 3 hours we stopped for tea and snacks at the 8 Km stone. The price of food and drinks keeps increasing as you go up.
At a distance of about 2 kms from the temple you can find 2 quaint glaciers touching the concrete path. I suggest you feel the cool air it releases from under it on your face, a must try. At this point, the air starts to get thinner, temperature gets colder and the forest changes shape and size. You can only find small shrubs, grass and herbs with occasional montane trees. The tall standing, snow clad Himalayas which protect the mainland from cold Siberian currents can be viewed in the background of the settlement.
After crossing the helipad and the Mandakini River, we finally reached the temple premises at 3 pm. It was more magnificent than any photo could ever capture. Standing tall, even after the 2013 floods, the temple is taken care of by the head priest (Raval) who belongs to the Veerashaiva community from Karnataka. We booked our stay which costed Rs. 3000 for the night, freshened up and left for the Kedarnath market to look around and shop.
There is a Arti of Bholenath which takes place everyday at around 6 in the evening at the temple with hundreds of people participating. After enjoying the public gathering with chorus arti we went for dinner at a Dhaba. We had parathas, a basic thali and chai. Onions and Garlic is not allowed in Kedarnath. Our Bill was approx Rs. 800 for six people. After a filling dinner we retired for the night. Day 2 was about to come to an end. The temperature at 10 pm was -1 degree celsius. We doubled our blankets and slept.
Day 3 : Kedarnath to Sonprayag to Srinagar
I woke up at 5.30 am as I wanted to visit the Bhairo Mandir too which was about 500 meters uphill from the Kedarnath Temple. As it was very cold and all of us were really tired, only two of us could gather the courage to climb towards Bhairo Baba. The Bhairo temple is situated on hill top from where you could all of the township and neighbouring mountains. After a brief visit, we went back to have a pooja at the Kedarnath Temple. Everyone seemed cheerful even while standing in a queue, I guess that’s the power of Shiva. After the Pooja, we had our breakfast, made a few new friends and started for our journey down. We followed the same path, still awestruck by the beauty of Uttarakhand and reached Sonprayag at 3 pm. Our Cabbie was waiting for us, we loaded our luggage and left for Srinagar.
Not to be confused with the erstwhile summer capital of J&K, Srinagar is a city in Pauri Garhwal in Uttarakhand located on the left bank of Alakhnanda river. Once a capital of the Garhwal Kingdom, and at an elevation of 560 metres, Srinagar is home to 20,000 people. It is 100 km away from Rishikesh. One of our friend had a house in Srinagar so we had camped there for the night. After careful scrutinising of the night sky, sharing the stories, we were getting hungry. The caretaker of the house cooked amazing food for the us, and we slept our tiredness off.
Day 4 : Srinagar to Rishikesh to Delhi
After sleeping for almost nine hours, we woke up at 10 am. After a meal of locally made breakfast, we left for Rishikesh. Unfortunately, the route to Rishikesh was destroyed due to land slides so we had to take a longer route. Road to Rishikesh had so many turns that all of us got sick and to the verge of vomiting. The lower end of Himalayas is scenic and green with small hilltops. We reached Rishikesh at 2.30 pm and went straight to the ghat. We enjoyed filter coffee from Madras cafe for some caffeine intake. Charged up we paid our respects to Maa Ganga and enjoyed the pani puri available on the ghat. After some photography, we took the bus back to Delhi. And finally an amazing trip came to and end.