I started traveling quite early in life. Sometimes, I would go on a vacation with my parents, while there were many trips with my Uncle’s, Aunt’s, cousins and a few other relatives. One such trip was to the Char Dham. Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri.
We reached Gaurikund in the late evening and halted at a hotel for a night stay. After taking the holy bath in the kund (pond) the next morning, we proceeded towards Rambara. We packed an extra pair of clothes, a few eatables, water bottles, and started ascending with full enthusiasm. It was a long stretch of 14 km from Gaurikund to the Kedarnath temple.
The first 7 km were still manageable but we took quite a long time in reaching the halfway, Rambara. The next half from Rambara to Kedarnath was quite steep and tougher. As we had only a day in hand, we decided to take the horse ride and palanquins till the peak. My Uncle who was a senior citizen but the fittest traveler amongst all of us didn’t join us. Instead, he continued walking. It was an enjoyable experience traveling in a large group. The entire route of Kedarnath was mesmerizing with vibrant trees of different colored flowers. Those were not the days of smartphones so we couldn’t capture many pictures on the way. However, I have a few printed ones back home.
RAIN, RISK, AND MISTAKES
I remember we got down from the horse in many places and enjoyed the trek on foot. We met many Army trucks on the way and posed the sign of victory, “V” for them who reciprocated with the same warmth. When we left from Gaurikund, it was quite sunny but gradually, the weather started to change. It started drizzling and soon, we were amidst the clouds and rain. We didn’t have raincoats or windbreakers and got completely drenched in no time. Our bags were also not waterproof hence the extra pair of clothes that we had packed for the next day was also spoiled in the heavy rain.
Because of the rain, the route became very slippery and risky. Sitting on our horses and trembling, we were scared to fall down. At many places, there were narrow roads, fragile and dangerous wooden bridges and we were just praying for our safety. Finally, the adventurous ride ended and we reached our destination at around 6 pm. My Uncle who trekked on foot reached much before us and was waiting for us to reach. We were badly tired, wet from head to toe, and sleepy. As soon as we got down, we saw a few tea stalls. While waiting for the other members to arrive, we had 2-3 cups of piping hot tea in a sip. Yes, in a single sip, we finished it. The weather was too chilled to feel the heat of the tea. Despite dressed up in 4 layers of clothes, we were frozen.
We got basic accommodation through the Pandaas (local priests). Looking at our condition and wet clothes, the priest advised us not to take bath the next day as the air of the pilgrimage was pure enough to visit the temple. We realized our blunder of not carrying raincoats, the first lesson learned for the future. He was kind to arrange a coal brazier (angithi) and a heater for our room. On reaching our accommodation, we freshened up, changed into a few clothes which were not wet and tugged ourselves in the quilt. We dried our clothes through the heater while burnt a few. It was another lesson learned.
Once the rain stopped and we had dried clothes to wear, we went out for dinner. We were at such a height that the oxygen level in the air was quite low and some family members faced breathing trouble. Later we realized the idea of heating the room through angithi was wrong as it suffocated our room. Oxygen cylinders came to our rescue and we kept learning from our mistakes. This was the third lesson learned.
The day ended as all of us retired to the bed to start afresh for the next day darshan. Overall it was quite a wonderful experience of trekking and traveling with the family. The next morning we woke up to a bright day. We were relieved to see the Sun shining in the clear sky. We visited the temple, did pooja and headed to the next spot, Gangotri to experience a new adventure and make new mistakes to learn from them.