Snow clad mountain peaks, greenery all around, fog cover and white water of the river flowing as if it is in a rush to go somewhere. Sounds like a familiar landscape of some Yash Chopra movie shot in exotic location of Switzerland. Well the landscape might sound familiar but it is not of Switzerland or northern Europe, but that of Gangotri.
Gangotri is near the originating place of holy river Ganga, and the temple is one of the four sites of the ‘Char Dham’. Let us not talk anymore about the mythological and religious part associated with it and keep the post to the scenic beauty and my experience of the latest visit.
As inferred from the above description the landscape is mesmerising. Describing the beauty in words is not an easy task, not for me atleast. The breathtaking greenery, the splendid snowy peaks, everything is just perfect. But the way to reach this perfect place is not very easy, although once there, one feels like spending the entire lifetime looking at it.
Gangotri is 10 hours drive from Rishikesh, so it is better to halt at Uttarkashi for the night stay. The road till Uttarkashi is in good condition, but after that a bumpy ride with some of the best sight seeing sights begins. 5 hours from Uttarkashi, it is better to leave for Gangotri as early as possible, as later in the day chances of getting stuck in a traffic jam increases and once stuck, then one needs to walk for 3-4 kms to reach the destination or wait in the cab. After reaching Gangotri, it is a cakewalk. Just hunt for a nice hotel, retire in your cosy room for some time and then start exploring.
On the first day after crossing two bridges and walking for a kilometre we reached ‘Surya Kund’, the place known for the great waterfall of Ganga. At this point the speed of the falling water is at max i.e. nowhere else in the entire length of Ganga of almost 2600 km, this speed is reached by the water. Sitting on a hill top looking at one of the most amazing river on the planet, water falling with an unmatched speed crushing everything in its way estabilishing its superiority, tiny water droplets drenching the face, cool wind blowing, sun playing hide and seek with clouds and throwing light of mysticism every now and then, and the sound of the falling water amid spiritualism, can not ask for anything else. While at ‘Surya Kund’ the time seemed to have stopped and we felt like sitting there for eternity.
Next day after having a breakfast of ‘Maggie’ with tea [trust me when it comes to food it is the safest bet, because even after trying 4 different restaurants during our stay of 2 days, we were left hungry after every meal] we went to the Gangotri Temple. After the darshan [which normally can take even more than 2 hours due to the rush, but the queue can be avoided by the official way of special darshan] we decided to go on the trek to ‘Paandu Goofa’ [Paandu Cave, where the legendary Pandava’s of Mahabharatha are supposed to have stayed during their exile]. The trek is around 3 kms and on way we came across ‘Gauri Kund’ the only sign for which was an arrow on a rock, telling us to climb down the mountain. Nevertheless following it we went down the hill, tried our luck at different routes which showed signs of human movement and finally reached there, and boy it really was worth all the pain of climbing down and hunting for the way. The Ganga here was even more beautiful than at ‘Surya Kund’ and watching it from the edge of a cliff without any human construction or barrier increased the thrill manifolds.
Back on the way to ‘Paandu Goofa’ after a kilometre there was no definite path to follow and no signs or symbols to guide us. Just walking the path amid jungle which showed signs of human footsteps, admiring the beauty all around, resting on rocks, looking at one or two people after every 15-20 minutes [assuring us that we are on the right track] and chit chatting we kept on moving. Now this is very funny, we kept on moving ahead, and then came a point when no one was to be seen for long time and there was only forest all around, and it was then when we actually wondered if we are lost? And then we saw a cottage of some water project, and after enquiring from the man there we got to know that we have actually reached the destination.
But where is the ‘Paandu Goofa’? It is right behind us, and after reaching its entrance [through which nothing can go in forget about us], we wondered if the Pandava’s were actually able to enter it through this small opening, especially Bheem known for his gigantic size? We were a little disappointed after looking at it, because frankly speaking we had very huge expectations, but then we realized that it was never about reaching Paandu Goofa, but about the thrill on its way. It is never about the final place, but how we reach there. Not about the final result, but finding our way to achieve them, overcoming small and big difficulties on route.
The trip to Gangotri was memorable not because we missed on Gaumukh [due to many reasons] or because we had great time with nature, but because it taught us many things. It was memorable because nothing was certain in it. Despite of all the planning which we had put into it, it was so unpredictable [especially the last day, which in itself was hell of a trip. But will talk about it sometime later], as it was not about reaching the end point, but about taking the path to it.