6 days of Winter in Himalayas – Solo 1

The Beginning:

Before starting the travelogue I would like to introduce myself a little. Describing myself I am not the one zipping and speeding at 120kmph. I respect machines and believe motorcycles are best when it comes to explore places. It balances the fuel and fun well. I term myself as budget yatri. My bike trips are extremely cheap but equally meaningful and I feel good about it. I prefer basic accommodations and eat what locals eat.

I never rush towards my destination as doing so do not let us enjoy the journey. I like to connect those small dots enroute and make a final picture of the journey. Lets start..

Himalayas always fascinated me. I used to wonder of huge mountains and greenish rivers slipping through the deep valleys. I dreamed of shining snow clad peaks standing one behind another and locals busy in their daily routine walking up and down the mountain.

Literature’s of mystical Yogis wandering in Himalayas in search of ultimate truth always motivated me. Somewhat with the same intention and to see if I can stumble upon such mystical Yogis this trip was planned. 

Itinerary:
Mumbai to Haridwar on train.

Day 1: Get bike from Rishikesh and ride upto GMVN, Gopeshwar. [210km]
Day 2: Ride till Badrinath or closer and rest in GMVN, Joshimath. [141km]
Day 3: Ride to Auli. Ski if possible and rest in GMVN, Gopeshwar. [80km]
Day 4: Ride to Ukhimath. Trek Deoria Taal and rest in GMVN, Ukhimath. [160km]
Day 5: Return to Rishikesh. Visit Ashrams and local sight seeing. [190km]
Day 6: Stay in Haridwar. Attend Ganga aarti and local sightseeing.

Back to Mumbai.

Packing:
 Recommended for bike trips in Uttarakhand. Items may differ for other mountainous region.


1. Good thermals are must for bike rides in cold regions.  Make sure you have both shirt and pajama. Rupa Thermocot is reliable.
2. A good riding jacket. Sweatshirts, T-shirts and Jeans. With four layers of clothing I still shivered twice during the tour. It’s not the snow which makes us shiver. In fact, I didn’t felt much cold amidst snow in Auli. It is the cold wind which can be troublesome while riding. 
3. Take care to carry winter riding gloves. My leather gloves burnt the top part of my two fingers. Regaining full sensation took a week.
4. Purchase Balaclava suited for winters, you will regret with ordinary ones. Purchase somewhat like what I used in one of the pics enroute Badrinath. It has two setting threads; one tightens around the head and other one around the nose. 
5. Knee and Elbow guards.
6. A big torch. One which I use costs Rs.350. It is easily available in Mumbai. Best part is it is very powerful and runs for 12 hours if charged full. I remember how this helped me during the Rajasthan trip, when the headlight of Impulse stopped working in a dark night.
7. First aid kit (Paracetamol, Digene, Pudin hara, band aids, small antiseptic bottle, cotton roll, mesh roll used to wrap wounds above cotton, motion control tablets-Lemofen, razor blades, scissor ).
8. I did packed good amount of snacks but after the tour I felt you need not carry that much.
9. Camera and accessories (Charger, tripod). Keep spare memory cards. I almost lost 70 photos when one of the cards stopped working at Auli Ski slope. Luckily it worked later.
10. Bungee cords, nylon ropes, safety pins, 1.5m x1.5m plastic sheet to cover luggage from shower, repair toolkit, safety knife, government district or state map printouts (they are the best), Pen and notepad in case you write.
 

Rest of the things like routine items, clothes depend upon how light or heavy you prefer to travel. Just remember to carry multiple socks and inner wears :)

Mumbai to Rishikesh [Argument with Sanyasi] :

This part was quite eventful. Sleeper coaches were always happening for me. Golden temple mail was crowded as usual. 12-13 army recruits, seemed from Haryana boarded from Gujrat and filled whatever space was remaining around. Their shouting and gali galauj stopped when a well built Sanyasi more like Pierce Brosnan came and sat near us. Shortly one quarter of the coach was attracted with his voice and gathered around us. I was listening him too.

But he kept speaking about the problems. We all knew what sort of problems we have as an Individual and as a citizen. In between he said good people should not run to earn and accumulate wealth. I interrupted him. I said there is nothing wrong in earning wealth. In fact, this is what the dharma of Grihasth (married) is.

It is his duty to generate employment and earn profit by providing quality materials. Later purifying his earning by donation. तन की शुद्धि स्नान से होती है। मन की शुद्धि ध्यान से होती है। और धन की शुद्धि दान से होती है। This is what we are expected to do.

He was hesitating to accept. People started supporting me. Then a good round of discussion started which  ended in an argument. He left the seat and never came back. He came across me outside Delhi station. I passed a smile but he didn’t cared to smile back. I laughed and went on …

I met another interesting guy a nuclear scientist from Bihar. Very simple and shy. He worked at Rawatbhata nuclear reactor in Rajasthan. He went on explaining his training, reactor construction, premises, working of reactor, fuel supply management, storage, new inventions and many secrets advising in last not to share.

From Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station hired an auto rickshaw for Old Delhi station as last local departed just now at 19:00. Negotiated the rickshaw for Rs.100. This is the easiest transport from Nizamuddin to Old Delhi especially  if you have luggage and don’t know Delhi. Rickshaw took 30 minutes but I was not bothered as the connecting train to Haridwar was at 23:45. Reached Haridwar in morning at 05:00.

Boarded state government bus from Haridwar bus stop which is in front of Haridwar railway station. Bus took 40 minutes to reach Rishikesh and charged Rs.35.

Took another rickshaw for Rs.100 from Rishikesh bus depot for Laxman Jhula which is 5km far.

I was to get my mobility from Mountain Fox Adventure, Hrishikesh. Called Ashok ji. He was very prompt to pick up my call at 07:45 in morning. He came to his office on Laxman Jhula road and handed over a good Bajaj Avenger. He was quite helpful in negotiating the deal and accepting my request for a good condition Bajaj Avenger. Recommended for bike rentals and other adventure activities http://motorcyclerentalrishikesh.com/

Rishikesh Mountain Fox Adventure

Rishikesh Mountain Fox Adventure

Rishikesh to Gopeshwar:

Today’s stop was Gopeshwar  220km from Hrishikesh. Luggage loaded and geared up, left the place. Went back to Hrishikesh petrol pump and filled the tank. This was the first time I was riding in Himalayas, so I decided to ride first 25-30 kilometers to get used to the road and bike. Morning was chilled but roads were good. 

Hrishikesh Deoprayag enroute bike pose

Hrishikesh Deoprayag enroute bike pose

Hrishikesh Deoprayag entoure scenery

Hrishikesh Deoprayag entoure scenery

Hrishikesh Deoprayag riverside camp

Hrishikesh Deoprayag riverside camp

Rudraprayag Chamoli bike pose

Rudraprayag Chamoli bike pose

25 rupees Kadhi Chawal:

Roads turned worst after Devprayag and continued till Srinagar. It was 13:30 and I was hungry. I was looking for some small dhaba. Found one just before the Srinagar town starts on the right hand side of the road.

Kadhi chawal was ready. Every bit was delicious and quantity was much more than what we get in metros. In the 15 minutes discussion he shared how difficult it is to fetch good dahi from near by and other materials.To my surprise he said ‘matra pachhis rupye sir’. I was surprised. I gave him 40 rupees but he was reluctant to accept. I was not going to take it back either.

Srinagar dhaba

Srinagar dhaba

Journey through the Prayag’s: 

Resuming the journey, I rode through the towns of Srinagar, Rudraprayag, Karnaprayag and Nandprayag. These are whole lot of awesome places. From Rudraprayag straight road goes to Badrinath and left one goes to Kedarnath. At Rudraprayag, Alaknanda from Badrinath and Mandakini from Kedarnath merges to become Bhagirathi.

Deoprayag sangam

Deoprayag sangam

Roads are pretty good after Srinagar right upto Joshimath with few bad patches in between. Any how riding in the mountains is fun. Throughout the route I was accompanied by gushing river down the road and green pointed leaf trees on both the sides.
Rudraprayag chamoli glowing leaves

Rudraprayag chamoli glowing leaves

Srinagar rudraprayag bike pose

Srinagar rudraprayag bike pose

Srinagar rudraprayag bike pose

Srinagar rudraprayag bike pose

Landslide road

Landslide road

River scenery

River scenery

Srinagar rudraprayag scenery

Srinagar rudraprayag scenery

Just before the town of Chamoli a right turn down the road goes to Gopeshwar. Gopeshwar 10km from highway, is a scenic and quite hill town with beautiful people around. It was around 18:00 hours when I reached Gopeshwar GMVN. The GMVN rest house is right in the main market opposite to bus depo.

Unloaded my luggage and went inside the office. I was surprised they knew I was Niraj Yadav and they were expecting me by 18:00. Good. I had a booking in Dormitory. It was on the second floor. Resthouse was clean and tidy. Dormitory beds and covers were clean too. Washroom was functional. What else do you want in Rs.110 !!
Started the geyser and took a nice warm water bath. I was the only occupant in the 10 bed dormitory. Order a thali in the GMVN restaurant but it was not that good.
Planned things for tomorrow and went to sleep.

In the land of Badri Vishal:

Opened my day with a shivering bath followed by packing and loading. Tying ropes in a winter morning is what I don’t like. It was around 07:00, came down in the GMVN restaurant to enjoy a hot tea. Finishing tea geared myself and left the GMVN. Avenger started with the first hit of self start. Didnt faced any cold start problem throughout the journey.

 Day 2 route map

Day 2 route map

View from GMVN Gopeshwar

View from GMVN Gopeshwar

Reached Joshimath around 12:00 in the afternoon.

Alaknanda - Enroute Joshimath

Alaknanda – Enroute Joshimath

Just as I was to start for Badrinath scene changed and dark clouds hid the mountain.

It started drizzling and finally raining. I took shelter under a military ration building.

ITBP training centre Joshimath

ITBP training centre Joshimath

Playing with time and timer

Playing with time and timer

Asked to return:
 

Two men jumped from a truck which came from Badrinath direction. One guy who seemed army guy very strongly suggested me to return from here. He said roads are bad from here. Chances of getting stuck there is huge since it is raining. They were back just now and its not at all good for a biker that too alone. You wont get help either. I kept quiet. I was ready to take chances. I don’t fear being alone.

That interesting guy:

His assistant was silent for all these 15 minutes. He started repeating same words when the first one went inside. But I diverted him by asking questions. From where did he come? What did he do here?

He was standing wearing a long gumboot loose shirt and a worn out trouser. This showed that he was engaged in some kind of labor work. He spoke with a true smile which made his normal words sound funny.

He belonged to a poor farming family in Jharkhand and he was here in search of employment. He said ‘हम चट्टान तोड़ते हैं सरजी।’ he smiled and spoke.

I asked where all have you been? He said Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Indore, Ludhiana, Imphal, Jammu, Goa, Sikkim, Himachal. A true wanderer indeed. But he loved Nagaland and Malari which is 80km from Joshimath the most.

Malari remains under snow during winters and these people are first to go there and open the roads. Either using JCB or blasting the ice. Kida Jadi. He said its very costly. As the winter comes to end local folks run back to their homes in Malari and start searching Kida Jadi. It resembles worm but actually it is kind of plant. Kida Jadi is valued at rupees 4 lakh per kilogram.

Rain slowed down in 1 hour and by the time these people were gone. Started my bike and left the place.

Towards Badrinath:

Crossing a military iron bridge and landslide zones reached Pandukeshwar, a small village considered important during yatra season. Continued riding ahead.

Iron bridge on Joshimath Badrinath route

Iron bridge on Joshimath Badrinath route

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One of landslide zones enroute Badrinath

10

House amidst beautiful surrounding – Enroute Badrinath

11

House amidst beautiful surrounding – Enroute Badrinath

9

12

Winding roads enroute Badrinath

13

Climbing mountain roads

14

Playing with time and timer

Witnessed 3 days old Glacier:

On moving ahead I noticed white material between two mountains. It was not as white as snow.
On a corner of the road, saw a boy standing in front of a small temple. He accepted my request to click my photos.

He was from Jharkhand and was positioned here to keep a watch on the JCBs. Pointing at the white substance he said this is glacier. It came down 3 days ago. But they give a sort of warning sound in the valley before coming down. This gives some time to move away from its route.

Rough patch enroute Lambgadh

Rough patch enroute Lambgadh

It's freezing here

It’s freezing here

Standing on Glacier

Standing on Glacier

Glacial water

Glacial water

Water bridge

Water bridge

Himalayan mountains

Himalayan mountains

 Himalayan scenery

Himalayan scenery

 Himalayan mountain ranges

Himalayan mountain ranges

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Bidding him a good bye I moved further. My journey ahead stopped at Lambgadh village. I was informed that roads ahead was covered with 2 feet snow.

Returned Joshimath and went to GMVN tourist rest house. Placed my luggage in GMVN dormitory, I was alone here too :)  After a quick bath went to Joshimath market.

Joshimath is good enough town. Shops are placed on both the sides of the straight long road. Petrol pump is at the end of the town on the Badrinath route. Roads to Auli and Malari goes through Joshimath.

During winters, Badrinathji’s idol and palki are shifted in Joshimath.

Pure Vegetarian restaurant and hanging tandoori:

Market was bustling with people. I saw a board which read Pure Vegetarian. I was surprised to see 5 grilled chickens hanging.
I said the owner ‘आपका बोर्ड आपके दुकान में लटके आइटम से मैच नहीं करता ‘. In a rough voice he said ‘क्या चाहिए जल्दी बोलो ‘. Settled for Chow mein. I took another lesson, no Chow mein in Uttaranchal.

Spent my evening walking on the streets of Joshimath and watching the local life.

Skiing at Auli:

Today’s plan was to visit Auli 15km from Joshimath. Try my luck at Skiing. Return to Gopeshwar by 18:30.

Route map

Route map

Started my day early at 08:30 in the morning. I had planned to return to Joshimath by14:30 and proceed to Gopeshwar.

I had expected black ice on the route and I was correct. Geared up myself took my camera and with one push Avenger started. First 5km was good except the chilly wind which made my fingers almost numb.
Scene started changing. I could see shining snow clad peaks and fresh snow on both sides of the road.
Suddenly I felt my Tyre skidding left and right, it was black ice. I slowed down to 20kmph.

No car or motorcycle passed me till now. Snow on the road was increasing with every kilometer. I was around 5 kilometer behind Auli. A car came from behind and started honking to pass. I was riding in the middle, I signaled to wait and moved slowly towards right.

At the curve just ahead driver of the car applied brake. Due to ice on the road car didn’t slowed down, it skid towards right. I think driver must have steered to make it straight. But car again skidded towards left facing the valley. I thought it will fall. Luckily he escaped and went ahead. I hate drivers who rush to their destination.

My rear got stuck in almost a feet deep snow very close to Auli. I was at full throttle but Tyre just kept revolving. My shoes was not fit for snow as a result I was not able to push my bike forward or back.
Then comes the rescue.  Indo Tibetan Border Police has their camp at Auli top. Military trucks fitted with big snow chains keep plying on this route.

A jawan jumped from truck and lifted my bike from behind. He helped me clear that snow patch. Thanked them and moved ahead.

 Joshimath to Auli

Joshimath to Auli

 Joshimath to Auli

Joshimath to Auli

 Joshimath to Auli

Joshimath to Auli

 Joshimath to Auli

Joshimath to Auli

7

Missed the right turn which goes towards Auli Ski resort and stumbled on a small shop on the left side of road. After a cup of hot maggi and tea and inquired if can do Ski up there.

Owner of the shop is a nice guy. This year his brother who was in ITBP was representing India in Nordic Ski race help up in Switzerland. He lived in the village down below. He said he can arrange a coach for Skiing. That’s good.

Settled the deal for Rs.300. He closed his shop and took me the Ski slope.

Guy sitting arranged my Skiing practice

Guy sitting arranged my Skiing practice

His village on the hill below his shop

His village on the hill below his shop

I was handed Ski shoes which sturdy and tall. Coach asked to get on the slope which was around 100 meters from here. Walking with Ski shoes requires a bit of practice.
Coach brought a pair of Ski, a pair of Ski sticks and a pair of Ski gloves. First lesson was to stand with Ski.

Fell 2-3 times but learning was fun. After an hour of struggle I was enjoying coming down the slope.
But its tiring as well. After 2 hours of practice I asked the coach to leave.

Falling session

Falling session

Finally getting it

Finally getting it

Finally getting it

Finally getting it

She didn't Skii, it was just for the photograph

She didn’t Skii, it was just for the photograph

Ski slope at Auli

Ski slope at Auli

Purchased a ticket for Rs.350  for the rope way to get up on the slope. It was valid to and fro. There are two rope ways in Auli. The bigger one starts from Joshimath and ends on the top of the slope. Ticket price for this rope way costs Rs.750.

Smaller rope way takes Skiers to the top of the slope from where the slope ends. It costs Rs.350.

Auli ropeway - runs from Joshimath

Auli ropeway – runs from Joshimath

Auli ropeway - runs from Joshimath

Auli ropeway – runs from Joshimath

Auli ropeway - Skiers use it get on top of the slope

Auli ropeway – Skiers use it get on top of the slope

Auli ropeway - Skiers use it get on top of the slope

Auli ropeway – Skiers use it get on top of the slope

Auli ropeway - Skiers use it get on top of the slope

Auli ropeway – Skiers use it get on top of the slope

Coach offered me rubber shoes to walk on snow. Auli has artificial lake on the top of the slope. It was completely frozen.

Auli ski resort

Auli ski resort

Auli ski resort

Auli ski resort

Auli ski resort

Auli ski resort

Auli ski resort

Auli ski resort

Artificial Frozen lake - Auli

Artificial Frozen lake – Auli

Ski resort scenic view

Ski resort scenic view

26

Endless Himalayan mountain ranges

Endless Himalayan mountain ranges

Great Nanda Devi in the center

Great Nanda Devi in the center

Spent some time walking around the lake and started my return journey. Bid good bye to the shop owner Deepak (08650496857) and left Auli.

While returning an ITBP jawan asked if I can drop him to Joshimath. I said I dont have any problem. I asked ‘girne se dar to nahi lagta?’ He said ‘Ji nahi. gir gaye to phir uth jaayenge’. That’s like an army guy!

Dropped him near Joshimath market at around 14:30. I was on schedule. Packed my stuff and proceeded to GMVN, Gopeshwar.

Today it was Mahashivratri. Gopeshwar was bustling with activities. People had flooded markets. Chat wala, khilaunewala, Ice cream wala were busy tending queues of customers. It seemed like a movie scene.

Checked into GMVN. I had whole dormitory to myself. Slept early after a nice warm bath.

Deoria Tal trek:

Today’s plan included trek to Deoria Tal. Deoria Tal has its reference in Mahabharat. It’s the same lake where 4 of the Pandavas dies by drinking lake water without answering the Yaksh’s questions. They were brought to life only when Yudhistir answers all the questions. I  like part especially the question and answer between Yudhistir and Dharmraj.

1

 

Route marked in black is a direct route between Gopeshwar and Ukhimath. Chopta, Chandrashila and Deoria Tal lies enroute. This route was closed due to heavy snowfall. I had go around and reach Ukhimath via Rudraprayag.
Direct road is 60km and the longer one via Rudraprayag was 130km. I had no options but to take the longer route. Braced for the longer route followed by trek after that, I left the place around 08:00. Reached Ukhimath around 12:30. Construction work and bad roads considerably slow down the speed.

GMVN Ukhimath is beautifully located on a mountain. What can be more pleasant than sitting on a chair in the small garden of the resort sipping chai or coffee and eyes fixed on the snow clad peaks. Beautiful town of Guptkashi lies on the other side of the river.

Chai at GMVN, Ukhimath

Chai at GMVN, Ukhimath

View from GMVN, Ukhimath

View from GMVN, Ukhimath

Settled in the dormitory. I was alone here too! All the dormitory beds were mine.
Ordered Aloo paratha and chai. Both were delicious. I asked the GMVN in charge if he can arrange a guide for me. Although one does not need a guide to trek Deoria Tal. I was skeptical of the weather and heavy snowfall.

He came with a young man and introduced him. He said Namaste sir. I said eeh. Don’t call me sir. And we became friends :)  Waited for another half an hour until the rain slowed.

Left GMVN resort at 13:30 and rode till Saari village, 15km from Ukhimath.
Wind was very cold. Had another cup of tea in Saari and started ascending.

Walkable stone path is present from Saari village right upto Deoria taal. We didn’t took any major break just once, when heavy snowfall started and we had to take shelter. We didn’t saw any trekker enroute neither on top. We took around 2 hours to reach the Tal.

Just as we reached on top another round of heavy snowfall started. View was truly amazing. Did a parikrama of the lake, spent 1 hour and started descending. We could not see Chaukhamba peaks as it was hidden by clouds.

Chopta peaks from Deoria taal

Chopta peaks from Deoria taal

Saari gaon landscape

Saari gaon landscape

Saari gaon with mountains

Saari gaon with mountains

Walkable stone path is present from Saari village right upto Deoria taal. We didn’t took any major break just once, when heavy snowfall started and we had to take shelter. We didn’t saw any trekker enroute neither on top. We took around 2 hours to reach the Tal.

Just as we reached on top another round of heavy snowfall started. View was truly amazing. Did a parikrama of the lake, spent 1 hour and started descending. We could not see Chaukhamba peaks as it was hidden by clouds.

4

Deoria Tal

Deoria Tal

Deoria Tal

Deoria Tal

Deoria Tal

Deoria Tal

Poser pic at Deoria Tal

Poser pic at Deoria Tal

Prayer flags at Deoria Tal

Prayer flags at Deoria Tal

Fresh snow

Fresh snow

Beautiful bird at Deoria Tal

Beautiful bird at Deoria Tal

We were halfway behind the Saari village and snowfall started again. This time stronger than before. We took shelter in makeshift place. We started again when the snowfall reduced and reached Saari village at 17:45.

Maps and stats recorded on Google tracks.

Maps and stats recorded on Google tracks.

Maps and stats recorded on Google tracks.

Maps and stats recorded on Google tracks.

It was pouring throughout the route till Ukhimath. Reached GMVN Ukhimath and we both had Coffee.

Its difficult to describe sipping hot coffee while its raining amidst tall mountains.

Repeated Aloo Paratha in dinner.

14

Beatles Ashram and 3 sanyasis:

Today’s plan was to reach Rishikesh and handover bike to Ashok ji. Local sight seeing in Rishikesh and attend Ganga aarti in Haridwar.

Checked out from GMVN, Ukhimath and left for Rishikesh at 09:30. Two times Aloo Paratha, 4 coffee, 4 Tea cost me Rs.120.

Ukhimath to Rishikesh was around 182km. I rode throughout enjoying the scenery and mountain curves.

Enroute Rudraprayag from Ukhimath

Enroute Rudraprayag from Ukhimath

Did my lunch at the same place in Srinagar. They were happy to see me and asked if my journey was good.. This time it was Rajma Chawal.

When the time cease to exist we tend to enjoy things the most. Journey was so involving I didn’t remembered when I reached Laxman Jhula. Placed my luggage at Mountain Fox Adventure.

Route map

Route map

I roughly had 5 hours in the Rishikesh. I didn’t had any fix list for Rishikesh but had thought of seeing Laxman Jhula, renowned Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Swarg Ashram, Beatles Ashram and Ganga aarti. 5 hours were enough for all these. Creeping through the lanes of Rishikesh on the bike, I reached Laxman Jhula in 5 minutes. Laxman Jhula is a narrow suspension bridge usually filled with tourists and locals crossing the river. People use Ram Jhula as well to cross which is little down the river.

I was surprised that bikes were allowed on that narrow bridge. Honking and moving slowly crossed the bridge. Went to Parmarth Niketan Ashram first, but didn’t knew what to do here. So just took note of the things and moved to Swarg Ashram. Repeated the same in Swarg Ashram.

While returning from Swarg Ashram I spotted a beautiful ghat in front of Gita bhawan. It was tempting.
Although it was bright sunny day, I didn’t mind walking on the hot floor of the ghat and sitting on the lowest stair next to Ganga.

Ganga ghat in Rishikesh

Ganga ghat in Rishikesh

Scene was heavenly. Ganga was very fast here. Faster than what I saw elsewhere. Water was clear and greenish. My eyes was stuck in the midst of the river over the sunshine and I was lost in thoughts.
I didn’t knew when 2 hours passed.

Started my bike towards the last one in the list.

Maharshi Mahesh Yogi ashram or Beatles Ashram it is know popularly is not easy to locate.
From the main road which goes towards highway just after the taxi stand a kutchha road in the right hand side goes to Beatles Ashram. Ashram gate is around 100 meters from the main road.

It was constructed in 1960s later the area was declared part of Rajaji national park and they had to close down the ashram. Fair amount of foreigners come to this place wishing to see the place where Beatles stayed and composed.

Parked my bike in front of a closed metal gate. Inside the gate a 50-55 year old man in kurta was talking with a foreigner. I called that man and said I want to see the Ashram. From no angle that place seemed to be an ashram it was just fallen structures amidst jungle. He said its 5 PM and its closed. I said I have come a long way to see this. Finally I was able to convince him. He took my driving license and said go carefully its jungle on the other side with no boundary walls. I said Ok. The place was already getting dark.

Stoned footpath leads to the main compound or courtyard. I noticed a tiny bird very fast and restless. Wasted my 10 minutes to capture it in camera.

The restless bird.

The restless bird.

Ashram had around 130 concrete Kuti equipped with air conditioners and public address system. Once the meditators went inside the Kuti they locked themselves and meditated in seclusion. Beatles too did this.
Place seemed poorly maintained. Creepers covered the building walls. Doors and windows were broken.
Since I didn’t had a guide, it was just walls and doors for me.
I saw jungles starting so returned back.

Foot path in the Ashram

Foot path in the Ashram

Flowers in the Ashram

Flowers in the Ashram

 Mushrooms

Mushrooms

 Kuti

Kuti

2 more old Sanyasis were sitting beside the man who took my DL.
Asked the man if I can have my DL back since I have to return Haridwar today itself.

He said sit we are not going to take your DL. After basic introduction of each other a good piece of conversation started. I remember the exact words. I said ‘मुझे आध्यात्मिकता के प्रति झुकाव है. योगियों को ढूंढने की कोशिश भी की मैंने’
No one said anything.
Then I asked two old Sanyasis ‘आप दोनों ने कब संयास लिया’
One of them who was preparing chilam spoke in a deep voice ‘अरे हमें तो चालीस हो गए’
I further spoke ‘आपने तो चालीस साल में काफी साधना की होगी और आपने सन्यास क्यों लिया’
Offering his chilam which I respectfully rejected he shared his story very briefly of how he retired from his life. Meanwhile the man who took my DL returned and sat next to me keeping his left leg folded on his right thigh.
It was then, I noticed his elephant like leg. He was rubbing his huge foot with right palm which only had 2 full fingers rest were half or less than that. It was getting dark and scene seemed quite scary in the jungle.

Sanyasi continued ‘चालीस साल में मैंने हर घाट का पानी पिया है।  अब तो मेरे अपने बच्चे ही मुझे नहीं पहचानते।  यहाँ के योगी और साधुओं से बच कर रहना बाबूजी ।’

He continued  ‘आज कल के गुरु गुरु घंटाल हैं। सच्चे  योगी मिलना बहोत मुस्किल हैं । ऊपरी हिमालय में शायद मिल जाये पर वो दूर रहना ही पसंद करते हैं।’

I asked him how do they survive in extreme cold place like Badrinath in loin.
He replied ‘योग बाबूजी। बहोत शक्ति है इसमें पर मुस्किल भी है’। I said I know Pranayam. He said ‘ये सब नहीं कुण्डलिनी सुना है आपने।’
I nodded affirmative and name 3-4 chakra which I remembered.

He said ‘जी। इनमे से मूलाधार चक्र जो मेरुदण्ड के अंत में होता है उसपर ध्यान लगते हैं योगी।
और उसे क्रियान्वित करते हैं। उसके सक्रिय होने पर बहोत ऊर्जा उत्पन्न होती है। जिससे उनको भयंकर ठंडी में भी पसीने छूटते हैं। पर ये तो कुछ नहीं है उनके लिए।’

I was fascinated and asked them did you people tried this. He said ‘हमने हर घाट का पानी पिया है’ But I knew he was lying. A yogi cannot have chilam in his hand but I remained silent and continued listening him.

‘अरे हम तो शमशान में भी सोते हैं।  शमशान जानते हो ना। हमें किसी का भय नहीं’  he said penetrating my eyes with this deep glare. Suddenly the other person itching his elephant leg with his damaged finger said ‘अरे ये तो कभी कभी शमशान में सोते हैं मै तो हर दिन ही मरघट मे सोता हूँ, ये जंगल किसी मरघट से कम है क्या? आपको पता है यहाँ क्या होता है। ‘

He sounded scary. I intervened and said I think the discussion is going elsewhere and also I am getting late.
But they didn’t let me go next we discussed on Bhiksha vritti, role of sanyasi towards society, how Vedic dharma is different, role of marriage, role of grihasth towards society, etc.

In the end, I came to know that the other twoSanyasis were disciples of Mahesh Yogi. They showed me some real photographs of the ashram, Beatles and Mahesh Yogi with themselves. I was getting desperate to leave, asked for my DL, handed that man 30 rupees, took my bike and rode back to other side of Laxman Jhula.

While returning went to German bakery which didn’t stood to expectation.
Handed my bike to Mountain Fox Adventure and left for Haridwar.

Shared tempos are available but I took a private one for Rs.100 as I had to catch bus from Rishikesh bus stop as soon as possible.

Ganga aarti at Rishikesh

Ganga aarti at Rishikesh

Some photos from Haridwar:

Enroute Haridwar

Enroute Haridwar

Ghats - Haridwar

Ghats – Haridwar

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Chains of spirituality

Chains of spirituality

Children at Har ki Pauri searching for coins

Children at Har ki Pauri searching for coins

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Thank you for reading my travelogue. Email me at [email protected] for any information.

 

This entry has been shortlisted for Holidify’s Travelogue Writing Contest in association with Linger. The content and pictures may not be used without prior permission of the author.

Submitted by: Niraj Yadav

The original post can be found here

 

 

 

 

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