When the world has decided something for you, there is nothing you can do about it. I didn't have any inclination to go to Kedarnath at first. But when the heart wander freely and the mind looks for an escape, I guess everything just falls into places. When there is less money in pocket, but a strong will for an adventure, there is no place to go better than the Himalayas. And when it comes to the Himalayas, the place that comes to my mind first is Kedarnath.
KEDARNATH, the home of Lord Shiva- a remote Hindu Shrine, situated 11,750 feet above sea level and tucked deep into the mountains, a perfect combination for peace and adventure. On a fine morning in October 2019, I left my home with a friend with only INR 10,000
in our pocket, to escape the daily routine and seek the adventure out there in the Himalayas.
Haridwar - Gateway to God
The journey to Haridwar was cheap, and the tickets just cost around INR 450. We were not able to finalise the hotel in Haridwar, but thankfully we didn't have to look much and found a normal hotel near Haridwar Station. After settling down, we went for a walk to Har-ki-Pouri, just to have a look and feel of Haridwar up close.
Har-ki-Pouri is the holy ghat in the bank of river Ganges, where it is believed to be the spot where drops of Amrit fell over from the sky. Many people believe that taking a dip there will wash away all the sins. We reached there after the aarti was over and unfortunately didn’t get to witness the beautiful ritual, but we sat on the bank of the river for hours, absorbing the serene, consecrated atmosphere.
Journey to the Basecamp of Kedarnath Trek
At 6.30 AM the next day, our bus started from the Haridwar Bus stand. The distance from Haridwar to Sonprayag is 231 km. The road was through the dense forest of Rajaji National Park and after Rishikesh. The road winded along the swift Ganges and mountains on the other side. The bus stopped before Rudraprayag for a short break. The Mandakini river was flowing along the road from Rudraprayag. The weather was very bright and on the cooler side. And, small villages, fields along with lush green forests on mountains offered us an extra layer of beauty on our journey.
We reached Sonprayag around 3 pm. The fact that we are so close to Kedarnath uplifted our spirit and we decided to go further to Gourikund to call it a night. From Sonprayag, we took a shared jeep (INR 50 each) which took us to GouriKund in 30 minutes. GouriKund is a beautiful small place by the river Mandakini and the basecamp of Kedarnath Trek. We found a traveller group we met in Haridwar and decided to share a room with them.
The Memorable Trek to Kedarnath
These days it's very easy and cheap (INR 7000 for a round trip) to visit Kedarnath in Helicopter. It takes 10-15 minutes to go from Patha to Kedarnath Base camp. Many people opt for this option because of convenience. But we weren't interested in a helicopter ride.
The trekking route of Kedarnath was a present surprise for us. The route for trekking Kedarnath has changed after the 2013 flood and the new well-developed road is a 16 km uphill trek from GouriKund. It was a wide, perfectly laid down path to Kedarnath. There were shops and bio-toilets in almost every corner of the road. Also running drinking water was available everywhere.
The trek on the valley of Mandakini was filled with greenery. We crossed many beautiful waterfalls on our way up. As we moved up, the road became steeper, and the trek became harder. But what amazed me is that people thrice my age were walking on that steep road with the sole belief in their heart that they can make it. Their belief gave us the strength to move further.
It took us almost eight and a half hours to reach the helipad near Kedarnath Temple. There were several newly constructed cottages and tents to stay in. But since we wanted to stay close to the temple, we decided to visit the temple first and see if we can find a place to stay near it. Fortunately, we found a good hotel on the bank of river Mandakini, the left side of the temple. Exhausted by our journey, we retired in our hotel.
The Mandakini river here is calm and narrow near the temple. The Kedarnath temple looked stunning particularly at night when all the decorative lights lit up. In that biting cold and the howling wind, we couldn’t stay outside for long.
Chorabari Taal - Tranquil Lake Near Kedarnath
The next day we had planned to go to Chorabari Taal, a small lake 3 km from Kedarnath Temple. And as planned we started our trek to Chorabari Taal in the morning. Local people warned us to not go without a guide because the road was wiped out in the 2013 flood. But the guides were charging INR 3000 and we didn't have money so we decided to explore the place ourselves.
The route wasn't much affected by the disaster in the initial kilometres but then the signs of disaster started showing up. The roads were destroyed in some places and we literally had to crawl on the road to avoid any mishap. The experience was overwhelming and scary. But, after intense crawling and climbing, we managed to reach the ChoraBari Taal. We drank fresh water from the Taal. The howling winds and deep foggy weather put shivers down our spines and hence we couldn't stay there for long.
The Retreat to Gourikund
The next day we commenced our return journey to GouriKund. During our downward trek, we had the job to encourage other tourists on their upward journey and shared our experience and our trek story with them. The downward journey wasn't that difficult. We reached Gourikund in 5 hours. And from there took a shared jeep to Sonprayag. The next day, we took a bus from Sonprayag and continued our onward journey to Haridwar.