JIPP's WORLD

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Badrinath – The Holy Himalayan Valley of North India

Written By: jipp - Aug• 11•16

You might want to read through my previous post : Rishikesh – The Valley of Saints 

When things were not going any better up in the mountains, with news of landslides and temporary closure of roads are all over, we decided to push for Joshimath no matter what. I did consult some of the locals though, and they told me how landslides are very common occurrences up in the mountains, and that the locals have now become so good in dealing with them.

“You can always trust the locals. They always know what to do. You are 100% assured you’ll make it past the landslides and continue your journey to wherever you are heading to” said the guy at the shop from where I bought an umbrella.

So off we went, at 5 in the morning, towards whatever was waiting for us up there in the mountains. The bus was fully packed and I was glad that we bought our tickets the day before so that we could get seats at the front row where it is less shaky.

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The road was alright in the beginning. It was a zig-zag right from the start til the end but at least the road was fully asphalted. We stopped once for breakfast – and continued on towards Chamoli where the landslides were said to have cut off the road completely. A few kilometers before Chamoli, we were asked to disembark from the bus. Apparently the road was still impassible and restoration works were still ongoing.

Making it past the landslide area had proved to be not an easy task. We had to get off the road, descended down a slippery trail and teetered our way over a spread of dirt and very loose stones (brought down by the landslides) before climbing back up again to return to the road. It was drizzling so the trail was extra slippery. The SDRF personnel were there to assist but of course they couldn’t reach out to everybody at all time since they were far outnumbered. The passersby still needed to help each other.

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The beautiful town of Chamoli

What made me so amazed was the way the locals handled the situation through all the difficulties and discomfort. They seemed to be so patient and calm as if whatever that was happening was a matter of least concern to them.  I swear to God some of them were well over 60 and yet they appeared to be so calm and strong. Some even had small kids that they had to carry with them down the slippery trail and yet they appeared to be just as calm. They’d look at us and smile while they were holding the rope as if giving us some assurance that everything was going to be alright. And of course we needed just that.

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We walked for about 5 km all the way to the town of Chamoli where we got into another bus that later took us to Joshimath. It was almost dark when we arrived in Joshimath. It was there that we realized that we were really now in the Himalayan region. The views of rugged mountains were already taking my breath away. It was getting too cold and dark so we hastily looked for a hotel and checked in to rest.

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Joshimath

We got on the same bus the next morning and headed straight for Badrinath. The road to Badrinath was definitely not for the faint-hearted. It must be very normal for the locals because they seemed to be least bothered. But for us, it was like hanging on to a loosening thread of life, and it would snap off if anything – anything at all – went wrong. I could see the roaring river down there – the waters galloping down and bringing with them tons of weight – so ready to swallow whatever thing that fell into it. I’d like to think that the roads are part of the adventures when (we are) traveling in the Himalayas but believe me – you’d think differently when you are really there. The news that I read about a jeep that fell into the ravine and killed the driver (the sole passenger was badly injured) didn’t help much in putting all the scary thoughts away.

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What a zig zag

It was such a great relief when we finally arrived in Badrinath. The moment I disembarked from the bus, I was instantly smitten by the beauty of the whole landscape. For a moment I could not take my eyes off the mountains. They looked so much beautiful and surreal and I felt like I was looking at a panoramic view of a picture postcard or something.

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We did not pre-book any hotel in Badrinath so we had to walk around to look for a good hotel to stay in for at least one night. That was when we found Narayan Hotel not far from the bus station. It was always tough when it comes to picking up a hotel but the fact that Amitabh Bachchan used to stay there probably did the trick for us. I mean, where else could we stay at a hotel that once accommodated a mega star like Amitha Bachan? At least there’s something grand to talk about when we returned to Malaysia. LOL.

So, after dumping our bags and had a little bit of breakfast at the hotel restaurant, we walked out to embrace the beauty of the Badrinath valley again, this time for real. We walked towards a village called Mana – and as we moved along, I had to tell myself over and over again that everything that I was seeing was real.

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We arrived at the gate of Mana Village – which is considered the last Indian village before the Tibet-India border which is said to be only 25km away from there. We walked through the village – past ancient-looking houses whose walls were made of stones and clay. The concrete walkway led us further down to Bhima Pul, the natural stone bridge which is said to be quite significant to Hinduism too. The river gushes out from under the rocks –so beautiful and yet so intimidating.

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Bhima Pul

After having some instant noodles for lunch at one of the two small cafes near the Bhima Pul, we walked on towards the Varudhara Fall. The view along the way to the fall was so stunning that I had to assure myself over and over again that I was really there, witnessing and experiencing it all. One thing about trekking to Mana Village and beyond was that – it is totally an open land and nobody would be there to observe your movement.

The mountain steppes are almost completely deserted so you basically have the whole valley to yourself. You are free to roam around and the only thing that might limit your movement (or willingness to roam further around) is your stamina. Hiking at some 3500m above the sea level where the air is thin is not that easy.

But of course it really was worth it. The Vasudhara Fall was just as stunning as I had expected it would be. Gushing straight from the mountains and falling some 125m to the deep grounds – it was almost unbelievable and surreal. I felt so small in its presence.

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We rushed back to Mana Village before it got too dark to walk. One of the mini-vans at the gate was so kind to give us a lift back to Badrinath for free. We went straight to the Badrinath temple – which is one of the holiest sites in Hinduism world. Lord Vishnu is said to have meditated here for hundreds of years and the location in which the temple was built is very much interesting. It was built very much on the riverbank of the roaring Alaknanda River and just a little bit down the hill from the temple is a cluster of hot springs where pilgrims come to bathe to purify themselves – usually before they enter the temple.

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The market around the temple is not so bad to do some shopping too. But the fact that we still had a long way to go kinda prohibited us from giving in to our shopaholic devils. We did however find some nice restaurant with nice food nearby the temple so that was where we refilled our empty stomachs – something that we really needed after spending the whole day hiking. We might have returned to the hotel empty-handed but definitely not with empty stomachs.

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2 Comments

  1. jong yem chun says:

    wow. good to see your blog. it`s me taiko ( they used to called me when we was kolej 9 UM)

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