Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Yamunotri Trek & Vanishing Glacier

My first visit to Yamunotri was in the year May 1985, when I availed of Yamunotri – Gangotri travel package offered by Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Linited, Rishikesh. Some noteworthy recollections are worth mentioning. We trekked for 18 km in a single day, on a gentle upward gradient track, for a round trip starting from Hanuman Chatti via Jankichatti to Yamunotri and back. The first impression I had was the scale of importance of this Himalayan shrine when compared to Badrinath and Kedarnath those days.There were hardly any pilgrims on the trek route to Yamunotri. I and two of my office walked on a variety of terrains, some stone paved, some mud track, some with stone steps. Finally after reaching Yamunotri, we found a makeshift temple, a huge glacier, an open area hot water springs; one of them  was used for bathing and hardly 50 people in whole of the town. The glacier and hot water springs co-existing side by side was one of the nature’s great creation. 

“The importance of a place change with time, the human habitat makes the nature’s creation undergo metamorphosis,” this was focal the point of my curiosity, when I went for my second trip to Yamunotri availing of  Char Dham Yatra travel package from Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited in May 2006. The early season did not see more than 15 tourists in our 28 seater bus starting from Rishikesh, Muni-ki-reti. A window seat in the bus and wielding a small Canon digicam, I was looking forward to all that Garhwal hills had to offer. Leaving Rishikesh, hitting the hills on a winding path and climbing, we came to a point where the signpost indicated the diversion points, one road leading in the direction of Kedar – Badri another to Yamunotri – Gangotri. As per the guide who accompanied us we were negotiating the Yamuna valley after switching over from Ganga valley earlier from Rishikesh. The blue water of Yamuna river and lush green terraced fields, through the window and the photo clicking was for the asking. 

Yamuna Valley

By evening, we reached Sayanachatti, very close to the river Yamuna for the night halt. The gmvnl guest house rooms were modest with minimum amenities. The roar of river Yamuna could be heard all the time;  weather cloudy and drizzling hence there was not much scope for sightseeing. The dinner was at a typical Garhwal hill village dhaba, very modest and vegetarian. We being in Devbhoomi, were mentally prepared for the vegetarian fare for the ten days of our travel. The next day greeted us with a cloudless and bright sunlit day. We took the opportunity of visiting the steel bridge over river Yamuna next to our guest house, and watch the river view from close proximity.

Yamuna River at Sayana-chatti

Depositing our luggage in cloakroom at Sayanchatti, we took a small backpack with essentials and boarded a share jeep for a bone jarring ride of 45 minutes, through a gravel road, to a scenic place called Jankichatti, which is the place for starting the Yamunotri trek. 

Janki-chatty Landscape

Breakfast under our belt from gmvnl canteen at Jankichatti, we were ready to hit the 5 km trail for Yamunotri. We joined the stream of pilgrims some on foot, some on ponies and others on palkis. The trek route was one of the best I had seen till then in the areas of Himalayan shrines. The smooth cement laid road was very steep, which I realized in no time. It took a lot of efforts in covering every single stretch of upward climb, before taking the next one. There was only one dhaba on the roadside selling mineral water, soft drinks and other eatables. I took some 3 hours to reach the fringes of the Yamunotri town and  tried to compare the vista from the site, with one photograph I carried for my 1985 Yamunotri trek album. The difference was glaring as would be apparent from the following two photographs. 

Yamunotri 1985
Yamunotri 2006

From above photographs, It is interesting to note the following differences with respect to certain criteria:

                          May 1985                                                                    May 2006
1. Lack of vegetation, the terrain is mostly rocky   1. The hills are full of small bushes.
2. The huge glacier on the left side of the temple   2. The glacier has vanished; flowing river instead       
3. The temple Is makeshift type                           3. The temple looks very tall and conspicuous.
4. The hot water springs are open; people taking   4. The hot water springs are fully covered.
    bath in one of them

The temple town was packed with pilgrims from different regions of India; some even came from abroad. Maximum congregation was near the temple and the hot water kund ( spring ) area. On the left side of kund area, a roaring river Yamuna was cascading down the hill, where once a huge glacier existed. Some people were taking bath there. We had a darshan at the temple and had a simple fare for lunch in one of the dhabas in the bazaar area.
The return journey in the afternoon was just going down the steep gradient. I had meanwhile secured a bamboo stick for support compensating one I lost while climbing. By early afternoon we reached Jankichatti guest house and had an adda with other tourists seated on plastic chairs on the lawns. The sunlit day gave the Himalayan vista which was a treat to watch and enjoy. 

Important Info for trekkers:

1.  The trek route is the best among all the Himalayan shrines. Cement paved track is perhaps the steepest when compared to other Himalayan shrine tracks. Mercifully the distance is only 5 km; so one makes it comfortably in three hours or less.
2. Jankichatti is the place to start the trek. There is a gmvnl guest house where one can stay. Mostly tourists stay at Sayanachatti.
3. Ponies and Palkis are available for those who cannot foot it out.
4. There are a few eateries on the 5 km stretch, where one can buy mineral water, soft drinks and other eatables.
5. Best time to visit is May/June after the temple opens. 

Next Blog will be on ‘Gangotri to Gaumukh trek – Garhwal Himalayas’

1 comment:

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