Sunday, 5 February 2012

Karnaprayg – A Relaxing Retreat in Garhwal Himalayas

A twin trek of Madmaheshwar and Rudranth in a space of eight days does leave one yearning for a break just to recoup and laze away some time. On 7.6.2011, after completing Rudranth trek and having a good brunch at Anusuya Lodge dhaba at Mandal, by noon, we took to the roads in our hired Maruti Alto. 

We passed by Sagar about 5 km from Mandal and another 5 km ahead saw us at Gopeshwar. After reaching Gopeshwar along Gopeshwar- Chamoli road, there was a diversion to Pokhri, going up the hill for another 60 km. The rain which gave us some respite for last two days, once again caught up with us. The visibility on winding asphalt road was forty feet, rest covered with haze and rain clouds all along the road and the gorge. The clouds floating so close to us is no doubt a treat to watch but is a test for driving skills of the person on the wheel. Manjit Singh was extra cautious and we were on seat edge. We were looking forward to about a half a day’s lazy break at Pokhri about which some information was available in travel books and net. This place had some importance during British rule in India, when they discovered this place as one of the finest hill stations in Garhwal. 

We reached Pokhri around 1 pm amidst rain. The place on first look was hugely disappointing. It was no different from any other Uttarakhand hill town, but only much bigger and busier. We were looking for Bachan Home Stay as one of the possible locations to put up for the night, as per our information in net. No person with whom we inquired in this town seemed to have a clue about this place. We next tried to locate Red Hat Tourist Lodge, about which Sachin had picked up from some travel book. We located the place alright but it happened to be locked. Every body including the traffic cop advised us to travel another 29 km to Karnaprayag for the night’s stay. Meanwhile, we located a seedy looking hotel, which we were told will have one room vacant around 2 pm. We had no option but take our lunch to pass some time at a restaurant which had some a mountain view. Sachin wanted vegetarian food and ordered samosas and sweets and Egg Chowmein for me. The manager heard my menu as Ek Chowmein and served a Veg Chowmein dish. After realizing his folly, he arranged an omlette to go with it, making it a new dish Omlette on Veg Chowmein! We were seated on top floor open space, with a shed above our head, overlooking hills, but nothing much could be seen though rain and fog. After lunch, we located Manjit Singh and told him to drive us to Karnaprayag, through the rain, saying goodbye to Pokhri.  

The above happenings clearly showed that, there is some phenomenon called as Himalayan destiny. We were clearly not destined to stay at Pokhri and Himalayas opened yet another door for us to peek through. Thus doing justice to my blog headlines, we were on way to Karnaprayag.  

Reaching Karnaprayag, once again we were looking for a place to stay. The GMVNL guest house was a good option. There was a room available in floor minus one, minus hot water as well. Since Sachin will have none of it, we crossed the bridge and went to the other side of the town and located a place right on hill slope overlooking Karnaprayag confluence. In Hotel Shri Krishna Palace, we got a room in floor minus two, a double room for Rs.1000/- per day. 

The room pleased us no end. It had all the amenities like hot water, good ambience, clean linen and what struck to us funny was existence of both Indian style and western style WC in the same enclosure. 

It was drizzling continuously, but that did not prevent us from coming out of the room into the open space which overlooks the Karnaprayag in totality from end to end. Such a location of hotel may not be found in any other hotels in this town. We were fortunate to have left Pokhri behind us and come to this awesome place. In the rain drenched landscape, the river looked all gray and menacing, flowing in between the hills from the distant end.
The confluence of rivers Alaknanda and Pindar named as Karnaprayag is seen in following frame.  

The stepped ghat where puja is offered, with a temple on the up is in the next frame.

The temple view on upper reaches of the hill opposite is in the next frame.

The very longish canteen on ground floor of Hotel Shri Krishna Palace, overlooking the Karnapayag, seated on chair, one gets a lovely view of the two swirling and gurgling rivers embracing each other. The sheer variety of food and beverages available in this restaurant is astounding. Near the reception counter two huge glass walled fridges held a variety of soft drinks, mineral water and lassi. The menu card listed all possible cuisines you will find in a multi-cuisine vegetarian restaurant in Delhi. There was ala carte menu, the fixed item wise thali menu, the South Indian delicacies like Idli, Dosa, Uttappa and what not? After a long while I tried something other than rice, roti, dal and curry. I ordered for Masala Dosa and to wash it down - a glass of Lassi. Sachin went for a Special Thali. Needless to say the restaurant food did not disappoint us in taste and quantum. After dinner again it was packing time for the next day, our last in Garhwal Himalayas this year.

Next morning i.e. on 8.6.2011, we woke up and came out on the lawns across the railings overlooking the Karna Prayag. It was rainless day but some what cloudy on upper atmosphere, augured well for our long journey back to Haridwar. I came to ground zero at the canteen and found it not functioning with guys still sleeping. I came out of the hotel to look for a cup of tea in tea shop which had just opened. The shop fellow started the fire going for the day’s first batch of tea. I ordered for my cup of tea and sauntered to the bridge overlooking the river confluence.

The hill top still had a lot of clouds and looked that it may rain any time.

A tea and some biscuits to go with it, I gazed at the multi-storied Gita Bhavan Lodge opposite our hotel. That looked another decent accommodation at this place but I am not sure about the view it will offer. 

Packing done, we started for a whole day’s journey to Haridwar. We had a breakfast halt at a decent looking hotel cum restaurant called Shangrila Resorts at Raintoli near Rudraprayag. A big group of tourists doing Char Dham Yatra from South India were staying here and their cook was preparing puri – bhaji breakfast right inside the compound. We entered the restaurant and ordered breakfast which was really good. The hotel looked very attractive from outside as well.

Beyond Rudraprayag, it was not a smooth going. We came across a rock slide zone and found at least 50 vehicles and buses stranded on both sides of rock slide portion. A bull dozer was stationed to collect and dispose the rocks fallen on road. ‘We were in for a long haul,’ I thought. This was my first experience of watching rock slide actually happening in Garhwal hills, about which I read a lot. With nothing to do, I just kept my digicam and handycam busy to record the event. 

The rocks rolling down the brown barren portion of hill was continuous. There was an occasional pause of 5-10 seconds. After nearly half an hour, there was a longer pause of few minutes and the cops allowed a few cars to pass through. Even then one had to trust one’s luck while passing through the danger zone so that the rocks do not dent the car body or do not break the glass and injure the passengers. Once again the rock slide resuming, people were just lazying on the road. By the time our vehicle passed through, it was more than an hour long forced break for us. Uttarakhand has many such spots were there is a signage of ‘Rock Slide Zone’. One has to keep an eye on the hill top to see any tale-tell sign of rocks falling.

The journey ahead upto Haridwar via Deoprayag, Kudiala, Shivpuri, was uneventful, more so because we were not much in mood to take any halts, except for an occasional cup of tea. The journey along the same route while on forward journey was really charming. 

* Author has created some video clips based on footages from his Handycam on Karnaprayag and the journey through roack slide zones, which can be accessed by following captioned link
  1) Karnaprayag - Chamoli, Uttarakhand 
  2) Rocks Falling Near Rudraprayg 


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