Sunday, 8 January 2012

Gorson Bhugyal Trek – Himalayan Green Top and More

Bhugyal, in Garhwal Himalayas, mean ‘green meadows'. With the advent of summer, snow melting along the lower Himalayas, the Bhugyals are aplenty. Such spots have given many an opportunity to our city tourists, the relaxation it offers for their tired soul, clambering out from the rat race of work places. If one has the opportunity of trekking on the Bhugyals, it surely is a bonus. It took a lot of travelling from Mumbai, going via Delhi, Rishikesh and Joshimath, to have a crack at Gorson Bhugyal trek from Auli. We pick up the treads from Joshimath.

Yatris to Badrinath, will more often than not take a break at Joshimath. This town which is winter abode of Lord Badrinath, has a lot to offer to the tourists, in terms of sight–seeing. The Jyotirmath Complex on the sprawling campus has been the seat of the spread of the message of Hinduism by Jagatguru Shri Shakaracharya and is visited by many. The Nrishingha Mandir on down slope is another important place for the devout. The third most important sight invariably happens to be the cable trolley station; which takes one to the all important winter skiing resort of Auli. Having done the obvious at least three times, I was in no mood to repeat it. We gained a day from our Kalpeshwar trek and netting a decent accommodation at Joshimath, it was a win-win situation.
New GMVNL, Joshimath
Jyotirmath, Joshimath

On 2nd June 2009, we were seated comfortably on chairs, in the balcony of New GMVNL tourist complex, overlooking a mid-sized playfield, where the children were playing cricket, with a back drop of Hathi parvat. We were ruminating, ‘how to have a different angle of view of Joshimath–Auli stretch, other than the one we got from cable trolley.’ After a while, we were unanimous, ‘we can have another net practice with a trek to Gorson Bhugyal, before the real test (or taste) of Hemkund trek!’

We were up much before the dawn at 4.30 am and packed our back packs and took our seats on our rented Amby. Kirti Singh, the driver was up as usual and did not lose much time in negotiating the uphill road to Auli. A 14 km drive through winding road in the hills was so different from a direct cable trolley hanging by the rope. I played in my mind, standing in cable trolley, peering through the half opened window; the people, the cattle, the cottages, the winding trail on bhugyal frame by frame……

My thoughts were interrupted, as we arrived at a point, where the road came to an abrupt end. The GMVNL guest house stood there, large and imposing. We took a vantage position, to observe the sunrise behind the Himalayan peaks. The sky was cloud-less, the Himalayan peaks were clearly visible, but somewhat grey, in the moments before the dawn. After a brief while the bright and dazzling shining ball made a glorious entry, visible in between two Cheer trees. That really set the tone for our days activities.

Sunrise from Auli
GMVNL Auli, Rear View
We climbed the steps to the GMVNL restaurant. There were a few waiters but no tourists in wee hours of morning. We ordered our breakfast of bread toast-butter and tea. The prices were at least double of what one could find at Joshimath. We made some enquiries for guide for Gorson Bhugyal trek. But not satisfied with the reply, we decided to go on our own and made our way to the rear portion of guest house. We made a hop, step and jump kind of a thing and came to a muddy plateau. A huge land mass ahead was being bull-dozed and made flat for some constructional activities. That left a large amount of mud piled up like a mini-hillock. We had tough time climbing those mud-hills before we hit the narrow trail through the meadows. The colorful looking Hanuman temple towards the hill side on left, looked inviting; but we left it for our return trek. On a hillock the lone windmill was possibly providing some alternative source of energy to Auli.Some transparent looking structure on hill top was in all probability green house, for growing exotic flowers and vegetables.
Auli View From Top
Hanuman Temple,Auli
The Himalayan peaks, towards our left was looking as fresh and imposing as ever and would keep us company right through our trek. Four of us set up different paces and decided to have a break at Auli cable car station.

Cliff Top Resort, Auli

Artificial Lake, Auli

Soon we passed by the huge and colorful, Cliff Top Resort, in the scenic surrounding, which served mostly to the Skiing enthusiasts in winter. Now in summer,it appeared sparsely occupied. A few visitors were seated in the front porch and relaxing. From this point onwards, our trek was through the green meadows and a constant gradual upward journey. The absence of horses in this route was a big relief. After about an hour of trek, we reached our first rest point, the Auli cable car station. The place was nice and tidy with a restaurant catering to visitors, seated on chairs, under large colorful umbrellas and viewing the Himalayan panorama. A few scattered dhabas served the tourists as well.
Carble Car Travel

Himalayan Peak

We had some coffee and continued with our upward journey. We were again unfortunate not to get a guide for Gorson trek. We just took the only small hill trail going upwards. After a while we came across forested area with trees like Cheer, Himalayan Oaks, growing in abundance and obscuring our Himalayan view. At some point we came across a meadow; overlooking the Nandadevi peak. Ashok and Sandhya, did not want to continue further and decided to take some rest; whereas Deepak and myself decided to discover the Gorson Bhugyal on our own! About, half a kilometer of walk, brought us to a place which looked like a temple. The Mandir Padiar Devata, was built on a small flat leveled land and the temple was locked with grill gate with no human in sight. Me and Deepak spent some time here, offered our prayers for a safe journey and proceeded. The trees started to clear and it was green meadows all the way up.                                                  
Nandadevi Peak
Mandir Padiar Devta

After some more climb, we reached a spot, with one of the finest view of Himalayas. With no more trail visible any where further, we were eager to know whether we have reached the right place. As luck would have it, a lonely villager was walking down on Bhugyal. When we queried, he nodded his approval.

The green top was certainly best I have seen in Garhwal hills. The grass appeared to be of even length as if God himself has manicured it to perfection! The Himalayan panorama from Gorson Bhugyal is a visitor’s delight. It was our great pleasure to lie on the slope of those green top and gaze lazily at those snow caps. So calm, so serene. It cleanses your soul, the accumulated cow webs in one’s mind and leaves you refreshed. Incidentally, this spot not being frequented by many visitors, environment is spotlessly clean.

Wondering in our thoughts, we did not realize that the time flies; we had to commence our return trek. We took care to retrace our steps, trying to remember important landmarks like, a fallen tree, a huge stone, or the Padiar temple. We did manage to reach, in about half an hour time, the spot where Ashok-Sandhya,had a quiet retreat. In unison we went down towards Auli trolley station. The weather was still holding up. We sat under one of those colorful umbrellas and ordered coffee.

Zorb Ball
Artificial Lake And Himalayan Backdrop
We left for final stretch of down ward trek and came across a huge plastic balloon inflated, with a lot of props inside. This is called Zorb ball. There was a seat mounted inside with seat belt. On enquiry, the person who had remote in his hand explained to us that, a person who wanted to do this adventure sport, need to be seated inside the balloon and the balloon is rolled on with the help of a remote. At the moment, we did not find any one venturing this sport. Still down slopes, an artificial lake has been created and work was in progress. That looked great in the back drop of Himalayas. 

The last part of the return trek was the most difficult one. The huge mud hills created as a result of bull dozer activity looked too difficult to negotiate. As I have experienced, in all my Himalayan treks, it is far easier to negotiate steep slopes upward, but far more difficult to do the same down ward. Here some guidance from a overseer at wok-site became handy. He advised us to negotiate the mud hill where ever the mud was little soft so that the foot will dig in. That way, one will not have the chance of tumbling down! 

We went through the arched gate of Hanuman temple, climbed up the beautifully maintained steps and reached the temple. The view from top was awesome. A few people were seated on floor of temple in meditation. After ‘darshan’, we were back to road adjoining GMVNL guest house where Kirti singh waited in Amby to take us back to Joshimath.

Important information :
1) Gorson Bhugyal trek is 3 km from GMVNL Auli
2) GMVNL, Auli Double room Tariff : Rs. 2000/- per day
3) Cliff Top Resort, Auli, Double room Tariff: Rs. 4000/-per day
4) New GMVNL Joshimath Tariff : Double Room : Rs.1200/- per day
   This accommodation is one of the best in Garhwal