Sunday, 11 March 2012

Rishikesh To Ukhimath – Worth While Journey In Uttarakhand

Rishikesh, the Gateway to Garhwal Himalyas, has been my destination since 1984, when I first ventured to visit the shrines of Kedarnath–Badrinath through a package tour conducted by Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited. The Rishilok at Muni-ki-reti, happens to be my most favourite overnight stay prior to undertaking the journey to the hills. The huge complex has many two storied structures, with large number of trees, manicured lawns, gardens with variety of flower beds and most importantly the peace and tranquility. What impresses me the most is that even after more than two decades, the place retains its original charm. Now all rooms are atleast air cooled, that is a huge relief during summer, when the Yatras to holy shrines starts to pick up. I had no hesitation to book an economy room at Rs. 600/- per night during my Madmaheshwar – Rudranth twin trek.

On 30th May of 2011, I woke up to the chirping of the birds and came out to the back yard which borders the forested area from the guest house boundary. Being situated on a small hillock, this place does not look any way a part of hustling and bustling Rishikesh town. A walk through the vast compound is nostalgic. In 1984, we were provided an ordinary double room without any cooler or attached bath. In the morning we boarded the bus from the very place inside the compound across the central garden. In 2007, we had our own private tour of Kedarnath, Badarinath and Tunganth and started our journey from the same place. We spent some time in the morning amidst the greenery and gardens. 
Garden at Rishilok
On 29th May 2011, after getting ready to hit the road, we did not have to wait for long. Naginder, my transport organizer at Rishikesh did not fail to send the Maruti Alto which he promised with an experienced driver in Manjit Singh. While we were packing our luggages into the car boot, we were surrounded by some form of wild life, which has been proliferating with the jungle on the backyard of the complex. They were practically every where, jumping on the tall branches of Gul Mohar trees, walking over the balcony of the guest houses. The pair on top of gmvnl jeep caught my attention. 
Langurs at Rishilok
We do not know, whether being seen off by Langurs at the commencement of Yatra is a good omen! We had a final glimpse of the Rishilok gate as we come out of the complex.
Rishilok Entrance

We took leave of  Rishikesh town and hit the hills, with a glance at the flowing river Ganges and Laxman Jhula at a distance. The road runs parallel to the flowing river with an occasional raft bobbing on river water and cruising with excited rafters waving at us. We have a brief halt to pick up a few bottles of mineral water from road side dhaba after travelling for an hour. The singnages of rafting companies are plenty along this route with beautiful bunglows just on the edge of the river, covered in greenery.
Rafting Hoarding

After another half an hour Manjit Singh announced that we are about to arrive at Shivpuri, a rafting enthusiasts' paradise and give us a photo shoot break. In my previous journeys along this route, never had the opportunity of having a break at this place. So, I was looking forward to it. After arriving at he spot, I realized what I had missed all these years.  From a vantage position, we watched the rafting camps full of tents, the furious Ganges flowing by the side. A group of early morning bathers took advantage of shallow bypassed stream of the river. A large number of cars parked, some people taking a stroll in early morning. It looked like a camp set up by a Circus company in big city like Mumbai. We Spent some time photo shooting and video capture, as we were not in undue hurry.
Shivpuri Rafting Camp
 Around 9 am we reached Kaudiyala yet another picturesque place on the bank of river Ganges and Rafters' paradise. This place has all the amenities right on the roadside. The GMVNL restaurant looked good, a log cabin nicely blending with the Scenic beauty of the place.
GMVNL Restaurant, Kadiyala
But we had other ideas for our morning breakfast. The Monal restaurant opposite looked more charming and alluring.
Monal Restaurant , Kaudiyala

In all my trip through this route, I invariably had my breakfast at Monal restaurant . There is a wide choice of food and beverages, the ambience is good, the service is prompt and what is fascinating is the restaurant has an unusual flooring. Actually there is no flooring, one walks on stone chips spread and all furnitures are placed on it.
A breakfast of bread and boiled eggs, washed down with a cup of coffee, we left the restaurant, crossed the street and took the steps going down the hill on the left hand side of GMVNL restaurant. We landed at a flat land of grassy surface and had a glimpse of the lovely row of cottages belonging to GMVNL. An ideal place to spend by the side of river amidst greenery and serenity, yet not so far from Rishikesh.

After a nice break we were back to the car and proceeded towards Deoprayg about 70 km from Rishikesh. Every time I passed by Deoprayag, we had a halt to take few frames. Time not permitting, we decided not to go upto the confluence point where the rivers Alaknanada and Bhagirathi merge together and move in unison and becomes Ganga.

Beyond Deoprayag, yet again we came across the rafting enthusiasts getting a thrill out of traversing the turbulent rapids
Rafting on Alaknanda
 We got another break at Rudraprayag, the confluence of rivers Alaknanda and Mandakini. The colour difference of water of both the rivers is the most intense at this prayag.
Beyond Rudraprayag, we took a lunch break and rushed to a dhaba amidst drizzle. We got a top view of the agricultural plots by the side of river was lush green and blessed with copious amount of water to nurture the growth of crop.
Rain soaked landscape
Some more travel and we reached at the exreme end of the Ukhimath dwelling in late afternoon. Rain had abated by now. The river Mandakini flowing between the hills could be seen standing on the edge of the road above the terraced fields.
Mandakini from Ukhimath
 We checked in at Bharat Sevashram Sangha for the night halt to begin our twin trek to Madmaheshwar and Rudranth the next morning.

* Author has created a number of video clips based on the footages from his Handycam, which can be accessed from the following captioned link:
1) Ukhimath & Omkareshwar Temple 
2) Shivpuri, Rishikesh - Rafting Tented Camp 
3) Kaudiyala - Riverside Resort & Rafting Camp