November 9, 2008

Garhwal: Chamoli Adventure

Map borrowed

Route covered so far:
DelhiHaridwarRishikesh –Devprayag – Srinagar – Rudraprayag – Karnaprayag – Nandprayag – Chamoli – Pipalkoti - Joshimath

Heading towards Karnaprayag

From Rudraprayag, my tentative plan for the day was to reach Joshimath about 120 kms away (which through the mountain roads can be a journey lasting 5-6 hours) and if possible, to take a cable car for a night halt at Auli.

Most of the people heading this route are pilgrims who travel in their private vehicles. For the remaining few, like me, who wish to travel the tough way seeking a sense of adventure, a word of caution is to begin the onward journey from Rudraprayag early in the morning, as I was told no vehicles would be available to go higher up the mountains after noon. In any case, driving in those narrow mountain roads after sunset is not allowed, so travellers ought to plan the day of travel well in advance and start as early as possible.


It was an early morning in Rudraprayag when I started the journey in a local 'sharing taxi' that was to take me first to Karnaprayag. Karnaprayag, the place of confluence of Rivers Pindar and Alaknanda, is the junction to change route from Garhwal to Kumaon and from here, one can reach the hill stations of Almora, Nainital etc.

Once at Karnaprayag, I had to change to another vehicle that would take me to Joshimath. It was here that I heard the locals murmuring something about a landslide on the road uphill. With the adage “I’ll cross the bridge when I come to it” in mind, I ventured to continue the journey unaware then that I'd actually be in need of a bridge later during the day.

Roadblock in Chamoli

Close to Nandprayag while nearing Chamoli, I came across a huge line of vehicles extending for kilometers. There was indeed a landslide and it had blocked the road completely! Neither movement of vehicles nor walking across the landslide rubble was possible. I could see from a distance 'Public Works Department' workers were busy using bulldozers to clear up the place to make way for the traffic to resume.

I am now talking of possibly being stranded at a height of about 8,000 feet above sea level. Roadblocks in the rainy days on these mountain roads last for a minimum of hours, sometimes even days together! A part of the thrill of going to such places is to travel with the right company. When there are like-minded fellow travellers in a group, it is easy to make quick decisions. So in this case a decision was made in a matter of couple of minutes to trek to the other side of the road. And then the adventure began.

Seated at the edge of the stream

It was just past twelve, and in spite of the cool mountain breeze, the sun was right overhead and beating down on me mercilessly. In short, to avoid making this post long, on that bright sunny day, it was a walk down the valley carrying my backpack on this unplanned and unprepared part of the journey in the Himalayas. At first it was a trek downhill, then it was crossing a stream - minus shoes - flowing with almost freezing waters with strong currents with the help of locals, and finally a steep climb up the rugged path to eventually surface on the other side of the road. Finally it was an easy walk on the Himalayan mountain roads until, at length, a local bus was getting ready that somehow managed with great difficulty in the narrow road to take a U-turn to carry some passengers up to Chamoli.

Taking leave of the locals who helped

From Chamoli it was an uneventful journey passing through beautiful mountain scenery crossing Pipalkoti to finally reach Joshimath.
View from Joshimath roadside

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks

- John Muir

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16 comments:

Ravi Kumar said...

wow..landslides were a firsthand experience for me too.. I have an adventure while coming back from Badrinath..watch out...

•♥•♥[V]♥•♥• said...

the last pic was awesome...

what an adventure u had.

take care..

Zhu said...

Love the stream picture! I find looking at strong streams very relaxing for some reason. I'm a water person.

What an adventure!

Saibal Barman said...

Refreshing !!!!!!!!

Texas Travelers said...

Great adventure. I'll be back to read others.

Great photos.

Troy

Ram Dhall said...

I was almost a part of the entourage all through. Your decision to take a trek in this difficult terrain must have been a brave one.

The landslides are a common phenomenon in these hilly areas. Your post reminded me of a similar experience, though the timing was not to our liking – it was our honeymoon trip to Kashmir. Early morning there was a knock on the door at our Hotel in Jammu and we were told about the big landslide close to Patnitop and the bad news was that it would take 2-3 days in clearing the area. Flights were totally booked and with no other way out, we decided to have a change of the scene and headed for Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh.

The landslides followed us there too and we were stranded 20 kms short of Dalhousie. The bus driver wanted to take a detour and started reversing the vehicle. The things became scary when we saw the hill in front of us coming down. Stranded on an island with mountain on one side and huge canyon on the other and with just a couple of cars in front of us, we waited for something to turn up. It was already dark and what to talk of children becoming restless due to non-availability of any thing to eat, even the elders were cursing the timing of the landslide. We had some biscuits with us, which we shared with the children.

Now, how to spend the night empty stomach was an issue. At a distance on the other hill we saw a small light. Three of us took torches and match boxes and started trekking towards the other hill. With a difficulty we reached there, but the owner of the Dhabha, who had almost closed his shop, was in no mood to help us. His wife, a kind lady, considering our agony and especially the hungry children almost ordered the husband to make fire in the tandoor and on a stove cooked some dal for us quickly. I still remember carrying those 40 chapatis and an earthen pot containing dal and some achar, which was largely welcome by the twenty odd passengers.

In the morning, thanks to some Netaji who was scheduled to take that route, we saw the officers and jawaans of the armed forces quickly building a temporary bridge with the help of which we crossed over and reached Dalhousie in the afternoon.

Thanks for reviving the memories of our honeymoon trip.

Needless to say that your narration and the pictures, as usual are excellent.

indicaspecies said...

@Ravi Kumar:
Your experiences must be so similar to mine, as we went on a similar journey along the same route. I shall be looking forward to reading about your adventure(s).

indicaspecies said...

Vicky,
Thank you. You take care too.

indicaspecies said...

Zhu,

I’m glad you liked it. Water bodies in general give a feeling of relaxation.

indicaspecies said...

Saibal,

Hey, tell us about your adventures in the Garhwal.

indicaspecies said...

Texas Travelers:

Troy, thanks for your visit, and your kind comment. Do drop in as often as you wish, you are always welcome.

indicaspecies said...

Ram,

Wow! My post reminded you of your honeymoon days. I like that.:)

Yes. I agree landslides in the Himalayas happens often in the rainy season. Being prepared for the unexpected during a trek is part of the whole exciting experience.

Thank you very much for sharing your adventures in the Himalayas with that absorbing narration. It is an interesting read. Dalhousie must have been fabulous for you. It's a place I’d love to go to and enjoy someday!

Moannie said...

What a deadly, yet deadly beautiful country you live in, thank you for sharing.

indicaspecies said...

Moannie,

Welcome aboard, and thank you for your comment. Deadly beautiful indeed..haha!

Lakshmi said...

amazing...one thing that all trips have taught me is that without locals, a trip can be quite boring ..

indicaspecies said...

Lakshmi,

I agree the interaction with the locals makes such trips more interesting.:)