Jul 16, 2009

The Great Himalayan Getaway-4

The Road to Kedarnath
We could hear the cries of Jai Kedar from the pilgrims as we made our arduous way up to Kedarnath. To reach Kedarnath, one starts trekking from Gaurikund, a small rather dirty loooking place with restaurants and rest houses piled haphazardly on the mountains. It was chock-c-block with people, ponies, palakiwalas and what nots. But once we left behind the smell of ponies, the dust and crushing rush of Humanity, the rest of the trek was simply spectacular.
It had just finished raining and the mountains were lush green. The Mandakini meandered between the mountains as if keeping us company. The path snaked upwards through alpine forests and we passed many waterfalls. Up till Rambara, the midway point between Gaurikind and Kedarnath; the snow clad chaukhamba peaks were just faint smudges in the distance. They kept appearing and disappearing behind the mountains as if playing hide and seek with us. But after Rambara, as we took a steep turn we suddenly found ourselves face to face with them. We stood there mesmerized, aching muscles forgotten; taking in their magnificent beauty. The Mountains were covered almost totally with snow and as the sunlight reflected off them, it seemed that the peaks were on fire. As we walked on, the green foliage we saw earlier was replaced by bare jagged mountains; black where not clad in snow. The beauty here was stark and rugged rather than gentle. The altitude rises steeply after Rambara and even the fittest amongst us were left breathless, but these were minor irritants compared to the panorama enfolding around us. The last 1-2 kilometers to Kedarnath are almost a flat plateau. We could clearly see the cluster of mountains that surround the temple, they seemed so tantalizingly close. The mountain slopes were carpeted with green grass and patches of wildflowers grew here and there. The sides of the path were dotted with huge boulders and some spots had patches of snow that had not yet melted.
We crossed the iron bridge that spans the river Manadakini and at last reached the Kedarnath temple.

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