- Bangalore – Dehradun: Saturday afternoon. Indigo 6E 911. Leaves BLR around 1PM and reaches DED around 4PM.
- The return flight for the same leg was way too expensive (Close to Dussehra dates). Hence did DED – DEL (Air India (AI 9610) at around 7AM. A 40 minute flight to DEL.
- Terminal change. And DEL – BLR by Indigo (6E 2423) at around 1PM.
- Booked these flights pretty early – about a month in advance – got decent rates.
- The best way to do pilgrimage in this part of the world – is to take the services of a local cab person.
- I had gotten the contacts of Mr. Prem from Twitter (@mohithkrishna). Mohith had done a couple of trips with him.
- Mr. Prem is from Rishikesh, has a well maintained Ertiga, and has been doing these trips in around the Char Dham for the last 22 years!. There is no online booking etc. You call him up. He writes down in his diary.
- You communicate/remind/confirm using Whatsapp. Since he had seen my DP and I his, on Whatsapp, it was super easy for him to locate us.
Prem-ji can be reached at — 98971 83145 / 94124 09127
- All accommodation was booked with Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Ltd (GMVNL) – through their online portal – gmvnl.in. Horrible user interface, but hey – online booking + payment works.
- Note: If you want to book for one night – say Check-in on Oct 5th noon and check out Oct 6th morning – choose Oct 5th and Oct 5th as From and To dates. 😉
- You will get email confirmations.
- GMVN is never fancy. Spacious basic bedrooms and relatively clean bathrooms. Government organisation. Best locations guaranteed though. Be prepared for warm good staff but with extreme Government inefficiencies though.
- Day1 (Saturday night) – Ganga Resort Rishikesh – Newly opened. Very good rooms. Facing the Ganga. Superb views.
- Day2 (Sunday night) – Devlok – Badrinath. Closest feasible to the temple – which is still a good km from the temple, through a pretty steep slopey road. But brilliant locations. 360 degree peak views from outside the rooms.
- Day3 and Day4 (Monday/Tuesday night) – GMVN Rishilok – They have nice rooms and cottages. Fairly central in Rishikesh city.
- Dehradun airport is closer to Rishikesh airport than Dehradun city. So plan accordingly. Prem-ji met us at the airport and it is about a 40 minute drive of really good paved road to Rishikesh. Reached Ganga resort within an hour. Checked in comfortably. Freshened up.
- Left around 5ish to Paramarth Niketan for Gangaji Aarti. Have seen this before and it is one of the best in Rishikesh (second being at Triveni Ghat).
- Dinner was at Chotiwala – right next door. Have eaten here. Lots of hype. The food is normal, but clean/consistent.
- Night stay at Ganga Resort, Rishikesh.
Day 2 (Sunday):
- Prem-ji had made it very clear. 12 hours to Badrinath from Rishikesh. So if we start at 430AM, we reach at 430PM. The later we leave, the later we reach Badrinath, and it would suck if we reach late.
- We left at 430AM 🙂
- Brilliant views of the Garhwal Himalayas from the get go. And horrible roads from the beginning as well.
Dev Prayag – The first of the 5 Prayags that we would encounter on the way and back. Prayag means the confluence of 2 or more rivers. The Ganga river system gets built in these 5 Prayags. At Dev Prayag, The Alaknanda and Bhagirathi join to form what is formally known as Ganga, henceforth.
- Lunch was had at Srinagar – a sleepy hamlet past Dev Prayag. Brilliant parathas (or perhaps we were just super hungry).
As we trudge uphill, the Alaknanda is still a fairly large river, meandering, cutting across the Garhwal Himalayas. As you will see in the full post below, the Alaknanda will follow us for most of the journey uphill.
- We skipped Rudraprayag darshan on the way to Badrinath, because that part of the road is a one-way. Prem-ji promised us that we will get a good darshan on the way back.
- Next Prayag up was Karnaprayag – where the Pindari Ganga (from the Pindari Glacier) merges with the Alaknanda
- Next Prayag was Nand Prayag ,where the Nandakini merges with the Alaknanda. Not that great a viewpoint, but you can see the two different rivers merging.
- You can spot Chamoli and Bageshwar on the way. These are district headquarters. You can recognize these names from the time when there was the massive flash floods in 2012 – the one which affected Kedarnath.
- Lunch at Pipalkoti. Decent place. Nothing fancy. Stick to Dal and Roti. Do not go fancy in any of these places.
- Note: If you are from the South and are used to well cooked mashed rice, do not order rice items. Rice is usually cooked very rare here. Almost undercooked. My son had a bit of a minor stomach upset because of this.
- The Alaknanda looks reduced in size hereabouts, but you can see the force and the rapids.
- As we rise higher and higher, the mountain views are spectacular.
- Next major stop – Joshimath. This is one of the Sankara Maths that Adi Sankaracharya established (in fact, the first one). We visited the Narasimha temple here. This is one of the 108 Divya Desams as sung by ThirumangaiAlwar (where it is refered to as Tiruppirudi).
- And the highest of the 5 Prayags – Vishnu Prayag – where the Dhauli Ganga merges with the Alaknanda.
- And as we near Badrinath, we start seeing the first snow peaks.
- We reached bang on time at 430PM. New found respect for Prem-ji for his estimation skills. But then 21 years – what can you expect. Checked in to Devlok. And then had a darshan of Badri Narayan-ji.
- October is almost the end of the season for Badrinath. The temple closes for winter by Diwali (November first week). There was barely any crowd in the temple.
- But then, it was cold. Verrryy cold. It was sub-10 degrees celsius in the evening. Dipped down to -3 deg celsius in the night and early morning. Be very prepared with warm clothes. Gloves. Caps. At least two layers of sweaters.
- Dinner was at Devlok. Basic roti + dal stuff.
Day 3 (Monday): After an eventful Day 2, and a great darshan of Badri Vishal, Day 3 was the trudge back to Rishikesh.
- Had toast and tea at Devlok – which is the only thing that was available at 730AM. Yep. The same 12 hour rule applies for the return journey too. But then, you are closer to home (Rishikesh) and descended most of the mountains by the time the sun sets.
- On the way back, we stopped by the Shankar Mutt at Joshimath. There is a cave temple where Thotakacharya (first disciple of Adi Sankara) had meditated. There is also the Spatika Linga that Adi Sankara had installed for the Mutt. Very calm and serene place.
- Lunch again was at Pipalkoti.
- Prem-ji stopped at various places on the way for quick snacks (samosa etc) and tea.
- As promised, Rudraprayag darshan was had on the way back. This is where the river Mandakini merges with Alaknanda.
- Night stay at Rishilok, Rishikesh.
Day 4 (Tuesday): We had done Hardwar Rishikesh a couple of times before (when I used to live in Noida long ago). So, this time, we decided to explore Dehradun and surrounding places. We were in for a treat.
- Sahasradhara – Sulphur springs (not hot). A small cable car ride and a park for kids. We went up for the view. Cross the small river, and there is a cave with a Shiva Linga, where Dronacharya is supposed to have meditated. Nothing spectacular – except for the Drona cave.
- Lunch was at Anandam. Pure veg restaurant. Chats and combo meals were awesome.
- Tapkeswar Mahadev temple – this was a golden find. Beautiful Shiva temple. Couple of cave temples too. One of these caves is where Aswathama (Drona’s son) was supposed to have been born. The small Tamasa river flows by serenely. We took a nice break here. Dipped our feet in the river and just enjoyed the beauty.
- Last stop in the Dehradun sight seeing was the Mindrolling Buddhist Monastery. Another golden find. Wow. Brilliant. If you did not tell anyone, folks might be led to believe you went to Thailand or somewhere in SE Asia. 🙂
- Headed back to Rishikesh by around 7ish. Did a quick trip to the Triveni Ghat for one last Ganga-ji darshan. The great river flowing swiftly into the night is something that needs to be experienced.
- Then on to Rishilok, Rishikesh, in time for dinner / Night stay.
- Flight was at 7AM. So rise up early morning. Pack up and head to the Dehradun airport. Bid Good bye to Prem-ji. Settle payment. It is amazing how he operates completely out of trust. No advance payments. I had paid a couple of times for Diesel during the trip, and he reduced that amount, collected the balance amount and done.
- Brief transit at Delhi airport – where we had some food. And then back to Bangalore in the 1PM flight.
- Reached Bangalore by 4ish. End of a brilliant trip.
History/Context for trip: My mother has been wanting to go to Badrinath for quite a long while. Both my father and mother had (and still have) heart ailments and had been advised not to do any sort of trekking or high altitude gimmickry. Badrinath is the only one of the four Char Dham shrines, which does not require you to do any trekking/walking. You can drive all the way up to Badrinath.
We decided to do it as comfortably as feasible ~ given that the parents are in the later part of their sixties. I tweet stormed most of what is there above, but blogging it here for posterity and for a one-stop-notes place.