Riding in the mountains always makes me feel awesome as the road engages you and never lets the riding gets boring. I can say I have ridden a lot in the Himalayas and have covered quite a few destinations and this time I took a motorcycle pilgrimage to Kedarnath which is one of the most pious places in Hinduism.
I have done a lot of solo trips but this trip was with my buddy on my little 110 CC Honda Twister. We set of in the morning from Gurgaon and reached Rishikesh. Rishikesh might be famous for rafting but for me it is a place that exhumes peace and spirituality. There is this calmness and sacredness to it that leaves you stress free.
In the evening we ate lip smacking food in my favourite restaurants in Rishikesh called Madras Cafe. Sometimes the service is odd but the food never disappoints. Taking a stroll from Lakshamn Jhoola to Ram Jhoola has always a thing that I do religiously for an unknown reason. There is always this cool breeze flowing especially if one goes on the Ram or the Lakshman jhoola.
A click of Rishikesh
Then after our stroll me and my friend sat on the Ghats of Rishikesh and just watched Mother Ganga flow by us. There are a lot of beaches on the Ganga and I like to go to the beach that is right next to the Ram Jhula to relax but the beach turned out to be very crowded this time as it was weekend and also the Char Dham Yatra had begun but still a place worth visiting.
Cuddling taking place between Gau Mata(Mother cow) and her Man at the Ganga Ghat
In the evening we went to Triveni Ghat for the Ganga Aarti which starts at around 6:30 PM. Seeing the Aarti in the midst of Vedic chants is always a good experience and one over flows with faith and spirituality. The Aarti always captures your attention by the graceful and systematic movements of the priests who carry the sacred flame and ring little bells that fills your ears.
Ganga Aarti at the Triveni Ghat
Just to tell the foodies who might be reading this that there is a very good Rajasthani restaurant near Triveni Ghat called the Rajasthani Mishthan Bhandar(I hope I remember the name correctly) where you can eat really really delicious food and if you are a bunch of friends then do visit the Freedom Cafe which is near the Lakshamn Jhoola. You can enjoy the food by seeing mother Ganga flowing besides you. It is a perfect place for the youth.
After coming back from the Triveni Ghat we slept like a horse as the next day would be a long ride to Gauri Kund from where the Trek to Sri Kedaranth begins. The distance is of 211 kms. and we had enough time in our hands to cover it.
We started in the morning for Kedarnath and took the NH-58 till Rudraprayag from where one road goes to Badrinath and the other to Kedarnath. The road after Rishikesh is utterly beautiful but as it was summer so one could really not see the greenery and the mountains were barren but these mountains are lush green during the monsoons and are a treat to the Human eye.
As I said the mountain roads bring the biker out of you and is sheer fun to ride on.
I so much love them Motorcycles
You can see bridges across the Ganga on the way and they are a place where you can take a few pictures while you halt. The road till Kedarnath is very good though it can get a bit narrow but none the less is extremely well paved.
A bridge across the Ganga right after Rishikesh
After Rishikesh we took a little halt at Devprayag where the Alkananda and the Bhagirathi rivers meet to officially form the Ganga. There is a legend with Devprayag that Devrishi Narad learnt to play the Veena after sitting on a rock for meditation. The confluence itself is beautiful with the two rivers meeting as the water of the two rivers is of completely different colour.
We then proceeded towards Rudraprayag to reach Kedarnath. After having our lunch at Rudraprayag which is the confluence of the Mandakini and the Alaknanda river. We grabbed the road which runs parallel to the Mandakini river and what a road it is! A bikers dream!
The mountains were getting higher and higher and more and more beautiful. We knew we were reaching Gaurikund.
We reached Sonprayag in the evening and it was about to rain. After the tragedy of floods that struck Kedarnath in 2013 the parking and a camp has been made in Sonprayag. Pilgrims have to register themselves before setting for the Yatra and it is for free. They will give you a registration card which you need to keep.
We parked our motorcycle and took taxi which is provided by the local authorities. The fare is a nominal Rs. 20 to take you to Gauri Kund the starting place or the base camp to Kedarnath. Guest houses are available and every facility is there so you need not worry. We were dead tired and slept for the next day trek.
There is a small temple at Gaurikund dedicated to Maa Gauri(a Hindu goddess). There was also a hot spring bath at Gauri Kund but unfortunately was washed off during the flood.
Trek to Sri Kedarnath
We started the 17 kms. trek the next day from Gauri Kund to Kedarnath. The trek is moderate in nature and not very tough and the path is well paved. Earlier the trek used to be of 14 kms. but the old path was washed off during the massive tragedy of floods.
So we started walking and were welcomed by greenery and freshest of the fresh air. There are waterfalls at many places on the trek and beautiful to look at as the height from which they fall is amazing. Even when it was the dry season there were plenty of waterfalls.
A waterfall en route to Kedarnath
You keep on walking and looking at the lush green mountains and the Mandakini river flowing with full might and then suddenly on the horizon emerges the Kedar range of mountains. Those snow clad peaks which are been loved by the sunlight leave you mesmerised and can put a smile across anyone's face. They mark the end point of your destination.
The Kedar Mountain Range
As you proceed towards the temple and gain height slowly the trees disappear and grass meadows appear and then slowly you come across snow and glaciers along the way. The landscape is eye grabbing and you can look and look at it but never feel content with it. The clouds engulf you and you actually walk above the clouds.
The trek gets demanding sometimes and you feel like exhausted but keep on walking steadily and slowly. Do not rush as you will get tired soon and at the end believe you will be rewarded.
View of the valley during the trek
A panoramic view of the Kedarnath trek
The Clouds brushing against the mountains
Me and My Buddy
One can see how people come to this sacred site with immense belief in their heart. There was person who was walking bare feet and I saw another person who was handicapped and yet was walking on a walker all alone. May Lord Shiva bless them.
The sight also makes you feel sad when you see the massive landslides and the washed away old trek due to the 2013 floods. The landslides were hundreds of feet high and one can only imagine what would have happened when the floods struck in Kedarnath. Nobody could have survived this fury of Mother Nature.
May the souls of the deceased attain Moksha.
The weather is absolutely unpredictable at this place and at one moment there will sunshine and the very next clouds will come rain over you. Warm clothes are a must here as it can get extremely chilly in the night and even during the day if it rains.
Please carry a good raincoat with you and also keep drinking water with ORS so as to not to get yourself dehydrated. Also carry raisins or chocolates with you for instant energy.
There are plenty of shops and camps along the way to help pilgrims in any manner. As for the water please fill it with any tap on the way as water is absolutely fresh.
So you keep on walking and now you simply want to reach the Temple and have nothing on your head as your feet are about to give way and you are dead tired. Then finally you see at a distance the Kedarnath Dham with the towering mountains blanketed in snow at the background.
At that moment when I saw the temple I felt a sudden surge of energy in my body that finally I am here. I am at Kedarnath where Lord Shiva resides and his sacredness and divinity can be felt at the place.
We reached there just in time before the closing of the gates and offered our prayers and prasad to the the Temple. When you stand at the holiest places in Hinduism the feeling is very very different.
Sri Kedarnath Dham
The exhausting trek and the height of 11000 feet do take it's toll on you but you certainly feel you have won over something inside of you. I am grateful to Lord Shiva for inviting me to his abode. I plan to complete the Panch Kedar yatra which is a yatra of five Kedars i.e. Kedarnath, Tunganath, Rudranath, Madhyameshwar and Kalpeshwar. I already done Tunganath which is the highest Shiva temple in the world at 12000 feet and now Kedarnath is also done.
I chanted the Shiva Tandava Strotam and offered my prayers to Lord Shiva.
You really really feel awesome.
The evening Aarti is a must to be attended and you can see how this traditions hasn't changed for thousands and thousands of years and still goes on. All the main priests are there in the Pooja and what captured my mind were the two priests clad in Saffron robes beating the Damru(Instrument of Lord Shiva).
As soon as the main priests came out of the temple people rushed to the Aarti plate he was holding to take the blessings of almighty by moving their hand around the small flame in the Aarti plate.
A tradition going on since time immemorial
It is said that to make your blessings reach Lord Shiva one can whisper in the ear of Nandi which is a bull and the carrier of Lord Shiva. It is present invariably at every shiv temple. One simply needs to whisper their wishes in the ears of the Nandi and their job is done.
The Nandi kept outside the Temple
I had planned to visit the Bhairava nath temple which is very near the Kedarnath temple but was so tired that once I slept I simply could not get up. We took accommodation in GMVN lodges which had shared bedding but there are other camps as well which you can try. Each room is shared by 4 people and I must say the the bedding was very comfortable. The room cost us Rs. 500 per bed and they also provide meals with the dinner cost being Rs. 135 and the meal is very decent. The staff was also very polite.
You have medical facilities as well and they are I think free of cost.
If you do not want to trek there is helicopter facility. Mules and potters are also available as well but then if we are physically capable then let us not make this pilgrimage a fun tour.
We slept all night and due to the height of 11000 feet, the cold and our motorcycle ride I had a headache for which I had to sleep as I do not take medicines. This was happening to me for the first time and I do not know why as I have been to places of even greater heights.
One can see the old hotels and settlements lying in ruins around the Temple and completely washed away. There are huge boulders the size of cars so one can imagine the carnage that took place here in 2013 floods.
There is a strange thing that a huge boulder was washed right behind the temple during the flood which diverted the flow of the water and the main temple complex was protected due to it. It is indeed a strange coincidence. One can see the large stone right behind the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.
It makes one sad to see all the debris but then one also witnesses the strength of human courage, spirit and belief which makes one rise from the ashes.
The Carnage around the Temple
Kedarnath is truly one hell of a forceful experience.
May be I am a religious person that is why I long for sacred places of my faith but Kedarnath has this tremendous energy in it. You feel it inside you and seeing the place around one can understand why the gods chose to stay here.
It might sound funny or strange but every time I go to the Himalayas there is a hope in my heart that I might run into an enlightened person who will give me some eternal wisdom which I can use in my life or a wish that I might run into God himself.
Next morning me and my friend got up and started moving downwards. We almost finished the downward trek in almost half the time.
The Kedar Range at the backdrop on our way back
We picked our bike and started riding again. We had a long long way to go back.