Getting to Ghangaria - 17 Aug, 2009
Situated at an altitude of around 5600 feet above mean sea level, Govindghat is the last motorable point, from where one's trek to Ghangaria, and then to Hemkundsahib & the Valley of Flowers begins. But I'm getting way ahead of myself here! First, one needs to get to Govindghat, which in itself is a 2 day affair from Delhi! A glance at the map will tell you that the distance is a mere 500 odd kilometres, something any self - respecting road-tripper should be able to accomplish in 8, at the very most 10 hours. Seems about right enough - but to this add the state of UP roads as you transverse the Hindi heartland on NH 44 until you get to Kotdwar (Remember I'm talking about 2009, when the roads weren't great - they have improved today, may not be by much, but they have) and thereon an ascent from about 1200 feet to nearly 5 times that altitude, in about 300 Kms, which effectively meant winding mountain roads, which aren't in the best of repairs. Effectively, it took a gruelling, though at times passing by breath - takingly beautiful scenery to keep one mesmerised, 15hours before we got to Govindghat.
Govindghat is typical bustling Himalayan town on the banks of the Alaknanda river. Having left Delhi early on the morning of 17 August, we reached Devprayag by late afternoon, after about 9 hours on the road. the drive was pretty uneventful, heading North East along NH 534, crossing Ghaziabad, Meerut et al, before getting to Devprayag. We shacked up at a local 'Dharamshala', and dinner was Aloo Mutter with Bhatt Ki Daal and chapattis - decent weather, palatable food and the prospect of spending the next couple of days in the mountains made it all very exciting, so much so that I didn't mind how unsightly everything was. I for the life of me cannot fathom why nearly all NEW structures in our mountain towns are ugly concrete monstrosities, painted in the most garish colours that jar with the canopy nature has created for us, as if we're cocking a defiant snoot at her, claiming that even if we can't better her sense of aesthetics, we sure as hell can do a lot worse! So was the case with Devprayag, which was a mix of ramshackle lean - to's passing off as dhabas, and ungainly concrete structures sprouting up with no particular plan or intent.