The next morning we were woken by early by the GMVN staff to let us know that our Sumo has arrived. We quickly got into the act of leaving by making arrangements for breakfast (food has to be ordered at least half an hour earlier) and then packing. While K and I munched on the alu parathas, the rest decided to have a 'fruit breakfast'. So our first stop on the trip was the fruit market.
At the fruit market, three of us headed in different directions to pick up banana, litchis and other exotic fruit (which were quite expensive). Here I noticed that most of the mangoes were banginalpalli and speaking as a Vizag-ite, these were from my own backyard: Vizianagaram (Could see it on the boxes). Mango wars have been going on for years between my wife and me. This time she had a lot of support from my friends who are from Bombay also. Like a true blue Andhra-ite, I think Banginalpalli is a great variety. I would never term Alphanso the king of all mangoes. So, this was a great way to start the trip. I pulped my opponents into submission that while the western Indians think Alphanso is great, the rest of the country swears by the likes of Banginalpalli (I threw in some fake statistics for good measure). Well with this tirade, I kissed goodbye to the few A mangoes my friend lugged all the way.
Getting back to the story, we soon went past the two famous suspension bridges: ram and lakshman jhula and headed into the mountains. The day was cloudy and the chances of rain up in the mountains were high said the driver. We stopped to wrap our luggage in tarpaulin. He wrapped and we looked around. My friends went to Gangotri few years ago, and the start was similar: cloudy and wet but once the sun came out the next day, they said, it stayed dry throughout.
Soon we started the assent into the mountains with the river Ganga next to us, growing smaller as we climbed higher. As we moved, we could see how it wound around mountains, flowed over stony beds, frothed in exuberance and playfully meandered as it ran down into the plains. Along some of the banks was tented accommodation for the more adventurous folks and for those who wanted to raft. As we went higher, clouds shielded the rest of the ranges so all we saw was a mountain or two, which were close to us. This was not one continuous assent, we went up a hill, and then went down only to climb up another. At no point of time, we were away from the river or its tributaries.
In the excitement of the sights around and more due to the dizzily changing landscape, I felt motion sickness for the first time. Since lemon is said to have some curative properties to this ailment, I sucked on one with my eyes shut. It helped a bit but the queasiness in the stomach stayed. It stayed until we reached the surroundings of Rudrayprayag where we had our lunch. Strangely, I did not feel it afterwards.
Tried to get the patterned landscape but failed.
The only stop we made before lunch was Deoprayag where, Alaknanda (from Badrinath) meets Baghirati (from Gangotri) meet to become Ganga. My friend wanted to go down to the sangam; we thought it would be a good break. To get there, we had to walk on one of the many suspension bridges that span these rivers to get onto the other side. Then walk along the narrow sloping road that leads to the ghats. However before doing so we had to get past the pandas. They insisted that we perform some puja or other. The only thing that worked was to ignore them completely. I wonder why they cannot not be polite, ask once and let go. It is not that everyone who comes here performs puja. On our way back I purchased some more lemons as a precautionary measure. Last thing I wanted was to seem like a sissy by throwing up.
Alaknanda meeting Bhagirathi to become Ganga @ Deoprayad
We were to stop for the night at Rampur, a few km from Gaurikund. The trek to Kedar starts from Gaurikund. We reached this place amidst drizzles while clouds covered all the ranges and the wonderful sights these mountains could have been providing us. Normally, we could have noticed one or two snow peaks by now said the driver to add to our misery.
The GMVN was located on an edge of a small hillock. A small rivulet flowed past the foot of this hillock and the gushing sounds of it filled the entire guest house. One of the two rooms we had, had a balcony that looked down upon this scene. On the other side of the rivulet, rose a fairly large hill covered with thick greenery.
View from the balcony
After a quick cup of tea, we walked along the road until the next village, logically named Sitapur. While we were walking, we were given a sneak preview of the ranges hidden by the clouds. A near range comes out first. Having seen this, we started to look for formations behind the clouds to spot ranges. Our conversation was like this, "hey, see that! that looks like a range, wow"... "what wow? look a little above that point, doesn't that looks like a range that is even higher?".. "yeah, I think so". By the time we walked back, we could distinctly identify some of the ranges we 'wowed'.
The next morning when I woke up the temp was crisp and invigorating. The whole place was filled with the sounds of many song birds while the gushing sound of the rivulet provided the background. I get up to look out of the window and I see the sun striking one of the ranges. It was a lovely feeling. On the flip side, I had a bad sore throat.
Early morning sun
It was going to be a big day: we will be climbing 1800 mt over a 14 km trek. In all excitement, we pack and headed off to Gaurikund. And that will be the next part. This was the sight that greeted us as we went out...
Himalayas @ 1800 mts