Tapovan the heaven on earth

As they say, while God was creating this world He saw this particular point on earth and decided to make it his private property, later he opened it for few selected ones who could afford to reach that place with lots of determination and real taste of beauty and care for peace. I have seen almost all places known as hill stations in this country and always in search of some thing different from the crowded and full of people with show off business rather than enjoying the beauty provided by nature.

I wanted to go to remote places in Himalayas for the love of Mother Nature that she has hidden in her lap for the real lovers to come and explore. I shared my views and desire with some of my friends but it took me a long time to find one in a Sikh fellow Kuljeet, a jolly fellow who was not only adventure loving but as witty. He had accompanied me on many car and motorbike tours before too but not as difficult one as Tapovan. He being an auto parts manufacturer and knowledge in automobile was a perfect companion for such a tough tour. Although, I had been on tough motorbike rides before also with different groups of friends.

Start of the journey

We started for Uttarkashi one fine morning in the last week of May last year at about five in the morning by a Hero Honda while my friend was on his Suzuki and reached Haridwar at about eight. By the way, let me tell you that I had an extra wheel fixed on the rear of my bike and whole kit of spares in my tool bag plus an extra bag of petrol to use at a later stage fixed at my petrol tank. The carry bag a reasonably heavy one because we would need woolens also at a later stage tied on the right side of my bike and another one, comparatively a smaller one on my shoulders with necessary items.  

That was a hot day and we wanted to stop at Haridwar but we did not and went on to reach to Rishikesh at about nine where it was a little more hot, probably the hottest day of the season. Then the fact is that Rishikesh surrounded by hillocks is a hot place in summers if you are not sitting on the banks of Ganges. However, we started for Narendranagar after a stopover of maybe twenty minutes for a quick tea and light snacks. The hilly way begins right after Rishikesh and we were expecting it to be little better but the temperature was showing no mercy and touched almost forty-two by the time we reached Narendranagar.

We decided to take a break at Narendranagar, had an early lunch, and stayed there for about an hour and left for Chamba. Now we had to decide our further course of the rout as from this particular point Chamba, the rout divides; one goes to New Tehri and the other towards Dharasu and UttarKashi. We took the later rout towards Uttarkashi avoiding Tehri. This was heavy traffic on the road with the beginning of holy season of festival; we could see nothing but different vehicles heading towards north. Now the roads have changed a lot from what they used to be a couple of decades back, incidentally.

I would like to mention here that this is not safe to drive on these roads if you are not experienced in hilly driving as the roads are to curvy with full of U turns and you never know what is on the other side while taking the left turn. People who know to drive on hilly or mountain roads know that this is very different from driving in plains. The rout that takes to Dharasu from Chamba is along the river Ganges almost a distance of about seventy-nine kilometer that took us about four hours despite our almost non-stop journey. 

Dharasu is the turning point

The way to Uttarkashi divides from Dharasu itself, one of the roads goes to Barkot that leads to Yamunotri and the other one goes to Uttarkashi. I had been to Dharasu many times before but never by a motorbike but by a car or a bus. I know this place as highly prone to land sliding where you never know when a few rocks may slide or stones coming rolling down. However, we reached safely to Uttarkashi at about six in the evening, a tiring journey indeed.

I had been to Uttarkashi before during my service period for business purpose with various government purposes and found the place fascinating every time with a little mysterious atmosphere maybe due to high range of mountains and lesser activities those we are associated with in plains. We stayed in a hotel near bus stand although, we could have stayed in the government guesthouse but that would consume some time and we wanted to have rest after making the necessary arrangements.

We had a walk in the market near the bus stand bough a few newspapers and after having, an early dinner came back to our room to have a wonderful night view of the Varunavat Mountain that causes havoc during monsoon season. We started our next morning with a trip to temple of Shiva, had our breakfast and then proceeded to complete the formalities like a permit to Gaumukh and trekking equipment from different points. This takes lot of time to complete these formalities.

On the way to Gangotri

We could finish the formalities by two thirty in the afternoon and after having a quick meal, we started for Gangotri, which is almost hundred kilometers away from Uttarkashi. Actually, the distance is not that big a problem to reach to Gangotri but the road beyond Bhatwari that creates the whole trouble being too rough and prone to land sliding. This road is too narrow to take the traffic thus cause traffic jams. We too faced the traffic jams but our bikes saved us and we managed to get away. 

The rain on the way made things more complicated and forced us to take the raincoats out of the bag. Finally, we made it to Gangotri in about four hours, a place situated at almost three thousands meter above the sea level. That was wonderful to be there, the sound of flowing water of Ganges, the beautiful temple the thrill of reaching to the holy place with crossing so many hilly streams on a bike. Every thing was so scenic and like fairy tail. Moreover, this was terribly cold there to be out of the place where we were supposes to sleep, a dormitory type arrangement. This was the end of journey by bike.

The real journey

The real journey started the next morning, when we went for a quick Darshan of Gangotri temple, like a permission to move ahead for the holy trip on foot for Gaumukh a trip about eighteen kilometer a steep climb of about three thousand feet. But first step first, we reached to Kankhu the check post where the Gangotri national park begins and all papers are verified including plastic items, which are restricted to five only and that too on condition that these would be brought back. We marched with tracking bag on our shoulders and trust me every step showed the signs of high altitude trekking. It took us almost four hours to walk about nine kilometers to reach Cheerwasa. Cheer is the pine tree, which are available here in great number.

Another permit check here and a rest of half an hour or so and we started our march again. This was another breathtaking journey with at least twenty land sliding zones on the way to Bhojbasa with rock and stone filled road to walk on. This took us another four hours to reach there. Once we were in Bhojbasa the scenery was very different, we could see the whole Gaumukh snout, which is more than four Km away from Bhojbasa itself.

Some people who were traveling by ponies and had their arrangements of tents were busy fixing them but we took our shelter in Lal baba’s ashram where plenty of blankets and meting were available, although the rest house of Garhwal is nearby with every facility. We ate whatever was available there to eat although a bit too costly besides this is must to eat some thing occasionally to keep going in such conditions. We also had a very good view of mount Bhagirathi 1, 2 and 3.  

To Tapovan

This was a fine morning with sunny weather next day with no sign of snow, which looked possible the previous night. We started at about eight for Tapovan after having our breakfast and having some items packed for the way. We walked towards Gaumukh and saw a heard of local deer known as Bharal (the blue sheep deer) known as main food of snow leopard. Although we were reaching toward Gaumukh but we had to take a diversion about two kilometers before reaching Gaumukh. The way was tough, as we had to look for crevasses, a step wrongly placed and we could have gone deep down between those cracks.

We were almost there just about four kilometers away but the toughest of the hurdle was yet to cross through, steep climb of three hundred meters almost like climbing a wall. These glaciers took us almost three hours but just after crossing these, we had to cross that sand and stone made wall, which failed all our efforts because keeping the grip was almost impossible due to loose sand. After climbing almost hundred meters Sky Ganga, a subsidiary of Ganges that begins its journey from Shiva Ling Mountain crossed our way and was to cross through. That was not an easy task because the flow of stream was too fast and stones slippery. 

We were in Tapovan finally

However, that phase also passed through and finally entered into Tapovan to much of our relief. Now there was no more climbing to do and we were to walk along the Sky Ganga only. We were at the height of almost 4,400 meter or 14,000ft. We were told later about that Blue lotus the sacred flower, which is available during August in the same area. We stayed there overnight and started our journey early next morning that proved still more adventures than while climbing up.

That was a wonderful experience

We started in the early hours of morning to have the full view of the heavenly glimpses of Shivaling and Bhagirathi mountains bathed in golden rays of early sun. We also went down to see Gaumukh, which we had bypassed while on the way to Tapovan. We each filled a bottle of water from the source itself and started for Gangotri. As per our original plan, we wanted to begin our journey back to Uttarkashi the same day when we reached to Gangotri at about five but were too tired to do so postpone it for next morning and stayed at Gangotri overnight.

We returned in due course but I shall never forget the heavenly memories of Tapovan and all the places we visited during that particular visit. I have so much to share and hope to do so in my next chapters. I hope some of you plan to be there, if yes please look at the following points-

  1. The best season to visit this particular area is during May through June, rainy season is most unsuitable time to visit there.
  2. If planning to go beyond Gaumukh, make sure that you are fully fit to take such strenuous tour.
  3. You can reach by a transport up to Gangotri. Be careful if self-driving.
  4. If you are not used to such tiresome high altitude journeys, never try to haste your journey, make it with a day to spare and take every precaution even if you are totally fit physically.
  5. Please take special care of holiness of the place and saints living there. This is God’s own place after all.   
  6. Do not forget to keep in mind that you shall be in extreme weather conditions there so take tent to stay and woolens, trekking shoes and other related items as per requirements.
  7. Finally, a world of advice generally people through away bottles and polythene there, which is not advisable and makes adverse effects to the environment. 

 


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