Gangotri-Gaumukh-Tapovan Trek in Garhwal Himalaya of Uttarakhand is for all Himalaya lovers, trekkers, nature and peace lovers, and the ones who just want to sit by the side of a river and spend time thinking with the ringing bells on the background. The sound of the running holi water of Ganga and the panorama can take one to an altogether different world of beauty and bliss. Needless to say the place is a pilgrimage, a place also for Sadhu baba’s.
We visited Gangotri-Gaumukh-Tapovan from 7-12th June 2015. Some thoughts and details of the visits are shared here.
How to Reach Gangotri from Delhi:
Gangotri is the place from where the trek starts to Gaumukh. This is how we reached Gangotri:
From Delhi to Haridwar by Nanda Devi Exp. It start from Delhi around midnight and reach Haridwar in the early morning around 4 o’clock.
Haridwar to Uttarkashi by Uttarakhand Parivahan Bus (Distance 174 km): Direct bus to Gangotri starts from the Bus station nearby Haridwar railway station at 6 o’clock and it takes around 12 hours to reach Gangotri. After we boarded the bus it was announced that the bus will go only till Bhatwari, a small place in between Uttarkashi and Gangotri. This keep on happening when you are in mountain areas. We preferred getting down at Uttarkashi after a comfortable 6 hours journey. Uttarkashi is also the place to get the permit in case one plans to go beyond Gangotri to Gaumukh, Tapovan, Nandanvan which falls into Gangotri National Park. 100 permits are granted per day in Uttarkashi by Forest Office at the rate of 150 Rs per day per person.
It is best to spend night nearby Bus Station so that is is easy to catch the bus early next morning. We stayed just opposite to the bus station in Govind Palace. The room had only basic facilities.
We spend the rest of the evening to absorb the glimpses of the place and visited Vishwanath temple which had the same reverence as the Vishwanath temple of Kashi. ‘Uttarkashi’ word itself means the ‘Kashi’ of North. Small walk down towards the Ganga and over the iron bridge will always be cherished.
Uttarkashi to Gangotri (95 km)
Mini bus to Gangotri starts from Uttarkashi in the morning about 7 o’clock. If one plans to take the services of this bus, it is recommended to get the tickets an evening before in advance. Otherwise, one may find it difficult to get seat. However, we luckily got the seats without prior bookings but on the last row. It took around 5 hours to cover this memorable journey.
The permit to enter into the Gangotri National Park can also be obtained from Gangotri. The Forest Office at Gangotri is nearby bus stop and grants 30 permits per day in the evening from 5-7 pm by paying nominal fee of 150 Rs per person. We easily got permits after filing a simple form and writing an undertaking. A photocopy of ID proof is also required to get the permit.
Rooms are easily available in Gangotri at the rate of 250-500 Rs (fairly clean rooms with very basic facilities). A lot many neat and clean restaurants are there. One can find portar , guide easily in and around Gangotri temple. I suggest not to worry too much about prior bookings for them.
We stayed nearby bus station in a hotel called ‘Kirtilok’ @ 400 Rs/day. It provided good food and stunning views and was fairly clean but devoid of hot water facility. It can be booked over mobile (Caretaker Rajendra Rana ji, mobile no: 09410540717).
Porters take around 700 Rs per day and guide can be booked at the rate of 1000 Rs per day basis. One of the experienced guides we came across was Vijay ji who can be contacted on 09456388597.
Must visit places in Gangotri: Gauri Kund, Surya Kund and Pandav caves are within 2 km’s periphery and one can easily cover these in one and a half hours.
The evening prayers in the Gangotri temple adds to the divinity of the place. One can also buy gloves, caps etc from the shops in gangotri.
Day 1: Gangotri to Bhojwasa (14 km) Gangotri to Bhojwasa base camp. We started early in the morning with our guide. It is important to know that if one is planning to go till Tapovan, there is no need for porter but a guide is a must. Till Gaumukh a guide is also not required as trail is very clear and there is no chance of getting lost.
It took us 6 hours to reach Bhojwasa. One can reach early but I prefer and suggest not to hurry. Take full time as the trek in itself is the destination, every bit of divine. The views are absolutely breathtaking. Himalayas in this part manifest themselves in full grandeur. Water water everywhere. In between one may stop to relax by the side of streams that run down to merge in Bhagirathi.
We stayed in Ram Baba Ashram in a tent. They charge 300 Rs per person and serve very very simple food.
Day 2 Bhojwasa to Gaumukh to Tapovan (4+5 km)
We started around 6:30 in the morning from Bhojwasa from where Gaumukh is 4 Km’s away. It took us two hours to reach there. The river Bhagirathi remains by one or the other side of you ever since you start from Uttarakashi. Now a small trail from Gangotri finally left us at the source of the river. The magnificent view of the holi water coming from the snout could be seen from the front from a certain height. There was not any distinctly marked single origin of the river and leaving the thick glacial ice behind water was coming out from many places from snout which was the end of the Gangotri glacier. Standing at Gaumukh looking towards the right side on magnificent Shivling and Meru peaks and in front the Bhagirathi peaks made us wonder about the divine beauty. Absolutely stunning.
We sat there for quite some time and ate our parathas. Yellow beaked and Orange Clawed Crows also called Alpine Chough added to the beauty of the place. They seemed to be an expert in catching the pieces of loafs thrown towards them. The place is very unstable and landslides prone. We were advised not to stop here for long.
There is no trail to follow from Gaumukh to Tapovan. The way starts with walking towards our left over the fallen hard rocks and pieces of Granite spread over a large area. Cautiously we crossed this part and soon were over the Gangotri glacier which needed to be crossed along its width. This was followed by a steep climb from the other side of which lies the Magnificent Tapovan.
It was surprising for us to know that the boulders and stones we are climbing and crossing are infact lying over the glacial ice and at places from in between two boulders the underlying melted glacier water was visible from the above.
It was a ruthless steep climb, marked by a waterfall of ‘Amarganga’ which needed to be crossed at a suitable place where the flow was less. This seemingly innocuous crossing can be scary especially if it is summertime as heat induces the melting of glaciers which results in increased flow.
With the shoes tied up through the laces and loosely hanging down the shoulder we crossed the waterfall. The chilling effect of water was such that for a few minutes the legs refused to respond. One they regained consciousness we headed upwards. The rough terrain, the wet and at most of the places the dry sandy soil mixed with small pebbles can also give tough time. Nonetheless this is a part of the system that invite us to such places.
The top of the mountain is the point from where the Amarganga starts manifesting itself as waterfall. Just when we reached this point we became part of something divine for the rest of our lives. Can’t stop admiring the Creator. Can’t stop admiring our old traditions and our saints who have been coming all the way to inhabit this place from the time immemorial. What sorts of people they must be. It was a high mountain plain with small stream flowing uninterrupted. The plain was surrounded from one side by the mighty Shivling and Meru peaks and the grand peaks of snow-capped Bhagirathi from the other.
The oxygen deficiency of the high mountains made us take deep breaths so much so that in most of the videos made at this place we here two musical sounds, one of the flowing water and the other of our breath.
Small walk lead us to the Mauni Baba Ashram. He greeted us with refreshing tea which was followed by super tasty khichadi.
After a minutes rest we went out to see the glory of the place. The herds of Blue sheeps were strolling around the Ashram. Our trying to reach near to them lead them away from us. Realizing that it is not good to disturb the creatures of this holi land in their abode we maintained a distance.
The melted water of the glaciers has made a kind of small pond and the white peaks of Bhagirathi were shining in the ponds as well. The temperatures by this time had dipped up to the level that it became impossible to remain out. We hurried back and realized that the flow of water has increased even more as the water of amarganga was flowing from above the temporary bridges kept over it.
The Dinner offered by Baba Ji was infact a treat which was preceded by prayers. The Baba ji himself remained silent all the time. He informed us through hand and lip movements that some 7 years back he came to this place for the first time but the charm of the place could not let him go back. He had made very good arrangements for the travelers and there is absolutely no need to carry tents if one wants to visit Tapovan.
Baba ji does not charge anything but one is free to offer anything according to one’s wish.
Next morning it was time to thank babaji for his superb hospitality that could never be forgotten and to start our journey back to Gangotri.