It was the 5th day of our journey and we now have only one place to see, that is, Shri Hemkund Sahib. Till now, we had been to Badrinath, Mana Village and Vasudhara Falls, then completed 13 kms trek to Ghangharia Village and visited the paradise in the Valley of Flowers. The details of these trips are available in the following blogs :
By now, Nidhi was tired of humidity at Ghangaria and daily rains.She wanted to leave that place as early as possible.But I knew, without completing the last leg of journey to Hemkund Sahib, we were not going back. When I woke up in the morning to trek to Hemkund Lake, I saw my wife in fever. It was a big problem, because she was not able to walk in that fever. A day ago while returning from VOF we met an old person, who gave us a comparison of VOF Trek and Hemkund Trek. He told that if VOF trek is a 6 months old baby, then Hemkund Trek is a 60 years old man in terms of difficulty. It was indeed a very tough trek. You have to gain 3600 feet height in 6 kms walk. We discussed and finally Nidhi told me to go alone on this trek. I wanted her to do this trek on ponny, but she insisted that she would better take rest at the room.
I left Ghangaria around 6.30 AM and later during the trek realized that it was still not doable on ponny back for a sick person. Due to high altitude, it’s recommended that one should start journey to Hemkund Sahib as early as possible, because during late afternoon temperature starts going down and ice chilled winds start their work which can cause a lot of problem.Unlike VOF trek, this path was full of pilgrims. Hundreds of men and women of Sikh religion were trekking on the route.The rain is likely to occur anytime on this route, therefore many of them were covered by desi-made plastic raincoat. There were plenty of shops along the route, that offer water, juice, snacks etc on a hefty price on that height. I passed through a big glacier. The glacier was spread from the top of the hill to bottom, but a narrow path was made after cutting the ice.I reached to Hemkund Lake in two hours beating all my tiredness and extreme cold.
It is the highest Sikh shrine in the world at the height of 15,200 ft. and has a setting of a glacial lake surrounded by seven mountain peaks and each peak is adorned by a Nishan Sahib (A flag-like symbol) on its cliff.The water was very cold inside the lake,but faith encourages people to do the weird things. People were still taking bath in that cold water. I couldn’t get the courage to bath, so just washed my hand and feet.
There is an ancient Lakshman Temple on a bank of the lake. Earlier this place was known as Lokpal Hemkund. Here many sages have meditated in the ancient times. It is said that younger brother of Lord Rama, Lakshman ji in his past birth as Vasuki Nag (Sheshnag), meditated over here. In the earlier times, people from the adjacent villages used to come to this spot for pilgrimage. The temple is just adjacent to the Gurudwara, but now a days it seems that nobody care about this temple and only few people visit it. This temple lost its glory in the shine of the neighboring Gurudwara.
In 1930, Havaldar Modan Singh of Bengal Sappers and Miners regiment, a part of the survey team, found Hemkund as he was trekking through this region. He found this place to be fitting in the description given in the poem “Bachittar Natak” that Guru Gobind Singh ji had meditated in his past birth at a place having a lake surrounded by seven snowclad peaks. Later, with the help of another devotee Sant Sohan Singh, he laid the foundation of a Gurudwara in 1937 at present location. Now this place is recognised worldwide as one of the most famous Sikh shrines and every year, lakhs of Sikh pilgrims visit this place for pilgrimage.
After visiting the Lakshman Temple, I went inside the Huge Gurudwara. There was morning prayer (known as Ardaas) going on.Hundreds of people including women and children were gathered there to attend the Ardaas. I was lucky enough to participate in that. It was being aired everyday by mh1 TV Channel.After prayer, many of them went to langar to take tea and morning breakfast. I rather preferred to clicked some photographs around as photography was not allowed there after the Ardaas for one hour, i guess, don’t remember the duration exactly and dont know the reason for this.
Gurudwara is the only place where one can get food to eat. Kichdi (rice dish) is served to all pilgrimage and others who are visiting Hemkund Sahib along with tea and we are really thankful to all those people who are providing it at this place. If you are not a kind of a person who can opt for this than it’s highly advisable to carry your food and other eatable stuff with yourself as you will not find any kind of restaurants there.
No communication facilities are available at Hemkund Sahib, any if available is only at Ghangaria. There is also no medical help available at Hemkund Sahib if anyone needs any kind of medical help you can only get it at Ghangaria.
The journey to Hemkund Sahib is day bound journey. No one is allowed to stay over night at gurudwara except the members of gurudwara who are taking care of the place, one needs to come back to Ghangaria for night stay.After spending 15 more minutes there, i started back to Ghangaria as I was worried about my wife also.I reached Ghangaria in a hour and find her quite comfortable.
Returning Back to Joshimath:
We stayed that night at Ghangaria and then next day early morning started our trek to Govindghat.We started around 5 AM and it was still dark outside. We had to passed through a dense and lonely forest, so I was little worried, but anyhow we continued moving. We met to the first group of people who were ascending to Ghangaria after 7 kms. We reached Govindghat around 9 AM and caught a bus to Joshimath.In the next half an hour, we were at Joshimath.
From Joshimath, we planned a day visit to Auli, world famous ski-destination at the altitude of 2915 mts to3049 mts. There is a ropeway available from Joshimath to Auli. We went to the base station of ropeway and to our big disappointment,the famous Ropeway to Auli was closed due to maintenance. However, for information I am providing some basic details of ropeway:
System: Zig back, BI-cable with two cabin
Slope Distance : 3.96 kms
Total ascent : 1.15 kms
Number of towers : 10
Travel time : 20 minutes
The ticket cost:Rs. 500 per person (return journey included)
The cable car runs only at fixed times during the day, and the last one runs at 4:30 PM. The car can take 25 passengers in one go, but will not start until it had a minimum of 10 persons on board.There was also a notice in the base station prohibiting taking photos in the ropeway.If you are travelling by the cable car, you have to left it at tower 8 near Clifftop Hotel to visit ski slopes. Tower 10 is further away.
I enquired around in Joshimath for other transport option to Auli and everyone suggested me to hire a private taxi.At taxi stand, did not get any taxi, but a TATA Sumo (cost Rs.1000).We reached Auli in half an hour. The driver was continuously trying to convince us to drop at GMVN hotel (may be due to commission), but we wanted him to take us at ski slope, which is 1.5 kms farther near Clifftop Hotel. But due to bad road, we left the Sumo one km before and hiked from there.
There are only 2 places to stay in auli, the Gharwal Mandal Vikas Nigam(GMVN) and the Clifftop hotel. Clifftop Hotel is a unique resort of its own kind at an altitude of more than 10,000 ft and is the second highest resort in the world and is the only Skiing resort in Asia which is located on the Ski slope/track,but it is costly and the service is just like GMVN.If you are travelling in cable-car, you would need to get down at tower no 8. And from there, you can either trek down or catch the chair car to GMVN guest house. A ride in chair car is 200/- per person to and fro from GMVN to ski slope.
We saw the ski gound there near cliff-top reataurant. A small shop owner there described everything about skiing slopes,artificial water lake, cable cars etc to help us to understand Auli in a better way. The water of that artificial lake is used to make ice in case of lesser snow fall during ski-season. We saw two huge machines lying there for this purpose. Auli offers 270 degree views of some beautiful Himalayan Peaks including Nanda Devi, Komet and Mana. Every winter GMVN organizes skiing courses at Auli, mainly for 7 days. We spent three hours walking in Auli and clicking some beautiful pictures.
Next day we returned back to Delhi and this completed our great and memorable trip to the Devabhoomi Himalayas.