Getting to the Accommodation
I followed Maama who walked swiftly through the narrow lanes near the temple premises; probably he had explored quite a lot in such a short frame of time, I thought to myself. As we reached the other end, he pointed out to our majestic 5-star hotel. I wondered at this marvel of a structure which had managed to carry the weight of the group and still had not crumbled apart to pieces. The place seemed to be under construction with a dim bulb which radiated heat in the shortest lobby I had ever seen.
As I entered the shanty room, I saw the tired faces of all, the journey had taken a toll on them. The most noticeable aspect was their clothing. All were wrapped inside their blankets and draped in shawls. The placebo effect induced cold in me and then even I felt the need to wear a jacket. Unfortunately, my bag was with the porter whom I didn’t see anywhere on the ascend. Nonetheless, the members were happy to see me and why not, I was their only source of information about other folks who still hadn’t reached. I told them they were going to be late but we can still get in touch with them by calling on my number as I had given them my phone. They didn’t pick up.
As I sat to down to stretch my legs after the tiring trek, I learned that one family in our group had to abort their trip midway and return to the hotel in Sitapur. It was sad to hear that they couldn’t make it here even though they came halfway, but it was sadder to know that only they had all the contact details of the porter who had our luggage. So, the next task was to contact them even though faced with poor connectivity. The conundrum continued for an hr and with great difficulty, we were able to connect and get porter’s ID on Whatsapp.
For bookings, one can book online and it opens a day or two prior to the visit. Collected this data before the trip. These are govt guest houses.
PS – These are the better than most private options available there. Unfortunately, we weren’t put up in any of these. Have to thank Cox and Kings for ruining our trip.
Finding Porter(1st trip)
Due to lack of sleep and weather change, most were not feeling well. The burden of finding the porter had to be given to someone who was still smiling (even though hiding the extreme tiredness of walking). I asked my cousin to accompany me on this task. The plan was that while I would find the porter or approach the police for porters whereabouts, she should wait on the road leading to temple for others who were yet to come. As we reached the path on the market area near the temple – she instantly saw a stack of bags on the top of a semi constructed house. We rushed to the terrace and there he was!!! He was as relieved to see us as we were to see him. We somehow again managed to reach our lodge by passing through the labyrinth of lanes and settled his account.
Finding the Late latifs(2nd trip)
We were elated and grinning as it was a major accomplishment. But of course, there was no time to rest. The burden of finding other members had to be given to those who were still smiling (me and my cousin). So, yet again we went in the cold and this time came back with the missing ones. I don’t remember the last time I was so successful in my 1st attempts at anything!
As all reached safely, it was time to do what we had come for. Some including me went to the temple premises to queue up for darshan. As we figured that it would take at least 3 hrs and standing in this sub-zero temperature was going to be difficult so we had to come back. I wish I hadn’t been spoken about my successes earlier. Nazar lag gayi thi kisi ki. This was the first failure of the day.
Luckily, my dad met a pandit and managed to get a time for pooja at 2 am. Yes, that’s right – the temple was open all night. We slept at 11:45 pm and got up in less than 2 hrs. That’s literally all I slept in past 24 hrs. Though I visited this temple just once yet I remember everything about that night – the Nandi outside facing the temple, the idols of Pandav’s in the first room of the temple along with Laxmi Narayan temple. As we entered the second room, we saw the Shivling which was huge and unlike any other jyotirlinga I had been too. As I write this, I feel content of being in his presence for more time than I could have anticipated. The darshan was truly a magical moment.
The entire temple campus as long as your eyes can see was obliterated from the face of the earth leaving just the temple. A mammoth rock fell miraculously right behind temple stopping the flow of the water from Chorabari Lake saving it from the fury of nature. Behind the temple, we saw Bheem Shila (Gods’ Rock).
After we came back to the room, I wasn’t satiated as I still hadn’t captured the beauty on camera. Went back again(4th trip) to the premises all alone and got some good shots. I wished to chat with the Saadhu’s who were up by 3.30 am for their meditation. They are the men of renunciation who sleep in the open and eat whatever they get by the grace of the Shiva. It’s rare to find love that makes a person forget everything besides their object of adoration. The falling temperatures and my tiredness didn’t allow my curiosity a free hand. I finally, slept around 4 am.
Some were up by 5 am as they had to queue up for darshan while the ones who were done with it couldn’t stay in bed either. They had to line up in the cold so as to get the helicopter ride booked(on medical grounds). A few were too unwell to brave the return trip. Of course, I wasn’t going this time – I had slept an hr back.
Thankfully my dad along with an uncle volunteered for it. And I slept peacefully for a long time…not really, an hr later, my dad called me to join them in the queue – just as a safety measure if they don’t get the tickets. So the obedient son which I wish I wasn’t (at that time) – I went to the Base camp only to come back later with them with no bookings. There was no room for any more tickets as all agents were overbooked and there had been no cancellations. At least, I saw the snow-clad mountains which turned golden as the sun rays bounced over them. 🙂
But we had to desperately find an alternative way so another time, I went to meet the local magistrate to help a few members with the tickets. Unfortunately, he was to come late that day.
After several attempts at all 4 travel agents, my Maasi was victorious having it booked for 5 people. I was delighted and beaming with joy as it was a major relief. From the base camp, We made several calls to inform them about the good news but none picked up. So, the duty to get them here was given to someone who was still smiling. Yes well, I carried their luggage and got them at the base camp while my Maasi kept on increasing the count for the tickets. This thing went in a loop till 12 pm and unbelievable 20 of them reached Son Prayag. Ultimately I forgot the number of trips from the lodge to base camp but it sure was more difficult than coming up.
The final 5 that remained including me got lucky at 5 pm! Had we chosen to walk down on the usual track at noon, we would have reached SonPrayag at 3:30 pm 😊 but then we would have missed the thrill of the first helicopter ride. It was surreal.
On our return from Helipad to the hotel in the car, we saw a woman at the edge of the cliff attempting to jump from it while two other women beside her were trying to say something. As I asked the driver to stop the car and he did. We all crossed the road and ran towards her. She was crying and saying something in Garhwali. Unable to understand her, we looked at the other two women to help us understand the issue. We learned the govt had sealed their property as her son was running an illegal bar on the premises. While we tried to pacify her and looking at all of us, a man who stood at some distance came near and told her that matter was sub judice so shouldn’t try to take any drastic step. She wept but moved away from the edge. We were relieved that for once our presence aided in cooling down the things. I don’t think anyone of us told this to our parents to whom we are a source of nuisance anyway 😊.
Today its been more than 2 months since we visited but the stories, experiences, and visit to the temple of Kedarnath is still fresh as if it happened only yesterday. This time I am smiling again thinking about the eventful trip and thankfully no work was assigned this time.