Day 7, Fri Aug 29, 2008: The day had come to start our journey back to the noisy and polluted city life. We visited the temple again that morning. Morning experience was completely different from the evening experience. There were very few people. We could do darshan easily -- without any push from anyone. It was all great, but we still relished our evening visits more. I think evenings provided kind of coziness and isolation from the rest of the world.
After checking out from the hotel, we went to the bus station to catch a bus going 'down' (to low lands). The buses, or rather timings of the buses, on Badrinath-Joshimath route are controlled by a concept called gates. Authorities on both sides coordinate with each other and let buses go only at specific times. I heard from someone that it's to ensure that there is not much traffic on the single lane road between Joshimath and Badrinath at any point of time, but that hardly seems to be the case now. It has become a way for the gate controllers, self appointed committee sort of thing, to make money through illicit means. They extort money from bus drivers and in exchange let them go at whatever time they want to go. So, yeah, it's kinda corrupted there :)
Anyway, we didn't get a ride because we were not ready to sit in the driver's cabin. Seats in driver's cabin are not comfortable and are not for passengers. Get it? They sell tickets for these seats too and money received in return is never accounted for. We waited for some time and finally left by a shared jeep for Joshimath. We thought we'll go as far as possible and take whatever means of transportation we find. Soon we were met by a live landslide. Yes, landslide was happening in front of our eyes. It was raining a bit and the rocks and stones started coming down as the mud on the mountains started loosening because of rainwater. The road was blocked, in fact we were at the front, with a long queue of vehicles behind us. Luckily rain stopped soon and slowly stones and rocks stopped coming down. But, the road was still blocked as a big rock and other smaller rocks were lying on the road. We all waited for the BRO (Border Road Organization, organization which maintains roads in region) people and machinery to come. Pankaj and I decided that we'll cross the landslide zone on foot if they don't come by 2:30 pm. But, they came. They came just before 2:30 pm. They cleared the road and gave us clearance to cross. It was a bad bad road :) It was a relief, having crossed that zone.
Well, the whole landslide thing delayed everything. We reached Joshimath by 4-4:30 pm. There we found out that the road was blocked again in Pipalkothi (a town 31km away from Joshimath), so no vehicle was going down. We had no other option but to spend that night in Joshimath. We again checked into GMVN TRH. This time room was much better (though it was not bad last time too). We freshened up, took leisure walks in the town, ate jalebi :), watched some tv and called it a day.
Day 8, Sat Aug 30, 2008: Next day we got up very early to catch the bus to Haridwar. We came down to the main road at 6:15 am, only to find that the bus had already gone. Later we'll found out that it was actually lucky for us. Keeping our motto of going as far as possible and by any means, we took a shared taxi to Chamoli, the district town about 55 km from Joshimath. And then, in Pipalkothi we met another landslide. This landslide was gigantic. It seemed as if whole mountain had come down on the road. As there were no chances of this thing clearing up soon, we got down there and paid the taxi driver. This time we made a quick decision. We decided to cross that mountain of rocks, which was lying on the road, on foot. It wasn't easy, but it was fun -- climbing on huge, still not very settled, pile of fallen rocks. There was a bus at the other side which was actually going to Badrinath, but looking at the situation and after waiting for a night there, decided to go back to Haridwar. All to our luck. We boarded this bus and resumed our journey to low lands. We were lucky to have missed the bus in the morning from Joshimath, because in that case either we would have been stuck at Pipalkothi or given away the fare from Joshimath to Haridwar.
This bus took us till Rishikesh without any further issues. We checked into a hotel in Rishikesh (again GMVN but a bit expensive), freshened up and started our walk along river Ganga to watch Ganges aarti. We watched the aarti in Paramarth Niketan, an ashram on the opposite side, near Ram Jhula. It was a wonderful experience. The whole air was of relaxed attitude. I bought a book there (though Pankaj paid for it ;))- Siddartha by Hermann Hesse - and then we had our dinner at famous Chotiwala restaurant. The day had almost ended.
Day 9, Sun Aug 31, 2008: We woke up to a pleasant morning. Our hotel was on the Ganges bank and our room's blacony looked towards Ganges and mountains. The view was amazing. Ram jhula and Parmarth Niketan, though about 5 km away, were visible from our room. We had breakfast there, checked out and took a bus to Haridwar and from Haridwar another bus to Delhi. We were back in Delhi by 4 pm or so.
This post marks the end of valley of flowers series (finally!). Hope you liked it and found it useful. Now I am relieved, I can write about something else :)
Manu Garg / www.manugarg.com / Journey is the destination of life