I was standing on a suspension bridge and looking around me, the gigantic Himalayas were standing tall surrounding me and looking down at me. I heard the sound a water gushing down somewhere. I looked down and to my astonishment a huge river was flowing beneath me! “Where am I?” I wondered.
“Chandu! Chandu!” I heard my mom scream, I turned around. But no sign of her. “Chandu! Wake up! Or I ll pour water on u!” she screamed again! “what!!?” I could feel someone shaking me.. Then I woke up. It was just a dream! Damn! Few days later (as if the gods were playing a prank on me) our family frenz asked us if we could join them on a trip to Badrinath. I was excited (as usual like a 7 yr old kid) . My parents were apprehensive because the trip to Badrinath is a very dangerous trip. People who go there don’t necessarily return back because the road to that place on the Himalayas is very dangerous. People prefer going to Badrinath in their old age when they are devoid of any responsibility. My parents feared that when am so young (unmarried and childless) its too risky to go now. But I told them about the dream I had and I really badly wanted to go and see it. After a lot of thinking and reassuring ourselves (that nothing ll happen to us!) we set out to Badrinath yatra in july 2010.
The road to Badrinath as I mentioned before is crazy. It is about 250 kms from Haridwar on road. But here comes the glitch around 230 kms is on the mountainous terrain. It scared the hell out of me (my friends who had been there had given me a graphic description of the roads and the deadly curves). We were 15 of us (5 families incl us) and we had booked a tempo traveler which was permitted to be driven on the mountains. Thus began our 2 day ordeal to reach 10,858 feet above sea level – Badrinath.
Well first thing I realized was we were all young (except an elderly couple who had accompanied us) and I sincerely prayed god that we return back safely when the bus started. The treacherous ghat section began. Our medical kits were out, it was kinda funny to know that many of us had motion sickness and ghat section was our worst enemy. Sadly I am also a victim of this so called “motion sickness” (and ironically I have a penchant for travelling and touring!) but I refused to pop those pills which relieve us of vomiting sensation(because it puts me to sleep and I badly wanted to see the scenery!) So I sat near the window and kept my cam in my hand and started off. Well the second thing I noticed was our driver was mighty skilled; the way he drove was just amazing. He smoothly drove on those killer curves (err it dint help much when it came to throwing up!) , it just strengthened my hopes of a safe return.
We had chosen a wrong season to go to Badrinath , we realized. It was rainy season which means peak season for landslides. I was not sure how serious it was but when I saw a huge boulder fall on the road in front of my eyes I realized that the journey uphill is more of a gamble now. Just depends on destiny/luck/whatever that would save us by seconds or we r gone. Praying hard that the stones don’t fall on our heads I tried to relax and enjoy the crazy drive.
The scenery outside was breath taking. I really have no words/adjectives to describe the beauty of the place. The ferocious Alaknanda River was our constant companion throughout the journey. I know that if at all there is something called heaven, then the road to that heaven would be like this. I remember as kids we have all drawn mountains and a river flowing in between them. Yes this is how it looked, gigantic endless mountains, whose peaks were covered with fog (making it very difficult to gauge how tall that mountain was) and a beautiful river flowing amidst the manly mountain range.
If Swiss Alps is like a beautiful princess then Himalayas is like a handsome, majestic prince.
The journey was deadly because the road was narrow and it carried both the uphill and the downhill traffic. Every 2 kms there was a sign board scaring us all the more which kept repeating that rock fall zone ahead. We saw many huge rocks on the roads which had fallen mins before we arrived. Adding to my fear , it started raining and trust me I had not seen rain of that kind. It was as if Alaknanda had started flowing on us. All our prayers became more passionate. We had to break for the day and rest in a hotel on the roads and wait for the rain to stop. That night passed by with Alaknanda’s roaring sound acting like a lullaby. Next morning we woke up and started our journey to Badrinath, hoping we would reach on time without much problems. Thanks to the heavy rain pour, the roads had become worse, slushy and the number of rocks falling down had gone up. We were stranded on the road for almost an hour as the road ahead was almost damaged and the border road organization was clearing it.
The scariest part of the journey was when we were asked to get down the bus and our driver’s driving skills was put to test. The road was completely gone, with only slush and water remaining. The cars wouldn’t move on it. They were skidding down into the river. People were helping every driver move his car on it( By adding stones on the muddy road). We got down our bus and waited for our bus to clear that slushy stretch of road which could either slide our bus down into the river or move it ahead. Our driver was very skilled as I mentioned before and with great difficulty he drove it to the safe part of the road. The crowd erupted with claps!
We then went ahead on the worst stretch of road. From a place called pepal koti, the road becomes one way. Why? Because it is the deadliest and the steepest stretch to Badrinath. The ultimate ghat section(scariest as well) of around 30kms. All our hearts were in our mouth. It was like sitting on a roller coaster ride without seat belts, without assurance of it coming to an end or reaching the destination. The temperature was steeply falling down from 13 degrees in the morning to 3 degress as we moved on top. Death always awaits us in 2 ways when going to Badrinath – the freezing river can engulf the whole bus or the land can slide on us. But there is something about the journey that makes it all worth it! Its undoubtedly the beauty of the place. The untouched nature, might of the river, majesty of the Himalayas, ruthless roads and the will power to reach the destination makes it the best journey of my life.
We finally reached the place- Badrinath. It was freezing up there. A lot of people were finding it difficult to breathe because of lack of oxygen on the mountain. The temple is located on the foot of 2 hills “nar and narayan”. Alaknanda separates the 2 hills. The temple is situated on the Narayan hill and the devotees are aptly put up in the “nar” hill. The temple is beautiful and unlike most of the temples there isnt much crowd or people pushing the devotees away or a huge queue. It was peaceful and exactly how a place of worship should be. Ah! Bliss! Two eyes are certainly not enough to see this place.
There are many stories surrounding the place and it is said that the great Ved Vyas dictated mahabharatha to Lord Ganesha in this very place.It is called “dev bhumi” by many. It brings peace to the mind and nature’s beauty fills the heart. Its definitely heavenly. If any of you out there is planning to go to a beautiful , sacred and an adventurous place Badrinath is the right destination !
p.s- One needn’t be old to go to Badrinath! Its best when u go there young. One can explore the place better and bear the climatic conditions easily. Books ur tickets rt away! Who knows 2012 might indeed be the end!