Do you ever imagine a house at a faraway place surrounded by big snow peaked mountains, blue skies infused with white clouds, cold breezes hitting on the face as you’re awestruck by the beauty?
This might be a dream of many but I was one of those lucky who was born at one such place. ’Joshimath’ a small town of the Garhwal Himalayan region situated at some 6150 feet above the mean sea level, a perfect mountain getaway.
The famous pilgrim of ‘Badrinath’ and ‘Hemkunt Shahib’ make it a holy place for those seeking spirituality.
For the adventure and nature lover this is more than just a place, having the world heritage site ‘Valley of flower’, to the mesmerizing beauty of Majestic Nanda Devi, the skiing playground of Auli holding the second tallest and largest cable car ride and the famous ‘Kuari pass’ trek.
Start your day with the view of the mighty Himalayas, as your day break with a cup of coffee;laze around on the grasslands of the Auli during summers with a lake aside and walk on the less busy streets beneath the stars or brave those freezing cold to get out the bed during winters; ski on the slopes of Auli and sit beside the heaters and warm yourself in the blankets at night to wake up to the magic of nature- Snow, if the weather turns grey and this isn’t it, but wait till you reach here and find it for yourself.
Well for this you need to get to this place first.
Start your day early since it is a long way and night drives are forbidden. Don’t bother of getting nicely dressed, just pack whatever you could but never forget some woolens no matter what season it is.
Start from the plains of ‘Doon,’ a glittering jewel in the lower Himalayas. The journey starts with the first ray of sun; breakfast can be put on hold and be savored on the highway. As the sunrises, you leave the fields of Doon behind and enter in the forest, a forest that reaches the world yoga capital ‘Rishikesh,’ and by driving through the market, we reach the famous Ram and Laxamjhula where Ganges flowing silently. You leave the plains and the starts behind while driving through the zig-zag mountain roads.
For almost an hour or two into the drive along the Ganges on your right, you drive through trees and forests traveling the ups and downs of a smooth ride. You might stop at one of the restaurants for breakfast along a silently flowing holy river. The day has already broken but it doesn’t seem so because of the morning drive among those tress and forest which have kept the air clean and fresh. After the drive of almost two hours, the road starts narrowing and the gradient starts to increase; now, when you look back, the plains are left far behind and can hardly be seen, and the mountain ranges starts appearing- valleys after valleys.
These valleys can scare you if you’re new to the mountains. Driving carefully in the twist and turns of the road, you reach ‘Devprayag’ one of the PanchPrayag (five confluences) of Alaknanda River, where Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers meet and take the name Ganga or Ganges River. Two rivers with different coloured water flowing from entirely different valleys confluence here to form the biggest and sacred river of the nation.
The drive from here is now at the bank of river Alaknanda. The hills are moderate and the drive is easy but the sun is vertically overhead on these hilly plains. The bright daylight and the roads with little settlement of this part can make the journey monotonous. The brown hills and little vegetation sometimes add to the discomfort. But as you reach to the hilly plains of ‘Malitha’ village, the greener fields with plenty of fresh water sources brings a site of pleasure. Closely followed crossing a huge bridge, you enter ‘Srinagar’ the largest town of the Garhwal Himalayas having a Central Recognized University, an NIT and a Govt. Medical College, an ITI and a Govt. Polytechnic institute; this is also the most important education hub for the entire Garhwal region. Drive through the busy market of this town to the open highway along the reservoir of a Dam. The roads are smooth wide and the journey here starts changing with vistas and the drive is mostly zig-zag taking you further deep into the laps of the mountains. The river is a continuous companion with blue skies. Break the journey to rejuvenate on the beaches formed by the reservoir of the dams with cold water and white sand. As you start feeling hungry for lunch, the small roadside restaurants serving some simple yet tasty food welcomes you with warm hospitality.
Don’t get too lazy since it’s still a long way home. When you look at your watch, you’ll realize that half-day is already up. The road now enters ‘Rudraprayag,’ second of the PanchPrayag confluence of Mandakini and Alaknanda; the route to Kedarnath diverges from here.
For here, the hills start turning into mountains, the winds start feeling different and the vegetation also begins a shift. The roads here are well-maintained and the vistas ahead, the drive starts getting scenic. The villages on the other side of the valley can make you wonder about the life of the people there. Indulge in thoughts and the smoother roads take you to the largest pieces of flatland in this mountainous region- ‘Gauchar,’ closely followed by another confluence of Alaknanda and Pindari- ‘Karanprayag.’ It will be late afternoon by the time you reach here and the scorching sun starts melting down. From here onward, there’s tress at one side and open views at the other. The valley isn’t steep but gradually gains altitude.
The final confluence of Alkananda and Nandakini- ‘Nandprayag’ is reached. The wide roads disappear and now the roads are to be driven carefully. The fields and villages appear beautiful as the sun starts turning red. Another forest drives through narrow highways with villages and settlement at a regular interval, we pass the ‘Chamoli’ settlement, where we witness the magnificent high mountain ranges for the first time; the mountains strike us with their giant appearance. Though the high snow-peaked mountains are still missing but the mountains here will make you realize their vastness. And the roads take you further into them.
From here onward, there’s tress at one side and open views at the other. The valley isn’t steep but gradually gains altitude. The final confluence of Alkananda and Nandakini- ‘Nandprayag’ is reached. The wide roads disappear and now the roads are to be driven carefully. The fields and villages appear beautiful as the sun start turning red. Another forest drives through narrow highways with villages and settlement at a regular interval, we pass the ‘Chamoli’ settlement, where we witness the magnificent high mountain ranges for the first time; the mountains strike with their giant appearance. Though the high snow-peaked mountains are still missing but the mountains here will make you realize their vastness. And the roads take you further into them.
This also leads to small late evening break in between those mighty Himalayan ranges, with beautiful lights of the sunset creating magical and mesmerizing scenery. It is then that you are finally opened up to your first encounter with the mighty Himalayas. The snow-covered mountains in the falling light of the sun will leave you awestruck with its beauty. They’re the mountains at their best, welcoming you with their cold breeze. The only road with minimal traffic at this hour in the lap of the mountain and the setting sun adds to the charm of the final few kilometres of the drive. It’s really been a long day on the roads leaving behind the plains and chaos of the cities; a drive started with the first ray of the sun in the changing valleys vistas, twists and turns, now the rush to reach home gains its momentum. The high mountain peaks are a constant companion now and some final twists and turns keep on gaining altitude rapidly.
With the breezes hitting colder and the snow-clad peaks getting nearer and clearer, a final turn on the right opens up to the town of Joshimath, a place I call “My Home.”