Characters: Me, Umesh Kaul or only Kaul, Lalit Kumar or Lalit, Atul Kumar Singh alias Atul and Laxmikant Shukla aka LK. We all are teachers at a private school in Lucknow and surely we need some zing in life. We decided to have a long bike ride just to quench our desires of some thrill and also to negate the belief that only peoples of Delhi, Chandigarh, Pune and Bangaluru are insane enough to go in for such endeavours.Preparations: We got our bikes serviced, got all the required documents of the bikes, kept some cash, packed our bags with all the required things including medical necessities, toiletries and warm clothes. While packing we kept the things compact and light. We used slings to tie our bags on to the bikes ensuring that they won’t budge at all throughout the journey. Another important advice, wear long sleeved shirts, full pants with socks etc even in summers and Helmets [for drivers as well as pillion riders] are mandatory. We also kept our cameras, mobiles, goggles etc handy
Leg 1 [Lucknow to Sitapur, 95 Kms, 2 Hours with two 10 minute halts]: We all started off in the evening. We wanted to avoid the day rush hours and to cover the maximum distance. By 7 pm we had hit the NH24, Lucknow, Sitapur highway. It was a toll road and smooth as a whistle with some crowded junctions especially at places like Itaunja, Kamalpur, Sidhauli and Nemisharanya Mod [turn] but overall this stretch is good and you notice lot of greenery alongside the highway. Do not expect lot many eateries along the way.
Leg 2 [Sitapur to Shahjahanpur, 91 Kms, 4 hours including a dinner break and two 15 minutes break]: All our pleasures of a long drive just vanished once we drove past the sign board that read ‘Toll Road Ends’ at Sitapur. Immediately we found ourselves amongst potholes, bigger potholes and even bigger potholes. We were no longer riding instead we were jumping around on our seats with the construction of the road in progress adding to our woes.
The halt for dinner at Maigalganj [falls under Lakhimpur Kheri district], 30 Kms from Sitapur was a welcome respite from the treacherous stretch. The place is a must halt for foodies but make sure that you eat at the famous joints only as there are many. Beyond, our despair continued so much so that the road even accepted the sacrifice of the wheel apron of one of our bike. We reached Shahjahanpur around midnight and continued for Bareilly through Bypass.
Leg 3 [Shahjahanpur to Bareilly, 90 Kms, 3 hours]: This leg was uneventful. The road was same as before and it drained our energy and did cause some harm to our lower backs too, remember we are on bikes. We reached Bareilly at 3 p.m.
As we were to bypass Bareilly, to our big surprise we found the dirt ridden, bumpy road turn into a pleasant expressway. Smooth as silk I, have’nt seen such a road ever. We were driving at 100 Kms/hr and to our surprise we could feel the chill even in month of June. At daybreak we were at Moradabad. We searched for an AC hotel near the railway station and got one. To our horror at around 10 a.m. the AC went off and we were told that the AC does not work during scheduled day power roasting. Nevertheless, we were tired to our ribs and we slept like sloths.
Leg 5: [Bareilly to Haridwar, 171 Kms, 4 hours via NH 74]: We started off in the afternoon after lunch. The road to Haridwar is two lanes but good. We went via Nagina [do not take the other route] and had evening snacks just opposite to the Nagina Railway station. The place serves mouth watering eateries, especially samosas and lassis. The last stretch along the canal that connects Kotdwar road to Haridwar road was picturesque. We reached Haridwar at 8 pm and manoevouring through the heavy traffic we finally reached Shiv Murty hotel [opposite Haridwar Railway station] at around 8 pm.
There were few incidents in between where we had to get the disk brakes of one our bikes corrected. One of us… ok, I, forgot a bag and had to travel 20 kms to retrieve it. The night dip in the holy river Ganga washed off all the tiredness of the long bike ride that we had just completed. We had many more miles to go but we knew that now on we will be in the lap of mighty Himalayas and we will enjoy the sights that will make us forget the weariness of bike riding.
Haridwar [or Hardwar] is one of the gateway for entering Garhwal, the other one being Kotdwar. It is one of the holiest places In India as it is said that it is one of the four places where the drop of Amrit fell while it was being carried over by Garud. It is also considered to be the gateway to Badrinath, one of the four dhams of India.
Leg 6: [Haridwar to Devprayag, 3hours, 100 Kms]: Although we left Hairdwar in the early hours of the day but we could not escape the city rush of Rishikesh, friend readers are advised to take the bypass road. Even beyond Rishikesh the adventure sports transport services kept us slow. After couple of tea breaks we reached Devprayag in the afternoon. Devprayag is the first of the 5 prayags[confluence of 2 rivers] enroute.
Devprayag is the most important prayag as it is here that the holy river Ganga is formed and gets the name through the confluence of Mandakini and Alaknanada. If you are interested in ancient temples do ensure to visit Raghunath Temple at Devprayag.
Prayags !!!! One of the many
Leg 7: [Devprayag to Karnaprayag, 100 Kms, 4 Hours] Beyond Devprayag, the river ascends and so does the road that we have been following. The weather does become pleasant but it is not cool yet. The landscape too remains consistent except for some old bridges, some ancient temples, some construction work on the river bed etc. As you pass through Srinagar, you get the feel of summers of the plains.
We had our lunch at Rudraprayag [confluence of Rivers Mandakini and Alaknanda]. The place is full of commotion and rightly so because it is a junction of Kedarnath and Badrinath routes. The noise of the confluence of the two mighty rivers adds to the aura of this place which gets its name from the tandav [dance of destruction] by Lord Shiva. After some snacks at Gauchar we reached Karnaprayag at around 2 pm.
Leg 8: [Karnapryag to Chamoli, 35 Kms, 1 hour 30 min]: Karnaprayag is the confluence of Rivers Alaknanda and Pindar. It is a relatively a quiet confluence as River Pindar is not that mighty and turbulent and same can be said for Nandakini that merges with Alaknanda at Nandprayag. Around 4 pm we were at Chamoli. The good thing about Chamoli [or bad for some] it is a smoking free district. Had I mentioned earlier that entire route being of a holy and religious one you won’t get any alcohol? At Chamoli we had a detour to Tungnath. [Click Here for detour details]
On our return leg from Tungnath we arrived at Chamoli in the evening next day and instead of planning any stay there we decided to continue our onward journey. Crossing Vishnuprayag, the confluence of river Alaknanda and Saraswati we reached Pipalkoti. It was getting dark so we took a hotel near the bus stand for overnight stay. I had stayed there before and I remember that the place would be overcrowded but that day there were hardly any tourist. We had vegetable pakoras at the bus stand and on enquiry our doubts were put to rest. After the Kedarnath disaster two years ago, the tourists are not going to the higher destinations and there fears have been further compounded by the last year’s Nepal earthquake. I do appreciate that it is helping the nature but on the other side you have sulking eyes of these local residents who are searching for whatever benefits they can have from the brave tourists still trickling in.
Leg 9: [Pipalkoti to Joshimath, 52 Kms – 2 Hours]: Next day we started early and we reached Joshimath at around 10 am. At Joshimath gate our names and our vehicles were noted down by the concerned officials. From the gate the road descends sharply through hair pin curves till it reaches down to the bridge over the river the Alaknanda. One can also admire the construction work in Joshimath by the Jaypees and also their Hydro electric project.
Just as you cross the river the roads starts ascending again. It is here that you realize the extent of damage done to the roads by the torrential rains 2 years ago. We salute the BRO [Border Roads Organization] and their workers for their painstaking continuous efforts in keeping the roads worthy of traffic all the time.
Leg 10: [Joshimath to Badrinath, 57 Kms – 5 hours]: As the destination gets closer the going does get tough. Till Govindghat, the road was in good condition and we would get occasional company of sikh tourists riding on bikes to Hem Kund Sahib on the road. At Govindghat the trek to Hem Kund Sahib, the holy shrine of Sikhs, commences.
As we crossed Govidghat the air was chilly with rain clouds ready to spoil our ride. The roads were more or less washed off and at some places the restoration work was in progress. Just about 3 kms short of Badrinath the rain began to come hard and we were forced to take shelter. The wait was 2 hours long but the site opposite to us was worth the wait. There was a small water fall and some lush green slopes which just turned white when the clouds over them lifted.
As if it was not enough, one of the bike got punctured. We had no option but to ride along as there was no other option. After crossing 14 – 15 feet high ice walls we reached the last turn from where we had a clear view of the Badrinath bus stand. Moving slightly ahead we had the first glimpse of the eternal Badrinath temple shining brightly amidst the dark snow clad backdrop. The Nar and Narayan mountains were not green that day, as I have experienced them in my earlier trips, instead they were grey and covered with snow and Neelkanth peak towering atop was all white and nestled in between was the colourful temple glistening as if radiating in its own holiness.
Our bigger concern was to find a tyre tube mechanic at Badrinath as we were told that there was only one and he was not ready to do the needful because of the frosty conditions. The other mechanic shop was 24 kms far at Govindghat so we had to cajole him for the repair works. He agreed when we were relentless in our efforts.
We stayed at the hotel just opposite to the temple. I have visited Badrinath thrice before but never before I had the luxury of walking into the temple without being in the queue but this time there was no crowd at all neither was the commotion in the market ways. We also had a bath in Tapt Kund [the hot springs] before we offered our prayers to Lord Vishnu [Badri Narayan]. One thing I can assure everyone, eat anywhere you want you are sure to get good food at Haridwar and anywhere all the way to Badrinath. There are langars [where food is served for free as Prasad] organized for the pilgrims going to Hemkund Sahib or Badrinath. We had a good bath in the sulpher springs in the Tapt Kund along side the temple before we offered our prayers at the temple.
Return Leg: It is understood that when you return, the same stretch that was so picturesque turns uninteresting. It was no different with us. We started off in the morning and reached Haridwar after 11 hours of journey with very few halts. Our backs were literally on fire with towels on our seats providing no cushion anymore. Next day we continued the same routine from Haridwar to Lucknow with halts only when the back burns were unbearable. The most tedious and painful were the last few kilometers as they seemed unending. Finally at 10 pm we were at home with some awesome memories for lifetime. Ps: We did not ride a bike for next week or so.