Saturday, 11 July 2015

Garhwal trip to Joshimath

One of the pressing questions for tourists planning to visit Uttarakhand during the monsoons is the quality of the roads. So, to get an idea, the Dream Mountain team started on a journey  from Dehradun to Joshimath on 1st July 2015. We started as early as 7 AM and took a halt at NIM beach in Rishikesh . The water level of Ganga had risen considerably above the normal level. We took few minutes to soak in the situation, snapped some pictures of the surroundings and continued on our journey.

Laxman Jhula, Rishikesh

At around 9:00 AM, we reached Shivpuri , which is the main centre for rafting business on the Ganga. The main Shivpuri beach is usually crowded full of adventurous tourists interested in  rafting and camping. Today  it looked barred and washed -out due to heavy monsoon rainfall and increased Ganga water level.  Rafting on the Ganga had stopped in the third week  of June due to the onset of monsoon. We clicked some fotos for the record and proceeded another  16 km ahead to Vyasi. Now we were heading towards Devprayag.

Shivpuri, 15 km from Rishikesh

Shivpuri during summer

Tourists enjoying cricket at Shipuri

 Devprayag is known for the start of Ganga. Although the Ganga originates at Gaumukh and Gangotri, the river is known as the Bhagirathi till it reached Devprayag where it merges with the Alaknanda and continues on as the Ganga. There are a few temples at the confluence which tourists can visit. The photos we took of the confluence tell their own story. Both rivers are distinct in colour and obviously the rainfall has been much heavier in the Alaknanda catchment area as evident from the silt in the river.

Devprayag confluence

A closer look

After Devprayag, the most important station is Srinagar. But just four kilometers prior to Srinagar there is a small town called Kirtinagar. Kirtinagar once used to be the capital of Garhwal  under the kingship of Panwar dynasty. At Kirtinagar the rishikesh-Badrinath highway crosses over to the left bank of the river. These two fotos we took show  you the old and modern bridges over the Alaknanda river at Kirtinagar.

Kirtinagar old bridge

Kirtinagar new bridge

Ahead of Kirtinagar is Srinagar, perhaps the most populous hill town in the Garhwal region. The usually crowded Srinagar market was surprisingly free of vehicular congestion and we were soon in Srikot. In the past Kirtinagar, Srinagar and Srikot were three distinctly seperate small towns. Today these three towns are almost connected with one another and will not appear to be separate towns to a new visitor.

Srinagar river

Srinagar town

 It is now time to tell you a bit about Shirau-bagad, the  most notorious sliding zone on the Rishikesh-Badrinath highway. This sliding zone lies between Srinagar and Rudraprayag and has become the biggest hurdle for Char Dham yatra during monsoon season.  For the last 20 years the problem could not be resolved. Now after decades of sliding of boulders and rubbles from the mountain, the hard rock has started appearing. Probably, after few years the nature itself will heal this wound which the man could not.  While driving through this zone, we were surprised to see that there  was no obstruction here and the road was clear. We moved ahead with ease.


Rudraprayag, where the Alaknanda and the Mandakini rivers meet, was our next destination after Srinagar. Rudraprayag town is very congested and due to this problem, a diversion road is used to avoid the traffic of the main road. Another problem with Rudraprayag is that it is impossible to view the confluence from the main road because buildings have come up blocking all view of the rivers from the main town. Rudraprayag confluence is best seen on the way back via the diversion route on the right bank of the Alaknanda. While going towards Badrinath we have to drive through the main town, but  while returning from Badrinath to Rishikesh, the diversion road is used, for which you have to first cross the Alaknanda and drive for about two kilometers on the Kedarnath highway along the Mandakani and then, after crossing the Mandakini, join back to the Badrinath-Rishikesh highway by once again crossing the Alaknanda.

Rudraprayag confluence

When we started the journey, we were warned that there had been heavy rains in the Joshimath area for last two days and the Badrinath road had been heavily damaged at Lambagarh. Perhaps this was also the concern of most people because traffic was for the most part lighter than usual. We drove on through Gauchar to Karnaprayag where the Pindar river flows into the bigger Alaknanda. But that day the situation was different. At Karnaprayag confluence when we stopped the vehicle to take a look, both the rivers were flowing above their usual levels but the the Pinder was clearly in a more dangerous mood and almost threatening to sweep the lowermost houses along its banks. Many of the locals were seen gazing at the river with various degrees of concern.  We took the videos and some photos and hoped that the situation would not get more serious before driving on.

Karnaprayag confluence.

Pinder river at Karnaprayag

After Karnaprayag, we were short of time as we had to reach Joshimath before the darkness as it is not advisable to drive at night in sliding zones to avoid being hit by any boulder or mud balls etc. After Karnaprayag, we moved towards Nandprayag and Chamoli. From Chamoli one has a magnificent view of Gopeshwar town which is  the headquarters of district Chamoli.

Gopeshwar town

Before Joshimath the other townships to cross were Birahi and Pipalkoti. We could not even stop for some tea  at these places as we had been strongly advised  to cross the Pagal-Nala (The Mad Rivulet)before night to reach Joshimath.  Pagal-Nala, as the name suggests,  is an another problematic place where you never know what may happen. Fortunately we crossed the nala at around 6:45 PM and sighed a heavy relaxed breath. Now we were just 15 minutes drive from our destination.  Nevertheless we were quite intrigued about how the nala got this interesting name. Next day in Joshimath , a local helpfully explained that we should not have been so unduly worried. Pagal-nala is at its most unpredictable post monsoon, exactly during the period when people begin expecting rainfed streams to exhibit stable behaviour.

On the way to Joshimath

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