After an early morning start from Rishikesh, we stopped at this restaurant for breakfast. There was the location of a huge waterfall right opposite this restaurant. Since it was may, there was no water falling. It was sheer vertical mountain wall.
We reached Phoolchatti and our Tourist Rest House (TRH) by 5 pm.
The Tourist rest house was located in a beautiful setting. Mountains all round and snow capped peaks atop. You can see the Yamunotri glacier in the distance.
Phoolchatti was at an altitude of 2561 m. It got really cold in the night. After a scorching summer, I welcomed the chill whole heartedly.
Next morning after a hurried tea, we started off for Jankichatti, which is 8 kms. from Phoolchatti. Yanmunotri was our first Dham and were totally excited.
Jankichatti was a small village, at an altitude of 2576 m., with a big parking lot for the tourist buses and cars. Shops selling walking sticks, sweaters, woolen caps, shoes etc. were a plenty next to the parking area. Since I did not want to carry my high tech walking stick all the way, I had to buy a thing bamboo one urgently. It cost Rs.20 for one. The bamboo is skin friendly and I was happy with it.
From Jankichatti you can either trek, or hire a Pony with an attender, or hire a Palki or a Kandi. Here I must mention that the path is anywhere between 5' and 8' wide. Only at a few places, it was as wide as 10'. On it, were thousands of people on foot, hundreds of ponies, Palkies and kandies, jostling each other; quite often stepping on each others toes.
At several places there were boards giving the distances traveled and remaining distance to reach. One board mentioned 5 kms. at the beginning of the trek. I was comfortable with a 5 km trek. Let me make it clear hear that the trek is actually a climb. You are walking on a slope, or climbing steps. As we kept climbing and climbing (and climbing, I know I am repeating myself), it seemed definitely longer than 5 kms. I would say, close to 9 kms.one way. At places there two boards showing different distances!
At places along the way, there were small stalls selling bottled water, soft drinks and snacks.
The views were spectacular! As we kept climbing we were getting closer and closer to the snow capped mountain from where river Yamuna was flowing down.
There were a couple of small shrines on the way up. This one is called Bhairav Mandir.
The path kept going on and on; there was no end in sight. After a point, it seemed we were going to go up and over the snow capped mountain and to the other side! You know what I mean!
Resting the ponies on the mountain faceA kandi is a chair like basket in which one can sit. The person carrying the kandi hangs it on his back, bends forward and starts walking. They are mostly Nepalese men and teenage boys. They are known to be very hard working. The person traveling by a kandi has an easy time in comfort. One draw back I felt was that the only view he / she has is that of the sky. Will miss all that beauty around. What a shame!
Palki is actually a simple chair attached to two poles, carried by four men on their shoulders.
It was a steep climb. Ponies have a tough time of it. As we kept climbing, I had not seen a single happy face of a rider!
Finally we could see the temple of Yamunotri in the distance. We had been climbing for 5 hrs. Totally tired, hungry and spent. Lost our companions along the way.
First thing I did on reaching the base of the temple was to order a plate of Maggi noodles. And only then did I start to look for my friend. She did straggle in, in more of a sorry state than I. After our hurried lunch, we set off for the darshan.
The temple is modest sized building, set at the base of the Kalind Parbat at an altitude of 3323 m. There was a hot water spring called Jamuna Bai kund. There were separate sections for men and women for bathing and changing. Almost all the pilgrims take a dip.
Right next to the temple was a hot water spring called Surya kund. The water is at a boiling point and steam keeps coming out of it. Devotees put rice in it for a few minutes, and this cooked rice is considered as Prasad and taken back with them.
In the temple Goddess Yamuna is worshiped. A few brave souls took a dip in the river Yamuna running right by the side of the temple. The water was ice cold. I could barely put my feet in the river water and threw a few drops of water over my head and that was that.
Returning to Jankichatti was uneventful. We covered it in 3 hrs.
Some of the things I noticed along the way:
It was a new experience for me to know that when one visits a pilgrimage and take a dip in sea, river, pond, or a kund, one has to leave one's clothes behind in the said waters. May be to leave behind the sins and wash them off or to offer one's clothes or something else be the reason. With thousands of devotees taking a dip, and leaving their 6 yard sarees etc. imagine the pollution of the waters!
I could see for miles downstream colourful sarees in Yamuna river. People, we can do better than that!
The path was concretised this past year. It is good thing for the humans - solid ground under the feet, stops erosion etc. As it happens, on this trek / route, hundreds of horses / ponies are employed for carrying the pilgrims. Their shod feet kept slipping on the concrete floor, tripping, falling, hurting themselves and throwing the riders, endangering both the people and horses. We saw several horses falling and the riders and the attenders getting hurt and having a tough time. It was a scary sight. Imagine falling from those heights!
I wonder if the authorities thought this through.
All in all, it was a great trek. There was special energy in those mountains; a certain draw. I loved every minute of it. It is not for the faint hearted or weak kneed. One has to be fairly fit and healthy for trekking. As concerning palkis and kandies, do you want four people to carry you or one guy carry you on his back? I didnot. Each one to their own!