Chaukhamba : Serie 1 – a step closer

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November is my preferred time to visit Uttarakhand. Every year I make an attempt to see some remote destination of Uttarakhand. At this time, there are almost 0 clouds in the sky which provides for best Peak photography. This year my research led me to Kartik Swami Temple in Uttarakhand. The temple is dedicated to Lord Kartikeya, the eldest son of Lord Shiva. This is the only Kartik Swami Temple in Uttarakhand and it is situated at a height of 3048m above sea level. Trekking is the only way to reach the top which starts from a village named Kanakchauri in Rudraprayag district

How to reach Kanakchauri:
> If you come by personal/rented vehicle
From New Delhi, reach Haridwar – Take rest
Next day leave for Rudraprayag have lunch and then proceed to Kanakchauri
If you don’t have experience of driving in the Himalayas, Best take the bus

> If you use public transport
From New Delhi, you can take a metro to Kashmere Gate (ISBT) and buses to Haridwar are available every 30 mins from ISBT
Better is to take a train to Haridwar however trains are not as frequent as buses
Take rest in Haridwar
Next day take the early morning (4am / 5am) bus from Haridwar to Rudraprayag
The bus will drop you on a busy street in Rudraprayag. There will be lot of shops here and traffic police
The bus to Kanakchauri will arrive at this same place. However, if you have any doubts, ask the sweet shop ~pause~ people
If you take the 5am bus from Haridwar to Rudraprayag, it will reach Rudraprayag by 12:30 pm
The bus to Kanakchauri will be there at the same place and will start at 1:00 pm

Bus from Haridwar to Rudraprayag / Ukhimath / Tungnath / Kedarnath / Karnaprayag / Joshimath (Valley of Flowers) / Auli / Badrinath
You need to take GMOU buses
For more information, either continue reading or Click here to Jump to that section below

As of 2018
Bus ticket from Haridwar to Rudraprayag will cost 235/-
Bus ticket from Rudraprayag to Kanakchauri will cost 55/-

How to reach Kartik Swami Temple:
Inform the Kanakchauri bus conductor that you need to go to Kartik Swami Temple. They will drop you at the correct place
Reaching the temple requires a small trek of 3km
The trek path starts right on the road where the bus left you
There are small shops here. You can buy a few things for Kartik Swami. You will also get something to eat if you want
The trek path is very simple and you won’t get lost

Where to stay near Kartik Swami Temple:
Once you start the trek, there is nothing to stay or eat till you reach the Pandit’s place at the top of the hill
The Pandit’s house (Dharmshala) has few extreme basic rooms with many blankets to survive the night

Panditji will provide you with Rice and Mixed cereal Dal. Also tea / black tea on demand
You can pay as you wish to Panditji. There is no fix tariff for the stay
I would recommend you to stay here and witness an amazing sunset along with the cold of the night. For sunset you must reach the top by 5pm
Before your final climb for the temple, inform Panditji that you will need a room when you come back

For me, the Panditji’s place rocked! If you want better facilities to stay, there are guest houses where the bus dropped you


My plan is to take a bike on rent from Delhi and go all the way to Kanakchauri with a night stop at Rishikesh. I have no tent, and no plan if I will stay at Kanakchauri. I even don’t know what I would do once I reach the temple

The Ride:
A week before I was to leave for the trip, a friend in Delhi informed me, the roads in Uttarakhand (UK) are in horrible condition. This is (as of November 2018) due to the construction / road widening activities to provide better connectivity for Char Dham pilgrims. So, by next year, everything will be smoother with better and wider roads. I believe my decision to prefer bus transport over bike was the right thing to do in this case. Not that the bus was comfortable but to ride on broken roads would have been more arduous

So, bus it is

I am extremely angry at people who provide wrong information. If you don’t know, you don’t write it on the Internet. I will come to the gist of this later

I reached New Delhi railway station and went to the Metro. I boarded the metro towards Samaypur Badli / समयपुर बादली and got down at Kashmere Gate
ISBT (Inter State Bus Terminal) is a mere 2 min walking distance from the Kashmere Gate metro station
For a bus to Haridwar, you can go down to platform 11. There is a ticket booth here. Non-AC Buses to Haridwar / Rishikesh leave every 30 mins
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If you need an AC bus, you might need to do advance booking over the Internet. On the spot AC bus tickets would be difficult as AC buses are few

I reached Haridwar (Haridwar ISBT Bus Stand) by 4:00 pm. While on the bus I looked for stay options near the Haridwar ISBT Bus Stand. I found this hotel: Hotel Rio
This one was very comfortable and having it near to Bus Stand was important. Its not that costly too

As per my prior research, I had to board a bus at 4-5am from GMOU bus stand for Rudraprayag
After visiting Har ki Pauri in the evening, I first went to ISBT Bus Stand and enquired about early morning bus to Rudraprayag. They informed the bus is at 7:00 am. I asked about buses from GMOU Bus Stand. They said those will start at 3:00 am. Feeling confident about the Google Maps pointer for GMOU Bus Stand, I didn’t ask them where exactly the GMOU Bus would come

I reached my hotel and then again a thought came to me. Its 10pm. There is no harm in going to GMOU Bus Stand and checking it out once. I turned back from the reception and towards GMOU Bus Stand I go

People on Google reviews and other blogs have mentioned you get buses from here. Well it turns out, this is not the case

When I went there (GMOU Bus Stand), it was a layover place for all buses. A kind of Garage / Warehouse where there are just machines sleeping. I was in total shock. I could not understand if I am at a wrong gate or what happened
There was a small tea stall and 2 men was chatting there. I went to them and asked about buses to Rudraprayag
They said, “This is not a Bus Stand, buses are just kept here. If you want to catch a bus to Joshimath or Rudraprayag, go straight towards ISBT Bus Stand. There is a petrol pump there and all GMOU buses stop there, opposite to the petrol pump. You will get buses from 3am”
This was very valuable information and to have it tonight: most valuable
The Google maps pointer points to this bus warehouse instead of a Bus Stand

I left the hotel room at 4:15 am and walked towards the petrol pump towards ISBT terminal. Well, so many buses in line here to various destinations. Thank you to those 2 men at the tea stall last night

GMOU is said as “GEEMU”. Don’t run about asking for G.M.O.U. I am sure no one will understand
It stands for Garhwal Motors Owners Union

Below is the exact location, where you will get the buses

Open Google Map Pointer

The bus started at around 5:00 am. The bus journey was amazing and scary. Many people got off the bus in Srinagar, not because they were scared but Srinagar is a bigger market
I reached Rudraprayag around 12:15 pm

Some information on the rivers and where to sit in the bus:
Ganges / Ganga river is sourced from multiple rivers flowing down from the Himalayas
Devprayag is the confluence of Bhagirathi and Alakananda making the river Ganges
Rudraprayag is the confluence of Mandakini and Alakananda flowing further as river Alakananda

From Haridwar, sit on the right side window. You will see the river Ganges all the way till Devprayag
After Devprayag, the river you see is the Alakananda river
At Srinagar, you can change your seat to the left window
Now you will see views of Alakananda on the left
If you travel here from Oct – May, the waters would glow in shades of blue and green

At Rudraprayag, the bus left me on a busy street. I quickly asked about the bus to Kanakchauri/Kartik Swami temple. Few men having tea at a sweet shop informed the bus will arrive right here. Soon after 5 mins, a bus came in. However it was due to leave at 1:00 pm
The incoming bus emptied entirely in Rudraprayag. I had all the seats to choose

Below picture of the bus you need to take
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By 1:00 pm, the bus got almost full. The journey to Kanakchauri is well – super scary. The road is thin and the driver was going at the fastest speed he can
One mistake from him and bye bye world
With prayers and sweaty palms, I reached Kanakchauri at 2:55 pm

This is so much to write, let me have a glass of water

………………. and we are back!!

There are small shops here to buy stuff for Kartik Swami and there are snacks items. A noble tea stall person asked me if I was planning to come down today or planning to stay. “Apart from a basic Dharmshala, you won’t find any thing to stay at the top. The food would be basic dal rice”, he said
Before I could ask him about Bus timings for next morning, he added that there are no more buses for today. The first direct bus to Haridwar from Kanakchauri, would be at 6, 7 and 8am

I have taken a bottle of water from him and started the trek

Its 3:00 pm now and I have enough time to reach the top for sunset at 5:30 pm
Chaukhamba – the Ultra peak makes its maiden appearance and I cannot stop myself from clicking it. What a lovely sight

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Moving further, I can see Nilkantha, Nanda Devi and other right side peaks

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Around 30 mins have passed, I have reached a couple of houses. There is a big man-made pond here. This must be the Dharmshala but let’s get the trek done with. I am really interested in what’s at the top. The climb is a little more steeper now. There are steps here and these last 10 mins have been extremely tiring. I wish I had kept my bag at Panditji’s place
Finally the last step and woooooaahh!!!

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There are 2 concrete benches here. Looking at the sight in front of me, though I am tired, I am not going to sit. Photo-session!!
With the snow clad Himalayas and the breathtaking views of the surroundings, I just clicked photos and videos and starred at this natural beauty for the next 1 hour

Sunset on Chaukhamba (no sound HD)

 

Its 5.30 pm now, the sun has set. Before it gets dark and before the Dharmshala vanishes ( you never know 😀 ), I am now going down to check for a room and spend the night
Panditji gave me a room which had 2 windows and a door. It seemed like the windows were never opened by any occupant, which is good

There is electricity from solar panels and a truck battery. Panditji seems to be a cool guy. I ask for tea and he asks if I need normal milk tea or black tea 😀
Dal Rice would be for dinner

The adjoining room had beds in it. It was occupied by 3 guys from Uttarakhand. They however had reached late and missed the sunset. They missed the best part

Post delicious dinner we had a small chit chat and retired to our rooms

The room I have has no bed. I have laid multiple blankets on the floor, made a bed out of it and took 2 blankets over me, going to sleep

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The night was so cold, even the feeling of taking a finger outside the blankets made me shiver. I wonder how it would be here in January

I got up at 5:30 am to see the sunrise
Sunrise from Dharmshala Kartik Swami Temple (no sound HD)

 
PRO Tip: Never miss sunsets in the Himalayas. Sunset is gradual; Sunrise is exponential

After tea with Panditji, I left their place to catch the 8:00 am direct bus to Haridwar. I reached the main road by 7:50 am. To my surprise, the bus had left 5 mins ago. It seemed terrible to have missed a direct Haridwar bus

The next bus comes at around 9:00 am. This bus will go to Rudraprayag. However, if you inform the driver that you will go ahead to Srinagar / Rishikesh / Haridwar, he will drop you at the bypass where there is a bus of Haridwar waiting for you. Well that sorted easily

The bus was full and I got the last seat. I was worried how to sit all the way till Haridwar on the last seat. By the time Srinagar came, I kept thinking if I should have taken the next bus or should I get down at Srinagar and take another bus. And then again, at Srinagar, the bus emptied. Hardly 4 passengers now. I took pride in sitting on the 2nd seat 😀

Due to construction activities and even though the bus driver was going faster than others, the bus reached Haridwar at 7:00 pm

Some general information on Kartik Swami Temple
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The Hindi text in the above image says
“Kartik Swami Temple, Rudraprayag, is one of the Holy tourist site in Uttarakhand. The temple is situated at a distance of 38km from Rudraprayag at 3048m above sea level and is dedicated to Lord Kartikeya, the eldest son of Lord Shiva. The temple is surrounded by powerful Himalayan ranges. As per one version of Mythology, Lord Shiva asked his sons; Lord Kartikeya and Lord Ganesha to complete a full circle of the universe. Whoever does this first and reaches here, gets the 1st chance to worship his parents

To Lord Ganesha, his parents were extremely dear and thus they were the Universe for him. He circled his parents and convinced them on how they are his Universe. Pleased by Lord Ganesha’s thinking, Lord Shiva declared him the winner

On the other hand, Lord Kartikeya completed the circle of the universe on his peacock. When he came back, he felt cheated over the victory of Lord Ganesha. Lord Kartikeya under extreme anger, gave his bones to his father and his flesh to his mother. The bones of Lord Kartikeya, are still present in this very temple and thousands of devotees worship them


This is Chaukhamba Serie: 1. However, don’t expect a Serie: 2 soon. It might take months or even a year
In the next edition, I hope to stand face to face with this Chaukhamba and ask who’s the Boss now!

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