Rudraprayag is 140 kilometres away from Rishikesh and we took a direct bus to the place. Our destination was in fact Chopta, to do the Tungnath-Chandrasila trek, and this place was meant to be just an overnight stay.
The bus passed through the roads that fills one’s heart with fear, being torn apart at times, and deep gorges on one side. Sometimes the tyres just passed through the edges that one look outside the window and what you see is the river that flows parallel long way down the unprotected sideways. Sometimes the vehicles from the opposite side had to stop or even move backwards to allow the bus to journey forward along the narrow path.
But most of the times, as the bus passed from one greenish mountain to the next, the muddy Ganga flowing in the opposite direction deep down, we had glimpses of the raw beauty of the nature most of the way.
We passed Devprayag halfway through, and beneath there was the town, and the confluence of two rivers- Alaknanda and Baghirathi -to form the Ganges, or Ganga.
The bus had a ten minute stop at Srinagar, a busy town, where we had tea and boiled eggs, and a good chat with the old folks assembled near the tea-stall, smoking and having a good time. They were happy and enthusiastic in talking with us, something The Clueless Rider refers to as “stranger intimacy”.
Ten minutes away from the town, our bus got a flat tyre, making us wait at the highway while the repairing work progressed swiftly. This gave us the opportunity to have a breath of fresh air enjoying the beautiful landscape around, the wide river and an iron bridge adding spices to the scenery.
By the dusk, our bus entered into Rudraprayag, several people sitting at a particular spot and enjoying the sunset on our way. The bus passed them, crossed a bridge across the river and halted. The final stop. The town had reached. The place, where Jim Corbett had hunted down the man-eating Leopard had reached.
The overnight stay
We crossed the bridge again, and walked upward the road to check in a hotel. The guy at the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam(GMVN) guest house asked for 500 rupees for a room to accommodate three, and we negotiated for lesser rent, for which he directed us to the Baba Kali Kamli hotel nearby. The old building had a large bath-attached room with three beds, and a balcony facing the Alaknanda river.
Vipin gave his name and full address to the hotel caretaker to write in the register, and while he asked about the State we come from, he replied as ‘Kerala’.
The man wrote it down. And asked again, “Ok. Which state?”
“Kerala.”, said Vipin, again.
The man glanced at what he wrote on the register, and asked yet again:
“OK. But, Kerala is in which state? Andhra Pradesh?”
So far so good.
The darkness had blocked our view from the balcony, of the river flowing, but the sounds and the movements of the several monkeys on the nearby banyan tree did strike the chord at times. The hotel guy had warned us too, not to keep the balcony door opened at night while we sleep, or else be ready to be robbed by the monkeys for sure.
The so-so riverish Alaknanda
The next morning, I woke up to the sound and view of Alaknanda. The time was only 5:30 am but the sun had already been up, and so were my two friends. Sitting on chairs on the balcony, and enjoying the morning watching the flowing river, we started our day.
What a way to start the day.
The share gaadi we had to catch starts by 9 am, and all we had were a little time to see of the place. I got out of the hotel a little later than them, having planned initially to go visit the place where the people enjoyed the sunset last evening. Outside the hotel, the steps on the right lead to the main road and to that place we wanted to visit, and towards the left side it descended down, probably towards the river.
I felt like going down, and while climbing the steps towards the river, workers were climbing back carrying heavy sacks on their shoulders. I reached the shore, to see sand mining going on, and the sacks were being filled with the same either. But the space, the surrounding, the river, the hills around, and obviously the translucent mist that enveloped the area made it all look like something….
My friends arrived and joined me too, and we enjoyed our naked feet on the wet sand, the shore that behaved like a beach. The river was creating waves, small recurring waves, the cold water sending vibrations up the body. A little further from our point, the rivers Alaknanda and Mandakini joined together happily, like long separated siblings …..
We spent only less than an hour at the spot, but the view and the feel did steal our hearts. It was hard leaving Rudraprayag behind, but the journey has to go on with the other plans itching all the time. From the town we caught a Tata Sumo, a share gaadi as they call it, bulked with vegetable sellers and other commuters, going to Ukhimath, and left the place.
Towards Chopta, towards the mini-Switzerland of India, towards the much-anticipated Tungnath-Chandrasila trek….