Yamunotri |
Barkot – Yamunotri – Barkot (Day 7 – July 7, 2006): 36 kms drive from Barkot to Janaki Chatti followed by 6 kms of walk to get to Yamunotri. The 36 kms drive to Janaki Chatti has to be done in 2 stages, first 28 kms or so from Barkot to Hanuman Chatti in our Toyota van. From Hanuman Chatti, we have to hire local jeep to travel to Janaki Chatti (about 8 kms) because only jeeps can travel this stretch of the road. From Janaki Chatti start the 6 kms walk to Yamunotri. Those, unable to walk, have to go on horse back or go by doli (carried by four persons).

Yamunotri is the place of origin of River Yamuna. There are hot springs at the place of origin of River Yamuna; the Surya Kund has boiling water. There is a Divya Shila (Divine Stone) where the springs of water from Yamuna flow. There is also a temple for Yamuna Devi, Ganga Devi and Lakshmi. The goal of the pilgrimage is to get to the source of River Yamuna, take bath in Surya Kund, offer prayers at Divya Shila and at Yamunotri Temple.

We started early morning by 6.30 am from Barkot, arrived at Hanuman Chatti by about 8 am, after formalities of hiring the local jeep etc. reached Janaki Chatti by about 8.30 am, had a hot tea before commencing the 6 km walk toYamunotri at 9 am. This is a strenuous walk; the walk-way is about 6ft wide in most places with some places as small as 3 to 4 ft wide and some others as wide as 8 to 10 ft. Half the walk-way seems fairly well concreted, with the other half not well maintained, consisting of big stones, some steps, some places with dirt etc. The elevation of Janaki Chatti is 2,576 meters whereas that of Yamunotri is 3,323 meters. In other words, the average gradient is about 12.5%. This is a fairly steep climb with some places less than average gradient and others greater than the average. Added to this is the fact that the stone-areas of the climb has to be negotiated carefully or one may twist one’s knee. Sarasa, myself and our friend Chetan walked the full 6 km distance to Yamunotri whereas Amita decided to travel by doli. Sarasa did an excellent job walking both ways, a total of 12 kms, the onward walk on steep slopes sometimes reaching gradients of 15% to 18% or more! Sarasa finished ahead of me and Chetan on the return! The walk at times was tough, the air at heights of 10,000ft and above becoming slightly lighter. The stunning scenery, the breathtaking views of mountains on both sides (our road itself is part of the hill with acute hair-pin bends), the river Yamuna flowing down, waterfalls every few hundred feet from the opposite side mountain, sometimes on our side too! Many a time we would stand still watching the beauty of the surrounding areas, mountain peaks, water gushing down at various places, River Yamuna flowing deep down (some 300 to 500 feet down and more!), deep gorges, stunning green vegetation in all mountain peaks, the likes of such scenery we have never seen previously. This is a sight which we saw all through our journey and you will read similar sentences and adjectives and superlatives of the scenic beauty of these places as you read along this write-up. Whether we were stopping to enjoy the beauty or we were stopping to rest after walking the steep climb for a few distance was not clear even to ourselves! What we know is that we did stop many times (we did the 6 kms walk in 3.25 hrs or so, or less than 2 kms per hour! For comparison, our walk in our North Ranch Estates, invariably, is generally at 4 to 4.5 kms per hour, sometimes close to even 5 km per hour! Steep gradient, scenic beauty stoppings may have accounted for our slow walk!). The scenic beauty of the walk is simply marvelous and words fail to describe such sights adequately. We arrived at Yamunotri by 12.15 pm. We took bath in the Surya Kund (water was very hot!), worshipped at Divya Shila and at Yamunotri temple. After spending some time sitting there and enjoying the magnificent sights around, with Yamuna river flowing nearly vertically down from the mountain-peaks at the origin. It was, indeed, a gorgeous site!

After having some hot tea and Parle’s biscuits, we started our return walk of 6km by 1.30 pm. This is another aspect that needs repeat mentioning. We were not able to eat the food available – partly our doubts whether we can eat from those dhabas without getting sick and partly due to our difficulty of trying to eat aloo paranthas, aloo sabji for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Sometimes, the food is very spicy, in spite of our requests to have lightly spiced and less salt food. End result, we survived on biscuits, honey-oats cookies etc. and bottled water. And the strenuous walk on top of that! We returned by 3.35 pm to Janaki Chatti, then took the local jeep back to Hanuman Chatti and our car back to Barkot. We arrived by 6.30 pm, had our dinner and went to bed shortly thereafter. Barkot is not Mussoorie, the hotel rooms did not have air-conditioning (electricity itself will come and go as it pleases!), Chetan took the initiative to have four cots arranged on the flat roof of the building, got our beds made. We all then had a sheet over most of our body, applied mosquito-repellant to all open spaces of our body and slept on the flat roof in the open air. Even though outside was better, it was not much cooler than inside, the tiredness after the 12 kms walk helped us sleep. We may not have been able to sleep inside the room; it was so hot inside the rooms with the fan circulating the hot air inside!