If you have not read the previous in this series you can still browse to it clicking the following links
4. Travel dairies: Gandhi Taal( lake)
After I came back from Kedarnath, I felt like I never should have returned! The splendor of the Himalayan valley, the snow covered peaks, post monsoon waterfalls, the river Mandakini, the divine atmosphere everywhere, the energy of the pilgrims showed me a new face of peace or that is the real face of peace! I wanted to stay there for longer, I wanted to see the peaks and I wanted to breathe the energy flowing around forever. It was a life changing moment for all of us. Believe me , I again went to Himalayas within next 4 months and that is the attraction of the Himalayas .
Taking a holy dip in River Ganga and visiting Char Dhams ( four temples in Himalaya region) are considered to be holiest pilgrimage in a Hindu’s life. And Kedarnath is the toughest among them as one has to walk for 14 KM if spending huge money for a chopper ride is not an option. So I decided to visit this with family which I call as a grand start for my Himalayan journey.
Geography of Kedanrnath Dham
Kedarnath Dham is situated just after river Mandakini hits the ground after flowing from glaciers. So one can guess Kedarnath lies in the bottom of the snow covered Himalayan peaks.
How to reach
Haridwar and Rishikesh are the main Gateways to reach Gaurikund. There are buses available which start very early in the morning from these two places. One can take taxi also from Haridwar and Rishikesh . Do not expect a very nice sleep or rest during traveling due the bad roads. The main reason for bad roads are landslides and the extreme terrain of the Himalayan valley .
A best combination is flight to Delhi and train to Haridwar to catch bus or taxi to Gaurikund. Alternate idea is flight to Dehradun and bus or taxi to Gaurikund. But as far as I know both options take same time and the second option is little expensive than the first one so I suggest the first idea. Cheapest travel is by train for those who has time ( I envy them :( )
Temple opening time
Because of the extreme weather conditions the temple closes by November ( autumn full moon, that is Karthik Poornima) and opens in end of April the date is decided by the temple committee . One can go in other season as well but the frequency of public transport is less or not available sometimes. Some people travel during November to witness the snowfall and as a winter trek adventure but those times are not advisable for starters.
Best time to Visit
May to October. May is the peak time as per my understanding for pilgrimage. Photographers and nature lovers please see the ” For photographers” section.
How to reach Kedar from Gaurikund
I feel sad for those who use chopper as option due to lack of time or constrained by physical ability. They miss the beauty of the valley and the trek. This trek was the most difficult and most enjoyed treks of my life time. All the way to Kedarnath you can enjoy many things right from nature to people and the pilgrims. I find lack of words to explain the beauty so please be sure you are going through the images ( of course my best way of expressing ). All the way to trek you have shops and small hotels which offer basic necessary things at a decent price in that altitude. In the half way of the trek you have some hotels available also if one prefer not to walk 14 KMs one stretch.
There are other popular means also to trek if one find walking is difficult.
Ponies are the best choice which can be booked in Gaurikund itself. The porters can be trusted but one should know their names and cellphones numbers to be on safer side. One can send their luggage on Ponies ( they walk fast ) and can walk all 14 Kms to enjoy the beauty of the valley. People were so nice and enjoyed their company with so many smiling faces.
Human back-pack people : These porters ( most of the Nepal origin) carry people at their back in a small basket. All you have to do is sit and relax. Two learn more about this rad my post on Porters.
Carrying on a cot ( well , I could not find a good English word for here , if anyone knows please help me) . Four porters will carry you on a cot. You have to just lie on it and try to sleep
Carry some dry fruits and fruits of you are walking. One needs more energy and stamina to walk for 14 Kms and an ascend of 1500 Mts. High altitudes can be problem for some but make sure you do not over strain your self by running or hurrying. Take rests in between and keep some time to sit and relax. A fit person with a good experience should get to the temple is 3 hrs -4 hrs while ascending. A pony will take you there in 3 hrs . A photographer should not waste time much and try to reach the temple in 7 hrs ;).Do not forget to Chant ” jai Kedarnathji” while walking!
One should not get discouraged to walk for 14 kms as you can see thousands are walking daily and among them are old people, kids, parents carrying their kids! But as a home work do some jogging or walking before you plan the trip.
Accommodation in Kedarnath
There are many hotel rooms, Ashrams ,cottages and GMVN hotel. We stayed at GMVN expecting a heaters in the room but that was not working then. And also I didn’t like their food and service for the money we paid also. So would suggest simple hotel ( hotel Sunil is the one I felt ok ) which provide basic facility to survive.
Caution: Do not expect a super class services , great food and super clean rooms . What they give are very basic and just enough to survive!
Other places to visit nearby
Many. If you are looking for temples then Bhyronath temple, Adi Shankaracharya Samadhi Mandir to name couple of them. If it is trekking and other activity there are too many so google it. They will give you better result however I have given few options in Photographer section!
Style of the temple
Temple is built in an unknown time and it is huge in size. Historical pundits predicted it is somewhere in the 8th century. However debate is on for its accuracy. I was really surprised to see that big temple at that altitude. It is a Shiva temple and the story behind it you can read it in Wiki in detail. Behind the temple is Samadhi of Shankaracharya and many other temples near Kedarnath.
During the temple open season most of the Hindu festivals are celebrated here and those days one can find more pilgrims. Apart from there is a Ramleela which happens during the closure time of the temple which hope one day I will cover that.
The best time to visit is a gamble or trying your luck.
In May it will be mostly dry and in June it is just rain always . July it will be raining sometimes but you will find some amazing greenery but definitely not a clear sky and snowy peaks unless you are very lucky but less cold and your stay will be confortable.
It might rain in September as well but there are more chances for clear sky. This was the time we went and I was not so lucky. We hardly saw snow covered peaks for about 1 hrs altogether. But we witnessed some amazing display of blue sky and white cloud combination .The green peaks with low altitude clouds between them showed the real depth and grandeur of Himalaya. September is also a flowering time and you will find all sorts of Himalayan flora and fauna . So one will be a very lucky if he travels in September and gets a clear sky with some clouds . He can capture the full glory of Himalayas right from green peaks , snow peaks , waterfalls, flora and fauna ,sunrise and sunsets with a good light available!
October is the winter start time and will be very very cold. Green will be turned in to slightly orange and waterfalls will be gone. But you will have a clear sky and there is no threat from rains. So if you ask me what is the best time to visit I would say read above and make your call!
Do not forget your tripod during the trek . Yes it s going to be very very heavy for you but it is necessary. You will find some amazing waterfalls and streams, great views of valley which definitely needed a tripod.
A basic wide angle lens( 18mm-35mm on a cropped sensor , and 24mm to 50mm on a FF) is a must unless you know what are you doing! But do not pack all your lenses you will be exhausted to carry all that weight.
CPL filter is very important so do not forget it to put it on.
Keep your all photographic items in one bag and leave other stuffs in a big bag and give it to your porter guy.
Weather changes very quickly so keep a right protection for your gear
Trekking shoes wont be necessary unless you are going to trek after Kedarnath
Walk all the way and do not expect to take photos while riding in the back of a pony.
Watch out while photographing as the terrain is very extreme , rocks are very loose.
Do not expect to get power in Kedarnath to charge your camera batteries. So always carry spare battery depending on how much you shoot.
Plan for Gandhi Lake minimum if not Vasuki Lake which is a one day trek altogether . Gandhi lake is just 3 kms from Kedar and can be done in half day. Do plan for that. I will post moreo n Gandhi lake soon.
For all who visit Keadarnath
Please please minimize the use of plastics as Himalayas are getting polluted nowadays. Encourage others also to not use plastics there. It really adds a great value to your trip.