Just before my head hit the brick hard pillow,the decision was made to go to Yamunotri.What's the fun in planning a trip meticulously 6 months before the journey and then God forbid, everything goes exactly according to plan ? How very boring and ordinary. But imagine turning up at the bus stand not really knowing if theres a bus at that time that will take you to your destination? Being warned of the huge crowds but still being thick headed and turning up at the bus stand with a light heart and baggage...
Yamunotri is one of the four sacred sites of Hinduism set up by Adi guru Shankaracharya ( a cool dude from Kerala) in the state of Uttarakhand. Visiting these sites and bathing in the rivers/hot springs supposedly absolve you of sins. All four sacred sites were once reached through hard treks through forests teeming with wildlife, where you never knew if you would return .They are still closed for 6 months of the year due to snow. So people took these pilgrimages towards the end of their lives when they had nothing better to do ! Now most people just park their asses on a car/bus seat and puke their way up. There are still many hardcore sadhus still trekking up, more dangerous now, because of the very real chance of getting run over rather than being a delicacy on a tiger's breakfast menu.
The bus advertised itself as an express service and they were true to their word by stopping whenever someone on the road stuck their hand out. What was supposed to be a 10 hour ordeal became a 13 hour hell. Hey that's the fun of unplanned journeys! Lunch, garam roti and sabzi, was awesome from a small dabba (roadside eatery). A loud young group from the Punjab plains tried to goad the driver into picking up speed but it fell on deaf years.We finally crawled into Janki Chatti, 5 kilometres from Yamunotri where the motorable road ends, well after nightfall. In true vagabond fashion, I just set out in search for a room and got one with a king sized bed overlooking the Yamuna for a measly 150/- I soon found out why. Though Yamuna was just a stone throw away there was no running water in the room. The night was a little chilly but great to go to sleep curled under the quilt to the sound of thundering waters outside.
From Janki Chatti it's a 5 km walk uphill to Yamunotri, the mythical source of the Yamuna river. The actual glacier from which the water spurts out is a further 10 km uphill. The best time of the day to walk up is early morning before the crowds gather. I had a quiet walk sharing my path with the occasional horse carrying the geriatric, obese and the plain lazy ! Also you can get carried on a bucket like contraption on the back of a poor bugger all the way to the top.There's also one where you sit royally in the middle and four folks haul you up. The temple at Yamunotri is not structurally old although Shankarachrya is supposed to have founded it. It has to be rebuilt every few years because of heavy snows during winter.
There are hot water springs where you can have a soak but not anywhere as atmospheric as the ones in Manali(Vasisht) and Gangnani (near Gangotri). There are usually around a 100 people crammed in the space of a bathtub. There are also pestering priests who want you to get all types of rituals done so they can have alu paratha for breakfast. But all said Yamunotri is the least commercial of the char dhams...