on a map of the himalayas, one is struck by the many places where the road doesn't go any further.
the plan was to bicycle to these places.
so we called it: where the road ends tour (WTRE).

  • bhaba s chatterjee (jhuntumama): retired accountant; homeopathic doctor and inveterate trekker
  • amit mukerjee : computer scientist and roboticist, bicycle maniac. (yours sincerely)

  • where the road ends map: 1. munsiyari, 2. song, 3. gwaldam 4. badrinath-mana.

    the main road ends at each of these points; you can only go further by trekking.
    our base, the small hamlet of dwaraghatti, is near ranikhet at the bottom.
    total distance covered: 905 km, in 11 days of cycling.

    the genesis

    Long ago...

    many years back, my uncle Jhuntumama landed up in my hostel room in kharagpur, and enticed me to bunk classes and go on a 400km, 3-day bicycling trip to Puri.

    this summer, i returned the favour. i invited jhuntumama, a very active himalayan hiker, to join me on a bicycling expedition to the uttarakhand himalayas. our "where the road ends" tour visited four roadheads in uttarakhand: munshiyari, song, gwaldam and badrinath-mana.

    during an earlier himalayan bicycling trip led by saumyen guha, i had fixed up a small house in the village of dwaraghatti, 15km beyond ranikhet, with a grand view of the snowclad nanda devi range. devi ram, the owner, worked in the forest department, and seemed a nice man. at four am on May 23, we loaded a qualis with two mountain bikes, and started for this village home. by 4pm, we were cycling among the pines, from ranikhet to tarikhet, and then up the steep hill to dwaraghatti.

    devi ram's house at dawarghatti.

    May 22-23: getting there

    jhuntumama going down to tarikhet before the climb to dawarghatti (may 23)

    jhuntumama, with our landlord devi ram; his younger son bhuvan; our driver raju.

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    jhuntumama on his rockrider 5.1, me on the trek 3700.

    day 1 to day 3: munsiyari

    the very morning after reaching dawarghatti we set off for the first leg of the trip - munsiyari. the plan was to try to reach almora on day 1, berinag on day 2, and drive up close to munsiyari or thereabouts around day 3.

    may 24: dawarghatti to ranikhet to kosi to almora 60km

    24th morning: we are starting for almora. devi ram seeing us off, from outside his creeper-covered house. (photo by bhuvan)

    day 1 bicycling route map: sauni - ranikhet - katpuriya - kosi - almora (may 24)

    we start riding at 8am, reach tarikhet, but the climb to ranikhet is too much for jm. he proceeds to ghinghari khal by car while i carry on. we meet up at ginghari khal, where a heavy breakfast is a necessity - buns and omlettes for me, while jm has dAl chAwal (20 rs).

    we both start riding the 40km to almora. we do quite well till majhkhali and then a long downhill past kathpuriya and then over some poor patches of road to kosi. after the bridge crossing kosi river, the road starts going uphill. we stop for a maaza break at gaur-bhairav restaurant overlooking the turbulent river. the owner is planning to build some rooms upstairs. after 3 km, jm loads his bike and proceeds to almora, while i struggle up the remaining 9 km - the slope isn't excruciatingly steep, but it is relentlessly uphill.

    i7873w_am-jm_entering-ranikhet2 i7927w_schoolboys-w-tucked-in-ties_pee-break
    riding into ranikhet. two schoolboys near gingari khal, with their ties tucked into their belt.

    i78580w_white-browed i7906w_bulbul i7879w_monkey-rhesus_approaching-majhkhali i7935_swallow_kosi-teashop
    fauna: black head white supercilium wagtail-like; himalayan bulbul ; monkey at ranikhet ; house swallow at kosi

    i7925_blossoms-maybe-peach_crp i7924w_apricots_aru
    flora: blossoms on fruit tree; perhaps peach. apricots in season.

    reaching almora, i locate jm at the ranjana hotel on mall road. in the eventing we take a walk around the roads below and above our hotel; there's an enormous market running along the hill above mall rd. dinner at new sonu restaurant; tandoori chicken turns out to be fried.

    almora-sheraghaT 60km + guptari-berinag 15km

    panorama from the roof of ranjana hotel, almora

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    jm and i in almora. i set off alone for the first part of the ride.

    day 2 map: almora - bara chhina - dhaul chhina - sheraghat (may 25)

    almora to sheraghat
    jm is not going to ride the early part. i ride the first 7km, climbing up to ITI, where we have breakfast and then jm joins me. we do the run till palkesh?? where it crosses a stream and starts climbing and jm takes the car, but from dhaul chhina we both start to ride the undulations to sherakhet. the last 11 kms we run along the sarayu river, which is flowing down from bageshwar. en route we meet a wedding barAt on the road, and we join the festivities (see video of jm dancing to the bagpipes). they invite us to join them on the barAt, but we decline.

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    jm joining in with his bicycle at the top of the climb at ITI Almora

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    we cross a group of women carrying enormpous piles of fodder for their animals' winter fodder. jm and i pose on a ridge overlooking the sarayu.

    a little before sheraghat, we run into this big wedding party and a band playing bagpipes on the road itself!! it is late may - the month of jyeth, when weddings are propitious (no weddings the last two months) - and we saw nearly a hundred weddings in the two weeks in kumaon.

    we are invited to join the fun. they (the groom's party) even invited us to join the barat for lunch - but we declined because we had miles to go...

    i7988w_am-jm-w-groom_bhagwan i7978ow_barat-party
    posing with the groom. bagpipes on the highway.

    posing with the barat party...

    marriage party in progress right on the almora-sheraghat highway, and we soon become part of the party!! jm dancing a waltz in bicycling regalia including helmet

    the bagpipe has become a native instrument, particularly in kumaon.

    patal bhubaneswar-rAiagar-berinag 15km
    after sheraghat, we cross the sarayu and put the cycles in the car and drive up to rAiagar on the pithoragarh-berinAg road. we visit patal bhubaneswar, which is 19km from rAiagar (in the other direction). We manage to reach there by about 3pm and do a tour of the subterranean cave - the guide shows us how the cave is spread out under sheshnAg's hood faNA - indeed a layer at the entrance does look a bit like a cobra's hood. The cave is about 30m deep (add a few m to the deepest point). On the way back, I am riding again, but abt 3 km before berinag, stormy winds and droplets of rain start buffeting me. we have a long drive coming so i too pack the bicycle. en route to thal, we pick up the driver of a stranded jeep. at thal, there is a diesel place and we fill up the tank for the hills.

    jm at the patal bhubaneswar gate.

    raiagar - i am the little blob just past the pedestrian in the middle. rainclouds are gathering.

    overnight at birthi falls
    a little beyond Thal, it turns dark and we are driving precariously along the rim of the ram ganga river. Munshiyari is 72 km away, and we figure it may take about three hours in these hill roads. there is almost no traffic. far away in the gloom, three pinpoints of light from the other side of the river. our headlights illuminate a short strip on the pavement. the road surface is in good condition except every now and then the road is raw mud...

    on a map of the himalayas, there are so many places where the road doesn't go any further...

    we are going slowly, keeping as far as possible away from the edge while our driver, raju tells us stories of how he was once behind a scooter on the road to joshimath when a landslide came and buried the two sardarjis riding it.

    we go across a bridge at nachani, where the market is closing down though its barely past 7. beyond tejam, we strike out of the ramganga gorge, the engine protesting in the low gears as we climb. it is quite late as we cross quiti, and we don't find any shops that can sell us any drinking water. raju is driving very cautiously and we'll probably not get there till after ten pm. just then, we cross a building to the left and it turns out to be the kmvn guest house, birthi falls. it turns out they have a room so we crash for the night. even dinner is available.

    birthi falls (1800m) to kalapani (2450m) to munshiyari (2290m) : 33km

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    beerthi falls can be seen behind us. you can hear it from the kmvn lodge, but it becomes thunderingly powerful in late summer. right: the road climbing out of beerthi.

    day 3 map: birthi-kalamuni-munsiyari (may 26)

    starting from birthi falls
    birthi falls KMVN - we wake up to the sound of water. it turns out that the birthi falls is right behind the guest house, visible from our balcony. it is a thin stream now in this summer drought, jm tells me it was a much wider torrent later. we quickly get ready. jm is not going to be riding today; but it is my dream to ride into munshiyari so i am off and climbing by 7 am. starting at 1800m, i soon cross a sign saying 1860m. a couple of kids race me as they run a bunch of cows with a stick, yelling "o cycle-wallah". but the road isn't too steep here, and i am on 2:4 so i soon outstrip them. jm soon overtakes us in the car, and the plan is to find some place for breakfast.

    despite last night's water crisis, i have forgotten to take water this morning, and the half-bottle left from yesterday's route to berinag is soon over. fortunately, by then i manage to reach gir gaon where a fw people sitting at a hut readily fill my bottle. subsequently i also manage to get some water from a) a tavera car that is parked by the road, b) a truck that was overtaking me, c) a couple of tubewells by the road. in between, I realize the front hub appears to have a lot of play - i manage to tighten it using an adjustable spanner on one side and a thin spanner on the other. the people in these remote villages are a lot poorer than the villagers in the ranikhet area all of whom seem to be quite well off.

    according to the kmvn staff, it's 40km to munsiyari, and the road climbs steeply till kalamuni (about 15km) after which, its mostly downhill to munsiyari.

    expectation is an amazing armour. knowing it was uphill, i could keep spinning away, mostly around 6-7 kmph (1:1), sometimes at 13 (2:4). there were no downhills, no respite for the entire run till kalamuni. the mileposts kept talking about ratapani, which was at 2450m.

    in between jm comes back with the car, saying that there were no breakfast places en route, and that the road is quite steep and i better put the bike into the car. however i am set on reaching munsiyari and i let them go ahead a second time. another problem is that my mobile, airtel, has no connectivity in pithoragarh - here it's only bsnl, it seems.

    the road to munsiyari...

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    women along the edge at the hamlet of dhimibhango near gini bend.

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    posing under a rock.

    a langur in the national forest on the road through the forest.

    switchbacks climbing up before kalamuni. the maps make a big houhaha about "ratapani" which is a small hamlet of a dozen houses, inhabited primarily in the summer months.

    after ratapani, i meet class eight student kailash singh dhupuria, who was sitting on a cliff gazing out over the vast expanse of the valley. i stopped my bike and took a photo with him and then he started walking to kalapani, which he said was near enough. i walked with him a bit. he lives in girgaon, but also lives in kalamuni, where he has relations. after some time, he took a "short cut" up the ravines, singing a hindi song while he went up. i went chugging along the road. very soon he was a couple of switchbacks ahead of me. At this point, it said 18 km to Munsiyari, and it was already 10 AM. I had been on the bike for nearly 3 hours, and come about 14.5km.

    A couple of switches later, I saw a smiling kailash coming down the road to greet me. As soon as we made the turn, i could see the snow range of the middle Himalayas - the panchachouli (five cooking pots of draupadi) - a series of five peaks near the tibet border

    he took me into the kalamuni temple, a very "alive" goddess; every taxi driver operating this route stops to pay obeisance to the goddess. the previous baba, called nanga baba, used to stay naked, even through the winter, but he has recently passed away and his "samadhi" room, where he went into the heavenly abode has been preserved. we went up on the roof which had a terrific view of the vast valley and the glittering panchchauli flirting with the clouds. this was our first view of the snow mountains on this trip; visibility is usually poor in the summer.

    kailash and i, at kalamuni.

    green-tailed sunbird, male. sadly, the beak is occluded in this image. the road to munsiyari climbs through beautiful dense forest, and there are quite a few interesting birds.

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    mountain goats frolic surefootedly on the slopes. this lizard peeping out while sunning.


    the majestic panch-chauli (five stoves) range from munsiyari.

    barat dance.. approaching munsiyari, i run into this animated wedding party. this time it is mostly women - the men have gone off in the barat, and the bride will be arriving at night. they did an inpromptu dance for the camera.

    bhotiya marriage dance - with a sword and shield. right on the main market road in munshiyari.

    On the way back from the bank, I encounter Anand, who has a bicycle, and is quite keen on cycling. i let him go on my bike for a short ride. in the evening, he and his friend Govind Goswami take us to the park at ginni bend with the dried-up lake (meser kund), telling us stories of how the kund used to be a much larger lake, but now most of its dried-up bed has become a meadow.

    i8124w_anand-am-govind i8126w_snows
    with anand and govind near the bus stand. anand is a bicyclist and loved riding my bicycle so much that he nearly disappeared!
    snows through the trees of messer kund.

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    blackbird. anand climbing a tree to get us berries in masser kund.

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    with govind against the snows and against the growing town of munsiyari.

    day 4-5: munsiyari - bageshwar - song

    kalamuni - thal 54km ; Kotmanya-Bageshwar 49 km

    day 4 map (morning): munshiyari-nachani-thal (may 27)

    27 may: we start at 8AM, headed down to thal.

    3km down from ratapani, i run into mohan singh at vaNik, part of the gini-gaon panchayat - the main gini gaon area is further down after quite a few bends in the road. mohinder singh Topia is a local man who is a member of the state-level panchAyat and has installed a "yAtrI vishrAm griha" in front of his house, and also a couple of handpumps.

    at the bridge in fulia, we meet Rajinder, and kids, govind singh rana and the 8-year old ishwar rana. they race us up the slope from a bridge, the tiny Ishwar running the fastest. Govind wants to climb on the bike.

    between tejam and nachani, a boy is walking to a village on the jhakuta river. another boy comes up - class X - and soon he wants to ride my bike.

    at thal, we put the cycles in the car over the bad roads till near chaukori. jm goes ahead to bageshwar in the car while i ride to bageshwar along the ridge...

    i8202w_jm_portrait i8173ow_jm
    jhuntumama : intrepid adventurer portraits...

    and the two of us...

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    yellow-vented himalayan bulbul

    jm and i at the bridge at fulia

    i8200w_woman-w-child_firewood i8252w_blue-village-lady-on-foot-bridge-near-thal
    woman with child, fetching firewood. the foot-bridge near thal. the lady in blue who can be seen crossing the bridge invited us to her home for chai, but we had "promises to keep"...

    1430 PM: Kotmanya-Bageshwar 49 km

    day 4 map (afternoon): kotmanya-bageshwar (may 27)

    this is a beautiful road running through pine forests, in excellent condition throughout, with some breathtaking descents, and some mild climbs before vijaypur. leaving kotmanya, a steady descent takes you to the temple settlement at kamedi devi, and soon you are climbing into vijaypur. here i took a break at the wayfarer resort, a set of huts that was launched by an army officer about seven years back - i meet his dad. and then you cross the small town of kanda before descending to bageshwar. you cross the sarayu and enter the town proper; we stayed at the comfortable and value-for-money hotel shivamsh, right next to the gomti bridge. from the balcony you can see dozens of kites wheeling over the cremation area at the sangam (confluence) of the gomti and the sarayu.

    temple by the road approaching bageshwar

    bageshwar to song 42km

    day 5 map: bageshwar-song (may 28)

    28 may:
    this was by far the worst road of this week. and that after jhuntumama says is a considerable improvement in the road, which he has been on several times en route to pindari and other treks. just a few years ago, it was much narrower, and often filled with landslide rubble.

    there was a problem with the brakes of the car, due to which we started only at 10am. the road follows the sarayu river, and starts climbing immediately. the road follows the river till Song, after which there is a kaccha road to loharkhet which i avoided.

    though the climbs are not as precipitous as those on the munsiyari road, the road makes for difficult climbing.

    just before entering song, a concrete road goes off to the left for loharkhet. it is apparently concretzed for 2 or 3km, the rest is a very rough and very steep climb.

    after a tea break at song, i put the cycle in the car and in the setting sun, we drive all the way to gwaldam in the lap of trishul.

    this boy was stunt riding off the seat and pedals - it was good to see another bicycle, though!

    porterage across the sarayu - enroute to song

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    monkeys rooting around (for insects?) in a harvested field. jhuntumama in pain 15km into the ride

    these kids were going rafting on the turbulent sarayu, would we join them?

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    views from the road to song

    these kids were splashing away and having a whale of a time on a thin ribbon of water

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    villagers and their village - dulam

    i8391w_pankaj-vikram-anil-pappu i8397w_am-w-sungarh-kids_vikram-anil-pappu-girls
    at the village of sungarh, several boys befriended me and we went on a walk down to the river.

    in the village of sungarh

    approaching song.

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    at song, jhuntumama with kishan, whose father is a trekking guide. he has already been on several treks to pindar. jhuntumama with a village family in song. hina and her sister, with their mom.

    a bridge on the sarayu.

    day 6: Gwaldam-Baijnath 24km; Kausani - Gagas 45km

    29 may:
    gwaldam is a spectacular town, with trishul looming up right next to you. there is a serious crisis of water, and our hotel trishul (and everyone else), is paying for trucks to bring in the water from somewhere afar.

    we have breakfast in the nextdoor restaurant, and i start off early for baijnath, after which jm picks me up during the climb to kausani.

    in the evening, a dog walked nonchalantly into our hotel room in gwaldam.

    next morning, on the ride to baijnath: women working in the field.

    day 6 map (second part): kausani-gagas (may 29)

    kausani doesn't impress us. there are a series of hotels at one end of town, - very commercial, and this time of the year, there are no views to be had either. the new Girias tea garden - just north of town seem more interesting.

    i get back on the bike at kausani, and ride on through someshwar and then some smaller roads to gagas, from where ranikhet is a unrelentingly climb of 11km. near binta, i find jhuntumama attending to a patient - a restaurant owner's father-in-law ; he refuses to charge for my meal. there is a wonderful view to the valley and the switchbacks have colourful signs posted about drinking and driving and other virtues.

    it is nearly dark by the time i hit ranikhet, but i manage to climb my way back to dwarahatti.

    enjoying a cuppa of second flush tea at the girias tea estate

    jhuntumama attending to a patient at a wayside stop.

    dawarghatti: life in a himalayan village (4-5 jun)

    so we are back back at our idyllic retreat in dwaraghatti. we need some rest after a week of intense cycling. the car is sent back to kanpur on 28th night itself, now our plan is to live off the land, moving around on foot and on our bicycles. we will rest here till early june when we start for badrinath.

    over the next few days we get to know the devi ram household. he has three daughters and two sons. the eldest daughter is married and lives in ranikhet with their daughter. the older son is an occasional driver of jeeps on the ranikhet route. two more daughters are awaiting marriage. the youngest son, bhuvan, has just finished school and is looking to enter college.

    we go around the few houses along the road; most of the village of dawarghatti is on the slope below. we also often go to sauni, to get vegetables and provisions.

    we explore the local markets - buying vegetables and cooking ourselves. we have tea on the roof with a panoramic view to ranikhet. we walk down to sauni village twice a day to get stuff, and walk through the woods to nearby villages. i put in an occasional trip to tarikhet and once to ranikhet to get stuff.

    everyone in the village is very curious about us. how we cook on the little gas cylinder and the rice cooker, how we bicycle around, are all objects of intense attention.

    although we are in rest mode, in between, we put in two days of cycling, going to chaukhutiya and back. jhuntumama too needs some rest for his knees. being more of a trekker, he is not used to long distance bicycling.

    'twas the season of marriages, and the Doli was much in demand for carrying the bride up the steep paths to their new homes.

    jhuntumama w our friends jyoti, renu and arun.

    binsar mahadev temple just past sauni. panoramic view

    gate of binsar temple; not many bicycles have parked here!

    unknown blue bird; in sankhola village opp. sauni

    jhuntumama outside our rooms. we had rented two barren rooms; meant to be shops, but there isn't enough custom in this small village. the terrace has spectacular views at sunset.

    dawarghatti : life in a himalayan village phase 2 (4-5 jun)

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    bhuvan; devi ram

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    the devi ram house from above. a trishul stuck into the ground at a temple in the woods above sankhola

    dawarghatti from sauni.

    a farmer with oxen pair

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    devi ram's balcony has a fabulous view. his cousin ananth ram is a tenant.

    i9044w_women-w-firewood i9046w_woman-cutting-feed-for-bhains
    in addition to water, firewood and fodder are also major woes in the hills. it is invariably the women who will be carrying firewood and cutting fodder.

    it was the season of marriages. a newly married couple at a ranikhet tea shop.

    water crisis in the village

    water was a constant concern in the village, as also in the entire region. there was a handpump a little down the road from us, but we were fortunate - others had to walk for upto a kilometer, balancing heavy tins of water on their heads. the situation is better for most of the year, when water stored in mountaintop reservoirs are piped into the villages; the early summer months are most problematic.

    water is a concern for farm animals as well. here a woman pumps water for her cow.

    bhuvan and lalit getting water

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    water becomes scarce april onwards. queues at the hand pump or at a tanker is a common sight. throughout the day, women will be carrying 20kg tins of water up and down the hillside.

    Village life

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    the shopkeeper next door under the subedars' house. jm petting the tewari's dog, called sherry. the tea shop in dawarghatti has this ramshackle hut with a valley view.

    rustic temple at bhadui village just below dawarghatti. every village has such a temple

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    this babbler-like egregious bird is called mashi in pahaRi.

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    kailash upadhyay runs a teashop at sauni. group photo at devi ram's.

    caught in a storm : mountain biking at night

    4 jun:
    Evening 4:30pm leave for ranikhet. lots of crowds at the handpumps. reach tarikhet very quickly, and ganiatoli within 45 minutes or so. at ranikhet, i get photos made, inquire at bus stand, buy chicken - but then the storm breaks and the sky turns completely dark. i am stuck in the photo studio for a bit. lower down at the taxi stand they tell me that there are no more taxis for sauni. so a little past 6, i start to ride through the darkening skies.

    it's getting pretty dark and at ganiatoli i manage to buy two 10 rupee lighter-torches, tie them to the front and back, and head on down the road. it is quarter to seven and there enough residual light to just about make out the road, and i manage to negotiate the few unfinished patches on the road and reach tarikhet without incident.

    at tarikhet, there is a tractor who says he can take me, but he just goes and parks on the road - doesn't seem like he's going to go. also not sure how he'll pack the bicycle. i move on to a couple of waiting maxx's - one of them drives up with an empty rack, he is clearly available and i explain the situation but he says he's already late and can't take me. he says car 221 belonging to him - which is standing beside it - will take me - and he drives off. but car 221 is heavily loaded, and that driver also refuses to take me. there is a private vehicle who agrees to take my bicycle, but they have no space for me, and 221 won't take me either.

    so in the end i start pedalling into the night along the winding climbing road to dawarghatti. it is nearly-complete darkness - there is no moon even. The two cars overtake me, and i am negotiating the bend where Devi Ram says they had captured the cheetah which had killed a few dozen cows. the torches are completely inadequate; and then i try my mobile light - it's a nokia e63 - and that's a lot better. however, the mobile battery fails after some 15 minutes, and then i am proceeding on the faint light of the one LCD chinese torch. suddenly a maxx appears, and i ask for a ride, but the driver says, you carry on, i'll be behind you. so with the help of his headlights, i finish the climb, which means i am about 1km+ from dawarghatti, and then on the downhill, at the turns i wait for the headlights to catch up with me. the driver's name is anil, and he won't take money so i give him a packet of perAs i had bought from a sweetshop in ranikhet.

    group photo with the devi ram family...


    chaukhutiya loop

    though we had initially thought we would rest the whole week, after a few days, we decide to go for a cycling trip to chaukhutiya. partly, we want to make sure we are acclimatized to bicycling without a support car. jm will probably not do the ride back, so we will also be practicing for the forthcoming badrinath ride.

    day 1: dawarahatti to bhatronj khan to bhikiya sain to chaukhutiya 80km

    map of chaukhutiya loop. dawarhatti is near sauni (below ranikhet).
    outgoing: via bhatronj khan / bhikiyasain.
    return: via dwarahat / gagas.

    1 jun
    we leave early, going down to the small river bridge, and climbing slowly to reechi where we cross over to the other side of the mountain to find a green landscape spread out before us.

    a photo halt in the pines at reechi.

    from here it is mostly down to the small commercial town of bhatronjkhan, an easily forgotten town on the corbett-ranikhet route.

    i need internet access today for some work and devi ram's nephew lalit had given me a phone number of a shop in bhatronjkhan but today his technician has gone for a holiday. however i do manage to find a photo shop whose owner kindly lets me use his otherwise not-for-commercial-use connection. but the windows version is ancient and doesn't show the registration page properly, and it isn't until tomorrow that i get it done.

    after bhatronjkhan we follow the ramganga river upstream, climbing up where the route moves away from the river, but coming down again. the route passes the small village of sinaura with a small temple. we reach bhikiyasain at 11:30.

    a small bird seen near reechi.

    i8695w_jm-am_self-timer i8700w_restaurant-bhikiyasain
    on the road to bhikiyasain. lunch.

    after lunch at bhikiyasain, we took a nap in an upstairs room at the restaurant, which they are converting to a hotel.

    after this, the road passes the small town of mansi. for some unknown reason, this stretch of the road has several fierce bumps that can be pretty unnerving to a downhilling bicyclist.

    pedaling along the road in mansi, a small town on the ramganga river, i see 5 women cutting grass by the roadside. i stop thinking it must be some mountain variety of sAg. but its only grass, and they are cutting it to feed their buffaloes.

    apparently owing to the drought, even grass has become scarce.

    on the road ...

    i8710w_ramganga-after-bhikiyasain i8718w_temple-on-cliff-overlooking-ramganga
    ramganga gorge. temple on cliff at river turning.

    i8726w_am-jm_before-sanaNA i8823w_am-on-ramganga-edge_nearing-mAnsi
    sanaNa. on the road nearing mansi...

    i8826w_ramganga-view i8833w_kids-on-ledge_paTiya-chowrA
    the river turns at a small village approaching mansi. at paTiya-chowrA, kids lounging around near the river.

    i8838w_washing-on-the-ramganga_scenic i8839w_washing-on-the-ramganga_closeup
    everyday life on the ramganga...

    panoramic view of ramganga valley from hotel at chaukhatiya

    day 2: chaukhutiya-ranikhet via dwarahat 62km

    2 jun
    we take a walk along the town in the morning, and i look around for an internet booth, but no luck. i leave after breakfast at 10:15 - jhuntumama is going to be heading back with the cycle by bus. it's more or less a steady uphill to dwarahat which is known for the dunagiri temple where you climb 365 steps (which i miss) and an engineering college (which i cross). i take an one hour internet break to cover the unfinished registration for the TfN.

    continue at 13:15. cross kafra at 1400 and reach gagas by 1430, and take a break at the shop after the bridge. there are beer bottles piled in a room next door and a drunk is sleeping on the floor. the owner says he works for the water supply office, it is june 2 and he has just gotten his pay... the shop owner tries to act as if he is innocent about the source of his alcohol. i cross the water supply compound, just a hundred meters at the first bend as i start my climb to ranikhet.

    approaching the village of mauna, i cross the wayfarer solitaire, a resort which doesn't seem too busy. The rooms are Rs 1400, the staff tell me. I am sure views will be better in the spring and autumn, when one can see the Himalayas from this valley.

    Approaching every bend, I imagine that Gingarikhal is just on the other side, but it doesn't happen, and I am pedalling on and on and on. Eventually, around quarter to six, I reach Gingarikhal. Jhuntumama is leaving by a taxi; we talk, but I can't cover the 5km to the Tribhuwan hotel in time and his car leaves. However, there is a taxi available, and it takes me for Rs 20 + another 20 for the cycle.

    gagas to ranikhet : an unrelenting climb through pine forests.

    i8876w_am-hut i8875w_hut-scene
    tea break at a small tea-shop overlooking the gagas river valley


    dawarghatti to badrinath

    dewal khal to karanprayag 36km (6jun)

    off to badrinath. first leg map, from dewal khal to karanprayag (jun 6)

    6 jun morning: we take a bus to dewal khal, putting our cycles on top. at dewal khal, i take my bike off and go ahead; jhuntumama will meet me at karanprayag.

    dewal khal is at 2100m. in about 15km i reach adibadri where there are some ancient shiva temples - altitude is 1160m. going at upto 50kmph on the downhill stretches, i am way ahead of the bus, though i am taking it easy, stopping to take pictures, etc.

    i9246w_bus-coming-up-abt-1km-behind_crp i9250w_am_self-timer_crp
    on the downhills, i far outstripped jm's bus. a self-timer picture at an overhang.

    before long i am at simli on the pindar river, which is rushing down from the pindari glacier near song. pindar is also called karna ganga, which gives its name to karna prayag.

    very soon i am crossing the bridge over the pindar and then the alaknanda. you can see the confluence very nicely from the bridge near the bus stand. the bus which overtook me after simli, encounters some jams and i am at the bus stand before it gets here, much to the surprise of the conductor and others.

    the hotelier family in karanprayag

    we find a room at the nanda devi guest house, where the balcony is right on the alaknanda river. the geyser is non-functional because the previous client has stolen a tap.

    jm's knee is hurting, and i am worried about a possible fracture from a fall. he says he will press on nonetheless, but we take a break at karanprayag and get an x-ray done. there's no fracture, but the doctor advises rest for the ligaments. he is very gung-ho - he will continue to badrinath, but by bus. we look around for homeopathic medicine shop but don't find one.

    karanprayag to joshimath 87km (8jun)

    bicycling route map: karanprayag to joshimath to badri (jun 8-10)

    after kumaon, which is relatively less important from the religious perspective, we have now reached the heart of the pilgrimage route at karanprayag. the roads are full of sikhs going to hemkunt, associated with guru gobind singh, and hindus going to badrinath, one of the three dhAms (badrinath, yamunotri, and gangotri).

    so despite my puncture and burst tube and other woes, i made it to joshimath.

    from here, the roads are relatively busy, well-lined with hotels, guest houses and dharamshalas. looking down at the river at night, one sees the commercialism that has lines both sides of the river.

    the river alaknandA originates from the glacier-fed satopanth tAl (4400m) - a 3-day trek from manA - and flows down past badrinAth eventually to rishikesh and beyond. this is the entire route we will be taking in the next few days.

    karnprayag is our first prayag (sacred confluence) town. in the in the next few days, we will be visiting all five prayags which mark the passage of the alaknanda and bhagirathi from the himalayas down to the ganga of the plains :
    from karanprayag till badrinath, the route follows the alaknanda valley except for a detour at joshimath.

    starting off: 83km to joshimath

    after i retrieve the bicycle from the shop at the ground floor of the hotel, i find that the rear tire has a flat!! but i am not too worried. in the past, i have ridden around for days with a slow flat. so we pump it up with the proper pump we are carrying, and then i am on the road by 7 AM, while jhuntumama boards a bus to joshimath. his cycle and some luggage stays behind at karanprayag.

    i haven't ever done 87kms of such steep climbs by bicycle, so i am not too sure if i can pull it off. my target is to cover the 46km to pipalkoti at least, and then see if i can get to any decent towns with hotels beyond this - perhaps to gulabkoti (58km). i have been reading up on several organized "cycling tours" aimed at foren tourist types, who seem to be doing karanprayag to joshimath over three days. so our understanding is that i will catch up with jhuntumama tomorrow.

    i9285w_am-bike_karanprayag-climb i9292ow_am_kprayag
    starting off from karanprayag. the confluence of pindar and alaknanda below me as i climb.
    the route from here till badrinath more or less follows the alaknanda valley, except for small diversions such as joshimath.

    but of course, in the back of my mind there is the glint of possibility that i might cover it till joshimath at one go.

    i9299w_alaknanda-gorge i9306w_crp
    the alaknanda rushing by below. a pied bushchat singing in the morning

    the route rises along the ridges as it moves away from the river, and then it drops as it approaches the river at various confluences. a few kilometers down, i stop at a tire place and get my tube patched up.

    i9313w_stop-look-go i9318w_island-in-the-stream
    stop look go: that's my spirit!! an island in the stream.

    i9329w_sikhs-on-bicycles-from-hemkund i9324w_hug-kids-at-home-belt-them-in-car
    we saw quite a few sikhs who had made the hemkund trip on bicycles. the mountain roads are full of clever signs put up by various army and civil bodies.

    chamoli jail. it has a grand view of the alaknanda gorge. crime agar karna hi ho, to aise jagah me ho...

    meanwhile, i realize that my phone is not getting a signal, so i can't communicate with jhuntumama... i stop at a pay phone and try to make a call but his phone is also out of reach perhaps....

    at nandprayag (18km, 875m) - a tempting road climbs up to the right towards ghat (and continues on to gwaldam), while another road crosses the alaknanda and goes to makkumath and chopta bend (mental note for future exploration :). the large town of chamoli (995m, 29km from karanprayag) has an impressive jail where the inmates get fantastic views of the alaknanda valley. then down to birahi (610m), and steeply up to pipalkoti (1260m).

    i am impressed with myself. it's barely noon and i'm at pipalkoti. i stop for an early lunch, and push on. at garurganga, i am trying to make a phone call and the tea shop boy ("class ten fail") rides my bicycle a bit - he tries to start going uphill and it turns a bit dangerous because it's stiff, and he's not experienced enough and there's traffic coming.

    it's a tough life in the hills - and it's amazing how much of the tough work is done by the women. just before birahi, women carrying fodder.


    one body-length at a time

    this sannyasi is on a particularly difficult penance - he is coming from haridwar, and he is going to visit the main pilgrimage sites. there are many others whom you see walking - in small groups, or quite often, by themselves. but this man is not walking - he is going one body-length at a time.

    he lies down on the road, marks the position of his head by his small bundle of possessions, and then get up and lies down again, starting at the bundle. in this way he will go all the way from haridwar to badrinath - some 320 kilometers.

    Dennison Berwick, a british traveller who walked along the whole length of the ganga, found such a man once:
    I saw a man lying face down in the middle of the road. He was marking a line ahead of himself with a stick, then standing up and pacing to the line, pausing to pray, then lying down again in the dust. I was amazed and stood watching at the side of the road as he approached slowly by body-lengths.
    	"Where are you going?" I asked when he stopped and greeted me.
    	"Madras," he said.
    	"Madras!" I exclaimed. "But that's over a thousand miles away."
    	"You are coming from?"
    	"Ganga Sagar. Calcutta."
    	"Is it so? Very far."
    I was so astonished ... that I forgot to ask where he was coming from.  White dust covered his shirt, his knee-length lungi and the fronts of his dark, brown legs like bizarre make-up. He carried nothing with him, not even a blanket or a begging bowl.  His eyes were bright, yet calm with quiet confidence, and he was perhaps 40 years old.
    		- A walk along the Ganges, p.207
    why do people do such things, one wonders. but within the next few kilometers, i would have cause to wonder even more.

    rickshawing to badrinath

    perhaps the most interesting sight for me on these roads were three intrepid souls who were riding this rickshaw all the way from kamakhya temple, near gauhati, assam, some 2000 km away. they had modified the rickshaw so it had a cover for the rain. each day, they go as far as they can and then they stop until the next morning. they had taken three months on the road, visiting a number of pilgrimage sites on the way.

    i saw them first pushing up the rickshaw on the approach to joshimath. i would meet them again after a couple of days.

    going uphill

    a rickshaw has brakes only on the front wheel, which is rather inadequate, so it needs additional braking on these steep downhills. what they do is that one person (the leader) steers, while another man at the back keeps stepping on a tire hung from the back which rubs against the road and acts as a brake. the third member of the group meanwhile continues to sing bhajans from inside the rickshaw cover, with cymbals as accompaniment, as you will hear in this video:

    going downhill, chanting bhajans!!

    they are not sannyasis per se, but just spiritially minded. and with a sense of adventure thrown in for good measure. they orginally hail not from assam but from bihar...

    puncture and calamity!!

    just before helang, i was going along some rough roads and failed to notice that my tube was out of air, so the tube got a bit damaged. nonetheless i was able to pump it up and started on the series of switchbacks leading to joshimath. however, after some 3 kms, the air was out again. so i stopped to change the tube and put in the spare tube that i was carrying in the bag slung over my carrier.

    as i was setting it up to change the tube, a pickup truck came by. i waved it down and it stopped. so i put in my bicycle with the half-opened tube, and clambered on. the driver was a young boy who had married recently, and was returning after some deliveries. he dropped me off at a tire shop.

    the man running the shop was busy and also hesitant to do a bicycle repair. so i removed the tire (the fat bontrager tires come off without tools when deflated) - and replaced the tube and went to the shop's compressor hose to start filling it up. suddenly i saw that a bit of tube that hadn't been sealed properly had popped out and before i could deflate it, it burst with a loud bang.

    so there went my only spare tube.

    now, the man took my other tube which had a long rupture since it had been ridden without air - but he fixed it with two overlapping patches, filled it up, and i was on my way again.

    i climbed up the rest of the way into joshimath and reached the main market. i was worrying about how to find out where jhuntumama might be when a policeman at a junction stopped me and told me that "my friend" was at the birla guest house just down the road!

    so despite my puncture and burst tube and other woes, i made it to joshimath. and though i had taken a lift of about 4km on some steep roads, i was there well within daylight even!

    joshimath to badrinath 48km (10jun)

    view from joshimath

    10 jun:
    started from joshimath at 6 am. the first batch of vehicles are about to leave, and i weave through the long line of waiting buses, cars and suv's to get a head start. the first few km we go down to the alaknanda, then we climb up on the other side. but the puncture is not repaired; i am having to pump up air every 5-10 kilometers.


    at vishnuprayag, we cross a bridge on the alaknanda to get to the other side. here the dhauliganga comes in from the left to meet the alaknanda, and i take a break and explore the bridges across the rivers. i am perhaps the first bicycle to ever cross the footbridge on the dhauliganga (there are only walking trails on the other side).

    see the first bicycle ever (!) crossing the footbridge on the dhauliganga.
    listen to the ganga bhajans from the temple below.

    the confluence of dhauliganga and alaknanda at vishnuprayag. this is the highest of the panch prayags (and the least visited).
    from here, the route follows the alaknanda all the way to badrinath and mana


    the majestic alaknanda gorge

    shortly after vishnuprayag, the alaknanda river becomes a thin stream. it used to be a powerful torrent; now the JP hydroelectric "run-of-the-river" power plant diverts the bulk of the water through subterranean tunnels and returns it to the river at a set of turbines 10km away on the other side of the mountain.

    trying to fix the flat at truck-tire shop in gobindghat. he is amused to fix my bicycle tube. but it's a difficult patch, and he isn't sure it will hold. within a few kms, it is leaking again.

    on the road with a punctured tire.

    at gobindghat, i stop at a truck tire repairing shop, and the man makes a valiant attempt at fixing my multi-patched tube. fortunately my valve is schrader (the standard used on car tubes), so he can work on it. across the river gorge, you can see lines of sikh pilgrims and starting on their hemkunt trek. the large gurudwara at gobind ghat is a de facto hotel with huge multi-story buildings that have come up along with enormous parking lots for vehicles.

    i9470w_fixing-the-flat i9466w_ancient-temples-pandukeshwar
    trying to fix the tube at gobindghat. the repairs didn't improve things that much; i still had to pump air every 5-10 km...
    ancient temples at pandukeshwar

    i also have a paratha at a pandukeshwar roadside shop. there are some ancient temples here. altogether, i've spent more than an hour here.

    jaypee hydro

    a little beyond pandukeshwar, the alaknanda seems to have very little water. the owner of a small shop where i stop to fill water points to the large exposed boulders, saying that this used to be a raging torrent earlier.

    a number of cars, motorcycles and suv's are overtaking me as i struggle up the slope. it is 11 AM when i stop to pump up air at the gates of the jaypee hydro at lambagarh. as i am proceeding up past the main gate, a sentry comes up and tells me that the "saab" (big boss) has asked him to stop me and have me come in. i tell him that i am in a hurry, but he says that no, no, saab has invited me... well, i too am a bit curious about the hydro setup, so i stop (though i have just pumped up the tire).

    it turns out that the managing director of jaypee hydro, lt. gen. ravi chadha, was on a visit to the headworks here when he overtook me on the road, and decided to invite me. he and the plant manager sivapriya are surprised to find that i am an indian indian, and also that i am from iit kanpur.

    i9474w_am i9477w_jaypee_400mw-run-of-the-river-hydro-intake
    the frequency of photo ops is directly proportional to the steepness of the climb. here i am, under a sharp outcrop.
    at the outlet from the jp hydroelectric station (visible at center), the river bed is almost completely dry.

    the "run of the river" technology carries the waters of the river along a massive, 11km long, 4m diameter horizontal tunnel, and then the water drops nearly a kilometer attaining great momentum before they turn a set of four 100MW turbines. finally the water comes out through tail race tunnels that are nearly 2km long. at times of high discharge, they will generate full power, right now they are around 60%. some of the power is given free to uttaranchal, and the rest of it is sold to UP and the northern grid. the turbines can get damaged if hard particles are carried by the water, and one of the challenges at the headworks is to ensure that the maximum particle size in the water is small enough.

    bumpy-trailers law of mountain photography:
    the frequency of photo ops is directly proportional to the steepness of the climb.

    jaypee is one of the pioneers in private hydroelectricity in india, and this is one of its major projects. in fact, jaypee managed to commission this plant in 2006, six months before the targeted date. i later realize that the sardar sarovar dam on the narmada - the source of so much conflict and woe, generates only 1400 mw - clearly, run of the river has much to say for it.

    general chadha invites us to visit the underground turbine works downstream, and i am interested, but am not sure i can do it this time around. however, i will try to visit the works if i come back with a group of students... they offer lunch and then i proceed...

    another hour+ gone, but quite fruitfully.

    soon i am at the village of hanuman chatti ("chatti" = rest stop for sannyasis; hanuman chatti was for long the residence of famous sannyasi "himalaya giri". i overtake a line of vehicles that have been stopped for another stage on the badrinath road. from here the road climbs up in a series of switch backs, and i gloat as i look down upon the pollution machines.

    i9497w_hanuman-chatti-from-above i9533w_am_badrinath-4km
    the village of hanuman chatti from above.
    4km before badrinath.

    yippee!! just a kilometer to go...

    reaching badrinath, a pan vendor accosted me. he was jhuntumama's man and pointed me towards our hotel.


    the badrinath temple is beatiful at night.

    the thin stream of vasudhara falls, an 8km hike from mana

    we spent a couple of days at badrinath.

    the next day, we went to mana, the village where the road "ends". it has become rather commercial however, with a heavy tourist influx. the mana river roars down from the hills to join the alaknanda below, and at one point there is a natural arch it flows under, called "bheem pul" or the bridge of bhima - the legend is that it was made by the superhumanly strong bhima. this is a popular tourist destination in mana, and it is spectacular to see the water thundering down and below you. there are a few shops here - with a sign that says "last shop in hindustan" - however, there are many villages even further north, though you can't get there on wheels.

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    the bhim-pool with the mana river thundering down.
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    "last shop in hindustan", says the sign. a sannyasi covered in "bhashm" or ashes.

    the mana river. jhuntumama near bhim-pool, mana.

    mana is a starting point for many treks. we went on a short hike to the vasudhara falls above mana. this is a high stream that was rather unimpressive in early june, but is apparently more powerful later in the year. there is a heap of ice at the base of the falls that may be somewhat dangerous to navigate.

    however, the path was rich in birds and all around us the landscape was speckled with small flowers - life was blooming even in these desolate heights. there was no one on the path; though it was easy enough to follow, we were surprised at how long it took us to get there.

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    the tripurbala sundari temple, about 1km from mana. this beautiful temple occupies a rocky crag on an isolated hill overlooking the alaknanda gorge

    i9594w_unknown-yellow-breast-brown-cap-beyond-mAnA_crp i9597w_looking-left_crp
    i am not sure what this bird might be.

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    posing for a self-timer photo enroute to vasudhara falls. path to vasudhara falls. snow peaks above mana.

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    probably a flycatcher?

    another unknown bird. seems like a yellow vent.

    after visiting the falls and rooting around in the ice at its base, we headed back. jm had gone on ahead, and very near the falls, at a small hut where i saw a sanyasi sitting in the sun. we talked a bit and he invited me in, and we had a long discussion about their explorations - he said he could go to satopanth and come back the same day (normal trekkers take 3 days one way). we also discussed the way the mind works - how after years of mountain travel, the way his foot falls on the rocks is completely unconscious yet precise, whereas for others like us, we have to worry about every step, and even make frequent mis-steps even then - thus retarding our progress a lot. the ways of the guru are effortless.

    two other sannyasis in the hut, lesser mortals, listen; they clearly look up to him.

    until a few years ago, the famous vasudhara baba used to live in this hut. he used to stay here throughout the winter months as well. the sannyasis offer me tea. surprisingly, they had a solar water heater in the premises.

    behind me is the "vasudha-baba" hut, where the famous vasudhara baba used to live. today i meet a group of three sannyasis living here.

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    two monks on their way to vasudhara.
    a huge chunk of rock has fallen off from a great height on this rock face.

    flowers of mana-badrinath

    the high-altitude areas around here are famous for its flowers - particularly the valley of flowers near hemkund, and also parts of the badrinath-gangotri trek that goes north of here. some of the flowers encountered today...

    some of the flowers from along the vasudhara hike path

    mana and beyond: mana river gorge

    the next morning i pumped up the flat tire and rode up to mana (to complete the ride). we had lunch with a bhotia family - the husband, mr pushkar kala, i had met after the hike yesterday.

    i9778_11062010-001w_am-mana i9772w_lunch-w-bhotiya-family_mrs-pushkar-kala i9778_11062010_04w_am-mana_g
    i am at mana. lunch with the bhotia family.

    approaching mana, one cannot fail to notice the road climbing up above the village. there is a sentry protecting this gate - it is a garhwal scouts post. the villagers tell me that it is the route to take when going to ghastoli and other villages further up - this is the trekking route over the kalindi pass (6000m) to gangotri - a very tough trek that even jm hasn't done.

    in any case, the road up beyond mana is clearly closed to traffic. i talk to the sentry and he says that you need a permit from joshimath to go on the road.

    however, there is a garhwal scouts office nearby, and i find some officers sitting in the lawn. i ask them if it may be possible to climb up at least a bit of the way, on a bicycle. the officer wants to know who i am and what i am trying to do, and then he lets me go, warning me not to go beyond the "mana gorge", which is about 5km up on the road. he then has my id noted, and sends a message to the sentry to let me through.

    road above mana. the main mana-badrinath road going straight, with the alaknanda gorge to the right. you can see the junction with the barrier, and the road climbing up to the left.

    elated, i start up the rather steep slope traversing a number of switchbacks. there are many horses here. at one point, a thin bed of water is flowing across the water for about a dozen feet. the road surface is unfinished, but motorable. at one point, i see a man cutting some grass; at another place, someone seems to be strenghthening the mountainside below the road. the road is steeper even than on the climb to badrinath yesterday, but i persist and soon i can hear the gorge.

    mana gorge turns out to be a spectacular waterfall. there is a small wooden bridge across the gorge, and just to the right, the river falls vertically about thirty feet in a terrific turbublence of spray. then there is a dark calm segment just below the bridge and then it rushes over and turns and falls thundering for a hundred feet or so - this is the fall you see from the bhim-pool below.

    i9778_11062010-015w_bicycle-wooden-bridge i9778_11062010-016w_mana-gorge-falls
    have wheels, can go. at the mana gorge bridge. the spectacular waterfall.

    at the bharat sevashram sangha, badrinath

    from badrinath, we are going to go by bus to rudraprayag, where one may find cycle repair shops...

    rudraprayag - devprayag - byasi (rishikesh) 108km

    cycling route map: rudraprayag to srinagar to devprayag to kaudiyala to byasi (29km from rishikesh) (jun 13)

    fixing the tube

    we reach rudraprayag in the early afternoon and i am immediately off to a cycle repair shop. his careful attempt to fix the puncture also fails, but fortunately he has a rickshaw tube which fits my tire, so i am all set to go again (except now my mini-pump doesn't fit this valve).

    another attempt to fix the puncture, using a heated patch. even this failed.

    next morning i am on the road by 6 AM. the plan is to try to cover the distance to rishikesh (140km). jhuntumama will be going ahead by bus.

    along the alaknanda four km down from rudraprayag.

    Blue-throated barbet Megalaima asiatica, near khankra. my first sighting.

    i9809w_pied-unknown_white-wing-stripe-black-beak_crp i9809w_pied-unknown_white-wing-stripe-black-beak_crp
    this pied bird i couldn't identify has a red bib down its breast. (may be two different species)

    hemkunt bicyclist. saw three groups of such bicyclists.

    i9861w_kingfisher i9843w_parakeet
    white breasted kingfisher, near srinagar. plum-headed parakeet, female.

    tents along the alaknanda gorge - probably a rafter's enclave - just before devprayag

    i9896w_devprayag i9907w_devprayag-temple
    devprayag. looking to the confluence from the bridge on the highway.
    a long lizard under the roof eaves

    at devprayag i walk the bike down to the ghat, and dip my feet in the cold water. there are many people bathing in the fierce current, holding onto each other. the waters of the bhagirathi are darker; while alaknanda contributes 66% of the water in the Ganga, Bhagirathi brings in 34%.

    dipping my feet at devprayag. the darker colour of bhagirathi waters can be seen to the right.

    i9920w_bridge-dP i9923w_ghats_devprayag
    footbridge across the bhagirathi. the confluence - alaknanda is to the top, and bhagirathi (darker) joins it from the right (bottom).

    from the road above devprayag (towards rishikesh)

    i9931w_shiv-sthal-statue i9932w_rest-room
    th giant shiva statue at shiv sthal. the rest room inside.

    downstream from devprayag is the giant statue of shiva at "shiv sthal", a charity run by a delhi businessman. every day hundreds of sadhus on pilgrimage stay here and are given free food. as i was having a nimbu pani at the small shop here, a dust storm came up. i went in to the rest area; the owner's daughter was there and she offered lunch, but i declined and took a little rest as the storm was threatening to break the glass on the windows.

    the storm went down a bit though the winds were still very fierce. i started off again since i couldn't afford long rests. then i stopped at this small hotel on a overlook at tindhArA for lunch. while i was there, a rainstorm started up, with fierce crosswinds that blew right across the restaurant. some other customers who were inside then upturned two tables so they could shelter behind it (pic below).
    i9939_13062010-001w_sheltering-from-the-storm j0009w_hemkunt-sahib-pilgrims
    sheltering behind upturned tables against the wind and rain. cars waiting for the blizzard to abate.

    the rainwashed alaknanda landscape

    it was 18:45 when i reached kaudiyala where some years ago i had stayed at the kmvn guesthouse right beside the alaknanda. here i stopped for some pakora and coffee, sitting on the lawns right beside the raging river, writing diaries and making some phone calls.

    j0015w_am j0016w_am_devprayag-climb_crp
    portraits taken by a goatherd, mangal, from the village of vachali-khAl

    after kaudiyala it became dark and at byasi, a kind policeman stopped a truck and i sat at the back, looking up at cassiopeia and figuring out our bearings as it took me to rishikesh. i had done 108km on the day.


    j0024w_teastall-haridwar_kolkata-wali-dharamshala j0039w_fruitstall_8-types-of-mango
    we stopped for tea at this vendor who is running his business from the porch of the closed "kolkata wali dharamshala". he has been here for a dozen years; the dharamshala property is disputed and has been closed for decades.
    a fruit stall with eight varieties of mango

    j0025w_triveni-ghat j0031w_am_boat-triveni-ghat
    at the triveni ghat.

    jhuntumama with a baby. he was
    reluctant to go back to his mom.

    j0042w_baba-kali-kambli j0044w_jm-am-at-baba-kali-kambalwala
    baba kali kambli dharamshala was clean and simple.
    these tourists from kolkata suburbs were very much taken by our story of cycling to badrinath.

    after badrinath, i had an official visit to the university of petroleum and energy studies at dehradun. from here, we went to delhi by car, and then back to kanpur by train, thus ending three delicious weeks of himalayan adventure.

    j0052w_FRI-rt-wing_crp j0053w_ghantaghar-dehradun
    the forest research institute at dehradun. ghantaghar in the dehradun market.

    bats hanging from a tree

    after this, i was definitely ready for the Tour of Nilgiris, six months from now!!

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