Thursday, August 11, 2005

Rishikesh to Chefna

We woke up real early at about 5:30 am. We had to be at the RCA office by 7. We were to have breakfast there while Ganesh and his men load the vehicles and start our trip by 7:30.
We met John, Bell and their children Dave, Phil and Simone at the office in the morning. They all seemed to be a nice company. We also met John Cooper, with whom we had interacted all this while on phone. Sandeep talked to John about the rafting trip that we were planning after the trek and John promised a trip after we returned.
We had an excellent breakfast prepared by Som and Roopak who were to be our cooks on the trip.
We started in a Mahindra Bolero. There were seven of us Arvind was driving, Sandeep, me, Joshiji (another driver), Roopak, Som and Simone. The others followed in an Ambassador. Destination was Ghat, about 200 km at an altitude of around 1500 mts.

The route we took was
Devprayag – Confluence of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi. The river Ganga starts from here
Srinagar – Had lunch at this quaint little but busy town. The Uttaranchal state university is in this town. I was amused to find a computerized railway-booking center here.
Rudraprayag – Saw the spot where Jim Corbett killed the famed leopard “man-eater of Rudraprayag”. Otherwise this town is famous for the confluence of Alaknanda and Mandakini.
Karnaprayag – Another of the prayags. This town has the confluence of the Pindar and the Alaknanda rivers. Arvind told us that the Pindar is one of the toughest rivers to do River Rafting. Lot of grade V rapids. He and his friend Vipin did it some time back along with an American.
Nandprayag – By far one of the cleanest prayag cities I saw. Confluence of the Nandakini and the Alaknanda rivers. From here we left the route, which goes towards Joshimath and took the diversion for Ghat. Extremely scenic route along the Nandakini river.
Ghat – Reached Ghat at around 4:15 pm. We were to change our vehicle here to a jeep for a rough ride ahead.
Chefna – There is no motor able road from Ghat to Chefna. The ride was however once in a lifetime experience. I was damn scared. There was deep gorge on my side of the jeep and every time I looked down, I would almost call out God’s name loudly. But reached Chefna after about an hour’s rough ride.

We helped in pitching the tents. This was the only time we did this. Basically we were enthusiastic as we were doing it for the first time. Our campsite was right next to the flowing Nandakini. I thought it was really beautiful.

However, as soon as the sun set, it got mighty cold. We had hot tea/coffee. Had the first taste of camp food. Actually it was really grand. A three-course meal with delicious dessert. Such was to be our dinner everyday and today we weren’t even remotely tired.

We scurried into our tent at around 9. First experience in a tent and a sleeping bag. The night was eerily silent and the only sound was that of the flowing Nandakini. Haunting but soothing. I couldn’t sleep and Sandeep kept on telling me that it was because I was feeling claustrophobic. Sometime early morning I think I fell into a slumber with Sandeep snoring happily next to me.


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