Garhwal (Himalaya) Round Trip
Uttarakhand (which was called Uttaranchal until 2006, both means "northern region") is located in the southern part of the Himalayas and extends from the Ganges plain in the south over the Himalayan foothills to the high mountains with the second highest mountain in India: The Nanda Devi (7822m). It consists of two mountain regions, Garhwal in the west and Kumaon in the east, and a narrow strip of the Ganges plain in the south. Uttarakhand seceded from Uttar Pradesh in November 1999, which makes it one of the youngest members in India&squot;s community of states.
The main sources of income for the population are agriculture and tourism. Garhwal is one of the holiest regions in Hindu India and also one of the most impressive ones. Every year during the season for pilgrimage from May to November, tens of thousands of believing Hindus travel to the four religious centers in Garhwal: Yamnotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.
However, not many western visitors have come to visit this sacred place. Whoever ventures to come to this hidden world far away from any touristic attractions, is going to experience India in its original and untouched form. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are watching their followers&squot; earthly doing from here.
The roads are mostly well-paved and, apart from some busses and Jeeps for pilgrims, barely used. They lead us deep into the Himalayas past torrential mountain rivers, through shiny green rice fields and rocky landscapes. Sometimes, after nature showed her immense power and water, ice and snow washed away whole streets in only one night, our Enfields have to cross inhospitable terrain.
For the whole tour, with only a few exceptions, we will be staying in heights under 3000m and therefore we will not be suffering from mountain sickness. We are still surrounded by the snow capped summits of the majestic six-, seven- and eight thousand meter mountains looking at us from above through bright sunlight. They are the birthplace for India&squot;s holiest rivers. Among others, the Ganges and the Yamuna river have their origin in Garhwal.
We will be staying in middle-class hotels, partly under state guidance and partly in private ownership. All our accommodations are clean and neat and show us how to have a good time without fancy western comfort.
Our meals will be prepared in the style of North-Indian cuisine. Due to the sacredness of many places and the religious beliefs of the Hindus, the meals are mostly vegetarian, and alcohol is not always available. Fortunately, India&squot;s vegetarian cuisine is very diverse and if you do not want to go without your beer in the evening, you can provide for that and buy some bottles on your arrival in New Delhi. Just talk to your guide, he will be happy to help.
1. Day: Arrival
You will probably arrive in Delhi somewhen in the night and be brought to your hotel. That's where our service begins.
2. Day: Transfer Delhi - Rishikesh
Breakfast. We set out early and bring you to Rishikesh, the "capital city of Yoga", by car. On our way there, you can get a good impression of life in India, and especially the traffic.
3. Day: Rishikesh - City of Ashram
Breakfast. When the Beatles came here at the end of the 1960s to find their Guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and were introduced to the world of Yoga, Rishikesh achieved worldwide fame. We will also encounter India's spirituality for the first time. In the evening, we will be attending the impressive fire ritual in honor of the goddess Ganga at the Trivendi Ghatts.
4. Day: Rishikesh - Mussoorie
Breakfast. Now it's getting serious: We are getting on our Enfields and set out to our first mountain tour and will reach our destination in the early afternoon. Mussoorie is an old hill station to which former British occupiers and rich Indian fled from the heat in Delhi. You can still feel this atmosphere today.
5. Day: Mussoorie - Uttarkashi
After an extensive breakfast, we will be biking on a beautiful tour through the mountains to Uttarkashi. We are starting at the height, then drive down to the valley just to bike back up along countless curves. We are stopping in tiny tea shops where time stands still. The warming kindness of the people is incomparable.
6. Day: Day Trip
Breakfast. Today, it's going to be rough. The streets are becoming more inhospitable with every kilometer we are driving towards Gangotri. We cannot make the whole tour, so we are stopping at a viewpoint which offers us a stunning view on the Himalayas. The landscape is gorgeous and our trip is an adventure.
7. Day: Uttarkashi - Srinagar (UA)
Breakfast. The tour ahead of us is not very long but we have to bike on sometimes unpaved and dusty side streets due to a flood on the highway, caused by a gigantic dam project. At times, we can only go by walking speed. The landscape, however, makes up for the driving conditions with stunning views on the mountains.
8. Day: Srinagar - Tilwara
Breakfast. Now we are getting into the depths of the Himalayas. You cannot really imagine a more dramatic position for a pilgrimage. On a street just wide enough for one vehicle, we will wriggle through the lush green forest landscape with our thin bikes until we reached Tilwara. Here is the last accommodation appropriate for western tourists where we will be spending the night. We can also walk through the mountains in the afternoon.
9. Day: Tilwara - Joshimath
Breakfast. Today, we will be biking through the depths of the Himalayas again. The variety of this country we see here is impressive. At some point, we are driving through dense forests with only a bit sunlight, at another point we will see terraced rice and vegetable plantations and shortly after that our eyes will be enjoying endless green grasslands in "Little Switzerland".
10. Day: Day Trip to Badrinath
Breakfast. Badrinath is the most important of the four places of pilgrimage in Garhwal. We will visit it during a day trip because it takes only 2.5 hours of biking to get there. Badrinath is full of Sadhus, Gurus and other quaint figures. The temple with its colorful ornaments is the most beautiful one in Garhwal.
11. Day: Up High to Auli
Breakfast. This day is at your own disposal. Until now, we only saw the snow capped summits from a far distance but today we have the opportunity to get up there ourselves. Of course, we will not climb the six or seven thousand-meter mountains completely. However, we will go up until we reached 3000m and thereby the highest point during our tour, where we will be staying the night as well.
12. Day: Auli - Srinagar (UA)
Breakfast. As all things in life, also our tour has come to an end. Our way back starts today. We will be enjoying the Highway 58 which is still fortunately not too busy. Our trip is very laid-back with a couple of stops at chai-tea joints. We will be arriving in Srinagar in the early afternoon.
13. Day: Srinagar - Haridwar
Breakfast. For every pilgrim, the pilgrimage has to begin in Haridwar. As we are no pilgrims, we will not be affected in any way if we end our ‘pilgrimage' here instead of starting it. We will visit the Ghats and watch the evening-pooja of Haridwar, an incredible spectacle.
14. Day: Haridwar - Delhi
Breakfast. Nothing can discourage us now, not even the Indian traffic on Highway 58. We are riding our bikes back to India's capital city in a relaxed way.
15. Day: Homewards
The last night in Delhi is usually very short beccause in the middle of the night or in the early morning, we will be taking you to the airport.
Bye-bye and see you soon! We hope you enjoyed your tour with us and that me might see you again in India. How about Ladakh, Rajasthan or the tropical South of India or even another part of this huge subcontinent…?
Until then: Namasté and Goodbye!