Rishikesh to Srinagar (not that one!), Thursday August 25

Today’s drive was, thankfully, much shorter so we had a morning to explore Rishkesh before setting off.

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The light over the Ganga at sunrise this morning was beautiful.

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After an excellent breakfast we walked along the river towards town – there was lots to see on the way. Hosts of butterflies…

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… children washing at the steps or Ghats …

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… and all manner of people walking or jogging along the riverside path.  When we got to the main Ghat in the centre of town, there was clearly some kind of celebration going on which involved two large effigies being immersed in the water to an accompaniment of drum and bagpipes.  People were then coming to the effigies for a blessing.

It turns out that today is Lord Krishna’s birthday, so I suspect the celebrations were linked to that.   There certainly seemed to be a surprising number of school-aged children around, so maybe it was a public holiday.

We watched for a while, then had a brief foray into the town alond streets lined with stalls selling marigold wreaths and banana leaf boats filled with flowers and candles for offering puja.

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Time was moving on by this stage and John was keen to consolidate our notes for the latter part of our Spiti recconaissance trip, so we headed back to the hotel.  It was very hot and humid, in any case, and we’ll have the best part of a day here again on our return from the Valley of Flowers to do some more exploring.

Helen and I just managed to squeeze in a dip in the jacuzzi before Vinod came to collect us at midday.  The jacuzzi was wonderfully refreshing and we look forward to that on our returnn too.

Our drive to the Riverside Resort hotel, just short of Srinagar, was much shorter – we set off at midday and lunched about 1.30, Martyn having fortified himself with crisps and biscuits from the hotel room.  We had thali for lunch at a roadside café, with the most delicious tandoor-cooked roti.

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Tandoor for cooking roti (chapattis)

Today’s route takes us through a series of meta-sediments such as slates and phyllites, whch we can see clearly where cuttings have been made for the road.  We are still in the old continent of India, which it broke away from Gondwana before the collision with Asia.

We stop briefly just above Deoprayag, the confluence where the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers finally merge to become the Ganges or Ganga.  I recognise the ghats here from Levison Wood’s Walking the Himalayas.  It’s a particularly auspicious spot for Hindus and Vinod tells us about some Indus clients he’d escorted here from the UK and USA to ceremonially scatter their father’s ashes.

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Ghats at the confluence of the Bhagirathi (left) and Alaknanda (right) rivers

From here on we follow the Alaknanda river, to the point where we set off walking for the Valley of Flowers.  It rises at Badrinath, up near the border with Tibet.

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Heading up the Alaknanda river

We arrive at the Riverside resort hotel, just before Srinagar, around 4pm and rest for a while.  Vinod suggests we meet for a walk down to the river at 6pm – there is an old temple near the bridge across to Srinagar built on some spectaculary-folded rocks.  The evening light over the river is beautiful but the whole thing is slightly mistimed and we end up walking back along the road to the hotel in the dark, which is a bit hairy!  Indian drivers don’t always use headlights…

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Looking south along the Alaknanda river

It’s still very warm and humid so we opt for showers before dinner, not realising it’s not a buffet and the food will take some time to come.  However when it does arrive, the food is excellent.  It’s a bit late for John’s game of Banangrams afterwards, though.

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