I was walking along the road to Gangotri, thinking about how I would get there, as there are no taxis near where I was staying, no phone, no Internet, and I just decided that I would have to flag down a passing taxi, though it might be challenging from such an out of the way place. I was staying a couple of hours away from Gangotri, so it wasn’t completely trivial to go there, and I don’t much care to brave a bus on these roads as there are lots of accidents.
Typical of the Gangotri road, many places have sheer drop-offs of thousands of feet. The road is pretty narrow and guard rails are scarce. Frequent rockslides don’t help matters, either. Mind you, this photo was taken from the left side of the road.
Just as I was thinking how I would get there, a car stopped and the driver asked me where I was going. To my amazement, it was a driver I often take back home, which is a long ways from where I was! I was especially delighted because, of all the drivers I’ve had in the hills, he’s the best.
As it happened, he was taking a family from my village on a ten-day Char Dham Yatra tour. I asked if I could come along, and they said “yes”, so I hopped in the back. I didn’t know if they were coming back the same day, but I decided to go and see what happened. It was kind of an unusual move for me, as I usually take the whole front seat because I don’t like to be crowded, but here I was smushed in the far back with a couple of other people and a fair amount of luggage.
View from the back seat.
Only one of the group (the young girl) spoke English, and my conversational Hindi is a bit on the thin side (though I’m working on it!), but we had a good time, anyway.
When Indians go on a yatra (pilgrimage to holy shrines), they tend to have a quick darshan at the temple followed by lunch or tea, then they pile back in the car and head off to the next place. That’s pretty much how it was with this group, though they preceded the temple visit with a dip in the Bhagirathi River (it’s called Ganga or Ganges only from where it meets the Alakananda River some distance downstream). I didn’t have anything to change into, so I just splashed a little water on my head and washed my feet—and I was rather glad of the excuse! Gangotri is at 10,000’ or so, and the river is glacier-fed, so the water was decidedly cold.
There was a long line for darshan at the main temple, but as the family had connections, we got to go right in.
It started raining rather hard, so this was quite welcome. The rain was welcome after so much heat, but getting soaked to the skin and having no way to dry out was a bit challenging.We headed for a little restaurant and had a bite to eat before heading back down the road. By the time I got back to the house, the rain had stopped.
I like to do things on the spur of the moment, though this was a bit extreme, even for me. I thought about staying overnight in Gangotri and catching a ride in the morning, but I figured that everyone would be worried about me if I didn’t come back, and I didn’t have their number with me to let them know. Anyway, it was fun riding with this family. They seemed to be having a lot of laughs at my expense, but they were speaking Kumaoni or Garhwali more than Hindi, it seemed, so I couldn’t get the jokes. Nevertheless, I laughed along with them and we all had a good time. The only thing I did catch was their amusement when I described the driver as a friend to the boy who had been walking with me when they picked me up., though I’m not sure why they thought that was so funny. When I get back to the village, I’ll pay them a visit.