Gaumukh then and today
Recently when I left for Gangotri (one of the Chardhams in the Garhwal Himalayas), I had imagined Gaumukh as a cow spouting head. Since almost all the pictures I had seen of Gaumukh had an image that resembled a cow’s snout. But it was not to be. The Gaumukh I saw was ugly, distorted and hardly recognizable.
The journey to Gangotri and then to Gaumukh is long, tiring and dangerous, if I may call it so. It takes close to 24 hrs to reach Gangotri. We started with a sturdy Innova and an equally good driver around 10 pm from Connaught Place, New Delhi. A broken bridge, a traffic jam in the hills and 20 hrs later we were in Gangotri. It was pitch dark and cold. We had to look for a place to stay. And so we went hotel to hotel looking for an economical accommodation. A friend found two rooms for Rs. 600 and so we decided to call it day. But not before stuffing ourselves with daal, roti, and baigan bharta. The dinner tasted really good but the guy at the kitchen had a tough time matching our speed. What can you expect from a bunch of well built and hungry guys?
The trek to Gaumukh is arduous and extremely difficult. Many prefer to complete the 38 km return trek on the same day but we had other plans. We had arranged for camping gears from Uttarkashi and took the help of two porters to carry the same. Before you think of planning a trek to Gaumukh, please note that you need to take permit from Uttarkashi and only 150 persons are issued permit per day. It is better to procure the same before you reach Gangotri, especially if you are travelling in peak season. Permits are also issued at Gangotri, just ask around, you’ll be directed to a government office. The permits and your luggage are checked, an entry is made in a register and you are allowed to start your trek to Gangotri National Park.
Please be ready to shell out some money besides the amount you might have paid to procure the permits. You have to pay entry charges for your porters, mules (if you are taking one), and equipment like tents on per day basis. It’s only then you are allowed to proceed. Mules are allowed only till Bhojwasa, which is a 14 km trek from Gangotri. The 5 km trek from Bhojwasa to Gaumukh is done on foot.
I could not recognize the Gaumukh that I saw reaching there. It was mauled beyond recognition by the ravages of landslides and climate change. We are told that the glacier has further receded. The Ganga, which originated as a fountain from a snout like figure a decade back is now gushes out furiously beneath the Gangotri glacier.