Once Bhim dropped off my rucksack in the Alto & I stopped wheezing sufficiently to pay him his 200 Rupees, We were faced with the question of which way to head. The fact that we had to head eventually to Badrinath was not contestable. But to do that, we could either go back to Rudraprayag & catch the NH-58, or we could in fact catch the small shortcut after Guptakashi via Oshimath & Chopta.
We decided to catch this road, because by all accounts except the one of our Kedarnath Pandit, it was probably the most scenic route in the whole of Uttaranchal. Also to bend the road in our favor was the fact that one of the panch kedar, The Tungnath temple was just 4 km’s trek away from Chopta.
There is a temple on the way, where they say that an eternal flame burns. This flame was lit during the marriage of Shiva & Parvati & has been burning since. But it was already afternoon & we reasoned that in light of the solar eclipse, the temple would most likely remain closed anyway.
Going downhill till Oshimath was fun. On the way up, the car had felt the effects of altitude for the first time. Since I was driving this high for the first time myself, the realization took a while to set in. But going downhill was fun & we covered good distance. Returning back by the same road always does seem shorter.
The shortcut via Chopta is definitely better. For one, there is hardly any traffic on it. I think I passed hardly a handful of vehicles on that road. Plus the road itself is great. It winds its way through huge green valleys & mountains & through small villages. There is even a Musk deer Conservation park you pass through. In fact I believe that Chopta actually lies inside the conservation park. We did manage to see a musk deer at about hundred meters, but the blighter didn’t wait around to be photographed.
The crowning glory of the ride is of course the Himalayan ranges that you see as you go along. Sadly, the clouds had come in by afternoon so we couldn’t get even a glimpse of them.
Chopta Village is essentially a collection of cemented houses in a clearing along the road. I doubt that it intends to expand further. This village is also one of the many villages that will be abandoned in November as the winter sets in. I took up a room for us behind a dhabha on the outskirts of the village, run by a chap called Beerbal. Cost me 200 /- & it was on top of a hill face, with the remaining hill sloping down into the clouds.
One think Chopta does not have is a rocking nightlife. So we fixed up the mules for the next day & had our dinners. Which was again Potatoes & dal. By this time, I was beginning t get tired of potatoes.
Since didn’t have any late night appointments with god, managed to get some good sleep & woke up to the most brilliant morning.
At this height, we were well above the mist & fog that were below us in the valley, and at our height, a bit to the north were the Himalayan ranges, finally visible. As the sun rose, the sight promised to get better yet. We decided to hurry on to the Tungnath to get a better view & check out how God was doing.
Giant Pandas - Singapore - The Singapore Philatelic department has released stamps to celebrate the coming to Singapore of a set of Giant Pandas (on loan) from China for the next ...