We knew today would be a longer drive, but it wasn’t so bad – the rain stayed off except for one short shower, and there were no very fresh landslides to contend with, though plenty of fairly recent ones. Breakfast was again excellent – fresh puri, paratha and some kind of flavoured polenta-type dish whose name I’ve forgotten (ordered because we had no idea what it was!)
Today’s route is entirely along the Alaknanda river, past three more confluences – Rudraprayag, Karanprayag and Nandprayag. No prizes for guessing what ‘prayag’ means! At Rudraprayag the Mandakini river which rises at Kedarnath, the official source of the Ganges, joins the Alaknanda. Much of the lower part of the Alaknanda has been altered by huge hydroelectric schemes. Vinod told us that one, near Rudraprayag, had resulted in a stone, said to be the goddess Haridevi, being moved elsewhere against the wishes of local people. The same year, huge floods devastated the area, so the goddess was returned to her original position, in a new temple which is still being constructed in the middle of the river.
The new Haridevi temple, mid-river
We drive through more metamorphic rocks today, crossing the Main Central Thrust (MCT) zone into the rocks of the High Himalayan crystalline series – this is the point at which the Indian plate has pushed itself under the Eurasian plate. There are rock exposures by the side of the road for John and enough slate-roofed houses in the early part of our journey to give a fair indication of the nature of the rocks. Slates have given way to high grade gneiss by the time we get to Joshimath.
Today’s scenery is lovely – steep-sided mountains without any trace of glacial features and fertile looking terraces full of rice and other cereals. At first the vegetation is tropical, but by the time we reach Joshimath the trees are mostly pines and other conifers.
We stop for tea and sweetmeats at Gauchar and for lunch at Pipalkoti, after a brush with some local chancers. Two men on a motorbike chase us down the road and, when we stop, claim that Mohan knocked one of them off the bike. As he is a very careful driver, and none of us saw anything, this seems more than a little unlikely! The passenger also seems rather drunk, so probably just fell off. In the end, Vinod gives him some money to go away because he says going to the police might be more bother than it’s worth – not a great situation.
Ladies in Gauchar, where we stop for tea
We arrive at Joshimat by 4 pm and crash out for a while before heading out for a brief walk before dinner. We take the opportunity to buy some snacks for tomorrow, though Vinod assures us there will be plenty of tea stalls along the way.
The hotel is more or less empty so, again, there is no buffet but this time we are wise to having to order in advance and we eat early so as to be ready for a crack of dawn start tomorrow. Our rucksacks are packed with the bare essentials – everything else we will leave in the hotel here.