Ganges River – India’s mother river and the holiest river for Hindus – oozes some 2,500km from the depth of the Himalayas through valleys and plains, along the way it merges with multiple river sources, flowing past thousands of settlements, and finally draining into the Bay of Bengal. During this trip, we shall journey deep into the remote high mountains, in search of the source of Ganges, witness the unpolluted upper stream of this great river. Admire spectacular landscapes en-route, visit hill towns baptised by the Holy Ganges, experience India’s rich cultural and religious heritage, including Sikhism holy sites tucked deep in the Himalaya ranges.
Morning depart from KLIA on board Malaysian Airlines, arrival in New Delhi around noon, transfer to guesthouse in Paharganj district near the train terminal. Paharganj has many facilities cater for backpackers, such as lodging, restaurants, shops, and cafes. In the afternoon, explore the open air market in Paharganj, enjoy milk tea or coffee by road side stall or café.
Take an early morning train to Haridwar, a holy city by the Ganges river. After some 5 hours of train ride arrive at destination, check in to guesthouse. Later, take a stroll by the Ganges banks and observe Hindu pilgrims bathing in the holy river, explore local market, and visit Hindu temples. In the evening, walk over to Har Ki Pauri by the Ganges bank, join droves of Hindu pilgrims in attending the ritual of Ganga Aarti, which offers prayer to the holy river.
Rise early to catch a bus to Joshimath tucked deep in the Himalayas. A long and bumpy journey for 9 to 12 hours, depending on weather and road conditions. The bus travels along Ganges River, slowly climbing in altitude, passing many remote mountain villages, and offering view of the confluence of 5 holy rivers known as Panch Prayag in Hindu religious ethos. Evening arrive in Joshimath, check in to guesthouse and recuperate from the long and tiring bus ride.
After breakfast, enjoy a ropeway ride to Auli (3,010m), a hill station famed for skiing in winter. The ropeway is claimed to be India’s highest and longest. As the cable car ascends, impressive panoramic view comes into sight, and the surrounding temperature drops. After some 20 min, arrive at hilltop, view of snow-capped peaks lining in a row, including India’s second and third tallest peak – Nanda Devi (7816m) and Kamet (7756m). Sightseeing in Auli, and later trek to a higher spot for picnic lunch. Late afternoon return to Joshimath.
Board a morning bus, journey for some 3 to 4 hours to reach Badrinath, a holy town set deep in the remote Himalayas. At an altitude of 3100m, Badrinath stands by the bank of Alaknanda River, one of the sources of holy Ganges. Badrinath Temple is a popular pilgrimage site for Hindus, and the faithfuls dip into a hot spring next to the temple to cleanse their souls and minds. Asides from visiting the temple and hot spring, one could trek to a nearby glacier waterfall.
Today enjoy an easy day-trek to visit remote villages (6h round-trip trail). Follow the contours of the valley and the course of the river, passing farmland and stone houses, finally arrive at “India’s last village” – Mana, which is only 24km from Tibet, China. Mana is also the last point permitted for foreigner visit in this region. Explore Mana, chat up with the locals, and enjoy a cup of coffee at family run café. Later, take the trail up to the source of Alaknanda River where there’s a glacier waterfall. Evening back in Badrinath for rest.
Take a morning bus to Govind Ghat, journey through the NH58 route for some 2 hours to arrive at destination. This small village is a seasonal settlement, it serves as a transit stop to access Sikhism holy lake Hemkunt Sahib and the Valley of Flower National Park. Overnight in Govind Ghat, get acquainted with Sikhism culture, and make preparation for the holy-trail trekking trip in coming days.
Today embarks on a 4-day trekking trip along the holy trail of Sikhism pilgrimage, this route is only open between May and October each year, as the trail would be inaccessible during the long winter blocked by heavy snow. Leave main luggage at guesthouse, take along only the necessities (3 days supplies) in a daypack for the trekking trip. Trek along the Laxman Ganga River, starts from an altitude of 1800m and ascends to 3050m upon reaching Ghangaria, which is a tiny seasonal settlement, serves as the basecamp to access Sikhism holy lake, well equipped with lodging and restaurants.
After breakfast, bring along water and packed lunch, trek towards Sikhism holy lake Sri Hemkunt Sahib, surrounded by towering snow peaks. The distance between basecamp and the lake is only 6km, but the trail is a steep climb (from 3050m to 4250m), a challenging trek. For those lacking in stamina, possible to employ labour to carry one up with stretcher, or hire donkey or horse for the uphill trek (at own expense). Many pilgrims along the trail (sometimes up to 5000 a day). After visiting the holy lake and the temple on hilltop, retrace footsteps downhill to return to Ghangaria for rest.
The Valley of Flowers is a high-altitude Himalayan meadow, listed in UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves. Since ancient times, Indian yogis visited the valley for meditation, but it was made known to the world by British mountaineers who “discovered” the place by chance in early 20th century. Bring along water and packed lunch, take a slow hike to the Valley of Flowers to admire scenic view and the rich alpine floras. Picnic lunch on the meadow. Evening back in Ghangaria for rest.
After breakfast, trek downhill back to Govind Ghat (4.5h), claim back main luggage stored at the guesthouse, and then board a minibus back to Joshimath (2h bus). Upon arrival, check in to guesthouse, have a good rest to recuperate from days of arduous trek.
Take an early morning bus to Rishikesh, the journey takes about 8 to 11 hours depending on weather and road conditions. Located at the foothills of Himalayas, Rishikesh is a sacred city standing by the bank of Ganges River. No meat and alcohol permitted in this spiritual city, also known as the “yoga capital of the world”. The Beatles once spent considerable time soul searching in Rishikesh and composed 48 pieces of works here. In the evening, stroll along the Ganges banks to admire sunset.
A free and easy day, one could stay idle to rest and relax, or join various optional self-paid activities. Among the adventure sports available are white water rafting and rock climbing; for the more spiritual options, one may try out the famed laughing yoga, or a meditation course by the riverbank. Or simply explore the town on foot, visit temples and spiritual centres.
Morning free and easy, after lunch, take a minibus (1h) to Haridwar train station, before boarding the late afternoon train, pack food for dinner to enjoy on board. Late night arrival in New Delhi, check in to guesthouse for rest.
After breakfast, transfer to airport, take an early afternoon flight bound for Kuala Lumpur, arrival at night. End of tour.
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A nature lover, she guides forest tours, and started organic farming to lead a self-sustainable lifestyle. She’s interested in learning the relations between nature and humanity; she even traveled abroad to study the ancient ways of life of the American Indians. She believes nature shapes the culture and traditions of human life.
She thinks of travel as a process of cultural learning, which provides insights into human migration trail, just like the eco-system of a forest, where nature forces come in play. She cares about the world, not just the humankind, but also the nature and wildlife.
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