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The unspoilt grandeur of the Garhwal Himalayas

Swahilya

Area draws over 2 lakh tourists from Chennai



PRISTINE BEAUTY: A snow-capped peak at Badrinath. — Photo: Swahilya

CHENNAI: Over 2 lakh people from Chennai travel in a year to various destinations in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttaranchal, and the reasons vary from the sacred to the secular.

K.K. Baby, Public Relations Officer, Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) in Chennai, says that besides the main pilgrim centres of the Char Dham, including Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath, people go to the Himalayas for trekking, river rafting, snow skiing, wildlife trekking, on pleasure tourism, and even film shooting.

While Yamunotri, Gangotri and Kedarnath are closed by October 24, Badrinath will be open till the second week of November.

Tour packages

The GMVN and several private tour operators in Chennai offer special tour packages for pilgrims and trekkers. There are 20 trek routes, including near lake Vasukital, 8 km from Kedarnath at an altitude of 3,584 metres. It offers a view of the Chaukhamba peaks and the Mandakini valley.

The other trekking paths lead to Panch Kedar, Kalindikhal, Gangotri Nandavan Tapovan, Dodital Yamunotri, Khatling Sahasratal, Har-ki-Doon and Roopkund. The trek to the Valley of Flowers is possible only two months in a year, during July and August. The Uttaranchal Forest Department shuts down access after September 15.

Skiing courses offered

The Auli resort, at a height of 2,915 metres to 3,400 metres, has 5 to 7 sq.km. of ski slopes. With a 180-degree view of Mt. Nanda Devi, Mana Parwat, Dunagiri, Bethartoli, Nilkantha, Nar and Narayan and other Himalayan peaks, it is home to over a dozen national-level skiing championships. One can also take a 3.9 km cable car journey from Joshimath to Auli. Here temperatures range from a minimum of - 9 degrees celsius to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius during winter. The GMVN conducts 7-day skiing courses, for which no certificates are issued, and 14-day courses, for which participants are given certificates, between January and March. Open by the last week of December, it will soon have a state-of-the-art ice skating rink and an extension to the chair-lift facility up to the top of Gorson.

Water sports on the rapids of the Ganga are offered at Kaudiyala. The GMVN offers water skiing basic, intermediate and advanced certificate courses at Assan between April and mid-June and in September and October.

For wildlife enthusiasts Rajaji National Park, combining three wildlife sanctuaries — Rajaji, Motichur and Chilla — in the Shivalik Hills, Corbett National Park along the Ram Ganga river, the Valley of Flowers, Govind Wildlife Sanctuary, Kedarnath Sanctuary in Chamoli, Nanda Devi National Park and Mussoorie Wildlife Sanctuary provide a view of endemic and exotic species.

The GMVN provides logistics and base camp support to mountaineering expedition teams and trained instructors from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering for Rock Climbers at George Everest House, Buranskhanda and Phoolchatti.

Besides, there are winter weekend packages to Lansdowne, Pauri, Khirsu, Dhari Devi, Adi Badri, Tapovan, Deoria Tal, Nachiketa Tal, Mussoorie, Kempty Fall, Dhanaulti, Surkanda Devi and Anusuya Devi - Dattatreya Dham.

Yoga destination

Rishikesh is the yoga destination in the Himalayas. The International Yoga Week is held between February 2 and 7, and the GMVN conducts basic and advanced courses that last from 7 days to a month. The GMVN has around 77 rest houses, and conducts regular and special tours to Uttaranchal.

For details, call 25363524 or email gmvn@vsnl.com. Also check out their web site at www.gmvnl.com.

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