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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

Ladakh Diaries Part 1 - The Beginning: Manali to Jispa

Our journey to Ladakh began with a flight to Chandigarh, and a drive to Manali, our first halt. 

My earliest diary entries are all about what I would like to do, not on this trip, but on the next! Speaks volumes, doesn’t it, that I would be planning the next trip, even as I was setting off on one? Right on top of the list are the Chandigarh Museum, Naggar Castle and the Bijli Mahadev Temple….

Landscape en route to Manali

A light rain accompanied us to Manali, and we reached our destination late in the evening - the Club Mahindra White Meadows resort. We had a lovely room with a small backyard, filled with blooming roses. We would have loved to spend more time relaxing and enjoying the place, but we had other plans for the day, which began with an unplanned breakfast by the road, in pouring rain!

On the back porch of our room at Club Mahindra White Meadows Resort

The rain reminded us of our honeymoon in Kodaikanal, when the mountains were awash with rain for our entire trip! Everywhere we went, there were clouds and fog, and mountains and waterfalls disappearing amidst them! Here, at the other end of the country, it was the same, yet different. The mountains here were more rugged, softened now and then by the green grass and bursts of wildflowers which added a spot of colour. At one point, as we rounded a curve, the fog parted to reveal a flock of vultures, by the roadside. 

Fog, clouds, rain and wet roads...

Wildflowers by the road

More wildflowers


Once we crossed the Rohtang pass, the weather began to change. The skies were a clear blue, the clouds fluffy white. We spotted small shrines along the roadside, rocks, bricks and pebbles stacked up to create smaller shrines around them. Driving by the Chenab at our side, we passed small villages, with fields of potatoes, cauliflower and peas (or so we were told).

At Tandi, we saw the Bhaga river join the Chenab (also called the Chandra). The river flows on as the Chenab, but is locally called Chandrabhaga. It struck me how names repeat themselves all over the country…. The more famous Chandrabhaga is the river that flows at Pandharpur. Technically, it is the Bhima, but the crescent shape formed by the river as she turns, gives her the name Chandrabhaga.

The confluence of the Chenab and the Bhaga

As we travelled further, the sense of moving away from civilization grew stronger, and I began to understand why this route is much loved by those who love to drive. I don’t, but I could feel the attraction begin…

On the banks of the Bhaga river is the village of Jispa. A little away from the village was a tented resort, which was our destination for the day. This was one of the many such temporary resorts which pop up during the season, and was right on the banks of the river. Shankar and I were the only residents that night, so we had the whole place to ourselves.

We reached the resort in the afternoon, so, after a quick lunch, we elected to spend the rest of the day on the banks of the Bhaga.

More than two decades ago, I made my first trip to the upper reaches of the Ganga – Badri, Kedar et al. I was then in school, and it was my first such trip. The river Alakananda made a strong impression on me then, because of the way she flowed, her current strong, her roar drowning out the rest of the crowd we were with. She was so much more impressive than the Ganga herself!

As we sat by the Bhaga, all those memories came sailing by.. the river muddy, heavy with silt, almost freezing, yet in full flow… see the video and listen to the sound of the river.

We sat by the river for more than 4 hours.... a record for us, who can never sit still.. and watched the sun set somewhere beyond the mountains, the light slowly moving over the peaks, lighting each one up in turn.

Only when it was dark did we get back to the camp, for a solitary campfire and dinner, turning in early to prepare for the day ahead. 

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  1. So fascinating! It's so nice to read your post once again Anu. Could feel the excitement of a new trip rise within as you began traveling and taking us along. Great pictures and narrative! Looking forward to more!!

    1. Thanks so much Arti! It's great to be back after such a long gap... I especially miss all these comments and conversations!


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