Goumukh: Ganga source
or, more exactly, Bhagirathi
, originates from Gangotri glacier
, one of the biggest glaciers in Himalayas. The place, where Bhagirathi flows out from Gangotri, it called "Goumukh". This word means "Cow mouth". Indeed, with use of imagination this icy cave reminds a cow.
Its not easy to reach Goumukh. It is in 19 kilometers from the nearest settlement to which one can go by car ([Gangotri]). Considering that the way to Goumukh starts at 3 km above the sea level, the road to cave is not only far but also difficult for physically unprepared travellers. In Gangotri one can rent a donkey - it will cost around 600 rupees one way.
Way to Goumukh is, of course, better than mountain trails used by gangs running from justice. But it also doesn't remind us beutiful road from Kedarnath to Gaurikund
Comparison with the road to Kedarnath comes by itself - first of all, Kedarnath is quite close. Second of all it is also unreachable by a car. In comparison to this road way to Goumukh is much less active and looks like forsaken place. It is more tight (in some segments it is even impossible to go on donkey), it goes up and down. Elevation changes are only 800 meters onlike 1500 meters between Gaurikund and Kedarnath.
By the way, the road is to be paid for. We were asked to pay 150 rupees for each foreigner and 40 fot each indian. Also 25 rupees for a donkey. If we would have a tent we would be asked more. Same with videocamera.
All the way to Goumukh you will enjoy glamorous vews of Ganga. Approximetely on a half way you will see Bhagirathi and Shivlinga
The road takes from 7 to 8 hours, depending from your motivation and physical endurance. On the way you can take a primitive food in caffs, wrongly marked on a map as villages. In sober fact these are indian dhabas appallingservice quality and terrific prices - half a liter of Coca-cola bottle will cost 30-40 rupees. But it is also true that in Himalayas you don't have so much appetite. And there are a lot of clean mountain streams from which you can drink for free.
There is a small hotel 5 kilometers before Goumukh. You can even find electricity there. It is possible to charge cameras there and to take a nap (its expensive, one tent for 8 people costs around 2 thousand rupees).
The Goumukh cave, the source of the holy river Ganga (Bhagirathi
), is at a height of 3.8 km above the sea level.
The cave is called icy for some reason. Right after it the Gangotri glacier
starts - one of the largest Himalaya glacier.
Even in summer pieces of ice fall away from the glacier and float in impetuous torrent. The water temperature is near 0 degrees. Don't think about swimming there - the water flow is not only cold but also quick. So you will be dead with cold almost immidietely.
Near the cave (last 500 meters you need to go by foot even if you arrived on a donkey - the road is very stony) one can see many small streams of a melting glacier.
It is very pleasent to be near the cave. It is a very beautiful place: you can enjoy the view of two very high mountaints (Bhagiratri and Shivlinga
). On a photo below there is Bhagirathi mountain.
From the other point of view, the holy river itslef can impress even a strong atheist.
In a time of a long journey towards Goumikh the surrounding beauty invisible reaches the very inside of your being. And it is no longer important that everything around you is extremely beautiful - the beauty itself reached your heart and it doesn't dissapear even if you close your eyes.
I recalled the foredoom of Shri Adi Shankaracharya. Many centuries ago this great saint, while travalling last time in Himalayas, went into a samadhi by entering inside the mountain. He left only a stick after himself, which disciples of this great master found. The undoubtful reality of this misctic action and, above all, its meaningfulness, was felt very clearly in Goumukh.
In spite of lack of oxygen, tiredeness after 8 hours journey and dissapointing of being in totally unsettled area (on the way you can find only two-three shabby dhabas and one bunkhouse), your heart is full of tranquility and happiness, and life is full of meaning. It is quite a surprising feeling - you drink a tea, eat chapatti and experience a union with the entire universe at the same time.
Mountaints stagger the imagination. The huge Shivlinga and massive Bhagirathi are amazing (Shivlinga is the first the the left, Bhagirathi - on the right).
As in any truly sacred place, Goumukh calls you to stay there forever. I beleive that in this place it is as pleasant to meet your last days as in Kedarnath, Arunachala and Varanasi
The road to Goumukh is closed from November to April. I suppose even in october there are heavy snowfalls.