Gangotri, Ganges headwaters

bathersWe hired a driver to take us from Uttarkashi to Gangotri, an elevation gain of about 2,000 meters in 98 kilometers. Gangotri is in the upper reahes of the Ganges Valley 14 kilometers from the headwaters. I hiked along the Ganges–the mountains and cliffs are spectacular here. The air is crisp and cool. The peaks are rocky and jagged. Most of the trees are evergreen. It reminds me of Nederlands or Georgetown in Colorado. Along the way, I spied “baba homes,” caves where ascetics live. The river is a brackish green from the glacier runoff.
The ancient temple is a destination for religious tourism. The Char Dam includes this site plus Yaminotri, Kedernath and Badrinath. Everyday, thousands of tourists show up here. There is no parking available so buses, taxis and cars line the road for 2 kilometers. It’s only a one-lane road, so the last few kilimeters take hours.
About 2 p.m. in the afternoon, I saw a mob scene at the temple. Hundreds of pilgrims were trying to push their way inside. There is one door with a single line in and a single line out. But the crowd was blocking people from getting out. They broke down a barricade. One man was yelling at the top of his lungs. Uniformed guards with bamboo batons were trying to remove him, but he broke free and forced his way into the temple. I wonder what kind of spiritual encounter people could have after all the pushing and shoving. I was walking in the lane afterwards and got pushed and shouldered by several men leaving the temple.

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