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Old 3rd June 2023, 03:16   #1
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Kedarnath Trek and my learnings

I trekked to Kedarnath on 29th May from Gaurikund and back to Sitapur on 30th May. Stayed overnight at Kedarnath. Want to share my experience so folks who all are planning can benefit. This post is a mix of what I learned from my mistakes, some rant, positives and negatives.

Planned itinerary:
  • D1: NCR to Haridwar
  • D2: Haridwar to Guptakashi
  • D3: Guptakashi to Kedarnath
  • D4: Kedarnath to Guptakashi
  • D5: Guptakashi to Badrinath
  • D6: Badrinath to Rishikesh
  • D7: Rishikesh to NCR
  • D8: Buffer

How it went:
  • D1: NCR to Haridwar
  • D2: Haridwar to Guptakashi
  • D3: Guptakashi to Gaurikund
  • D4: Gaurikund to Kedarnath
  • D5: Kedarnath to Guptakashi
  • D6: Guptakashi to Rishikesh
  • D7: Rishikesh to NCR

We were 32 in total of all age groups from kids to elders. I joined last minute as it was a long weekend for me. We made advance payments to the agent who booked us at all the places as per the planned itinerary. We also paid a sum of INR 10,000 per head for 25 people for Helicopter as advance to another agent, this was for return trip from Guptakashi to Kedarnath.

Everything went planned till we reached Guptakashi, well not really but the group made it to Guptakashi 7 hrs late. However, we were able to leave for Kedarnath on the planned date. Our biggest mistake - we started from Guptakashi at 7am, post breakfast. We had to cover a distance of 33 Kms till Sonprayag + 5 Kms by local jeep to Gaurikund. We got stuck in traffic, inching slowly towards Sonprayag. It took us 7 hrs to reach sonprayag, yes a distance of mere 33 Kms.

There are about 4 to 5 checkpoints before you reach Sitapur, which is about 1 KM before Sonprayag. At every checkpoint the traffic is held up for 20 to 30mins, and then they allow a few vehicles to pass before blocking the road again. On speaking to local police, they told us this is done to ensure smooth movement of yatris from Sonprayag to Gaurikund and beyond. They control the influx of yatris at these checkpoints. Such checkpoints are also setup between Augustmuni and Guptakashi. Fair enough and makes a lot of sense when you see the number of registrations happening on daily basis.

We started late only because the group arrived late at Guptakashi spending the entire day traveling from NCR in 2x tempo travellers, they had left NCR at 2am. The hotel staff told us to leave at 3am, but most had no strength to start early. We reached Sitapur parking by 2pm. Sitapur has a parking dedicated for tourist buses, tempo travellers and cars. Not everyone is allowed till Sonprayag parking, which is a KM ahead. My dad requested the cops at Sitapur checkpoint to let one of the tempo travellers with elders pass thru. There is a registration booth where you have to scan your registration certificates, there are about 3 barcode scanners, all you need to do is scan the registration certificate to mark your presence.

From Sonprayag parking till the point where you get local jeeps to Gaurikund is about 500m walk. The jeep covers a total distance of 5KMs to Gaurikund. The fare is INR50 per person. From the point where you get down till the point you get mule, pithu and palki is about a KM walk. Our group was divided at Sonprayag and the trekkers went ahead. By the time we reached Gaurikund it was close to 4pm. We were shocked to learn that the Yatra for the day has been stopped and will resume next day morning at 4am.

The hotel staff, the agent, the police - no one informed us about Yatra getting closed post 4pm. Frustrated we took the hotel at Gaurikund for the entire group. We had booking for the night at Kedarnath which was cancelled. Rested the night, started the trek at 3:15am. 6 of us trekked while the rest took mule and pithu.

Before I proceed, here are the options available if you decide to go by the trek route:
  • Mule: Costs INR 4,000 upward and INR 2,000 back.
  • Pithu: Costs INR 6,000 to INR 7,000 upward and about the same downward.
  • Palki: I have no idea about this but please keep in mind, palki bookings are done a day in advance.
  • Trek

You can also hire pithu and mule in between but then the rates are not regulated and they can ask you any amount.

As per the internet and the board at Gaurikund, the trek is 16 KMs. The actual trek is 22 KMs each way. It took us 12 hrs to reach the temple, in comparison a mule takes about 5 hrs, pithu will take about 6 to 7 hrs. Coming to the trekking experience, except for sharing the path with the mules it was wonderful! We took a lot of breaks, we were in no hurry to return the same day. There are enough facilities enroute. We took stops at every 500m or 100m, depending upon the elevation.

You will find the below on the trek route:
  • Ample toilets
  • Food: Parantha, Maggi are available at almost every small dhabas
  • Glucose stalls
  • Lemon soda stalls
  • Tea stalls also serving coffee, cold drinks, Frooti, Amul flavoured milk
  • Shops selling Raincoats, sticks
  • Water: Bisleri or natural, there are taps connected to waterfalls, we refilled at many places
Lincholi has a medical centre too. This is about 4 KMs before the base camp. Base camp also has oxygen facility, for those suffering from AMS can stop here and get help. Base camp is 2 KMs before Kedarnath, mules are not allowed beyond base camp. The base camp is visible right from Bhimbali, which is towards the start of the trek.

The trek surface is not smooth at all, the rocky surface is broken at many places. There is mud, slush at some places. To make things worse, mule poop and urinate on the trek itself. One has to be very careful, the broken patches can break your leg. While coming down I slipped thrice. Mules losing control and people falling was a common scene. 4 of our family members fell down from the mule. After starting at 3:15am from Gaurikund, we made it to base camp by 1:45pm, here we stopped for lunch and took an hour long break. We also had to stop for 30 mins due to heavy rain. Trust me when I say this, the real trek starts after you cross the river Mandakini to the other side, it is all upwards from there. Like those hairpin bends, just up up and up. You need to be mentally strong, keep it slow and steady, do not rush, do not ask folks returning how much more time/KMs left. Just keep moving. Everyone has their own version, most will scare you.

We finally reached Kedarnath temple at 3:30pm. The sight was to behold. We were so excited that we forgot we trekked 22 KMs, climbing 6,000ft to reach the temple. We took Darshan and checked-in by 7pm. Had dinner and went off sleep. Next day we started our trek downwards to Sitapur where our tempo traveler were parked. It took us 6 hrs to reach Gaurikund. We were stuck in mule traffic for 30mins! Had lunch at Gaurikund, by the time we reached Sitapur is was 6pm. Checked-in back at Snowpods at Guptakashi.


To summarise my experience:
  • Stay as close as possible to Gaurikund if you have to trek, take a mule or hire a palki or pithu.
  • Start early. The weather is unpredictable up there. It was snowing on the day we returned.
  • If you are staying at Guptakashi, which is where most of the hotels are. Leave as early as 1am. We still saw long queue of vehicles heading towards Sonprayag at 8pm!
  • If you want to take your old ones to Kedarnath, take the helicopter. You can avail services from Guptakashi, Phata, Gaurikund. IIRC, the helicopter ticket prices include VIP Darshan.
  • Don't take the trek as a mission, don't have a target in mind, just keep moving and take enough breaks to eat and drink. Take a stick along, available at many places for INR 40.
  • I might be called out for this, but I had a pathetic experience with locals from the region. On return we booked 5 mules, you get license/cards from he registration counter that has to be handed to the mule owner. The mule owner took the cards and disappeared for 2 hours! We had to hunt him down and had to bring him back to the counter. Hotel owners were rude, we pointed out at the dirty linens, requested a change of linen, we were told "sir, yaha pe sheet nahi badalti log badalte hai" (Sir, we don't change sheets here, we change people). We were literally asked to leave.
  • Taking advantage of your situation: Locals will never leave an opportunity to loot you. Hotels, pithu, mule owners and even some restaurants. Ok, you earn or a few months, understand, but there is no decency in the way they communicate.
  • We had paid INR 10,000 advance per head for 25 people to a local agent. He wanted us to pay INR 5,000 more per person for helicopter bookings as there was a rush and we need to pay dynamic fare. Our money is stuck with the agent. Do not believe anyone, you can book the helicopter online via IRCTC.
  • If I had to do this again, I would stay at Srinagar (nearest town with all the facilities, most important a proper hospital). Drive to Guptakashi (about 2.5 hrs), take the helicopter to Kedarnath, return via Heliport to Guptakashi drive back to Srinagar.
  • Helicopters stop only for a couple of mins at Kedarnath, loading and unloading passengers.
  • Our agent took us for a ride, since our plan was delayed by a day. All our bookings (paid advance) were cancelled and we were asked to pay again. No adjustments even after having enough availability. At Snowpods, we arrived a day late on return from Kedarnath. The hotel management refused to adjust the booking from the previous night. She wanted to make full use of the opportunity to earn extra money.
  • Carry enough cash, we carried about INR 15,000 to INR 20,000 per person. If you pay online, folks charge you extra. They have Paytm/phoepay everywhere but you have to shell out more. One of the pithu guy charged us INR 1,000 extra for an UPI payment.
  • The mules are tortured. For no reason they are beaten by the owners, forced to carry overweight humans on top of them. It was a sad sight. You can see the mules refusing to move once they get tired. Soon after we started, we saw a mule dead on the trek route just 3KMs into the trek.
  • Make way for mules, pithu, palki if you are trekking else they will push you and make their own way.
  • The line for jeep on return from Gaurikund to Sonprayag is long! We spent 3 hours waiting for our turn.
  • If you are a group of 10 and want the entire jeep you have to pay INR 50 per head for the seats that will go vacant. The jeep used are sumos, boleros with seating capacity of 9 but they stuff 12 (2 at the front, 4 in middle row, 6 in the last row side facing seats). On return we were 10 in a jeep but the driver wanted us to pay INR 100 per seat for 2 remaining seats.
  • Absolute mismanagement at Gaurikund, a disaster waiting to happen. The trek path passes thru narrow alley with steps before it becomes wide. Like those narrow lanes of Chandni Chowk. Everyone has to go via this route, even the folks returning! It was chaos, cops were just standing and waving their sticks in air.

Places where we stayed:
  • Snowpods Kedarnath Resort: Good views, but that is it. The management is very greedy. The hotel staff however is nice, I had my Polo parked for 4 nights and tipped them to keep an eye.
  • Dev Lok, Gaurikund: Highly recommended. However, please note, the hotel is located 5 storeys above the trek path.
  • Jaipur House, Kedarnath: Avoid. Rude owner. Even after paying INR 8,000 a night, we were ill treated.
  • Shivalik Hotel, Kedarnath
  • Green View Hotel, Rishikesh: It was a part of the package, else we would have preferred staying somewhere else. Clean rooms, located very close to Janki Bridge.

Agent we hired: Get set go. Punjabi Bagh, New Delhi. Absolute horrible experience. The tempo travellers sent by the agency broke down twice, delaying our movement on Day-1 by 4 hours which basically costed us the trip. She had no understanding of the business, she lied to us by saying the payments were made but the hotel management denied receiving advance. Only after pressurising the agent, she made the payment after we checked-in. To top it all, she was a known!

Things I carried to Kedarnath on Trek:
  • Raincoat
  • Jacket
  • Sweater
  • Thermals
  • Decathlon heat patches
  • Extra pair of winter socks
  • Winter cap
  • Medical kit: Comprising of first aid and basic medicines
  • Powerbank
  • Plastic Sheets

The trek is very exhausting but absolutely worth it. The views from up there, the energy up there is something to experience. This has to be one of the best journeys that I have undertook in my life.

Kedarnath Trek and my learnings-img_4781.jpeg

Kedarnath Trek and my learnings-img_4754.jpeg

Kedarnath Trek and my learnings-img_4791.jpeg

Kedarnath Trek and my learnings-img_4796.jpeg

Last edited by sinharishi : 3rd June 2023 at 03:21.
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Old 3rd June 2023, 07:47   #2
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Re: Kedarnath Trek and my learnings

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 3rd June 2023, 08:37   #3
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Re: Kedarnath Trek and my learnings

I don’t know what to tell you brother, all this is pretty much expected when you go to Kedarnath during holiday season. Administration officially caps visits at 50k per day, but we know actual visitors are much more. Facilities are inadequate and poor. And with increasing affluence, mobility and awareness, everyone and their neighbour wants to visit. And mostly during that narrow window of time. Rude and greedy locals in touristy places during holiday season is a hard reality of our times, and it happens almost everywhere. I suffered through a similar experience last year in Kashmir, where a few days of my trip overlapped with the opening of Amarnath yatra. It was a hard lesson learnt.

I strongly believe that the dhams are best visited July and onwards, after the holiday hordes are done and once the rains set in. In May-June, they are pretty much like Shimla-Nainital-Manali but with wayyyy worse infrastructure, facilities, hygiene and management.

Last edited by Shreyans_Jain : 3rd June 2023 at 08:38.
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Old 3rd June 2023, 10:57   #4
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Re: Kedarnath Trek and my learnings

I empathise with you Sir! With religious tourism it’s always safer to book directly with govt affiliated sources. My parents & in-laws visited Kedarnath & Badrinath last year in first week of June and as the yatra was opening after Covid, it was all chaos. But, I booked the helicopter directly through UK govt website and GMVN hotels. Although there were delays but the yatra was completed smoothly. The only issue they faced was with the taxi-driver which was booked through a taxi agency and he tried his best to make extra at every opportunity he got although the rent was fixed beforehand.
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Old 3rd June 2023, 12:58   #5
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Re: Kedarnath Trek and my learnings

Amazed but not surprised at the crowds. I visited Shri Kedarnath once in May 1975 as a teenager. The crowds were less than 10% of what we see in the photos here and there were almost no shops. The road went only up to a village from where you trekked horizontally about 22 kms and vertically through 6000 feet. An arduous trek to do in a single go even for youngsters like me. Older pilgrims either used a mountain mule or did it in two days with a nights rest at one of the villages enroute. I guess easier access has changed the scene. How the Pandavas built the temple 5000 years ago boggles the mind. If you are religiously inclined, then this is a great place to pay homage to.

Last edited by V.Narayan : 3rd June 2023 at 13:00.
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Old 4th June 2023, 19:09   #6
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Re: Kedarnath Trek and my learnings

Really helpful one for many of us who have been planning to go there. Yes I have heard horror stories of locals and their dishonesty, repulsive mercenary behaviour. But this is not new, was discussing with a octagenerian family member who had gone there many decades ago. Same behaviour but not so brazen.
This is the story of every touristy place in India, Goa to Varanasi to Dwarka to Puri to Shimla. Usually a cartel of locals and the administration actively in cahoots. We have to grin and bear it, and spend it.
In Kedarnath greed seems to have overtaken them they had never see so many tourists and want to make as much money as they can. Sad but won't change much.
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Old 5th June 2023, 14:38   #7
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Re: Kedarnath Trek and my learnings

Quote:
Originally Posted by sinharishi View Post
... This post is a mix of what I learned from my mistakes, some rant, positives and negatives.
Thanks a lot for compiling the details.

We also planned to visit Kedarnath this year.

Original plan was as per below,
29th April : Reach Rishikesh
1st May : Reach Sersi (between phata and Sonprayag)
2nd May: Four persons (parents, 9 year old son and my brother) would go by helicopter and return on same day to avoid night halt, other group (me, wife and sister) would track to Kedarnath and stay there
3rd May : We walk back and others would rest.
4th May : towards Badrinath, night stay at Gopeshwar
5th May : Night stay at Joshimath
6th May : Badrinath Darshan and back to Joshimath
7th May : Joshimath to Tilwara/Rudraprayag
8th May : Haridwar and spend few days there.

I tried to avoid long road journey in single day and break journey in two days if required, e.g. Sonprayag/Phata to Joshimath is doable in single day but plan was to stay at Gopeshwar for first night and reach Joshimath next day.


Plan was to book helicopter tickets from Sersi itself but had to book from Phata.

As per advice from some YouTube videos and also from excellent post by bhpian anbaras in another thread mentioned below, booked Helicopter tickets in earliest slot available (6-9), which were only available from Phata with operator Thamby aviation.

For other operators e.g. Govt owned Pawan Hans and Himalayan heli services, four tickets were not available when I reached payment page.
Was bit worried after looking at reviews of this operator in Google, as most of the reviews were negative.

We reached Rishikesh as per plan but it was continuously raining even in Rishikesh and snow fall in Kedarnath, so other than my brother, everyone else decided to drop plan of Kedarnath, considering Sr citizens and kid. Three helicopter tickets were cancelled before 48 hours so got 50% refund.

Brother was able to reach Kedarnath by helicopter I think around 9am, He quickly completed darshan somehow, and returned back to Kedarnath and got token for return helicopter journey as well.
While he was there, weather deteriorated and all helicopter operations were halted. He waited for few hours, but looking at climate on that day (2nd May) either he had to stay at Kedarnath or return by other means.

He ended up paying 10k+ for his return journey with help of pithoos (porters), but since It would be difficult to carry an adult for entire journey for single person, two guys were there and considering climate and their situation, He was ok with the charge, even if it was higher compared to normal.

We had darshan of Badrinath dham on 5th, and climate was very good that day.

Few general observations / experience from my side,

Accommodation booking
Generally when We travel with family, would prefer to book accommodation in advance, but there are very few options available online for Phata, Sonprayag and Kedarnath and these charges are more compared to booking directly. Most of the places are basic guest houses even if charges are similar to 2-3 star hotels, I had booked a place for around 5k per day for three person room, but now I feel that its batter to book with help from some local travel agent or try to call directly to hotel.

I used a website called yatradham.org for booking at Kedarnath and phata, donít expect flexibility like zero cancellation or immediate confirmation normally provided by other known travel websites and cancellation / modification can be also challenging sometimes as per reviews (I was able to get some booking cancelled during planning phase, but experience can be more comparable to booking through travel agent), As most of us were not be able to use any accommodation booked with them. canít comment more on their services.

Most of the our bookings were with Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN). Best thing about GMVN accommodations (or TRH as they call) would be their locations. Maintenance / upkeep can be major area of improvement in certain places e.g. Rudraprayag but still It was more predictable experience compared to a hotel, and staff is generally good.

There is a GMVN guest house, in Rampur Nyalsu , is nearest to Sonprayag which I missed. Cloudnít get GMVN accommodation at Kedarnath, phata and Badrinath.

Helicopter
Booking experience was typical IRCTC, more similar to earlier days, I started at 12 but was able to book around 1pm. It was challenging to get four tickets in single slot/operator combination.

There is no guaranty of single day return via helicopter, even if booked in earliest slot, need to be prepared for Plan B of either staying there or come back by any other means.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sinharishi View Post
If I had to do this again, I would stay at Srinagar (nearest town with all the facilities, most important a proper hospital). Drive to Guptakashi (about 2.5 hrs), take the helicopter to Kedarnath, return via Heliport to Guptakashi drive back to Srinagar.
One challenge would be unpredictable nature of traffic, 2.5 hours as per Google may stretch to any number of hours due to landslides / traffic / checking etc.
GMVNís Mandakini resort at Tilwara, can be another option since It is near to Rudraprayag and in-between Srinagar and Guptkashi.

One request to Mods, there are few similar threads, suggesting to merge at least two Kedarnath threads, to have single source of information.

Other thread:

https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/route...ml#post5506503 (Visited Kedarnath : Any queries, please post here)
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Old 5th June 2023, 17:15   #8
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Re: Kedarnath Trek and my learnings

We had been there in 2nd week of May. I mostly echo with your experience. Sitapur to Gaurikund makes you feel tired more than the trek. Like you said, they earn for few months but ethics is something , we can't find in most of the places. Especially with pithus or mules, it is an unwritten rule that you need to pay them for food and chai expenses. Otherwise, you are taken for a toss. Even in the temple, 500 or 1000 (based on crowd) is what they charge for VIP darshan(again unaccounted). Char dham Registration is a big comedy. Atleast I haven't seen any one place where they have taken this seriously. I would seriously request char dham organizers to definitely visit tirumala once, just to understand the crowd organization. Agree that there are climatic challenges but definitely not the right way of doing business in a auspicious site like Kedarnath.
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Old 8th June 2023, 01:32   #9
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Re: Kedarnath Trek and my learnings

Sir, with experiences with agents on my trip to vaishno devi and badrinath, i have come to a realisation of booking via govt operators or sites. The money part doesn't bother as much as the mental harassment part does. Gone are the days of god fearing humans.

Thanks for the heads-up regarding the route that one must take, (Srinagar-guptakashi-kedarnath) have taken screenshot of your description and put up in my family WhatsApp group.
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Old 8th June 2023, 11:28   #10
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Re: Kedarnath Trek and my learnings

In my personal experience the best time to visit Badrinath and Kedarnath is just before they close, I have been blessed to be able to visit them 3 years out of the last 4 and only once have I gone in May / June. The weather will be cooler but the crowd will probably be 1/10th of what it is right now or even lesser making the entire journey very pleasant and worthwhile.
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Old 8th June 2023, 14:48   #11
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Re: Kedarnath Trek and my learnings

Kedarnath is dead. Sorry to say this. But half of the crowd is Instagram crowd. Sit for few hours outside the temple and just see the antics they do for reels. Post covid, go at any time of the month and there are insane crowds. Temple closing time is not spared either. I went just days before closing time during Diwali in 2022 and was shocked to see the crowd.

Coming to ethic and behaviour of the locals. Just one word. PATHETIC.

1) Mule operators - absolute goons. One guy managing 3-4 mules at once. One mule will be controlled by him other 3 will be free. Now they don't bother who is walking. Thrice I almost fell down. Once alongwith my 2 year old kid. They just push everyone aside. And the most horrible thing is the horse crap and urine along the entire route. The most painful thing was to see elderly people falling off and the mule owner somewhere ahead not even bothering.

2)Dhaba/stall owners: Robbers. Now I understand prices to be high given the transportation cost and I dont mind paying more but what on earth is "You will get tea only if you buy a paratha as well" What on earth is this. This happened at not one place but multiple places. I asked for half a glass of milk for my kid - NO. FLAT REFUSAL on my face. For proof I carried my kid all the way but still NO. After hunting at 4-5 places finally one guy decided to give.

3)Hotel owners: Robbers. Reach during day time it will cost 10k, come afternoon it will be 15k and god forbid if you reach late then the real game starts. 20k-25k. Why? Looting opportunity galore taking advantage of people's situation.

I have been to Kedarnath thrice till now but never ever had such horrible experiences. Again apologize for the rant but a holy place has been totally destroyed by greed.
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Old 8th June 2023, 15:05   #12
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Re: Kedarnath Trek and my learnings

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dodge_Viper View Post
Kedarnath is dead. a holy place has been totally destroyed by greed.
I went to Badrinath a day after Bhai Dooj in 2022 (3-4 days after Diwali) and it was almost empty. Had gone a year earlier to both Kedarnath and Badrinath in October and though crowded it was still enjoyable. It seems the PM's frequent visits to Kedarnath has resulted in the increased footfall and the chaos.

I have also seen a lot of people becoming extremely greedy and robbing the pilgrims. One must plan visits to these holy places even more carefully now.
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