Written by Puran Devi, MJ
The 11th grade class began the pilgrimage to Hemkund Sahib on the night of September 14th. Armed with a strong spirit, enthusiasm, and a three-person staff, the group of 9 students boarded the “sleeper train” from Amritsar to Haridwar.
The next morning we were met by 3 drivers who had been waiting for us for 3 hours. This delay would not be the first as we encountered a few landslide delays on our ~14hr drive up the mountain. Making a few stops for snacks, meals, and bathroom breaks, provided time for high-altitude acclimation and appreciation for the beauty of Himalayan mountains.
The three day hike began with a steady incline 12km path. Donkeys were loaded with our luggage and all of us took off to our next destination, a hotel in Govindghat where we stayed for the next two nights. Our group climbed at our pace and just about ~6hrs after take-off we were reunited and celebrating our Day One hiking accomplishment over warm tea, appetizers, and dinner. That night we enjoyed Golden Milk to soothe our tired muscles and continued our bonding over a bonfire.
The second day, we visited the Gurdwara in Govindghat and then began the steep 6km hike up to Hemkunt Sahib. We dressed in various layers of clothing to withstand the cold temperatures as we continued our journey up. Once in Hemkunt, we were met with breathtaking views of the Himalayan mountains and the Lokpal Lake. We warmed up and nourished our bodies with hot chai and langar from the Gurdwara Langar Hall before engaging in the highly anticipated dip in the freezing Lokpal Lake. We fortified our minds and spirits by entering the cold water and receiving the blessings that came with this highly cherished ritual. More chai tea, and meditative time in the Gurdwara followed this experience to help with the physical and spiritual integration. We were met with some rain as we began our return to Govindghat and enjoyed another cozy evening.
The third day was the continuation of our way down. We walked the 12km and made occasional stops for Maggi noodles and chai tea. Some altitude sickness was experienced and donkeys were used for support. We arrived at Govindham together and completed the three day hike with an integrative night in the Gurdwara. We stayed in the Gurdwara Nivas and nourished our bodies with Langar. We enjoyed a night of card games and meditated before bed. The next morning was an early 4:30am start to begin the journey to Rishikesh. We drove for about 12 hours before reaching our Rishikesh Gurdwara destination.
The trip was wrapped with a night in Rishikesh. Students got some free time for exploring, shopping, and eating at their favorite restaurants. Many were delighted to see a former classmate and recent graduate, Ali, who met them for dinner at Tavola Con Te, an MPA favorite Italian restaurant. The next morning, there was more free time and then we loaded up the cars to make the one hour drive from the Rishikesh Gurdwara to Haridwar train station for our afternoon train journey back to Amritsar.