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4 Reviews

  • Reviewed January 2020
    Lara Thompson

    High altitude trek in majestic Indian Himalaya

    So glad to have experienced this remote, beautiful, haunting autumnal Himalaya adventure that took us through ancient villages, rhododendron oak and pine forests on to high mountain meadows with panoramic Himalayan views. V-shaped valleys, enormous glaciers, sepia clad landscapes, high meadows, snow capped mountains, vibrant starry skies and a wonderful trek into the Garwhal Himalaya within a stones throw of majestic Shivling, Meru and Bagarathi sister mountains. All mixed with a good dollop of culture at the amazing arti in Rishikesh, the old trading village en route to Gangotri and the religious ambiance so significant in this special corner of India. Vibrant indian towns of Mussoorie, Rishikesh and Dehradun mixed with the gentler remoter village of Barsu and tourist/pilgrim town of Gangotri.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The majestic sepia clad glacial landscape of Tapovan. Sunset lit peaks of snow covered mountain tops. Unbelievable walk along the lateral morain of the glacier in the shadow of Meru. Panoramic views from Surya Top across the meadows of Daraya Bugyal to the Indian Himalaya one way and the foothills folding and stretching out across the Indian plains to the west. Bagarathi River emerging from the mouth of the glacier, clean, pure and untouched.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    An exceptional, experienced, knowledgable and professional guide in Valerie Parkinson. She instilled confidence and security in leading the group. Calm, delightful and a pleasure to be with. She was accompanied by Jigmet, a kind and experienced exodus guide with a lovely sense of humour from high altitude Ladakh as well as competent local guide Mansingh and his helpers.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Pack for a range of temperature! Travel as light as possible but don’t skimp on the warm layers for the higher altitude sections of the trek. Make sure you are kitted out properly … and that your sleeping bag can deal with the very low temperatures at night once the sun has dipped below the horizon. Audio books helped pass the time on the long bus journeys and dark early nights. Very limited mobile phone reception and limited/intermittent wi-fi only at a couple of the hotels. Unavoidable but very basic hotel in Gangotri.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Journeying into the remoter regions of India from Rishikesh and the lower plains does take time but the journey through the fascinating winding roads of the region was relatively comfortable in small minibuses and jeeps. The route up to Chirwasa is well trodden pilgrim route and the campsite at Bhojwassa looks as if it could get quite crowded at times! Make the effort to do the optional Meru base camp walk. It’s worth it!
  • Reviewed January 2020
    Dorothy Stirling

    Fantastic trek and exploration of local culture

    The Source of the Sacred Ganges is a must do trip for those that love trekking in remote areas through valleys surrounded by magnificent mountain ranges and love exploring local culture through the villages on the way. It is one of the best trips I have had and I have been on many over the years. We travelled during Diwali and even glimpsed the goddess Ganga being moved from Gangotri to Harsil as well as a few fire crackers at our campsite! The 2 treks worked really well, both quite different walking with the first being a great acclimatisation for the big one to Tapovan.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were so many so difficult to choose just a few.... taking part in the Aarti at Rishikesh, exploring the village at Barsu, camping on an amazing plateau at Tapovan surrounded by awe inspiring mountain peaks - nothing quite like eating breakfast alfresco, the climb to Meru base camp and finally the beautiful walk back down the valley, stopping off of course at the source of the Ganges - the autumnal colours were, well, a perfect end to our trek. We were blessed with wall to wall sunshine which always helps - fantastic holiday in so many ways.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie, as always was a top notch leader - very knowledgeable, good fun and inspirational as well as providing the personal touch when needed. I always feel safe when trekking with Valerie knowing that whatever challenges, big or small arises she will deal with them without you having to worry about anything. Jigme and the rest of the camp crew were also great and very helpful.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    It does get very cold at night, so make sure you bring enough warm clothing and camping gear - we went from T-shirt’s to full down jackets as soon as the sun went down. The accommodation in Gangotri is very basic, but it is only 1 night and it is all part of the adventure, go with it, you will soon be snuggled up in your tent! Some of the walking on the 2nd trek was more challenging under foot as we were climbing through the glacial moraine - personally I loved it, but make sure you are comfortable with walking on rocky ground. If you want to soak up the culture of India and trek in some beautiful places, just book and let the adventure begin.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The local team on trek and behind the scenes in India are fantastic, ensuring that the trip runs as smoothly as possible or at least as much as it can be on an adventure holiday. They always have a smile on their faces and do whatever they can to make your holiday everything you might hope for.
  • Reviewed November 2019
    Irene Neilson

    Wonderful blend of culture and trekking

    A very enjoyable trip with stunning mountain scenery on both the warm-up trek to Surya Top/Uchlaru Top and the main trek to Tapovan/Meru Base Camp. This wonderful scenery was nicely complemented by interesting cultural experiences at Rishikesh (The Evening Aarti), Gangotri (seat of the goddess Ganga), Gomukh (pout of the Ganges), Uttarkashi (Kashi Vishwanath Temple dedicated to Shiva) and Mussorie (walk to the ruin of George Everest's house). These cultural experiences were enhanced by the fact we were travelling during Diwali and the moving of the Goddess Ganga from Gangatri to Mukhba village, near Harsil. Harsil itself was fascinating for its traditional Garhwali wooden houses and the Bhotia people who were originally from Tibet. The trip involves long drives on slow vertiginous roads but the drivers were generally good, the buses comfortable and the views en route spectacular. Breaks were nicely timed at local dhabas - great fresh food and masala tea! The weather was kind to us with beautiful warm sunny days with clear blue skies though the nights were perishingly cold!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The spectacular mountain scenery at Tapovan - it is one of the most beautiful campsites as you have Shivling peak rising on one side of the meadow flanked by Meru and Kedardome and the peaks of Bhagirathi are on the other side. The latter are reflected in the small stream as the sun goes down. The autumnal colours of the trees in the valley as you walk up to/down from Tapovan. These were truly stunning, cast against a vivid blue sky.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie was excellent : good company, knowledgeable and unflappable. All the staff on the trip were helpful. Jigmet in particular was very personable, engaging and interesting with very good English.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    It was desperately cold in the evenings on the trek and very warm during the day. Our tent formed ice on the inside due to condensation from our breath at night. You need good insulation under your sleeping bag so a thick, well insulated four season sleeping mat is a must. Mine was too thin (r3). Others who had thicker mats -in particular those with the Exped Down 9 (r8) sleeping mats - were fine. Mat to sit on at breaks as the ground was often wet. Beatles Ashram at Rishikesh is fun to visit. Some people listened to audio books on the long road journeys. There is no wifi till you are in Mussoorie. There is a weak phone signal in Gangotri.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Worth Reading: The Raja of Harsil: The Legend of Frederick 'Pahari' Wilson by Robert Hutchison. Frederick Wilson settled in the Harsil area and became very rich through timber operations on the local deodar forests. He minted his own currency. This fictional account of his life, based on extensive research by Hutchison, is interesting for the light it shines on the area in the mid 19th century. Worth visiting: The Tapovanam Hiranyagarbh Art Gallery in Gangotri built by Swami Sundaranand and displaying his photographs of the culture and traditions of Gangotri, Upla Taknaur and the Himalayas since 1948. He was one of the first students of the Nehru Mountaineering Institute in Uttarkash, also visited on this trip. The Uphar Cafe on the mall in Mussoorie was really good if you like spicy Indian food and don't mind a busy bustling cafe. Not suitable to go as a group though.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Frances Carr

    To the source of the Ganges and much more.

    Stunning Himalayan scenery combined with the fascinating spiritual side of India to be found in Rishikesh and Gangotri.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The time spent at Tapovan, camping at the base of the beautiful Mount Shivling and walking through the snow towards Meru base camp surrounded by spectacular peaks.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We were very lucky to have Rajeev as our group leader. He is a from the area which made a big difference when he led us off the usual tracks and knew alternative routes when one of the paths was closed due to rock falls. We were privileged to be taken to his home in Barsu where he introduced us to his family who gave us tea and hospitality while it poured with rain outside. A rare, intimate glimpse into local life in this rural location. His English is excellent and he was able to answer all our questions as well as being a good companion within the group and a mean card player.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The hotels were a little more 'basic' than those usually used by Exodus in this part of the world so be prepared to use your sleeping bag on occasion and wear flip-flops around the rooms and bathrooms.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The downside of this holiday (and the reason I've only given 4 points instead of 5) was the horrendous traffic jams we encountered. In particular the journey from Barsu to Gangotri. We sat in insane traffic jams for (literally) hours on end while buses and coaches tried to manoeuvre past each other on a narrow road with seemingly no traffic rules. The journeys all took much longer than the trip notes suggest and after consulting with the group, a couple of the cultural parts of the itinerary were abandoned. The hill station of Mussoorie was massively congested with traffic and the noise of horns combined with the awful pollution levels made it particularly unpleasant to walk around.