A Nomad's Diary - travel tales

Amazing Story How We Escaped Kedarnath Flash Floods by a Hair’s Breadth

Kedarnath Dham Yatra

To start with, it is a true story that happened with us back in 2013. We sincerely pay respect to those people who lost their lives in this natural tragedy and who are still searching for their loved ones. Kedarnath is situated in Uttarakhand state of northern India. Joshimath is one of the closest places to Kedarnath that can be reached by car. It is about 516 kms. from Delhi and it takes about 13 hrs to reach the same. When the Kedarnath flash floods happened we had planned to travel to this temple (dham) along with the Valley of Flowers and Badrinath.

Kedarnath Flood Date

Kedarnath flash floods started on 16th June 2013 with a sudden cloud burst in the middle of the day. The condition was critical until on 21st June Indian Army and helicopters were deployed for the rescue of people. All this while Indian Air Force was already operational in the evacuation of stranded people.

What was the scale of destruction & how many died in Kedarnath 2013?

According to Uttarakhand Government, around 5700 people of all age groups died in this natural calamity. While thousands more went missing or got separated from their families. Approximately 3,00,000 tourists and pilgrims were stuck in Kedarnath at that point in time in 2013. The scope of destruction can be imagined from the things that have been foretold by the actual survivors. According to one, within15 minutes of the massive cloud bursts the destruction was clearly visible. People had already been swept away along with the animals like horses etc. by the mighty force of the water gushing through the entire Kedarnath area. Brick houses, hotels and markets also suffered major temporary & permanent damages. Only Kedarnath temple stood there like the meditating Shiva himself unruffled by any chaos going around him.

Kedarnath Temple at the golden hour: Kedarnath Dham Yatra

How we Escaped the ill-fated Kedarnath Flash Floods?

Why we decided to visit Auli, Rudraprayag, Kedarnath?

Back in 2013, I, particularly, was working for a multi-national company. Although the pay package and everything else was good the work stress was high. For keeping a sane mind, I along with my husband started travelling domestically on a regular interval of 3 months. Extended weekends were kept for this purpose mostly. So in June 2013 one such long weekend happened or don’t know if we had planned our respective leaves from offices on the dates. I had heard and read about Valley of Flowers. June end is generally the time when this valley comes alive with bright flowers in different hues blooming together. In addition to this, I was equally eager to visit Kedarnath as I had seen its & Badrinath holy temples. The entire belt from Auli to Valley of Flowers via Joshimath & then reaching Kedarnath looked so beautiful in numerous photos & videos!

Our Itinerary options for Kedarnath Trip
Our Itinerary options for Kedarnath Trip

Our Trip Plan for this coveted Kedarnath Dham trip in 2013

Now if you don’t know already but the major distance to this place and around at that time could be covered by a car. However, I was keener on taking up the trekking route and ropeway route. After our share as a couple of ifs and buts, we both were on the same page on taking option 2. It involved ropeway and trekking and some bit of hired cab.

Roadblock Commences

We were halfway to finalizing the dates and hotel bookings when I got a call from my husband from the office. Apparently, someone from his team told him that the weather in the area was little unpredictable and rains could be there. Rains meant that it could cause a delay in our plans. I had an official trip already scheduled just the next day after the day we were supposed to return. So actually we didn’t have any spare day in hand to accommodate any such delay. I was okay to take this risk but my husband being the more balanced one amongst both of us voted against the idea. Meanwhile, we were nearing the planned dates and we were yet to do hotel and cab bookings.

To go or not to go, was the biggest question then!

I was adamant about going on this trip and had started packing keep in mind trekking and more. The disagreements were still there between the traveller team of two. Although my husband having more travel experience than I had agreed to go ahead with the plan. But he didn’t sound very sure about this trip. Trust me, I was grumpy to the core but one day while stuffing my clothes in the travel bag a thought suddenly cropped up in my mind.

“What if sudden rain really happens and we get stuck? Tickets for the official trip are already done and cannot be cancelled. If there is any impediment in the travel plan I will lose out on the official trip which wouldn’t be very good on my part. Plus the trekking may turn out to be exhausting too.”

These thoughts at that very moment cleared the haze around this trip within my mind. I called my husband and spoke to him about cancelling the trip or postponing it for the next feasible date. He was glad that I could understand his point of view. He immediately offered me another destination in the hills of course that we could travel on the same dates. The destination was Mcleodganj and Dharamsala.

1 year after Kedarnath Flash Floods
1 year after Kedarnath Flash Floods Photo Source: Rahul Dixit (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu)

On the day when Kedarnath flood catastrophe happened

We were strolling a little after a late lunch when suddenly both our phones started ringing one after the other. Both side parents obviously were the first ones to call us. We had communicated our plans to visit the Kedarnath area but hadn’t communicated the change in destination later. Obviously, they were worried. As we responded and informed them that we were safe in Dharamsala they were relieved. Calls from office buddies and friends too were pouring. But the exact depth of this news only broke to us at the dinner time. In the hotel restaurant, we saw the Kedarnath flood photos and videos of massive destruction that had hit the beautiful stretch of God’s land on TV. At the same time, we were taken aback as we actually escaped this all just by a hair’s breadth.

Present Day & My Thoughts about Kedarnath Dham Yatra

Auli, Rudraprayag, Valley of Flowers & Kedarnath as one destination are amazingly beautiful. Each time I see Kedarnath Temple photos, a force within pushes me to plan and complete the trip that I had planned around 8 years back. However, the fear of that tragedy still haunts me and I am yet to come to terms with it. Once that happens I am sure to take up Kedarnath Dham yatra.

Feature Photo by By Naresh Balakrishnan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Instagram Photos: @beinghiker

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(2) Comments

  1. Nice to know that you escaped. I think now some steps have been taken to make it safer.

  2. You had a very narrow escape. I actually have a belief that for pilgrimages there is a destiny or call, only when the time is right u will be able to reach

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