It was a cold night at the primary school at Tapoban. We slept in the open beneath the portico of the school. The dhaba owner had told us about hot springs nearby the previous evening. Google Maps showed it as just 1.5km away. We walked along the Joshimath highway, no vehicles around this early morning. It was pretty cold in the Alaknanda river valley, the sun still hiding behind the Eastern high ranges.
We spotted a small temple below the road where music was playing. The hot springs had to be located over there. Steaming water was flowing from a pipe into a big empty pool. Locals were taking bath. We joined them immediately. The hot water felt heavenly, relaxing the muscles 2 months speed hiking in the Himalayas. So far I had completed 1300km across 70 passes totalling 1 lakh of elevation gain.
After one hour in the hot spring we felt reborn. We walked back up to the highway and gobbled up an aloo paratha in a dhaba at Tapoban. From here we hitched a share taxi ride to Joshimath. Got some cash from the ATM for the next one month. Dropped into a barber shop for a trim of my beard which had grown wild since 3 months. After that we had delicious poories with a tasty local mix sabji at the taxi stand.
Next we hitched a ride in a packed local bus to Heylong at the intersection of a side valley towards our next target.We crossed the Alaknanda river and started walking on the road to Urgam village, a well known base for Kalpeshwar. We got lucky and hitched a ride of a vegetable van saving us time in covering the 15km road stretch. Urgam being the last village we are late lunch and packed up dinner. From Urgam at 2000m altitude a nice rock path leads up to the Bansi Narayan temple at 3700m.
A pretty steep climb on the North facing slope soon getting us into the snow. At 3100 we hit the top of a ridgeline above which we hit one foot deep snow. Being nearly evening we decided to halt for the day. We reverted a bit down the ridge searching for a flat spot free of snow to pitch up. It was warmer inside the forest. We were preparing for a pretty cold night at this higher altitude but had a good head start to reach Bansi Narayan the next morning.