Trekking in Gharwal himalayas, Uttaranchal
01.06.2012 - 04.06.2012 16 °C
Day 1-Ride the Snake
After much Google map, Wikipedia and various travel blog munching we decided to go for a three day trip to Tungnath Chandrashila and Deveria Tal trek. A visual itinerary made by Gaurav Pandey really was the fire starter and a 8 member team was ready to conquer the Himalayan heights.
The group was divided as 5 plus 3 in two cars Honda Brio and Maruti wagonr respectively.
We started from Delhi at past midnight on June 1. The route we took was Delhi - Rishikesh - Rudrapyag- Okhimath- Chopta. We took our first break at Haridwar for early morning tea which was tasteless, however we were all happy to make till here on time. After Rishikesh we stopped by at marine drive to have some river fun and sandy leisure.
We spent more than an hour here and proceeded further. It was all uphill from here but air was still hot and visuals were dry making the accent slightly dull and discomforting. The snake like road kept on turning and turning accompanied by mighty river. Road was ok all along with some really bad patches in between, and one such patch cost us our tire. The guy in the next car was a trained driver and managed to get us back on road as fast as he could. From here we started to get slightly delayed from our original plan. Next started hunt for a firewall who could fix our stephony and after stopping asking stopping asking every repair shop we managed to get our puncher fixed by the 10th shop we stopped by. In the mean while the girls in team managed to find a mango tree loaded with raw mangoes here and we all relished the tangy delight along with some cucumber till our tire was getting fixed The route was highly frequented by enthusiastic Sikh youths who were riding to Hemkund Sahib to pay their homage. There were bhandaras organized all along and we were also sweetly persuaded to take some Prasad on the way.
Soon after this we stumbled upon our next road block by some serious dust storm which made the visibility almost zero. We took this hurdle as an opportunity to take a break and have some lunch.
It was 3:30pm now and we were still some 80 km away from Chopta and almost 2 hour behind schedule. The road and the view was not impressive yet and since we all are paharies the normal pahari roads do not impress us much. But as soon as we crossed Okhimath the scene began to change . The drive next one hour was amazingly beautiful, serene and refreshed all of us. The entire road was canopied by lush green trees on both the sides with glimpses of Himalayan range and some exotic birds made the ride enchanting. Finally at around 5:30-6:00 pm we reached Chopta, which turned out to be a small village. On the main road only there we 3-4 dhabhas and some basic rest houses just up few steps.
There is no electricity in Chopta and mobile signal is very weak except bsnl. Since its a pilgrimage there is no non vegetarian food available and veg also is very expensive.
It was very cold in here and now I started to worry about my selection of clothes for the trip. I was wearing sleeveless T-shirt and shorts, luckily I had kept a jacket for myself which came very handy in the entire trip.
We began to look for some shelter now and got ourselves a dormitory kind of arrangement. One room with six beds and another with three. The 6 bed room cost us 1400 Rs for one night.
The room was very basic beds with quilts and that's it. There was a solar lantern for the night. The toilet was also very basic with one tap of running water. One has to pre order the warm water for 30 Rs a bucket.
It started to rain and temperature went further down, it was a perfect time for some chai pakori. We decided to go to bed early so we could start the trek on time early morning next day.
We went down the main road and had some basic yet delicious veg food in a dhaba. Paranthas with Chole and dahi but the star of the show was spicy lauki ki sabji. It was 10:00 pm now and time for bed. Before going to bed we chalked out next day’s strategy which included me getting up at 4:30 in the morning and arranging tea and hot water for the rest of the team and starting the trek by 5:15 .
Day 2-Stairway to Heaven
Lying on my back at the height of 14000 feet at Chandrashila I gazed upon the floating milky clouds in the blues of sky. With the Himalayas watching over me I didn’t feel lonely. It was quiet except some birds chirping and murmur of the icy cold wind and I could hear my own thoughts loud and clear. Experiences like this sometimes make me wonder my existence and purpose in that maddening city, one of the crowd rushing aimlessly. I don’t know where and why?
As planned I woke up at 4:30 am, went to the chai wala but that was closed, asked the care taker for 2 buckets of warm water. After finishing up my daily necessities I was ready to conquer the Chadrashila peak. Unlike many paharies and my fellow travelers my dependencies on “chai” to break the sleepy inertia is low so I decided while others are waiting for their tea I will move along to catch the early sun so I can get some nice clicks. It was still slightly dark when I started to accent the road and the air was chilly.
The route from Chopta to Tungnath is moderately steep and nicely paved. The distance is 3.5-4 km with breath taking view of meadows with majestic Himalayas in the background. I realized I was not all alone and cute mountain mice kept me company all the way long. The greens of surrounding hills were carpeted with tiny yellow flowers. After walking for an hour the temple of Tungnah ji was visible. The sun god was up and the rays were jumping off the mountains to touch the temple flag, paying their homage. Tungnath literally means the lord of peaks & is considered one of the highest temples in the world, situated at 12073 feet its even higher that Kedarnath. Second of five Kedars Tungnath is a temple where the arm of Shiva is worshiped. Tungmath is believed to be more that 1000yr old and linked to pandavas, who built panch kedar temples to wash of their sins of war. I sat in the temple for a while and then started capturing the surrounding beauty in my camera.
I was supposed to wait for the rest of the team here but the temptation of early morning light and the view from Chandrashila made me ditch the team and I alone move ahead for Chandrashila. The trek was more raw and steep than the previous one and after 13000 I was feeling some breathlessness which slowed me down. As I moved up the Himalayan view became more panoramic and also yellow flowers gave way to white ones. Although it’s not the season but somehow I managed to find a purple variety of Burans (Rhododendron). Red Rhododendron is very common in Nainital and also one of my favorite flowers. Catching the glimpse of a new variety was kind of personal achievement for me. The view from Chandrashila was outstanding and I was mesmerized by 200 degree panoramic view of silvery extravaganza.
To my great surprise I didn’t see any one from my team on my way back. After waiting for an hour at Chandrashila peak soaking under the heavenly sun until clouds decided to play pranks with me and I got worried about my camera with the possibility of sudden rain looming over me.As I hurried back I crossed many devotees. Some on horse, some on feet chanting the name of Lord Shiva. Most of them were bangolies and even some shops have their hording in Bangla.
I was confused about the whereabouts of my team when I reached Chopta and started enquiring about them in the market. One shopkeeper told me that they have left me a note & that I should meet “Negi Ji” who provides camping arrangements at Deoriatal our next destination.
I met “Negi Ji”. He runs a hotel by the name of Reflection Resort and is a very nice person. He told me that only two of my team members have gone ahead and the rest are still climbing down.I used this time to eat and sleep and make myself ready for the next trek to Devoria Tal.
Day 2/3-Question and Answer
“…..The Yaksha asked, what is that which sojourns alone? What is that which is re-born after its birth? What is the remedy against cold? And what is the largest field?
Yudhishthira answered, The sun sojourns alone; the moon takes birth anew: fire is the remedy against cold: and the Earth is the largest field…..”
To me the dialogue between Yaksha and Yudhishthira is of great philosophical importance in Hindu mythology and when I am sleeping next to the very lake where Yudhishthira impressed Yaksha to revive his brothers, I felt a strange desire to have a similar conversation with someone like Yaksha only in reverse roles. I have a lot of questions in my mind and I guess Yaksha would be a perfect guy to answer them. I prayed to Yaksha to come in my dreams at least, but I slept like a log after a very tiring trek to Devariya tal.
As soon as Anurag and rest of the gang came down from Tungnath, we decided to meet Negi ji for tents. We collected 2 tents as we had one of our own and there were two rooms also arranged by Negi ji. Form Chopta we headed for Saree Village, from where the trek starts. In Saree we met Hemant ji who was our guide cum porter cum cook. It was around 4:00 in the evening and team was very exhausted from the activities in first half.
Here also the greed of getting some evening sun shots made me join Hemant Ji who was going up half an hour earlier .The trek this time was shorter but much steep . I was trying to keep up with Hemant ji with my aching calf musles.After walking for an hour I saw a signage board and was delighted to make it much sooner than expected. I was about to congratulate myself till I heard Hemant ji saying “sahab badiya chal rahe ho aadha rasta ho gaya”. Ten thousand thundering typhoons, half the way !! Are you crazy …my legs where cursing me like anything… but there was no choice. I drank the last gulp of Fanta that I was carrying and moved on. After another hour we reached Devoria taal. Hemant ji was much ahead of me so I went straight to the lake instead of the resort. Here I saw 2 shops and a few tents and a small pretty lake surrounded by green meadows and trees.
Deoria tal is part of Kedarnath wildlife Sanctuary and one need to pay a nominal fee to visit and stay. After taking some early shots I went to resort which was further 300m ahead. The resort is a hyperbole for this place as its only a cluster of four rooms and a separate kitchen block with no electricity or running water supply……sweet! Hemant ji had started his preparation with a young helper. Tonight’s dinner was Bhindi and daal with chawal and chapati. By the time Anurag and rest of the gang reached it was getting dark. They also paid a quick visit to the lake. It was getting too cold and it was time for some fire, liquid and solid.
As we got much warmth by three elements it was very difficult to leave the comfort zone for the tent next to the lake, but that’s what we were here for. Only 3 of us opted for the tents. Rest retired in the rooms. It was a night before full moon and the sky was clear. The moonlit view of lake was something to die for. I was dead tired, having done two treks in a single day which was way more than my body could handle. Thinking about Yaksha I slept.
It was 4:30 in the morning and it felt like I was sleeping in some bird sanctuary. There were more than 10 different types of birds all around the place and most importantly the long tail bird which made me walk 10km in nainital last year…right there in front of my eyes. I grabbed my camera and start shooting them down. At the opposite end of the lake I saw a trail going into the jungle. My legs were crying for help but the camera in my hand made me ignore them and I moved ahead in search of some exotic wild life. From a distance I could hear sambhar shouting but could not see it. Moving deeper I could spot some interesting birds but I guess my camera is not equipped to handle serious bird photography. I walked a kilometer on this track and decided to walk back as this was the last day of the trip and we need to cover 440 km today itself.
At the resort some bad news was waiting for us as a few members of the group were not feeling too well due to which we had to delay our departure by 4 hours. So it was time for some hot Aaloo ka parantha with garma garam chai. We finally managed to start back at around 11:00 and were expecting to reach Delhi early morning next day.
Coming down from Devoria tal was much quicker and I stopped by a local Shiva temple, where panditji gave me Kafal as Prasad. Kafal is a wild berry that grows in Uttaranchal hill and I was longing for them from years. As they do not last long and are available for a limited period I almost miss them every year in summers, but what luck this time …thanks a lot Shiv Ji.
Reaching down the Saree village we packed our lunch of paranthas with aalu tamatar ki sabji.After a drive of an hour we found a nice spot where a small stream of water merged into the mighty Alakhnanda. Local people have made a small dam with stones which managed to create a small pool of water. We had lot of fun in the refreshing cold water after which we had delicious lunch under clouds and some drizzling rains.
Journey afterwards was not much exciting till a bad patch on the road got us and the alignment of the wheels went way off. At Srinagar we managed to find a decent car workshop where they did much hammering and welding to get the alignment right. But the time management of the trip went completely misaligned with our previous plan and we finally managed to reach Delhi around afternoon.
It took more than 40 hr on road and a walk of total 20km in 3 days to earn memories for a lifetime. My body is broken but the desire to travel has strengthened more than anything. At the end I would like to thank the team specially the guys who were driving with a special mention to Anurag who was driving for the first time in such terrains….. It was a pleasure travelling with you guys!
Last but not the least I would like to thank my beloved wife Ritika who was there with us all in the spirits ….i missed you.
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