Those of you who have had the pleasure of browsing through Ayn Rands “ATLAS SHRUGGED” would have undoubtedly envisioned an alternate world and at some point or the other would have dreamt of being part of some such world. What if you were to know such a parallel world does exist ….right here…..
A world not polluted by the city culture, A world full of hope, joy and tranquility. An insomniac would sleep like a baby even without the comforts of beds and mattresses, You would merrily drink water from the next stream without worrying about it being R-O filtered, The day to day strain would be reluctant to brush you , You would not miss the televisions, the social medias and there would be no range for the phones and wifi’s and the only connection you have there is between people, Unfurling the intricates of the mighty mountains would be more intriguing than the mystery thrillers on the OTT’s….. Its a world of trekking in the Himalayas.
I was always in awe of the pics captured by the trekkers, and with Corona wiping off some routine tourist destinations we decided to give trekking in the Himalayas a try.
Choosing the place and the trekking company;
Its never late to begin and we decided to enter into this trekking world though a bit late. Our trekking experience was akin to acting experience of Uday Chopra/Harman Baweja and lot . After putting in lots of research we decided to go with Trek The Himalayas as our trekking company. We decided to go in for a spring trek in April and finalised Deoriatal – Chandrashila in Uttarakhand as our Mt Everest, primarily as its an easy to moderate trek , a preferred spring trekking destination due to blooming Rhododendron flowers with some snow as an added bonus . With pickup and drop from Rishikesh we also decided to indulge in the famed River Rafting there and its one which is not to be missed.
Beginners tip : You can start with some alternative easy to moderate treks like Kedarkantha, Har ki Dhun, Valley of Flowers , Dayara Bugyal etc , choosing the right season is very important as each trek has something new to offer depending upon the season.
None of us had any experience with shopping and packing for himalayan cold, but the youtube videos helped a lot. Almost all of us dashed to the Decatholon sports centres and picked up each and everything from the section on Trekking, With so much adrenaline rush one of our teammates went ahead and even got himself a tent and sleeping bag . When he could not lift the shopping bag it dawned onto him that all that would go on his back for ascents, he got rid of a few. With the shopping worthy of a Mt Everest expedition and with enough warm clothing’s to suffice for a year in Antarctica we geared up to conquer our frontier. To start with we were 11 of us but the covid scenario impacted our numbers with some drop outs every week, It felt as if we would end up as in Agatha Christie’s novel “And then there were none”, Fortunately we were 5 of us standing tall amidst the covid mayhem.
Beginners tip : Don’t compromise on your shoes, invest in proper trekking shoes and you wont repent, also a proper trekking stick goes a long way in aiding in both ascends as well as descends.
Day 1: Rishikesh to Sari;
Deoriatal -Chopta- Chandrashila is in the heavenly lands of Uttarakhand, The pickup was from Rishikesh. Day 1 was all about reaching the base, a beautiful Himalayan Village called Sari, a 7 hours drive from Rishikesh. On the way, we get to visit couple of Panch Prayags ( Holy confluences) Devprayag and Rudraprayag.
Devprayag (godly confluence) is the sangam of Alaknanda -one with muddy water(originating from Badrinath) and Bhagirathi-one with the blue water (originating from Gangotri) to form the holy River GANGA. Its said that a third river Saraswati flowing underground is said to meet the above two at the confluence. Rudraprayag, the other panch prayag is the confluence of Alaknanda and Mandakini. It is also a junction for visiting the holy cities of Kedarnath and Badrinath. We reached Sari in the evening.
Trekking is a team game, your team mates are vital to success of your voyage and its an open secret that the trekking groups are akin to families bound by a common thread of love for the nature. We got acquainted with our other team members (who were all fabulous and were very vital in making this trek a memorable one) and immediately hit it off, we were laughing and giggling as if we knew each others for years together.
We also met our trek guides Arjun, Deepak and Ankit and after briefing and a stupendous Dinner we were ready to cruise the coming Morning.
Day 2 : Sari to Deorital;
This was our actual begining of the trek. Its an easy(?) 3 km ascend in the adjacent mountain. A well laid out rocky path welcomes you and is there right till the end. After initial stretch it gets a bit steeper but few well laid out rest stops are welcome breathers. We were fascinated by a shop owner whose energy and enthusiasm for life rubbed on to us . He offered us the Rhododendron (Buransh)juice with singing and dancing . I admit we were all a little jealous seeing this old man’s zest for life.
Re-energized we scaled to the top with some photo stops in between. On the way we witnessed many blooming red rhododendrons lining the trail. After reaching the top a small meadow opening into a serene lake was a sight to behold. Its said that Devis used to bath in this lake hence the name Deoria tal.
Earlier the camps were adjacent to the lake but understandably have been shifted , the new location being a decent alternative. The lake was lined by red and pink Rhododendrons, but unfortunately we could not see the USP of the lake which is the stunning reflection of the Garhwal Himalayan ranges in it owing to the overcast conditions.
We were allotted tents with a couple of us in each tent. This being my first endevour with tents and sleeping bags,I was unsure to get a decent sleep. Our toilets were the 2 tents at far end. After stupendous hot meals served in a makeshift kitchen we were off for sleep. In no more than a few seconds a couple of adjacent neighbors on each side showcased their snoring prowess. They were strongly competing against each other. It was as if Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma were having a small duel in a fascinating partnership, the brunt being borne by rest of us. In spite of it, we dozed off peacefully.
Beginners tip : Carry a DSLR if you are a photography enthusiast and you will relish capturing the landscapes.
Day 3: Deoriatal to Baniya kund via Rohini bugyal;
After some heavy rains at night the morning sunrise brought with it a fresh vision of the snow capped peaks, At the sighting of the Snow clad mountains it was as if a small inner child in you is let loose in euphoria.
The Himalayas have always intrigued me. It has the beauty of Aishwarya, the mystery of a Hitchcockian thriller, tranquility as in Buddhist temple. Today was going to be a long day with around 18 to 20 kms walk. The Himalayan range on one side and a deep valley on the other was our constant companion through most of the trekking route. But the highlight of this route has to be the blooming colorful red and pink rhododendron flowers through most of the route.
The trail is a sizzling romantic gateway for sure. Also we can spot innumerable colorful butterflies on the way. The track leads to a beautiful meadow(bugyal) called as Rohini bugyal which is a meadow lined by the rhododendrons with a no hold views of the Himalayas.
With some rest stops in between to reenergize and numerous photo sessions in between we proceeded to our lunch stop. A beautiful stream of icy cold water with a small overtop bridge was where we had one of our memorable lunches. You can have buffet meals in the Taj ‘s and the Marriott s but these meals in the nature’s lap are something to cherish.
The last 3 km stretch unto our campsite at buniyakund was on a main road, and after a hectic day the sight of the tar road was a respite. The one thing disheartening to see was the plastic and booze bottles and wrappers lying on the roadside, somehow we still don’t learn to protect and nurture the mother nature.
Our camp in baniya kund was again on a picturesque location, here we had two rooms for men and a separate one for the ladies. Understandably we decided to accommodate rohit sharma and virat kohli in different rooms to break their partnership. It was chillier here with the temperatures flirting with zero. With rain forecast the next day we decided to skip the night climb for summit to witness the magical sunrise and stick to an early morning start.
Beginners tip : Pack light and opt for a mule if available, you can enjoy the nature sans the huffing and puffing.
Day 4 – Chopta-Tungnath- Chandrashila peak
After a stretch of about 5 km on road by car we reached Chopta the base for our climb. Already it was raining and the mood was a bit down as overcast conditions meant we would not get to witness the 360 degree view of the magical Garhwal Himalayan ranges properly. But nature had something planned for us , something better something spectacular.
Our ascent began with a well laid out trail right upto Tungnath temple which is one of the panch Kedar and is the highest shiva temple in the world. With our ponchos already out , at around half way mark we were greeted with fresh snowfall.
With most of us who had seen ice only in refrigerators it was un exuberating experience. The track metamorphosed into white blanket of powdery snow. With the views of snow dusted mountains in before us and with frequent guest appearances of the famed Himalayan peaks , we resembled a bunch of psychos let loose from a mental hospital clicking and shooting anything and everything on our way much to the irritation and frustrations of our guides.
But to their credit they stuck with us with an incredible patience allowing us to gather some life time memories.
With weather changing its nature every few minutes we decided to continue our journey unto Chandrashila summit without waiting at the temple. Behind the temple the peak was visible , a difficult trail covered in snow was what awaited us. Now let me share a secret with you, trekking surprisingly is a Team Game. You push your mates and are pushed in return and together you scale a peak comfortably which moments ago you had a zillion doubts whether you would make it.
The summit climb is a race where in all those scaling it are winners with no firsts and lasts. With chants of Jai Bholenath together we made it to the summit.
Here i was buoyant with loss of words. Kindly pardon me as its not possible to jot down the feeling and the spectacle you witness here. It was a dream, a snowy angelic dream. I clicked almost anything and everything with mobiles and cameras but i admit after going through the clicks later that the photographer in me had utterly failed to capture the panorama around.
Photographs there are deceptive. I suppose its the gods way of saying if u want to witness magic put on your shoes , pick a stick and scale the mountains. After some captivating minutes with heavy hearts we started our descend. The guides literally had to drag us from there. Although we could not see most the Himalayan peaks still was enchanting.
We reached Tungnath temple after slipping and sliding a dozen times. The temple though closed had a spiritual air around it and we were more than happy to spend some divine time in its premises.
After filling our tummies with maggie we started our descend for one last time. On the way we saw the colorful Himalayan monal and a few other birds and colorful butterflies.
With sun out now shinning ever so brightly most of the track which was snow covered a few hours prior had no hint of snow whatsoever, It was as if the fresh snowfall was a beginners gift to us . It was the last day and the only thing we talked about was planning our next trek…. together.
This first himalayan trek was a reminder for me as what i had missed untill now and at the same time gave a peak into an alternative fascinating world to explore. The Himalayas waved us good bye and gestured “We will meet again, Won’t we?”
Its the Himalayas calling…….COME and FALL in LOVE with NATURE…..
Beginners tip : Don’t think!.. pack your bags and leave for the Heavenly Lands……and thank me later.