How did the planning begin…? If I look back now, I don’t have an answer. The initial plan was to visit Spiti Valley – a cold desert valley located in the north eastern part of Himachal Pradesh. How did we end up finalizing Garhwal… no clue! It was the Chandrashila Peak in Uttarakhand (henceforth referred to as UK) which housed the world’s highest Shiva temple too. PS: This wasn’t supposed to be a spiritual vacay unlike all my other trips!
After zeroing the place, it was time to book which was taking an awful lot of time as the Lok Sabha election dates were yet to be announced. Didn’t want to miss our constitutional right neither want to get caught up in any kind of situation that usually arises during election @ UK.
With a yes/no/may be kind of situation 5 of us agreed to set out on this journey. Reached Dehradun at about 4pm to be picked up by our driver for rest of the 7 days. Haridwar – my first encounter with this most revered pilgrimage place wasn’t that great. It was like a swarm of people at Har Ki Pauri to take a dip, splash, play and do everything else in the holy Ganges. (facepalm) . The very sight was repulsive! Not blaming anyone as it was a warm summer afternoon.
Instead of waiting to see the arati of the holy Ganges at Haridwar we moved to Rishikesh quickly to catch up with the arati there. As planned 4 of them (Kiran, Girish, Sunil, Aditya) agreed to dress similarly and bought look alike kurtas ….(rolling eyes) made me do the same ! checked into Parmarth Niketan – refreshed and rushed out for the famous Ganga Arati. It was crowded but there was immense peace on the banks.
Just so beautiful!
So, what is Rishikesh without adventure sports! Rafting was deliberate. I had absolutely loved the experience at Dandeli and wanted more. With very less practical knowledge of swimming in a flowing river all 5 of us threw ourselves out for this. After one or two rapids we were asked to jump out of the raft into the icy cold water. Kiran is s*** scared of water – initially refused to jump but later gathered courage and lunged into the river. The best part was Ankit (Our Raft Guide) telling us that the life jacket will save us from drowning & not from being washed away -after we took the plunge!! Ha Ha Ha!!
One heck of an experience in the 10-20ft river. Some of us overcame the fear of water, some followed the instructions while one couldn’t hear what was being said …. one intelligent being dives in with his floaters on and one malnourished being shivering like wet chicken. A giggle escapes my cheeks when am imprisoning these funny memories.
Once done a 8-9 hour drive to the Chopta Valley awaited us. Exhausted from the rafting we board our hired taxi by noon in anticipation to reach the destination base camp by mid night. Curvy, creepy, mountainous roads half done-half left at the mercy of God almighty! The Chardham 4 lane work was on. Suddenly you see the road ahead is over – scarrrry!! One wrong turn & you will reach heaven by a whisker! As we near the base camp our host decides to buy 2 full kilos of green peas ( I will come back to this later (grumpy)!) . We reached our destination by about 11pm. The temperature was in single digit for sure. We creeped into our tents, had dinner, met our guide for the next days hike and went to bed…..
The first day’s hike was to start at 7am sharp. Due to the logistical challenges we were well warned that there won’t be any bathing until we return the next day! Difficult to accept but we didn’t have any choice.
The stay was arranged in simple clean swiss tents -overlooking the beautiful Himalayan peaks. This mountain side marvel was to be our abode for next 4-days. Our day started with yumm aloo parathas and Chai! We started our hike towards the famous Deorital Lake. Its about 18km from the Chopta Valley through the forests of fully bloomed rhododendrons. The trail was red & stunning with these flowers, clear blue sky and snow-capped mountains. We crossed Rohini Bugyal- a serene meadow on the trail. Stopped for lunch which was carried along. Plain parathas & aaloo mutter ki sabzi!
Spectacular view of the Himalayan ranges can be seen from here.
Reached Deoriatal huffing & puffing at about 3pm. Checked into the clean alpine tents made available for us. All exhausted we just crashed for some time. An overnight stay was planned to catch the early morning sun rise at the lake.
Our guide walked us around the lake early evening, and it was mind-blowing! We took a stroll, laughed our guts out with the silly games and riddles! Day came to end with a hail storm ,chilly wind ,nice hot dinner with potato kheer ( a local delicacy there).
Next morning, we were to wake up early to experience the miraculous sun rise which was to bring both the worlds together. In deed it was -we reached there by 6:30am to witness a splendid panorama of the Chaukhamba and Kedar Peaks being reflected in the translucent lake.
The depth of the lake isn’t known yet and has mythological influence connected with the Mahabharata. Another strange aspect is that the lake doesn’t freeze during peak winters while there is at least 5-6ft of snow around it nor does it go dry during peak summers. No one has succeeded in finding the depth of the lake either.
Natures eccentric ways!!
We started our descend towards Sari village which was around 2-3km. Mayank our driver waited to pick us back to our tents. Maggi is a life saver in the mountains as always and thankfully everyone was up for it. Evening was a time for some recreation… Cricket and badminton kept us occupied until nice hot Chai and pakoras were served. Sitting there sipping on Chai overlooking the snow capped mountains with no mobile network to bother was an Aaaa-ha moment! Makes you forget all the worries (if any) in life.
What an absolute bliss!!
Now comes the best part of the trip- the hike to Tungnath and Chandrashila from Chopta Valley. Tungnath is one of the panch Kedar & the highest Shiva temple in the world at about a Km from there is the Chandrashila Peak. Everything is still covered with snow. Our hike started at about 3:30 am – intention being to view the magical sunrise from the Chandrashila Summit.
It was an arduous climb on slippery melting snow. Dangerous! Hiked up 3Km in the dark without much difficulty but as we proceeded further, whatever little pathway we had all this while- just disappeared (Poof). This meant more hard-slippery snow and fear of falling. No amount of preparation was enough. We had the highest quality of shoes, hiking pole but nothing worked!
Couldn’t take a step further!! Or we were just too scared of falling. Had to return from there with no second thought else the descend would have been worser! One wrong foot and we would be found floating in Rishikesh! (giggle)
However!! The sunrise on the majestic Chaukhamba, Kedar and Kalanag peaks was nothing less than magical. A sudden adrenaline rush ,an excited mind forgets the exhaustion of the body. Hurrah! we had mobile data working there! Called almost all the loved ones and tried showing the sunrise on the peaks.
I returned with a promise to come back and complete this journey, we rested a while with long faces for not making it to the summit!! (Sigh)
As for the last day of the trip it was to visit all the panch Kedar’s Doli at their respective winter abodes. We started off with Ukhimath, then Gupt Kashi and finally Makku Matt. Thanked all the deities for this blessed and wonderful trip.
Last 2-3 days of the trip there was a downpour which brought in a dip in the temperature and incessant magic of fresh snowfall on the mountains.
What an incredible sight!!
My beautiful country has this beautiful gem of places which is no less than any swiss alp! What it lacks is a little luxury to reach or stay. May be leaving it the way it is advisable as the more we make it accessible the more its ruined.
This quaint little town which hosted us had no electricity and the whole valley worked on Solar power
What one can expect is –
1- Clean and tidy tents with basic food.
2- Curvy nauseous road for the last 30 odd km after Rudraprayag.
3- Good friendly staff.
4- Implausible views from your tent’s deck.
5- No Wi-Fi / mobile data.
Lesson learnt- never allow the staff to buy any vegetable in excess- you end up eating that for all meals . Green Peas in our case! I wouldn’t touch green peas for next few months atleast!!
What made the whole expedition pleasant was the company of like-minded people. Never for once I felt out of place and ensured the others didn’t feel that way either. The fun, the laughter, the journey is sure to play in the silent minds for some time. It was a perfect combination of both people and place.
I don’t think this lifetime is enough to admire the beauty of the Himalayas. The mountains have never disappointed me so far and neither did it this time. I will keep coming back for more for sure!!
Unexplainable inner peace thus attained!!
Written by Seetha Kiran