Updated: Aug 4, 2019
I love the mountains – the fresh air, the cold breeze, the green hills, the beautiful huts, the bend at the roads and the sow capped white peaks simply mesmerize me. I get transported to a different world every time I visit the mountains. Though I have never lived in the mountains before, there seems to be a strong connection between me and the hills, as if I lived here in my past life. People usually take 1-2 days to acclimatize to the high altitude in the mountains, but not me. I am as comfortable in the high mountains as a fish is in the water. So I was absolutely delighted and thrilled when my request for a transfer to Dehradun was accepted by my employer. I had only been once to Uttarakhand before and instantly fell in love with the place. I had visited Rishikesh and Chamba in Uttarakhand last year for a training programme and was so awed with the natural beauty of this place that I had made up my mind that given an opportunity I would visit it again. I got transferred here last year and since then I have not missed a single opportunity to travel in the hills .And from the last one year I have not missed a single opportunity to explore the Garhwal hills. So, last week when a colleague suggested a trip to Chopta, a valley amidst the dense Kedarnath Wild Life Sanctuary, I instantly agreed.
We planned a 3 day trip and started looking for stay options in Chopta. The place is under protected forest area and so construction is not allowed there. The only stay options are Eco friendly Tents. I have camped in Tents before (in my earlier visit to Chamba) and my experience had been good. The only problem with Tents is their hygiene levels and shabby washrooms. So we were pleasantly surprised when we could zero on a Resort which highlighted their above average hygiene levels and clean washrooms as their selling points. We checked the ratings and after speaking to various resorts, we finalized Himalaya Resorts (www.himresort.com), just near the Chopta market. It was exactly as described by their representative and the resort was much better than the pictures on their website and Facebook page and exactly as I had expected. It was an absolute gem, a luxury resort right in the middle of the Chopta valley with clear views of the snow capped mountains at the front. I had always longed for a place like this to visit for a holiday where I could just sit quietly and meditate, watching the mighty mountains in front of me. It felt as though my dream had just turned into a reality.
We had left early morning at 5 am from Dehradun for Chopta and after stopping at quite a few places mid way, we reached Chopta at about 2 pm. The beauty of the place was such that both of us forgot all our tiredness of the long drive. After a nice lunch of Dal Tadka,Jeera Rice, Aaloo and Mixed Vegetables at the resort we spent the rest of the afternoon just sitting outside the resort and watching the mountains in front of us. The clouds kept playing hide and seek with the mountains. At the evening we witnessed probably the most memorable sunset of our lives. The sky with all its colours was so beautiful and the last rays of the sun on the Himalayan range was a sight to behold.
Chopta is called the mini Switzerland of India because of its lush green meadows and white snow covered peaks and it truly was. There is no electricity and the mobile network is also poor, just what we had wanted, to keep us away from the constant buzz of our smartphones. The resort was solar powered with bright LED lights and it seemed perfect at night. The rooms though were nicely lit. But we preferred to sit outside and watch the skies with the innumerable stars. Never had we seen such clear skies so full of stars. The staff at the resort arranged a bonfire for us and we enjoyed our soups and dinner by the fire side.
The next day we got up early and left for the trek to the famous Tungnath Temple , which is the highest Shiva Temple in the world. We started our trek at about 9 am after having ample breakfast of Aaloo Parathas with butter and curd. The trek is about 3.5 km long and the temple is at a height of about 3600m above sea level. We took around two and a half hours to drag our weary and overweight bodies.But we finally reached the temple thanks to the guide from the resort, who carried our bags all the way and who kept us motivated. Without him, the trek would not have been possible. We kept stopping at frequent intervals to regain our breath and sip some juice. But once we reached the temple we felt a real sense of achievement and all our tiredness seem to magically vanish. The whoe trek is a curvy road through the meadows with amazing views of the valley. It is where the famous movie Kedarnath was also shot.
The trek to Chandrashila is another kilometre up from Tungnath and is certainly very steep and tough. But encouraged by our guide and other trekkers, we made it to the top of Chandrashila in an hour. It is at a height of 4000 metres above sea level and the air there is so pure and fresh that we decided to rest there for the rest of the afternoon. We could not see much of the Himalayan range , which is visible from Chandrashila as suddenly the entire area got covered by white snow like floating clouds. We were told that on a clear day the view from Chandrashila is majestic and buoyed by our achievement, I decided to visit this place again in Feb – March , when the whole area is full of snow. At about 4 pm we started our descent and were back in the resort by 6 pm after a well spent day of Trekking.
We were so hungry and tired after reaching that we kept ordering coffee ,Maggi and Pakoras , while lying on the lush green grass in front of the resort. The cool breeze seemed to soothe our pain and that night we slept early. We woke up early next day and witnessed the most stupendous and breathtaking sunrise right in front of the resort. The sun’s rays first fell on a part of the white peak of the Himalayas and slowly covered the whole peak. I just sat there breathing deeply and appreciating the beauty of mother nature. Nature has indeed been partial to Chopta and has blessed it with all its beauty . After a light breakfast of Maggi and Vegetable Cutlets , we left for Dehradun. We thanked the staff for all their service and efforts to meet our demands. Before leaving I took one last breath of the fresh mountain air and planned to visit again soon to explore other nearby areas of the beautiful Chopta valley ….. to be continued…..