Monday, June 07, 2004

The himalayan getaway

Had been to 'Har Ki Dun' during the end of May 2004. I went with some office guys. We really slogged it out at work for the 2-3 months before that so we all decided to just run away somewhere... :-)

'Har Ki Dun' is situated in the picturesque Western Gharwal Himalayas in Uttaranchal. Its about 170-180 kms from Dehradun. Here is the itinerary for the trek. It mentions the altitudes and the distances.

Day 0:
Left Bangalore for Delhi in the afternoon. Caught a train at Delhi for Dehradun at night. The train journey took about 10 hours. A bus/jeep would take about 4-5 hours. The train journey took long cause it covers most of the stations on the way often going back and forth.

Day 1:
We met our guide from GIO (great indian outdoors), Nalin, at Dehradun station and headed directly for Taluka where we would stop for the night. We stopped at a village on the way to pick up thermals as there was a sudden change in weather. It rained most of the time during the drive making the path a bit dangerous at times. At one point our driver told our guide that the jeep could tumble anytime. We saw a couple of landslides (not sure how recent they were) on the way. The fright in our drivers eyes spread like a virus. Finally he turned on the light for the Ganpati statue in his jeep. Without the rain the route is pretty safe. We finally reached Taluka late in the evening. The thoughts that were running through our heads at this point was whether we would make it to HKD in this weather. Our guide told us that whenever possible wear less warm clothes so that we would acclimatize to the change in weather.

Day 2:
Still raining.... But that wouldn't dampen our spirits. We trekked about 12-14 kms to Seema passing through a quaint village along the way. The village was nicely fit into the mountainside. The stretch before lunch was mostly along cliffs. After lunch the rain stopped and the terrain too was flatter. We finally reached Seema late in the afternoon.

Day 3:
Day 3 took us by surprise. It has snowed during the night. At this point it seemed that HKD was a definate 'NO'. We went on a hike early in the afternoon. However it started snowing again and the reduced visibility too made it dangerous to hike in the slippy mountains. However late in the afternoon the sun came up and with it brought hope that we could indeed make it to HKD. We took another short journey to a village called Osla. The children welcomed us with their strikingly vivid smiles, more than willing to be photographed. The people of Osla worship Dhuryodhan. They believe that the Pandavs are the bad guys. We visited Bachan's (works for GIO) home where I _tried_ to smoke the hukka :-)

Day 4:
It seemed that our prayers had been answered. The sky was very clear. The perfect setting for our trek onwards. For the first 1 and a half hour the terrain was smooth. Then we had to trek through snow, along the edges of the mountain, digging our feet deep in with each step we took. I came across a beautiful white horse along the way. Not sure if it was wild or whether it belonged to the villagers. We passed some Canadians and Americans on the way. Nearing noon the sun became a bit too hot. The last 2 kms or so was extremely tiring. Somehow I managed to push myself forward. We came to a spot where it was written welcome to HKD. Our guide told us that when people go a few feet ahead from there, they just gasp in awe at the beauty/greenery of the place. However at the turning we went 'aaarrggghh' as our lodge still seemed to be about 500 mts away. That last 500 mts stretch took me about 20-25 mins! This is the only point in the trek where I was completely drained of energy. Got some minor cramps. We had sunscreen but didn't use it till the next day. Bad decision :-) Temp in the night went below 0.

Day 5:
Sun was up again. The snow along our path had hardened which made us slide for the first km or so. After that the entire trek was smooth. I came across the white horse again. We camped about 2 kms after Seema. We decided to take a dip in the cold water, our first bath from the beginning. We set up a campfire at night. Nehra (one of the porters) treated us to some Gharwal folk songs.

Day 6:
We reached Taluka in about 4 hours. The trek was smooth. Then we were off to Mori by jeep to camp at 'Mystic River'. Its about 25-30 kms from Taluka. We camped among pine trees, which also had one of Asia'a tallest pine trees. We had a campfire again at night with some singing. Couldn't go rafting cause the water level was too low.
Camp Mystic River.

Day 7:
We trekked a bit to some natural swimming pools among the mountains in Mori, the pool being about 20 feet deep. By afternoon we were off to dehradun.

Day 8:
Back in Bangalore early in the morning. Ppl at the airport looked at us in wierd ways cause our skin had started peeling.... yikes...

We experienced all types of weather during our trek from scorching sunshine to rain to snow to near/below zero temps at night. We trekked about 60 kms, with about 55 being in 4 days. I feel the rain and snow made it better cause it made us push harder. It made reaching HKD more satisfying cause just the previous day we thought we would never be able to go there. Our knees took a beating, our skin started peeling but it was worth it. Without the weather change the trek would have been a cakewalk but that wouldn't have made it as interesting/exciting, would it :-)