Enter The Grahan…a little different trek to Grahan village from Kasol

Once up on a time, there lived a kid. He had a friend called Shanti, his best friend forever. But this story is not about their growing up.

The kid grew up and Shanti was always beside him. They were inseparable. So when the day came for him to move out of his little kingdom in search of knowledge, Shanti followed him. She stayed with him for eight long years and with time, their friendship grew stronger. Or so he thought.
One fine day the kid (or the man, as he preferred to think about him by the time) planned a trip with his friends to the Himalayas, heaven on earth, as Shanti would have called it! But there he fell in love! Now that he gave his heart to the mountains, Shanti, heartbroken, told him that she could have perhaps stayed without him, but not without his heart. So she decided to stay in the mountains where lies his heart, forever, and he came back to his “duties” without his heart and his beloved friend, Shanti.
Since that day,  he has been on and off to the mountains frequently, just to behold his love and for some quiet moment with his friend. Wherever he went, mysteriously, he found Shanti already waiting there for him.
Now it has been months that he met either Shanti or the mountains. Probably his longings were so pure that the universe conspired for a grand reunion. So when he saw the extended weekend coming, he readily arranged a journey to the mountains, which, by that time, perhaps out of love, were all dressed up in dazzling white snow!
It was Friday night when he along with some of his friends, boarded a bus from Chandigarh. His excitation knew no bounds. For the entire night, as he tried to sleep inside the bus, the power and the purity of their love made the sky pouring tear drops as rain.
He thought, when he would get down from the bus at Bhunter, he would see Shanti waiting for him there, as she always did. But this time she was not there. He thought she would be waiting for him in Chalal. Shanti somehoe always knew where is he headed! So instead of waiting at Bhunter for the morning bus, they booked a cab which drove them to Kasol. It was still dark when they reached Kasol but he could not wait longer and started walking towards Chalal. The bridge that runs over Parvati, joining the trail to Chalal to Kasol was under construction and a shaky makeshift bridge was placed instead. In the darkness of the night, they crossed the bridge carefully while Parvati gushed below. It took almost 30-40 minutes for them to reach Kasol. The plan was to stay the whole day at Chalal. He thought he would meet Shanti and behold the majestic Himalayas together. They would have the whole day for them. Gradually the sky lightened up, birds started chirping, azure water plummeted down the slope with blissful and melodious murmur, the distant misty mountains started to unfold unparalleled awe-inspiring beauty, the chillness in the breeze paved the path for a silent dawn, but still somehow he could not spot Shanti.

His stay at Fusion Cafe was nice though. The surrounding was beautiful, the food was good and the winter breeze and the snowy peaks tried their best to please him and so was he. Even though often his mind waded around the many slopes of the gigantic mountains covered with  thickest of clouds, looking for his beloved friend. But all in vein as she was nowhere to be seen.
Next day morning, they decided to trek to Grahan. The trek starts from Kasol. So they came to Kasol, had breakfast and started the trek. Somewhere in his mind, the kid knew he would find Shanti in Grahan.

Parvati river near the bridge crossing

Everybody told them the trek would be an easy one and the four to five hours trail goes straight to Grahan. So they kept walking. After a while, they came across a shepherds’ hut on their right and a dog, whom they wold soon name as “Tensoon”, started to accompany them. But a few hundred meters in to the trail, they encountered a bifurcation. One trail went up the mountain and the other, the more prominent one went down to the river that is coming from Grahan. There was no one to ask about the trail so they kept walking on the left and the most prominent one which brought them over a beautiful makeshift wooden bridge. After crossing that, they encountered an arrow pointing towards someplace. knowing that they were on the right direction, they kept climbing. The trail went up, with reasonable steepness and some more arrows drawn on rocks giving them directions. The river with all its enthusiasm gushed below.

But soon they came across a second bifurcation and this time they could not say which one was more prominent one. After examining the right trail, they became sure that this time also they were to follow the left trail which brought them to a fairy-land. Trees grew from rocks and canopied the trail and rhododendron bloomed all over. They all had some few moments of rest contemplating the beauty of the place.

But the climbing did not seem to have any end. They climbed one mountain thinking to be able to see Grahan from the other side. But already three hours in to the trek, they got no signs of Grahan. Though the arrows made sure that they were on the right trail. But in his mind, the trail seemed a lot more tricky than what he had imagined. They crossed one more mountains in search for the motivational sight of the village. But except for grander mountain views, Grahan was nowhere to be seen. And so was Shanti. But he was not complaining as the higher they hiked, the mountains became more and more grand and gigantic. The white washed cliffs with a background of impeccably blue sky stood in contrast with the dark green forest carrying the murmurous brook in its lap.

Soon they found themselves walking over a narrow trail which run over a rocky top of a mountain. On the both side there were deep cliffs. The cold had also increased significantly by that time. To drive their minds away from the struggling climb, they put on some music which rhymed with the nature. Then came a place with another small brook hurtling down a thick forest of pines and rhododendrons with its murmurous symphony. The place had a blissful silence all around it which was cut only by the splashing water. Suddenly he felt as if it has started raining again. But the clear sky gave no such false signals. Then why would water drop from the trees? Before they realized that, it actually was snow that was melting, they spotted snow covered patches on the ground. At one place even flowing water formed ice cones hanging from rocks. And through all these, they crossed another mountain and behold grander beauty of not-so-far snow capped peaks, but Grahan remained eclipsed by the mountains.

They climbed and climbed. Snow had increased considerably by that time making the trail extremely slippery, sometimes with solid ice and sometimes with sticky slippery mud. But still they continued. After crossing another ridge, they could suddenly see the village. Finally. It was fully covered with snow and completely enclosed by high and white mountains. What a sight to behold was it. They have already trekked for six hours. Tired and cold and hungry they rushed towards the village neglecting the thick cover of snow. the excitement and enthusiasm was boundless. Just before entering the village, they met a villager who informed them that, unfortunately this village was not Grahan but Thunja. Grahan is another hour from there!

In fact from Thunja they could see Grahan far away. Tiny blocks of village huts covered in snow. But it was almost dark and they had no strength in their knees to undertake the snowy slippery steep descent to a stream and then again climbing up to Grahan. So they requested some villagers if they can arrange some place for them to spend the night. But Thunja is an extremely small village with only 10-12 houses. They had no guest houses or cafes or hotels or anything that one can normally find in a tourist place. In fact, the villagers told them that the trail to Grahan is a different one which is not as tough as this one. But it was too late for them to realize that. After some more time of requesting and asking people, Ganesh, an “angelic” person agreed to give them a room for the night in his own house. Happily and readily they moved in. It was a small but completely wooden hut with two floors. Ganesh asked them to leave their backpacks in one of the room in upper floor and to move to a second room which had a tandoor inside it to keep it warm. We all sat around the fireplace, enjoying the heat while darkness covered the white snow outside.

Ganesh was a kind host. He got them water to drink and sat with them to chat. The kid asked him about their lives in village. He asked what do they do to earn money? To which, Ganesh replied selling some medicinal plants. Most of the people in the village does nothing of that sort even. They all has their share of land, where they cultivate crops not for selling but for themselves primarily. There is a small school in Thunja too which has up till class 5.  He also told them about the hardship that they must go through if some elderly person or kid is sick and need to be carried to the nearest hospital which is in Kasol, through that same trail. No matter how dark it is, or how much snow is there on the trail! And they were pretty much taken aback that people actually trek for hours just to behold snow!!

As food, they were carrying some biscuit packs and cakes which they had sitting around the fire while Ganesh and his brothers wend down for some work. The kid and his friends were about to go to the other room when Ganesh appeared again and asked them to come out to have dinner. This was completely surprising to them.  Overwhelmed with kindness and emotions towards these simple and angelic human beings, they had dinner. Plain Daal Chawal never tasted so good, they all thought.  And they ate like they never had food before. Happiness truly lies in the simplest of the things. Content with the hot food and more so by the warmness of the host, the kid decided to go out to experience the chilliness outside. As he came out of the house, shocked, he saw Shanti right there sitting in front of the  hut staring at the moonlight soaked mountains. He sat beside her. They did not spoke a single word but just stared at the high peaks and the snow covered mountains flooded with moonlight. Those were some moments of pure happiness. Absolute silence prevailed the mountains, the muddy ground started to freeze as the cold creeps in to the moonlight and hugged whatever it fell on to. Tensoon slept like a coccoon.

And that night the kid slept with peace!

In the morning they asked Ganesh to take some money after thanking him with all their hearts. After a few minutes of not wanting to ask for it, all he asked for four people’s food and stay for a night was only 500 rupees!

In the morning, walking was a bit easy as the muddy ground was frozen. So it was no more slippery. They decided to go to Grahan and then take the trail that goes to Kasol from Grahan, the trail which they were supposed to take while coming. For freshening up, when they went to the washroom, there was no water as all water has been frozen during the chilly night. So without spending more time in Thunja, they gradually started towards Grahan. On the way they saw the small school also. The trail went right beside it.

Compared to Thunja, Grahan was bigger and felt more commercialized. They had guest houses and fancy food menus. The name of the village perhaps came from its eclipsed position amidst all the high mountains all around it. Grahan is famous as the first campsite for the popular Sar-pass trek. They went to a guest house run by a lady whom they called aunty. While they had breakfast, they came to know that aunty lived there alone. Her husband is a school teacher in Kasol and two of her sons are studying in a school in Jari, a place 9 km from Kasol. When asked, whether she felt lonely by living all by herself, she replied with a laugh that no one in the village would feel lonely as all of them stayed as a family. Neighbors had morning tea together. If someone is building a house, everybody lends a helping hand in cutting woods or building. the kid wondered how strong was their community feeling and how weak it was for people in the cities! Such hardship they all have to go through everyday, but still at the end of the day they would laugh and smile. And with all the luxury in the world, city people still rant about their frustrating lives!!

After breakfast, they started walking down the trail that they were supposed to take the day before. This trail seemed a lot easier than the previous one. After a steep descent, the trail came closer to the Grahan nullah, the water stream coming from above Grahan. They did not miss the chance to take a dip in the freezing cold water.

The trail afterwards was mostly plane with some ascending and some descending at some places. But at all places it was a straight trail to Kasol. But compared to the other trail to Thunja, this one was littered with plastic wraps and empty food packs at places. In a way they were happy about choosing the wrong trail.

After crossing another two bridges, ascending some more, and mostly descending, they came in front of the shepherd’s hut that they crossed the day before. Then they realized the mistake. Nobody told them to take this tiny trail which left the main trail and went up. Anyways they were not complaining about it. The kid was more than happy about the unfolding of the previous days events. What could have really gone bad (had they not got any place to stay at night), turned out to be an impeccably perfect trekking experience for him. He saw great mountains, met Shanti, met some beautiful souls living with peace deep within the mountains and fell in love witeverything around that place.. What more could he have asked for!

They came back to Kasol and after a fulfilling Israeli meal to they drove to Kullu to get the bus back to the plains . Shanti accompanied him the whole way. Now was to say goodbye  until next time.

40 kullu bus stand (1 of 1)

 

Details of the trek

  1. Elevations: Bhunter-1089m. kasol and Chalal-1600m, Grahan-2300m, Thunja-2500m.
  2. Itinerary:
    Day one (leisure day): Bhuntar to Kasol (1 hour. cab 200 Rs per head, or bus)Stay in Kasol or Chalal, or roam around nearby places. this day can be omitted in case of need or adjusted in between if you want to chill at Grahan for one day.
    Day two: Kasol to thunja (4-5 hours). One can go to Grahan via Thunja.
    Day three: Grahan to Kasol and back to Kullu (Kasol to Kullu cab 1400 Rs. kasol to Bhuntar cab 900 Rs.).
  3. The trail to Grahan: from the main square of Kasol, standing in front of Moon Dance Cafe, take the road that goes right. You will soon encounter a bridge. Do not cross that, instead, continue on the trail that goes along with the stream on its left. Alternatively, from the market, there are two road-heads in front of the Taxi drivers union office. The left one goes towards Manikaran. Do not take that. Take the right one, cross the same bridge and take the trail now on your left. After a few hundred meters, on your right side, you will see a Shepherd’s hut and a small trail going right beside it. That is the trail to Grahan. In case you want to take the trail less traveled, keep left, always. This will take you to Thunja.
  4. While coming back, buses can be boarded from Bhunter although for online booking, they can not be booked from there. One can call HRTC Manali office and arrange for the bus to stop at Bhuntar in case of need.
  5. Other short and easy treks around kasol: Kheerganga, Tosh, Malana, Rasol.
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Why restriction in camping at Deoriatal-Chandrashila trek a good call by Forest Department

In the behest of the malignantly growing trek-tourism and its adverse effects on local ecosystems, this decision could be exemplary in many ways given the fact that the forest officials feel the need.
Sharing this post which was originally published by WANDER THE HIMALAYAS.

WANDER THE HIMALAYAS

SONY DSCThis winter season, Uttarakhand Forest Officials set out to protect the state wildlife by bringing in regulations. Trek like Har-Ki-Dun is closed for trekkers in Govind National Park for the Winter Season. The Forest Officials stated doing so to help the animals a peaceful transition time for migration and hibernation.

Just ahead of winter, the Forest Department has withdrawn permission to camp inside Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary. Trekkers will no longer be allowed to camp at Rohini Bughyal and Bhrujgali meadows on the famous Deoriatal to Chandrashila Trek. Although taking the 14 km forest trail from Deoriatal to Chopta is permitted.

The rationale behind withdrawing camping permissions

The prime motive of this move is linked with the conservation of the endangered white-bellied musk deer. This solitary animal resides in the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary and is poached indiscriminately for its musk pod. A musk pod is found in…

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Before the Paradise is lost…concerning the big guided trek organizations

This will be my first article conflicting the original theme of the blog which is to help people organize treks by sharing my experiences through pen (well, typing actually) and if that fails, through photos. But there is this particular topic that has been bugging my mind forever. The more I go to the mountains, the more I get aware of a terrible future for all mountain lovers. So, this time I will not talk about any particular hike that baffled our minds. This time we will be talking about something bigger, a plague that is corrupting the very soul of hiking.

I am talking about the budding guided trek organizations and their effect on the practice of hiking or trekking. Given my very limited experience of hiking till date, whatever I am going to say might not be completely unbiased or well analyzed. So I leave it to the readers to correct me or discuss over this.

So, here is the thing. Recently I have been to Kedarkantha which was my first trek in Uttarakhand. It was amazing. No doubt about it. It was challenging at times, and beautiful throughout. But still something was missing. Something that used to make me feel overwhelmed in the Himalayas, was not there. And I think I found out the reason rightly. This trek was less of a trek and more of a vacation which I never wanted it to be. We booked our seats with one of the guided trek organizations operating in the country and embarked on a mesmerizing journey of 5 days. It was mesmerizing, truly, and Himalayas always will be. But what bothering me is the habit that these organizations are pushing in to trekkers, or specially novice trekkers like me.

The first thing that I would like to talk about is the food that we got through out the trek. You think I am talking about horrible food? No. Not at all. The food was incredibly good. Now I don’t have any problem with good food. We all love it. But then who gives hot Gulabjamuns and Jalebis in dinner, a four course breakfast in a trek and that too unlimited? Now you must be thinking what is wrong with that! I think it is establishing a wrong practice. Wrong, because people have started expecting these sorts of things now in a trek which the organizers are catering also with a competitive mind set. For me, the whole purpose of trek is to get out of your comfort zone and experience something bigger that that. Well, no matter how much I liked the gulabjamoons and the jalebis and all other multi-course meals, they definitely did not make me feel what I felt in Beas kund trek even with shortage of food. And that this is leading to a competition between the organizers. If one is providing pastas during the tea time, the other will provide it during breakfast. And novice trekkers, not tasting the boundless joy of experiencing something bigger than their daily life, are stuck in to that and choosing these guided trek organizations more and more.

Secondly, In a trek, one is supposed to get to know the value of simple things in life that we normally take granted for in our daily lives. Simple things like getting water that you will need through out the day. We, living in a comfy apartment of a city, hardly ever have thought of the real value of water that reaches us every day, endlessly. Well in mountains, it is endless, but getting it to yourself is what will make you realize the value of it. Independent backpackers will know what I am talking about. But these guided treks will provide you water whenever you want it just like as if staying in a hotel. Water was just an example, and can be extrapolated to everything else like accommodation, carrying supplies, and cooking food. I am sure very few people trekking with these big organizers will know what it takes to boil a cooker full of rice at an altitude of 3000 meters.

Thirdly, unavailability of camping grounds for independent backpackers. On one hand, more and more people are opting for a safe and sound guided trek leading to occupying bigger areas for pitching tents, and on the other, the remaining few independent trekkers are not getting a place for camping. During our last trek, we met a bunch of guys headed for the same trek camping in a place with scare water compared to the proper camping ground. Why? because no space to pitch a tent and more specifically no peaceful space to pitch a tent. While in a trek, I would definitely not like another 100 people all around me, some making loud noise, some dancing to beats more suitable for a night-club. Well I have nothing against them. People should be allowed to do what they enjoy in a harmless manner. But had these guided trek organizers not been there, there would have been less crowd in the mountains.

Now that we have ensured more number of people are opting for guided trek organizers, that reminds me of the forth issue. The more the number of people, the more it is hazardous for the ecology of the place concerned. Being a biologist myself, I am aware of the fragile ecosystems of the mountains and I can not imagine the level of harm that all these human wastes making to the ecology. Once, the ecosystem gives in, I dare not imagine the outcome. Well, lets just say, that will not be an amazing trek anymore. One more thing we need to understand is how much the people in the remote villages up in the mountain depends up on the ecosystem. Once it is gone, we are literally talking about mass extinction of species from that area including local people.

Also, I have felt, sometimes, treks, that can be done in lesser number of days are stretched to more by these organizers. May be it is more profitable for the organizers and I see nothing wrong in that as after all they are in a business. But, still, one could utilize those days visiting some other places too. But if I look back, I kind of liked this relaxed, stretched out trek also. Provided you have enough days, it wouldn’t be bad at all.

Another thing that goes missing in a guided trek organizers is the flow of money to the local economy. Independent backpacking contributes more to the local economy compared to the guided trek organizers.

Next I would like to say something which I really liked about these guided trek organizers. And that will be their effort to maintain the trail and the campsite as clean as possible. Again judging by the last experience, it is only because of their constant vigilance and efforts from real mountain lovers, that the trail was extremely clean, given the vast number of people everyday walking on it. They provided us small bags for keeping all the waste materials inside it. That is one thing that all independent backpackers should follow.

And that’s about it. No matter how much I loved this last trek of mine, I can not stop thinking about the adverse effects that this trend is establishing. I also admit that all these thoughts are from my own personal view points and I would respect any other view point also if that is not harmful to the mountains. I can live with a loud noise making crowd next to my tent (well, I don’t want to, but, yeah, just for the sake of arguing) but not with something causing harm to the ecosystem and destroying great beauties. After this trek, I am scared that what if it continues a few more year and what will be left after that?

So I request more people to opt for independent backpacking. As long as there is no regulations acting on the guided organizers, its up to us, the mountain enthusiasts, to create a solution to this problem. I request everyone, instead of booking your seats through a guided trek organizers, please try to reach out to the local people. It will definitely be more fun, more fulfilling, and less costly (this definitely does not mean that less experienced trekkers, like me, should try out new places without a guide. We should always remember, it is always the behavior of the trekkers that the viability of the trek depends on). Now I have absolutely no issues if one does not want to opt for independent backpacking willingly. As I have already said, everyone should be doing what they enjoy as long as it is harmless to the environment. But until and unless you try, how would you know that you will not like it?

I wonder if at all it is possible to organize treks where we can train amateur people in independent backpacking where the trekkers will be guided or trained on how to go for independent backpacking and what all are the things that need to be taken care of. There the organizers will help trekkers arrange the guides and porters for themselves, will carry their own supplies, cook or carry their own food, wash their plates for themselves, pitch their own tents etc. I know this might not be a feasible option, but still, just a thought.

 

Of Making Fun, Friends and Fire…Tales from Kedarkantha Trek in December

The possibility of this trek was hovering around for months as I discussed this trek with one of my oldest buddies from school. It just had to happen and the excitement was boundless for many a reason. This was my first trek in Uttarakhand Himalayas and that too with school friends. To top it up, nothing is cooler than any Himalayan trek in December! Literally!

Not having an option to trek independently, we booked our seats in a guided trek organization (about which I wish to write a separate blog discussing the pros and cons of guided trek organizers).

Day 1: Dehradun to Sankri

After reaching Dehradun on 15th December at 10 pm, we hurriedly took shelter in a Hotel near to the railway station as this was our pick up point next day. We started at around 8am in the morning and thus begun the journey with making new friends. We stopped at Kempty falls to break our fast with an amazing balcony view.

view from the balcony of breakfast point near kempty falls
view from the balcony of breakfast point near kempty falls

Sankri is almost 200km and the sleepiness and the beautiful mountains kept on playing a tug of war in side our minds. We did not really realize when we left the Yamuna valley and were moving along the beautiful Tons river.

Tons river on the way
Tons river on the way

Once again we stopped for lunch at Purola and reached Sankri just before sunset. Sankri is a small village on the outskirts of Govind Pashu Vihar National park and Wildlife Sanctuary. We could spot only two prominent hotels and some more dhabas and shops selling basic necessities. No mobile networks operate here except for BSNL. We were given accommodation in one of the hotels and soon were served tea and snacks followed by briefing on the trek by our trek leaders. Soon we were served delicious food, most unlikely of the kind that one supposed to get in a trek. By the taste of the food, we could not say whether we were on a trek or a luxurious vacation. And this continued till the end of our trek.

While we were savoring the delicious food, a very disturbing forest fire distant in the mountains was continuously spreading its hot breath. and just like this day, every next day while we enjoyed our exceptionally good food, or walked beneath dense forest, or tried hard to summit, somewhere there were always some horrible forest fire spreading its wings.

sunset at sankri
sunset at sankri
moonlit night at Sankri
moonlit night at Sankri
a distant forest fire seen from Sankri
a distant forest fire seen from Sankri

Day 2: Sankri (6400ft) to juda ka Talab (9100ft) – 4km

Next day, after tea-snacks and a multi-course breakfast (this makes eating in less quantity really difficult, but somehow we managed not to eat more as it would not be good for the steep climb), we started our trek by entering to the Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Sanctuary. After a few meters walk over a paved path, we started climbing the mountains. Soon we came across a small bridge. Right after crossing this, the trail bifurcates. The left one leads to Juda ka Talab while the right one was coming from Hargaon. So we kept left. That time we did not have any idea that this steep climbing will have no end till we summit.

Inside Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Sanctuary
Inside Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Sanctuary
setting off for the trek at Sankri
setting off for the trek at Sankri
bifurcation on the road
bifurcation on the road

Gradually we all adjusted ourselves with the initial steepness. The trail offers breathtaking vies of Swargarohini group of peaks. After taking rests in two of the places, we reached Juda ka talab camp site before lunch. This was not at all a tough trek and we were not tired also. This made me wonder whether we can reach the base-camp, which is the next camp site at a place called Lahusu, on the same day. Along with us there was a group of exuberant engineering students from Gujarat. They were sort of the life line of the whole group. As soon as we reached the semi frozen lake, they started exploring the possibility of walking over it and so they mannaged in no time. I was still a bit dubious about the safety. But, now I know that I should not have been. The most unbelievable sight to witness was the night sky at Juda ka Talab. After Dinner it was time for some fun and everyone were playing some games inside our dining tents. When we came out of the tent, we were chilled to our bones not only by the cool breeze but more so by the innumerable stars, shooting stars and the milky way right above our head.

pine trees along the trail
pine trees along the trail
one of the resting places: we had maggi and tea
one of the resting places: we had maggi and tea
smoke coming out of a forest fire as seen from the trail
smoke coming out of a forest fire as seen from the trail
swargarohini massif as seen from the trail
swargarohini massif as seen from the trail
swargarohini peaks as seen from the trail to Juda ka talab
swargarohini peaks as seen from the trail to Juda ka talab
trail to Juda ka Talab
trail to Juda ka Talab
Semi frozen Juda ka talab
Semi frozen Juda ka talab
Juda ka talab camp site at night
Juda ka talab camp site at night
night sky at Juda ka talaab
night sky at Juda ka talaab

Day 3: Juda ka Talab (9100 ft) to Base camp at Lahusu (11250 ft) – 4 km

After reaching Juda ka Talab, we were told that the next days trek would be much more light and it was rightly so. Reaching base camp was merely two hours of trek and I was fully convinced that this place can very well be reached in a single day from Sankri. In fact, there is another base known as Base camp II, almost in a kilometer’s distance which can also be reached in a single day. The problem with the base camp II is scarcity of water. There is no water source nearby and only one dhaba was operating there with 60 lt of water only. Base camp location was truly magnificent. But the disturbing smokes coming out of many forest fires were constantly there.

this was a day of relaxing. Everyone was Sun-bathing after having lunch and we went for a short acclimatization walk. We could see the Kedarkantha peak from base camp and it did not seemed to be an easy hike. The purpose of the walk was to getting us acclimatize for the long hike to the summit.

Swargarohini peak from the trail to base camp
Swargarohini peak from the trail to base camp
kedarkantha peak from base camp
kedarkantha peak from base camp
approaching base camp
approaching base camp
panoramic view of the mountains from Base camp
panoramic view of the mountains from Base camp
smoke coming from forest fire
smoke coming from forest fire
view from base camp
view from base camp

Day 4: Base camp (11250 ft) to Kedarkantha summit (12500 ft) to Basecamp to Hargaon camp (8900 ft)-6km (but it seemed more than that)

This was the most important day of all and we were to start the trek sharp at 3 am. We got up at around 2-2.30 am but the morning rituals were the toughest in sub zero temperature. Some how we all managed and started the hike to the summit in a single file formation. The leaders and the guide were great in constantly encouraging us. Without their help this day could have very well resulted in utter disaster. We took 15 min break once we reached the base camp II but resting was even more impossible than to walk constantly over the steep slopes as the sub zero temperature was cutting down to our bones. We kept on walking or doing some kind of exercise to keep ourselves warm. We were again horrified by forest fires but the soothing dawn sky stole our minds from that. With a great team work and constant unimaginable support from the leaders and guide, we finally climbed to the summit.

Forest fire as seen from the trail to the summit
Forest fire as seen from the trail to the summit
Swargarohini peaks
Swargarohini peaks
Swargarohini peaks while the trek to summit
Swargarohini peaks while the trek to summit
silhouette against the beautiful morning sky
silhouette against the beautiful morning sky
silhouette against the beautiful morning sky
silhouette against the beautiful morning sky
near to the summit
near to the summit
panoramic view surrounding the summit
panoramic view surrounding the summit
cairns on the summit
cairns on the summit

The view from the summit was breathtaking. We were introduced to the major peaks seen from the summit by the trek leaders and were given 30 mins of time to roam around. There was a shrine on the summit. Surprisingly we got BSNL network up there!!! We clicked photos, Sat silently, ate some refreshments which we took while starting the hikes, sat silently again to appreciate the Almighty Himalayas and finally started the trek back to basecamp. By the time we reached base camp, next batch was already there and after the lunch we all took a quick nap inside the dining tent before setting off for the Hargaon camp, which again took only two hours or so.

Finally we reached the summit
Finally we reached the summit
bandarpunch as seen from summit
bandarpunch as seen from summit
Swargarohini as seen from summit
Swargarohini as seen from summit
Swargarohini peaks
Swargarohini peaks
the shrine on the summit
the shrine on the summit
layers of misty mountains as seen from the summit
layers of misty mountains as seen from the summit

After reaching Hargaon camp, we were informed of our complete independence. No acclimatization walk today, no rules and regulations, no nothing. So three of us decided to visit Juda ka Talab once more. From Hargaon camp site, Juda ka talab, according to our guide would take 30 mins or so for us. But we covered that in just about 15 mins. That time it was around 3 pm and the lake was again frozen. One of us being one of the perky college students, gave us courage to explore the frozen lake, and this time we did so. we walked over the frozen lake, sat on it, danced on it and cracked the ice a bit too. It was so much fun that i would have definitely regretted had i not done it. All thanks to the younger people for reminding us of our younger days. That moment was of wisdom and I learnt that I am never too old for stupid and innocent childishness.

Hargaon camp
Hargaon camp
Camp site location at Hargaon
Camp site location at Hargaon

The return journey from Juda ka talab to hargaon took only 7-8 mins. After reaching the camp site, we had delicious food as usual, and that night everyone started sharing some stories of their lives, had many giggles, made great fun and finally everybody slept in the dining tent only.

Day 5: Hargaon (8900 ft) to Sankri (6400 ft) – 6km

This was a steep descent and a tiring one, not for the lungs, but for our legs. We reached Sankri through some agricultural fields, villages overlooking “gorge-ous” valleys. While coming down, we posed for a final group photo with a backdrop of a cute village house.

on the way to Sankri from Hargaon
on the way to Sankri from Hargaon

all the team members
all the team members
view from the trail to Sankri
view from the trail to Sankri

The trail finally converged with the trail that we took 4 days ago right before the bridge. Finally we reached Sankri before lunch time. We were given accommodation in the same hotel but except for three of us, rest all left for rafting in Rishikesh.

Since we had lot of free times to explore, we decided to visit the village of Taluka which is also the starting point of Har ki Dun trek. We walked over the trail beside the river for 10 mins and decided up on our next trek. While coming back we witnessed the most horrible of all forest fires that we came across in these 5 days. The mere site of it was disturbing and horrifying to the core.

Through out the trek, we had no snow but all the places we camped had sub zero temperature!!! Soon we came from the trek, we had news of the season’s first snowfall on the mountains.

at taluka village
at taluka village
a horrible forest fire
a horrible forest fire

Day 6: Sankri to Dehradun (a 10 hours drive completed in 6 hours.)

My opinions about the trek:
1. One should not attempt this trek without a guide. Although there is proper trail in most of the times, having a guide serves good only specially when you are exploring the route for the first time.
2. The distance to base camp II can be covered in a single day, and Juda ka talab can be explored while coming down from Hargaon. but keeping in mind the steepness of the ascent, reaching the basecamp II in a single day could be tough if you are not properly acclimatized.
3. Base camp II has scarce water. So one has to be careful while choosing a campsite.
4. the trail seemed a lot cleaner than any other treks I have done. So please let us maintain it that way.

The Kinnaur Chronicle

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This is my first ever travel blog. What they call it? Oh! Yes, travelogue! And what could be better than the great and majestic and dangerously beautiful  Kinnaur!!!

Although the Earth has been round the Sun  for one complete circle since the trip, the memories, the colors, the cold breeze, the chill in the air and down the spine (why, I will tell you), the awe in the eye, everything is so vivid in my mind that I can literally take a mindtrip without even looking at the pictures. To quote Brad Paisley….”And who needs pictures with a memory like mine”. No, actually, the credit goes  not to my memory, but to the absolute tranquility of this place. One must visit this place to believe it.

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It was the onset of the festive season. joy was in the air. But I had no idea that this joy was about to get multiplied infinite times to absolute ecstasy and to fetch me the memories of one of the most unforgettable outings of my life. I am not saying “till then”, as I am sure it will remain so for the rest of my life as well.

So, the journey began, hand in hand with the festive excitement along the National Highway 22. The first halt was Shimla. But because of the festive season, tourists crowd was exploding. most of them would go to Manali-Rohtang pass and then back again to their daily business as the festive season would end. The crowd  this time of the year is generally conservative.  families along with children and elders tend to stick to the conventional track. But to avoid this crowd and to be drenched in the shower of grandeur, one should take the NH22 which runs up to Khab on the Indo-Chinese border.   And Nature doesn’t disappoint as soon as one escapes the over-crowded town (cute though) of Shimla.

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The thick alpine forest, the misty mountains and the unfathomable abysses add up to the nature lovers’ delight. what else can one ask for being surrounded by trees so tall that only they can do justice to the bottomless depth of the gorges.

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The whole experience is as beautiful as thrilling.  As soon as the road gets into Kinnaur, the thrill gets morphed in to chill. Not only in the air, but also down the spine. and the sole responsible reason is the road itself. Sometimes its hard to find the road only. it would lie in front but the very definition of road would vanish. in fact, at some places the road itself would vanish and the only option left is to tread up or down some rocky and muddy and dusty ground that resembles the God of Death stretching both hand more than a road.

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en route, there is Sarahan housing one of the 51 auspicious abodes of the supreme Mother. The uniquely grand temple complex reflects the perfect combination of Indian and Tibetan architecture.  The Bheemakali temple has two main look-a-like structures inside which there are frail wooden stairs which goes to the sanctum sacnctorum. The entire temple is made up of mainly wood and in partly rocks. the beauty of it truly stands proud amidst high mountains.

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Sarahan is the gateway to Kinnaur. once inside Kinnaur, the surrounding terrain changes abruptly from a lush green to a desolated rocky  nature. loose rocks, landslides and rock slides dominate the area as well as the road.

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Deep inside Kinnaur, there lies the land of Kalpa and Chitkul, Most beautiful of places seen by me. Reaching Kalpa, one would feel a sence of peace that is so superlative and scarcely inimitable that one would definitely shed one or two streams of tears. The entire town is wrapped up in devine apple orchards which, when bear the red fruit, is not only a treat to the tongue, but also for the eyes.

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Also this place overlooks the Kinnaur-Kailash range, Kinnaur Kailash being one of the five abode of lord Shiva in this world. the tranquility and the grandeur of the peaks, the sense of being so helplessly small and the fact that this whole experience is so temporary, leaves you absolutely helpless and awestruck. Hours seem to fly in a moment while gulping in all these majestic magnificence.

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One can hardly absorb all these splendor in such a short time, and there is another place waiting for you to strike again with uncanny and unnatural beauty. Chitkul is the last Indian village in this area before Indo-Tibetan border and the last place to travel without permit. The valley can not be put to justice untill and unless at least one night is spent there. there are no lavish or grand hotels. But the small and clean ones seem perfect for the small valley. The road towards Chitkul from Kalpa is another  worth mentioning one. It is absolutely absolutely absolutely serene. It defines divinity. People there lives a peaceful life away from the traffic jams and the mall-culture and all the frustrations of city life. Simplicity, peace and happiness prevail.

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This is one of those few places on Earth, which makes you realize about the futility of the worldly worries of daily life and strengthen the idea in your mind that go there, experience it, and know the grand design of which, we are merely a part. This will definitely make you wonder that we have achieved so much but love, we have loved so many but the lovable, we have worried so much but enjoy, we have shed too much tears of agony and pain but of joy, we have run so many paths in vein just to compete with the omnipotent, we have seen so much but the omnipresent, we have known too much but the omniscient.

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perspective

Once upon a time, a mighty king was riding to get the evils out of his land. Dangerous, were those evils indeed. But he rode without fear with his army, although not a very big one, on his side. People look from far away and silent prayers whispered out of their mouth, for the good of their king, for the good of their men, sons, and brothers, and off-course for the good of their land.

They searched and searched, amidst dark forests, sloppy mountains, and deep ravines but no sign of the evil forces except only for desolate villages, burned down firms, fields and emptied store-houses.

And then, on the way of another search, the army came across a sight, most unfortunate and brutal of its kind. Thousands of men, women and even children laid ruthlessly butchered on the ground and a murder of wild crows and vultures feasting on them. The king became determined, more than ever, after seeing this merciless brutality, to demolish this evil force for ever.

But a senior advisor came and addressed the king, “My Lord, have you not seen the brutality of them, that you have decided further to trace their marks? How, with such a small army can we possibly stand against such a brutal evil force? Look, they haven’t even spared the women and the children.” The king, with all his magnificence, uttered only one sentence, and all the men obeyed undoubtedly, “My men, we are lucky that we are not women and children”.

 

Terrific optimism, I would say. Don’t you agree? Yes, it is indeed, and it’s also about the perspective with which you see things. With a wrong perspective, even the most beautiful of things will look the ugliest and with some other, the most terrible thing might as well represent a fair amount of hope. It’s solely upon you what you want to choose.

Scientifically speaking, if the net charge of everything in this world is zero, then obviously it is the result of a perfect balance between exact number of negative and positive, isn’t it? Now you can ponder over the negativity, or else there is a whole lot of positive side for you. If one particular picture can be edited in such two ways that one represents sunrise and the other, sunset, then why do need to think of the darkness or the scorching heat that is about to come? Why can’t you choose to think of the beauty that is presently in front of your eyes, and the other beauties those are about to come?

If I take the over-used example of that half-filled bottle, you can say its half-empty, or you can say its half-full, but wait, there is more. You can as well say the bottle is not being used to its full capacity, or even better, the bottle is double the size it needs to be. Which to choose? As I said, it is upon you.

Is it a stupid way of thinking? Is it like befooling yourself? If they say, let them say. At the end of the day, it’s you who will be happier. So: “Don’t worry, be happy”.

before its long gone

I wont ask you whether you have visited a countryside or not, Because that obviously has become very rare. Truly. If you talk about travel destination today, people ( I am not talking about the minority of  “adventure is out there”-type) has started opting more for Foreign countries, cruises, expensive hotels and if nothing else, and that is the saddest part, malls!!! And they expect to find peace of mind in these!

What has happened to the human that is a fruit of nature who used to live inside every human soul? Dead? No, I don’t think so. Its still there, you see! Can you feel it beating secretly inside your heart? I know you do. But, oh! Those damn restrictions not to reveal it out.

But, there is another problem too. Keeping in mind the rate-race we are taking part in, off to a far away highland prairie really doesn’t seem to be feasible without proper planing for several days. Understandable. So what if you suddenly want some fresh cool air inside your lungs?  I would suggest, just take your bike, or the car, and your loved ones with you and off you be, simply for a drive in some countryside road. Is it difficult to find one? Not yet. But soon to be, I fear. So just put everything off your mind, and start to breathe the coolness of the fresh leafy air. I bet, you will find what peace is defined as. So come on now, before its too late, before that motorized vehicle smoke-cover the simple awesomeness of the cow-herder passing through a tree-caved path.

city of joy

This one is just in memories of the city where I lived (not just stayed) for six long years and some people around me, who made those years absolutely unforgettable. I was just going through some folders for a pic to be uploaded, and came across this one…brought a whole lot of memories back to me. Couldn’t help sharing it. Miss you all a lot….

building blocks

This is exactly what I was talking about, looking within. Do not just let your eye roll over the objects you see, let hem take some rest on them, and suddenly the inner nature of our Mother Nature will dawn into your mind.

welcome

 

They say that the sum is greater then the parts. So a forest appeals more than a tree.  But what about the tiny leaves of the creeper in your backyard? What about the mesmerizing patterning of its veins? There is enough wonder around us, enough for our pair of eyes, we just need to keep it open and observe, but not only see.