Uttarakhand: Dev Bhoomi and Beyond — Part 1

Any Indian who loves travelling, would have explored Uttarakhand or he must be having a wish to visit Uttarakhand (UK for short) once. My first journey to UK started on 15th of December, 2016 from Ahmedabad in the far west of India towards the northern part of India, with an office mate. We had a connecting flight from the capital of Bharat to the capital of Dev Bhoomi. We reached Dehradun in noon, and our first experience with the UK was not very pleasant. The city is as far as 20 KM from the Airport, ‘organised loot’ of Taxi Walas took a toll on our wallet in times of notebandi, the state is yet to witness a revolution called Uber. Though Ola was there, but the charges of Ola, were at par with Taxi Union. The city, though being capital of the state still has very far to go in terms of development. The city is not even comparable to capitals of western states. Probably, this also has something positive to offer, the green and cool UK what we see, is because of less ‘development’ . Being vegetarian, we had to work really hard to find a decent restaurant serving north or south Indian food. Finally, we found a dhaba cum thali restaurant, and food was good enough.

Leaving sour experience behind, we left Dehradun, for some unexplored pleasant experiences, which are going to leave a mark on our mind.

Captured on way from Dehradun to Mussoorie

We took a bus from Dehradun to Mussoorie, the weather was cold and pleasant. The bus travel on the single lane road in the Himalayan range was a scary yet beautiful. Cut short to Mussoorie, being a tourist destination and honeymoon spot, I was aware that, it was not going to offer me what I am looking for… peace. As planned, we spent the night in Mussorie, and left for the mission, trekking the Kedarkantha peak of Himalayas.

The UK gets more and more beautiful as you go northwards. Our base camp for Kedarkantha trekking was Sankari, which is roughly 150 KM from Mussoorie, it took us almost 10 hours to complete this 150 KM on Himalayan roads. Out of this 150 KM, some portion did not qualify to be called road, this reminded me of my childhood streets where I used to play.

Towards Sankari

The road was more like, street makeshift road made of rubble, but then, this is the beauty of UK. The holy river Ganges on one side of the way, and mountain range on other, makes it a perfect way. The beautiful way coupled with stranger trek-mates, photography and travel games, didn’t let us feel that it was 10 Hour ride. As we reach Sankari in evening, I realised, how difficult it would be to pass next 5 days in this chilling cold, which is only going to get more cold. We spent 1.5 days in Sankari in acclimatising ourselves to the weather and Himalayas. In these 1.5 days, I understood how tough it is for someone like me to sleep in a sleeping bag in one posture for whole night. Last time I had slept like this, when I was in my mother’s womb (:D). I was fortunate enough to share my camp with a Shayar and an ex Air Force guy, who were going to continue as my camp mates for whole journey. In these 1.5 days, I made some good friends, who were going to become even more good friends, while we trek the Himalayas.

A view from Sankari Base Camp. The four peaks ridden with ice are called Swargarohini, from here Yudhishthir went above in heaven.
Some friends who were going to accompany us in our trek

Cut short to starting of the trek on day 4 of the journey, we started in early morning, and our next stop for the day was Juda Ka Talab ‘only’ 4 KM away, where we were able to reach by noon, leaving behind the worldly affairs (cellphone network).

Capturing a ‘Selfie’ with a friend at the only makeshift refreshment store on the way to Juda Ka Talab

Though, I was one of the few inexperienced trekker among batch of the 50, the first day was not that tough for me. The journey becomes easy, when it is coupled with light chit chats with friends, music and shayaris.

Random Nature Snap

It was my first trek, so it looked really odd to me that we stopped day’s trek in noon, and did not go ahead, realising latter that, dark evening was only an hour ahead. The sun sets early in north, and as soon as the evening hits, the weather gets freezing cold. The maggi soup and the singing and dancing session in the evening helped in surviving the chilling weather.

The next day we started early in the morning for Luhasu. We started the day with same enthusiasm in the chilling atmosphere. First stop was the pond itself, the Juda ka Talab. There was layer of ice on the pond water in the morning. The Juda Ka Talab spot was facebook DP spot for the whole batch, myself also got some.

Beer is for children… Real men drink water :D
But first… Let me take a selfie!

Heading ahead passing from Himalayan beauty in cold weather, we stopped for lunch. We finished up all the Khakhras, which my mom packed as snacks for whole tour. For most of the trek mates, the Khakhras were something that define Gujjuness, thanks to TV serials, movies and politics. We reached Luhasu camp in early noon, and that’s where I first found the peace… which I was looking for. I sat alone for quite a long time, the peace which Himalayas can give is unmatched. Thankfully, we have left cellular network behind in Sankari only, the mobile remained only a camera device, and that helped me sit peacefully without any disturbance of any sort, making people think, why this otherwise naughty guy turned silent. After snacks, I tried my hands on capturing Himalayan Beauty in my phone camera.

View from Luhasu Camp

Cut short to next morning 3 AM, when we started last lap of the trek to summit Kedarkantha Peak. The Himalayan view only gets more beautiful as we go upward, that needs no mention. As the sun rays brought the day light the target seemed near and beautiful.

Snap of the other side

As we reached the peak at morning 8 AM, there was a sense of accomplishment and joy. The view from 12500 Ft. Height is absolute delight to the eyes. At the peak, first thing that brought smile to my face was getting a call from home on mobile, thanks to BSNL. That 20 odd second talk with family was much necessary, mom was worried about my health, as I left home for the journey with heavy cold and cough, and she wanted to make sure if I was fine and the chilling atmosphere of Himalayas did not worsen my health. Wonder if she was trying my phone for long, or was it just a coincidence, that as soon as I reached in remote signal area, she dialed me, chances of later were as remote as the network signal available. As I hung up the phone, first thing I did was to complete my disturbed daily routine of praying lord Shiva with Shiv Tandav Stotram at the small Shiva Temple.

The Shiva Temple at the Kedarkantha Peak

Sitting at the top of Himalayan Peak and singing Shiv Tandav Stotram was among one of my travel goals, which I had checked that day. Then came the time for sitting for meditation and enjoying the peace of the nature, for which I traveled more than 1000 KM from home. I also took a short nap (shavasan)of 15 minutes, while whole batch was busy photographing the nature and themselves. Then came my turn to take photos, and for which my beloved iPhone also got ready after taking a short nap, read as restart sessions due to battery draining issues in Cold Weather.

Mandatory Photo: Kedarkantha Peak Summit
A view from Kedarkantha Peak
Time for a Group Picture— KK1 2016 YHAI

As we wrap up our Himalayan Summit experience and start descending towards base camp Sankari, the feeling of leaving Himalaya behind and going back to worldly affairs was strong. We reached Sankari on the next day and had a night stay in Argaon, where the batch cherished the memory of the trek and last night together. The night was full of Music, Dance, Card games and chit chats. We started early for Sankari, and reached Sankari by 7 AM.

Reaching Sankari Base Camp post successful Summit

After 5 days, I could wash my head and have a decent breakfast. Soon we packed our luggage, and started journey to end the first lag of the tour by boarding on the bus to Dehradun. At the Dehradun Bus Stop, the time finally stopped, and the moment to say good bye to newly made friends, finally arrived. As we recall the memories of trekking, chats and shayaris, musics and dance, we hugged each other and bid adieu. Few of them left for their home and few of them left for other nearby cities for further tour.

The first lag of my tour came to an end, which taught me many things and brought me close to the nature. I have made many new friends from different parts of India. The Himalayan beauty left a permanent mark on the mind, and we left Dehradun, promising ourselves for coming again to explore Himalayas!

To be Contd…