Monday, October 11, 2010
Travelogue: The Heavenly Road to Doditaal
I think I am a traveller of simpler means and presumably tougher destinations. Though it is difficult to make simpler means match tougher locales I do try, nevertheless. The Himalayas remain my destination number one and in the past six years I been to the mountain range 15 times to be precise. Being in Delhi till 2006, most Himalayan hill stations or treks were an overnight journey but Mumbai increases the time without reducing the interest.
Earlier this year I already had my annual trip to Kumaon in general and Kausani in specific. Somehow I always land-up in that part of the world almost every year.
In August all of sudden I decided to take another break and I didn’t want to go home. I thought of going to Amarkantak in Chhattisgarh to experience the monsoon mud and greenery and roots of majestic rivers. But couldn’t workout at such a short notice.
I felt back on Himalayas again.
It was an unplanned and bad timed trek, but nevertheless I decided to go ahead. My journalism school batch mates and yesteryear Delhi apartment mates joined me. We have bonded as trekkers since a small trek in December 2003 to the obscure Meghaohala forests in Orissa’s Dhenkanal.
Arshad and Sumit are tough trekkers never minding the time or location. In fact the harsh conditions give them more reasons to move forward. I obliged to their decision of going to a lake at 3000 metres on the fragile Shiwalik ranges in Uttarakhand.
We chose a trek leading to Doditaal Lake, an obscure, yet one of the most beautiful treks and more so when it rains. The distance from Delhi and a treacherous road made it longer to reach Uttarkashi, the closest town ahead of the base camp. The city on the banks of Bhagirathi River is of immense religious importance for Hindus. Dotted with ancient Hindu temples and monasteries of different sects, the quaint, saffron coloured town was warm to our arrival, despite the incessant rains.
On the way our car had to stop at a number of places due to damaged roads and falling stones. The falling mist on the road was exiting as well as fearful. A single wrong turn was not affordable. After an arduous long drive, we immediately proceeded to Sangamchetti, the base for the trek to overcome some of the lost time.
After a Maggi masala noodles treat and tea we proceeded on our first phase of the trek, a five kilometre stretch between Sangamchetti and Agora, the last village on the way. We old boys have always preferred treks on our own without porter assistance and exceptional kits. We prefer it raw, though there are some terrains where one has to be with special equipments. This trek was simpler in those terms and we had a guide.
But it rained and streams of water flowed on the precariously narrow roads making it unusually slippery. We were suddenly in the midst of misty rain soaked surrounding by the time we reached the little hamlet of Agora. Generous villagers offered us to sit in their neat manicured courtyards and offered us cream tea prepared from buffalo milk. That gave us an opportunity to relish the breathtaking beauty around.
There were five mountains changing colour every moment, while intense snowy clouds were caressing them with untold passion. The path on the village had bright red and blue flowers intertwined continuously in small patches with fresh rain drops on them, giving the 270 degree view a picture perfect frame. We savoured the beauty for three hours without realising it is already dark out there. Before the unspeakable beauty slipped into the dark night’s veil, we chanced to see a rare rainbow formation.
We could not have more natural beauty for our eyes. End of the day we entered into a house-cum-hotel sort of arrangement by a local woman. It cost us about 300 rupees per person for the food and the stay. In turn we had amazing mountain vegetable, ghee paraontha and achar and everything served with abundant honesty and humility.
We were covered in thick local made cotton blankets imagining the night to be dark and cold. But it wasn’t. After a while bold, white moon soaked through the silent mountains and invited everyone to have a look at her. It was beautiful outside, blue and white like the nights in the Twilight movies. It was a young full moon night.
(Read the next part at The Heavenly Road to Doditaal Continues)
(Pictures taken by Sourav Mishra and Arshad Hussain)