This trip was a long awaited one and after almost 1 year I was really desperate to move back to hills again. I just love moutains and the excitement they offer is unparalleled. Thanks to Santosh for being a companion in this trip with me, as my parents are really pissed off whenever I trek/travel alone by myself. So finally the galla day also arrived and I was really excited to catch our train to New Delhi on 2nd, April 2009. But as is always the case, things began to look worse as I was asked by my professor to discussthe project idea with him and it took me entire day to explain the entire thing to him. Also my leave from office was starting from 3rd, April 2009 and as against my expectations my boss was at office till 3:30 p.m. while my train was scheduled to leave from Bandra Terminus (Mumbai) at 4:55 p.m. The minutes were passing by quickly and I hadn’t even packed my bags and I had to rush to my house at Bandra from my office to Juhu which is a minimum of 45 min. ride by autorickshaw (this is case when their is not much traffic on the road). However thanks to God’s grace I finally managed to skip out of my office (Told my boss that I had to visit bank for some urgent work 🙂 )
Gareeb Rath was our train and I still wonder why give such a name to a wonderful train. Sounds like Slum Dog Millionaire ! Anyways the journey from Mumbai to Delhi in this train was wonderful. We had our seats in AC 3 tier and we spent most of our time watching movies on my newly bought HCL Netbook (Thanks to Nipun and Amol for financial support). We reached Delhi next day around 10:30 A.M. Duringmorning hours one of my friend told me that weather in higher Himalayas wasn’t good and temperatures in Joshimath was hovering around 1-2 deg. It’s okies with me but considering Santosh I had to plan accordingly and thus I decided to replan our trip. Earlier our plan was to visit Kuari Pass/Curzon Trek but now I decided that we should go to Pindari Glacier instead. Santosh too agreed to my view and we decided to check in at a hotel in Delhi before leaving for Bageshwar by bus in evening.
Paharganj near New Delhi railway station is Mecca of hotels. Everywhere you see, you can only find hotels and more hotels. We got a nice room at Luv Kush Hotel at Arkashan road and it was relatively cheap at Rs. 350/- for a normal double bed room. We spent entire day watching TV and sleeping. Finally around 3:45 p.m. we decided to check out and took a rickshaw to Anand Vihar ISBT (Inter State Bus Terminus). Our bus was scheduled to leave at 5:15 p.m. and we got nice comfortable seats as well.
Haldwani is my native place in Uttaranchal and it comes en-route to Bageshwar, so as I told my parents that I was visiting Pindari, they wanted to meet me as badly as I did. Our bus reached Haldwani around 12:30 p.m. and I found my Mummy and Papa waiting for us at Bus Station. Mummy had also brought some snacks for us and it was really nice to meet ’em after such a long time. After spending around 20 min. with them our bus started it’s journey again. Haldwani is known as Gateway of Kumaon and hills start immediately after we cross the city. I felt asleep after some time and finally woke up when our bus reached out skirts of Almora. For no reason understandable to me, bus stopped 5 kms before Almora at some tea shop and we all waited there for around 1 hour before starting our journey again.
We reached Almora around 5:30 A.M. It was early hours and visibility wasn’t that good. I decided to go out for pee and asked one of the locals for whereabouts of toilet. His reply was “Do it anywhere na ?”. So I found a place where there was no one around and there was a cliff around 100 ft below. After I had completed my chores, I strecthed my arms and what the hell, out of no where my hand brushed the pocket of my lower and all I could see was my wallet going down the cliff. It was a tense situation as I am not very good with low sun light due to problems with my eye. Also our bus walah was honking his horn. I had to do something immediately as all my cash and IDs where in the wallet. I rushed down the cliff and started collecting whatever I could. I managed to find my ID card and some cash and rushed back. Only later did I realized that I had lost my debit card, key of my room and Rs. 400/- worth of cash. Anyways I didn’t want to spoil mood of our trip so I refrained from telling Santosh about the incident.
As bus moved on we soon entered the hills of Kausani. Kausani is a famous hill station in Uttaranchal and is best known for it’s magnificant sunset views and views of Himalayas. We could see Trishul and some other Himalayan peaks from our bus and Santosh was extremely excited to see the view. We soon crossed Baijnath temples and Garud. These places are very different from hills as these places are huge valleys with fertile land and hence crop cultivation is major activity. One can get a good view of Himalayas beyond the surrounding hills.
It was 10:30 in morning when we reached Bageshwar. Though we’d earlier planned to directly move to Song from Bageshwar but after an exhausting trip we were not in mood to travel for another 2 hours. So we finally checked in a hotel named Siddharth. The hotel is near Bageshwar bus station and is very much affordable with double bed room costing just Rs. 250/- (and it has a TV too 🙂 ) After getting over with our daily chores we decided to relax and it was only at 12:30 p.m. that I was able to wake up. It was time to explore the Bageshwar town.
Bageshwar is a small district town of Uttarakhand and is famous for Bagnath temple. Being a valley it’s pretty hot at this place. Bageshwar also has a Sangam where Gomti and Saryu rivers meet. As we were all excited for trekking, so we decided to move to Neeleshwar temple. This temple is located attop one of the hills and it took us around half an hour to reach the top. The view from top of the hill is really nice and one can see the beautiful valley of Bageshwar. Although we managed to reach the top easily but it was a nice short exercise as well, before starting off the trekking to Pindari Glacier. Having spent couple of hours up there and taking some photographs, we decided to come down. It was time for lunch and we had a real good one at Jaydeep Hotel & Restaurant near Bageshwar bus station. The food there is nice and affordable. After a long journey from Delhi and a nice hike to Neeleshwar, it was time to hit bed.
I woke up around 5:30 P.M. and Santosh was already awake, watching cricket match on TV (He is a true cricket fan and hates to miss any of the games). After having a cup of tea and a plate of Samosas, it was time to explore other side of Bageshwar. We crossed the Gomti bridge and wandered around in the market place for some time. Ohhhh I think we also had to buy a pair of raincoats. We managed to find a pair of ’em at main Bageshwar market at a good price of Rs. 300/- each (only later did we realized that we’d been fooled, as those raincoats didn’t last for even 1 hour and were torn apart completely.) With our stuff in place and after having a good meal, it was time to hit bed again.
One has to move early from Bageshwar, if one needs to catch bus to Song. Song is the last village on motor road enroute Pindari Glacier. However we couldn’t wake up early (this habit is going to cost me dear, someday), and we’d to take a taxi to Bharadi. Shared taxi are easily available from near Saryu bridge and they charged Rs. 30/- per person for ride to Bharadi. From Bharadi we’d to catch another taxi and this one costs Rs. 20/- per person. So after a nice 1 hour ride in taxi, we finally managed to reach Song. Now it was time for real thing and we started off our trek to Loharkhet (by the way, one can also manage to take a rough road to Loharkhet in taxi). Loharkhet is a small village, enroute Pindari Glacier. As for accomodation there are plenty of options. One can take a room in PWD rest house or dormetries are available at KMVN (Kumaon Manadal Vikas Nigam) rest houses also called TRC, or there is even a newly built Forest rest house. The accomodation is available at Rs. 80 – Rs. 100/- per bed. The caretakers of the rest houses also cook food and serve tea. The main course amounts to Rs. 40/- per person, while breakfast costs Rs. 25/- and tea is available for Rs. 5/- per cup. After a nice walk for about 2 hours, we managed to reach KMVN rest house. But we were told that another group from Indian Navy, which was scheduled to arrive later in day, had already booked the entire resthouse and this left us with option to take room in Forest resthouse. This newly built resthouse is pretty nice and comforting. The caretaker of the resthouse also served us with nice warm cup of tea and cooked us Dal and Rice for lunch. We took luxury of taking chairs out in sun and spent couple of hours enjoying the scenery, while sitting in cozy sun shine. It’s one of the most wonderful things one can do in his/her life. Around 3:00 P.M. we found a tourist from Germany coming back from Dhakuri. She was a beautiful girl who had just returned from Dhakuri. Her friends’ had moved ahead to Pindari while she decided to return back. As she had taken a mule for ride, it was time for her to pay back the fare and suddenly she found herself in a troubled state, as the guide seemed to have made some mistake in calculation of fares and now they both were arguing about the amount. Finally after some time, I couldn’t take it any more and we made a settlement between them. She was pretty happy about the settlement, but alas our resthouse caretaker didn’t want her to stay at the rest house for night and she had to go down to PWD guest house to spend the night.
Trekking from Loharkhet to Dhakuri is a climb of around 9 kms and one can see ample natural sceneries all along the way. We started off early around 7:00 A.M.. The caretaker of our resthouse cooked us paranthas and omlette and a hot cup of tea. Initially the trek seemed easy, with a nice path to tread along. However very soon we found our first ascent and it was a real nice one. At this point we also met some of the group members of Indian Navy. The group was a mix of children, young and old members and it was fun to join them. I love the people from Indian Armed Forces as these guys really live their life royally and they are some of the few fortunate Indians who get a chance to explore different parts of this wonderful country. After few photograph session it was time to move ahead. The hike to Dhakuri can be done in 3-4 hours but we took ample breaks in between. At one point we reached a place where there was a grassland like meadow and we decided to relax a while and it was wonderful to stretch legs and lie down in grass under warm cozy sun shine. Santosh took this oppurtunity to take a quick nap and I found this a nice oppurtunity to shoot his video. On the way we also found grave of a German named Peter Kost and it was a very different kind of feeling, standing at his grave and enjoying the marvelous beauty of nature thrown all around us by God. After few more kilometers of trekking we finally reached Chaupta Mai Top. It’s from here that we saw the first view of magnificiant Himalayan peaks, standing right ahead of us. There is a small temple here and one can even walk to Chaupta Lake. However we decided to decend to Dhakuri (which was still 1 km away). At Dhakuri we were greeted by care taker of KMVN rest house and care taker of PWD resthouse. After having a cup of tea and hot maggi it was time to find a place to rest. As the navy group was also planning to stay up here so there was no room available in either KMVN rest house or PWD resthouse. But luckily for us, the care taker of PWD rest house agreed to provide us with a tent and it was perhaps one of the best accomodations we could’ve asked for. This oppurtunity allowed us to learn technique of putting up a tent. He also provided us with sleeping bags and some warm mattresses. It was 3:30 P.M. and I decided to take a quick nap. As if things had to go worse, suddenly it started raining and it rains heavily in these high mountain regions. I was afraid that tent might leak, but it didn’t and passed the test. I finally woke up around 5:30 P.M., only to find that Santosh had gone and he had zipped closed the tent from outside. I urgently wanted to go for pee and I had to literally shout my lungs out to allow him to hear my voice. Finally he came back and I came to know that he was with Navy guys, playing housie (He still has a kid inside him, which comes out @ such occassions). He also came to know of a family who was also from Hyderabad ( Ohhh I forgot to mention that Santosh belongs to Hyderabad and I belong to Haldwani. It was Santosh’s first trip to Uttarakhand and his first trip to higher Himalayas). We had a cup of tea and sky had cleared by this time. Soon it got dark and we decided to have our dinner and go to sleep early. The caretaker of PWD guest house cooked us delicious Egg curry and Chapatis. He also offerred us a sip of liquor which some tourist had left. However God knows why ? but we just didn’t feel like drinking at that point of time. As we were coming from kitchen back to our tent, we saw perhaps one of the most memorable incidence of the entire trek. The snow laden peaks of Himalayas were shining in bright moonlight and stars above the peaks were giving enitre view a heavenly touch. Alas our camera didn’t had the configuration to capture that moment, but I know that I won’t be able to forget that site ever.
To Khati after a horrible night
The tent was cozy and comfortable but around 2:30 A.M. I woke up to sound of some animal walking near our tent. Leopards are easily found in Himalayas and bare thought of that brought shivers down my spine. Very soon, I heard some dogs barking wildly. This added to the growing fear and atop of all this it started to drizzle as well. Now the animal, who so ever that was, was sniffing outside our tent and I pushed Santosh and he started shouting and screaming. I just don’t know why he did that, but it seemingly scared the shitt out of that animal and we managed to get asleep at 4:00 A.M.
It was cloudy in morning and pretty cold as well. We took a quick munch of omlette and paranthas with hot cup of tea and started off our journey to Khati. However as soon as we left Dhakuri, it started to pour down again, and this time, rains were accompanied by hails. It was time to take our raincoats out. We were looking like two aliens in those raincoats. But who cares ! Lower of Santosh was a bit tight for him and very soon I head a chirrrrrrrr…. sound and he had managed to get a hole in his trouser 😀 Luckily it had stopped drizzling now and we were descending pretty easily to Khati. Trek from Dhakuri to Khati is excellent with very few hikes and most of the time, it’s either descent or a straight forward path. Very soon we had covered around 3 Kms and we landed at a place which I just can’t describe in words. There was color scattered all around. You could see almost any God damn color you could think of. We spent around half an hour enjoying the beauty of the place and moved ahead. The village between Khati and Dhakuri has school and even a health care center. And as I learnt from one of the kids, the place has even electricity. This was a pleasent surprise as most of the places in such interior areas don’t have luxury of enjoying power of elecricity. After about 45 min. we finally reached a place from where we could see Khati village. It was only 9:00 A.M. and we were feeling pretty fresh as well, so we decided to not stop at Khati village and instead move ahead to Dwali. After having a nice breakfast at Khati, it was time to hike again. The KMVN rest house at Khati is around a km away from main village and is being looked after by Harak Singh. After crossing the KMVN rest house, we decided to take a small break and we stopped at a place where a massive land slide had taken place. Some local ladies were kind enough to show us the path to cross that rift.
Khati is last village enroute Pindari and once we crossed that, we were in a region which is only inhibited by wild animals, trekkers and care takers of KMVN and PWD rest houses at Dwali and Phurkia. The beauty of the region is unparalleled with view of high mountain peaks laden with fresh snow, Pindari river flowing besides and large pine, oak and many different trees. Whenever we both were not talking to each other, all we could hear was sound of running water and chirping of birds. This is one of the most peaceful environment I’ve been to in my life so far.
After crossing the land slide there is a descent of around 2.5 kms and we felt really nice enjoying the nice stroll. The weather was also kind on us and it was nice, warm and cozy. Very soon we reached the foothill of the mountain and we were on banks of Pindar river. The water was as fresh as it could be and I couldn’t resist going closer to river and taking a bath. However as soon as I took a gulp of it in my hands I immediately dropped the idea, as it was freezing cool. I didn’t want to show my lack of enthusiasm to Santu and told him that bathing would be a waste of time so we should carry on with trekking 🙂 After walking further up the bank for few kms we reached a place where some locals had put up there huts. These people generally come up to this place during trekking season and serve the fellow trekkers with tea, breakfast and other stuff. We met an uncle there who served us with hot cup of tea and Parle G biscuits. Upon inquiring about further distance to Dwali, he told us to walk easily and as per his estimate we should be able to reach Dwali by 3:00 p.m. At this place there is a bridge atop Pindar river and it’s all hike beyond this point. We found this hike to be a tough one as this was like a never ending route up the hill. After an hour or so of hiking we met two German trekkers who were descending back to Khati and the girl told us that Dwali wasn’t far. This brought a new hope in our tiring souls and we continued to move further up. On the way Santu discovered a grass which we call Bicchu Ghaas and he even gave it a name “Shock Grass”. After having some pics of the grass we moved ahead. We could see waterfalls, magnificiant scenery and soon the rest house at Dwali were also visible. This was an awesome view. To right of rest house was way to Kafni glacier and to left was way to Pinadri glacier. The hills near the rest house were laden with fresh snow and entire view was just magnificant. We were greeted by caretaker of KMVN rest house at Dwali and were offered a warm cup of tea. After checking into one of the rooms, it was time to hit bed. However I wanted to see some scenery and I came out of the room and so did Santu. However we must’ve been out for about 5 min and Santu started shivering, shouting and he rushed back to room. Apparently he felt cold after his sweat dried up inside his body warmer and this was pretty chilling. I woke up around 7:00 p.m. It was already dark outside and Santu was no where in sight either. I managed to find the emergency light and went outside. It was really cold outside and I found it real hard to move up to the kitchen. Santu was there enjoying the warm environment in the kitchen and we soon had an awesome dinner. The dinner comprised of a dry cuisine made out of that “Shock Grass” and Egg curry. The food tasted like heaven and I managed to have 5 Chapatis instead of regular 3. During the discussion with caretaker of the rest house, we came to know that it’s only possible to get a good glimpse of Pindari glacier, if we can reach zero point by 10:00 A.M. Now Phurkia was around 5 kms and Zero point is 7 kms further ahead. This meant that we’d to move out of Dwali pretty early if we wanted to make it to zero point, the next day.
I woke up around 6:00 A.M. which is pretty early by my standards. After having a cup of tea and getting over with my daily chores, we decided to leave for Phurkia. As we’d plenty of time with us remaining so we decided to drop idea of moving to zero point the same day and instead reduced our target to Phurkia. We were also accompanied by a dog. The care taker told us that this dog accompanies almost every trekking group and we found him to be a nice company. The trek from Dwali to Phurkia is not of great distance but it’s quite torcherous due to hike and altitude. The surroundings are also pretty different in this region. The mountains which were pretty curved at top earlier are replaced by some sharp edged peaks which have almost no vegetation atop. Right ahead of us were the huge Nandakot and Nanda Devi peaks and there was no sign of any civilized life. Santosh had earlier also told me about his problems with high altitudes but I thought that this wasn’t that high and I was to be proven wrong as very soon we found that Santosh was finding it hard to breathe and there was no sign of the hike becoming easier. After walking for about 1.5 hrs we reached a place which was like a small grassland and we decided to take our breakfast. This was the worst breakfast I had in entire trip, as our caretaker at Dwali had not packed any thing except Paranthas for breakfast. We took some paranthas with water and gave rest to our dog who delightfully ate every bit of it. As we were getting through with our breakfast, I managed to glance over to high mountains ahead of us and the scene out there was not delightful at all anymore. Dark clouds had started to loom high above in the sky and I felt a bit frightened for the first time in entire trek. I’ve heard of real bad weather and even witnessed it in higher Himalayas and with Santosh around I didn’t want to take any chances. So it was time to pack stuff and start moving quickly. Santosh was now even more tired and was finding it real hard to keepup the pace. To add to his agony, he managed to twist his ankle as well. However despite this pitfalls he managed to move forward and this was a kind of inspiring to me as well. As we moved ahead, we soon reached a place, which I think was most beautiful all along the trek. This place had Buransh flowers spread all over the place and the red flowers were giving an illusion of red carpet laid over the trek. I also managed to have a look at a wild peacock here and it was more beautiful then I’d imagined. Up few more kms and we saw first sign of snow. A fresh avalanche of snow had come down the hills and was in our way. This view made Santosh smile for first time, during entire day’s trek. We played for a while in the snow and decided to move ahead as weather was not looking good at all. Phew !! after few more kms now we’d reached Phurkia. The care taker of the KMVN resthouse welcomed us and offered us a cup of warm tea. Upon talks over cup of tea, he told us that he was living with one more fellow at this place. He also told us that he was expecting Navy group that same day. Now this was a shock for us as there was no other mode of accomodation here and it was pretty cold as well to sleep out in the tents. We asked him to provide us with a room and in case Navy group did came up, we’d abondon the room and will share bed in kitchen. As time passed by Santosh’s condition started deterorating and very soon I found out that he was shiviring wildely inside two warm blankets. As I inquired if he was ok, he told me that he wasn’t feeling too good and wanted to move back. I didn’t expect this from him, but I guess every human being has a limit and it was his limit. So we said good bye to each other and I promised him to meet next day at Dwali. Now with me only left in Phurkia, I decided to spend rest of time with caretaker of rest house, in his kitchen. We had few puffs of cigaratte and beedi along with hot cup of tea and it must have been 4:00 p.m. when it started to drizzle and soon after this drizzling turned to hail and by 5:00 p.m. it started to snow fall. I must admit that this was the best snow fall I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Soon the guys from Navy group also showed up and it was time for tea/coffee/snacks. We all cramped up inside the small kitchen and it was a wonderful atmosphere. We talked about different trekking experiences and our life and soon it was dark. Snowfall had stopped now and I wanted to find a place to put my stuff and stretch my legs. The caretaker of rest house understood my situation and he asked me to takeup a bed at a small room in PWD guest house. For once I was delighted at his proposal, but as soon as I saw the room, all my delight evaporated. This was a dark room, with all glasses shattered up. It took me 45 min to fix the windows with polythene sheets and to add to disappointment, I found that even bed was broken. However as I had to spend just one night, I didn’t complain and took sleeping bag and decided to go for sleep.
It’s all black & white
As I woke up to first ray of light, I thought of moving out but before that I wanted to get over with my daily chores. As I entered the toilet for loo, I found out that water was completely frozen. It took me half an hour to warm the water to an extent, so that it can flow. And lemme tell ya, that it was one of the worst experiences in my life. I thought that it must have been really cold during night and it’s pretty normal at such high altitudes. However as soon as I came outside, I was surprised to see, every thing covered with thick white sheet of snow. Snowfall continued throughout the night and it was even falling down right now. The temperature was around 0.7 degrees and winds were chilling cold. As I inquired from the caretaker about journey ahead, he advised me not to move ahead, as weather could get worse. It was a shocker to me, as I really wanted to see Pindari Glacier and didn’t want to go back empty handed. However as weather was showing no signs of improving, I’d no option left, but to return. I took a hot cup of coffee and some biscuits and decided to move back. My dog also accompanied me and it was because of him that I was able to find way amidst all snow covered path. Last night had witnessed heavy snow fall as the snow along the way was almost knee deep at some places. After about 1.5 hrs of struggle I finally managed to reach Dwali, where Santosh was waiting for me. He was looking much better now and we decided to leave immediately for Khati. I had a cup of tea at Dwali and it was time to say goodbye to Dwali. To everyone’s surprise snowfall was even occurring at Dwali and we found it all along the way upto Dhakuri. However the photographs and the view that we saw all along the way was mesmerizing and those sceneries are going to be with us for ever. Though we were not able to make up to Pindari Glacier but I am sure that trip was worthwhile for both of us and we are coming back to Uttarakhand soon for yet another trek !
Vodpod videos no longer available.