“Chalo Chalo Chalo Chalo.. Summit Har ki dun” .These were the words by Vivek Rana(trek guide) that kept ringing in my ears for the 8 days and even as I draft this post. I knew I was booking for a trek to some place in the Himalayas with my friends from Exoticamp, but little did I know about Har-ki-dun and what awaited me in the 8 days journey.
Being first time trekkers, we made a list of “To buy” stuff for a trek and burnt a hole in my pocket big time at the “Go-to” store for sports & outdoor activities – Decathlon. In the meantime we kept preparing ourselves with as much physical activities we can to keep ourselves fit enough to walk 3 hours a day. And the day dawned when we buckled the backpacks and laced the shoes. After a 16 hour journey by air and road, we were at capital city of Uttrakhand, Dehradun. When the bus dropped us at our destination point, it was 3:45 in the morning. Another 8 hours of driving through the zig-zaggy roads we reached Sankri.
With less or no proper sleep and tiredness creeping in, we called it a day. With no phone connectivity and internet, we felt relieved. We chatted among ourselves under the starry sky and crashed early to see how sunrise looked like in the Himalayas.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Day 1: Taluka & the gushing River
A super bumpy ride though some narrow roads that were affected by landslides , we reached the base camp at Taluka. Buzzing with jeeps dropping trekkers from all over the world, mules and ponies carrying loads,the guides giving instructions, this place was filled with vibes very high. Without paying attention to any of the commotion,the locals kept their routine going on. We were stepping into their world where digital meant nothing.A mere 1 hour walk from Taluka along River Supin,collecting pebbles all the way, we reached the campsite for the day. Tents, sleeping bags and portable toilets were not new to us, but the gushing river with mighty boulders and icy cold water was an experience. The Himalayan cold was new and utterly uncomfortable. Layered and tucked in the sleeping bags,the steady drizzle and the sound of the river sang lullabies.
Day 2 :Crossing Gangad & Osla
Today was the actual incline along the river Supin. We walked past several bridges, streams where we drank the purest of Himalayan waters, stalls brewing chai and serving some Maggi. We were a bit skeptical and worried about the little boy who was on his first trek, but he was steady with his progress and well ahead leading the group with the guide.With a 30 minutes break for lunch at Gangad we made our progress to reach the campsite facing the Himalayan hamlet Osla along the banks of the river.
It was a tiring day walking 10 kms shouldering our backpacks, but the view of the mighty Gharwal and the sight of the melting glacier was all worth it.The tiny village with wooden house stacked in between the mountains grabbed our attention. We decided to explore it during the return and Vivek promised to take us to the village that supposedly is his native and he still had a few relatives living there. We called off for the day sipping warm tea and laughing hard when one of the fellow trekkers Christened the Har-ki-dun peak with a name that cannot be said aloud!
Day 3 : Preparing ourselves for the Summit
We started the day with an ascend that was killer. I was beginning to feel the pain in my calves and knees, but kept ignoring the pain. Every time we spotted a flowing stream we stopped to fill in our water bottles and to splash some sunscreen. We were getting closer to the snow capped peaks and the coniferous trees that looked tiny were now appearing tall. The trees were vastly tall and only eagles reached their very top and they told nobody what they saw from there.
We caught sight of vegetation and farming for the first time on the hillside and how could we miss playing with the Himalayan sheep-herd. The trail was picturesque in every way and a few places were nearly deadly. A wrong foot would take us down. Helping each other, talking stories of life, singing songs from the 90s(actually deciphering the hidden meaning ,call it reading between the lines)and with some chai ,maggi, omelette we reached the Kalkatidhar campsite.
At a height of 3100 mts above the sea level, we were not surprised to see the kids enjoying the legacy left over by the Brits in India. Amidst the kids shouting, the sound of the wind and the high flying eagles, we kept down our backpacks and stretched our entire self on the grassland. All that we had was the blue sky and the snow capped Himalays . We did not have mobile phones and internet to fidget over, but people to talk and laugh. Back in my mind A.R.Rahman’s instruments and Sasha Tripathy’s voice lingered and I closed my eyes to visualize the romantic number “Vaan Varuvaan…”
The daylight was drawing to a close, there was a slight drizzle,we settled in our tents and zipped the sleeping bags . The heavy wind pulled down one of the tents and the entire team pitched in to help while I was half asleep lying next to the little boy who was already deep in sleep. The chronic dreamer in me woke everyone up screaming for help when in my dream I saw my tent pulled down by the wind. After all the commotion when the team settled to sleep, the Himalayan furry friends decided to keep us awake with their barking and howls. I am smiling as I draft this, recollecting the memories and how we laughed that night in our failed attempts of stopping the dogs from barking and shooing them away.
Day 4: Summit Har-ki-dun
We unzipped our tents to watch the mighty Himalayas gleaming to the rising sun. It was an early start because we had a long day ahead, the D-day. We left our backpacks and carried the essentials that had our food and water for the day.It began with a steep ascend and then flat trail and then ascend .. This continued and we were enthralled in what we saw. True to its name, we were walking in a valley so beautiful that it appeared like it beloned to the Gods. Half way through the ascend I saw my boy walking back to me , who all this while was way ahead. He was struggling for breath and came back to me to get his nebulizer. I helped him saying a small prayer.We had to stop for a few minutes until he regained normalcy and I was much relieved when he sprang into action, running ahead of me.
With just 3 kms away from the summit, we stepped in to the snow zone. Since it was summer, the snow was not very deep, but for first time trekkers on snow, this was absolute fun. As we walked through the sweet smelling pine forests, crossing over wild streams, hearing the soft snow crunch under the boots, we were left speechless at the what stood right in front of our eyes.We took every stride inhaling the freezing mountain air. I was beginning to feel mild uneasiness and my head began to throb with pain.
Direction boards read “Har ki Dun – 1 km” and I had to call my little boy for help. We walked the last stretch to the summit together . We were learning to walk in snow ,without slipping down and it was so much fun in-spite of the headache we both suffered from. And finally we reached Har-ki-dun-a vast stretch of snow covered mountain peaks, melting glaciers, pine trees and needles scattered all over the snow with freezing wind blowing from all directions and far away somewhere we heard the locals play their traditional music while relaxing after their lunch.
We stood for a moment , frozen and speaking nothing to only soak in the beauty and capture the moment. And then the customary photo session began after thulping down the packed lunch and a paracetamol. We lost count of the number of pictures we clicked! My little boy found a spot sans snow that was perfect to rest for a few minutes before we began the descend but we ended up napping for an hour. This was much needed and we were fully charged .
Remember that I said we were cautious with our steps on the snow? we were least bothered during the descend. We literally threw our poles sticks and sat down on the snow sliding and screaming our hearts out. When we re half way through,the clouds darkened and showered a slight drizzle.We had to take shelter in a small shop and devoured maggi, omelette ,chai. We started our way down once again through he scenic route till we reached the campsite at Kalkatidhar. Everyone of us felt exhilarating and the sense of accomplishment was gleaming in our face. Not a bit of physical fatigue hit us. We feasted that night with some yummy food and talked stories under the starry sky knowing the next day we had very little to walk/climb(read 4kms)
Day 5 : A day hike to Osla
With the alarms turned off, we slept a few extra minutes than usual . We began packing the bags and emptying the tents. We had a whole lot of time for ourselves to click pictures and then came the time to say bye to the beautiful campsite. With no heart to leave the place we moved taking a look every 2 steps we took forward.The trail was mostly descending today and this is when we felt aches in our calves, knees and hamstrings. We continued walking reminding ourselves we have a home stay with proper washroom facilities and beds to sleep. We reached Osla around 12 30 in the afternoon after a small ascend through the mustard fields and school children waving at us. A home stay and the sight of restrooms and mattresses were real luxury to us 🙂 Rest of the day was spent relaxing,chilling out and nursing those aching muscles and joints.
Nestled in the slopes of the mountains, with apple trees and mustard farms, Osla is such a self sustained village. This happens to be the last village along the path to Har-ki-dun,untouched by civilization, but the bats , balls,stumps and running between the wickets were familiar to the kids.
Day 6 -Taluka – through pines and ferns and flowering trees
Officially the last day of the trek and we started pretty early to cover the last 14 kms to reach Taluka (the base camp site)The descend began with a very narrow and risky trail and my knees and calves were nearly killing me with pain. This is what happens when you skip stretching your muscles the day before. We walked, but slow, soaking in the beauty of the flora and the landscape. We had stories to talk, songs to sing in-spite of gasping for breath with the occasional ascends we had to do. I collected some pine cones along the trail and some flat faced river stones along the banks where we parked ourselves for lunch.My kind of souvenirs for friends.
The last stretch to reach Taluka appeared to be the hardest. We kept telling ourselves to “Keep going” . Panting and taking short deep breaths, we made the ascend to reach the chaiwala shop where we called the trek complete!Mission accomplished. It was such a exhilarating moment for all of us and especially the little boy who managed to walk and climb every single day with zero complaints. We made our way back to the base camp where luxury tents were set clean for us and a bath after a week!. We watched the darkness stride in and far away in the mountain villages we saw the huts twinkling.
Day 7 : Back to the cosmopolitan life
It was time to say good bye to the Garwal villages, mountains and the fellow trekkers. We hugged each other, telephone numbers shared and the friendship that evolved in a week found a way to Facebook and Instagram. We returned with sunburns and tan from a slow paced local lifestyle to the rushing madness of a metro.
This happened to be one of the most memorable & cherished times where we got to experience a world beyond the office suites/classrooms.We indulged in some great learning and exploration, had an opportunity to live a different lifestyle, tried some never-having-done-before activities and developed bonds for a lifetime. Is’nt that what travel is all about.
P.S: This post is based on personal experience and not a sponsored post. A few pictures were shared by the fellow travelers and great friends who joined us and we would like to thank them for letting us use the pictures for this blog post.
You may like to read about our previous experience with Exoticamp here.
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