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It was silent. I could hear birds chirping. No fan and no alarm but still I woke up at 6. It was cold. I recollect today’s task ahead: Didna=>Tolpani=> Khopal top => Ali bugiyal => Bedni bugiyal, a 12km route.

Tolpani

Tolpani

Residents of Tolpani

Residents of Tolpani

I come out of the tent and go straight to the bonfire which was still hot. I sit there for a while before getting back to tent and packing my bag. Soon after that, we had a quick breakfast(bread-jam / omlet) and Rajesh promised that Alu paratha will be waiting at Ali bugiyal for us. Our plan was to reach Ali Bugiyal by 11AM and rest there for half an hour before proceeding to Bedini. 2 batches left ahead of us. Our Bangalore gang was a bit late to start and confident that we’ll catch up, we started climbing slowly. Soon after crossing a stream behind Didna, starts a rather easy forest walk for about an hour or so until we reach Tolpani. Tolpani is small 4-5 house village,2 kms from Didna. Raghu wasn’t feeling all that well and was walking on paracetamol. He was very paranoid of being hit by AMS. We stopped at the water source of the village and waited for rest of the team. The green fields were shining bright with the morning Sun. The villagers were reluctant to pose for the camera and seemed busy with their daily work.

Team at Khopal top

Team at Khopal top

Then starts almost vertical but zig-zag climb that passes through the thick jungle. I was happy to run overtaking the rest of the people and joined Narayan ji who was leading the team. We stopped at Khopal top (people also call it Tol top) for about half an hour, before most of the team joined us. One can see the majestic Choukamba(7838mts) from a point at Kopal top. I was hungry and there was just one thing ringing in my mind, to run to Ali Bugiyal as soon as possible and eat Alu Paratha! After pestering our guide for a while, he dropped the idea of waiting for the entire team to arrive and left with us telling the rest that there is a definite trail to follow.

Entry to the world of Lawn!

The begining of bugiyals

The begining of bugiyals

Clouds- the artist. I just missed the India map formation!

Clouds- the artist. I just missed the India map formation!

Enterance of the wonderland

Enterance of the wonderland

Alu paratha at the most beautiful resturant!

Alu paratha at the most beautiful resturant!

It was half an hour climb form Khopal top, I was taken by surprise when all of a sudden a different world opened up. It was no more jungle, no more brown. It was green lawn spread over kilometers of soft humped mountains decorated with yellow flowers. There were beautiful trees rooted to please even the daemon to get his girlfriend to play hide and seek:-). There were clouds hovering right through the place in all directions creating mystic figures. It was cold as I walked through the mist and then there was Sun to pinch and tell boy, you are not dreaming. From there I could see the entire first day’s route. I could see Lohajang, Wan and Kulling. Ten minutes – All over.(only Me, Ambreesh, Kunal, Neelima and few were lucky)By the time rest of the team arrived, there was a complete cloud cover. All the views were gone. Now, i realized something – damn, i’m hungry. I want Alu paratha! I started running shouting to Narayanji  “I want to reach Alu bugiyal! ” I was so occupied that I had renamed Ali bugiyal!.  On the way I saw a few langoors in the forest to my right. The meadows looked never ending until I saw Gopal waving at us. I ran with KunalAmbreesh, straight to him telling “I want 10 paratahs fast!” He said calmly “sab ke liye sirf ek ek milega, baaki Bedni mein milega”. I felt bad but said to myself ‘Paalige bandid Panchaamrutha’ and ate that Paratha in one go.

Flattered with the actual or reflection?!

Flattered with the actual or reflection?!

Then I saw around. There was a small pond (kund). It had a name but I don’t remember. It was green all over me and it looked like an expensive, well maintained lawn. There was Nanda gunti peeping with all its grandeur(as usual). I went to the other side of the pond where I could see Nanda gunti’s reflection in it. It just gave me 2 minutes to click a pic before the clouds covered the complete area.

Roll on!

Roll on!

Auli bugiyal (Photo courtesy : Deepak)

Auli bugiyal (Photo courtesy : Deepak)

The sword of Zorro! with the temple in middle (Photo courtesy: Deepak)

The sword of Zorro! with the temple in middle (Photo courtesy: Deepak)

Bugiyal temple!

Bugiyal temple!

Bugiyal vultures

Bugiyal vultures

By that time most of the team had arrived. A few of us decided to continue and not wait for the rest of the team.  The next 1 hour was memorable walking in the lush green and cold meadows. I had seen a minor version of it near Kemmanugundi(karnataka) but this was tens of kilometers of green carpet. Branded as one of the most beautiful meadows in Asia, it can defeat any other competitor hands down. We reached a small temple which was in the middle of nowhere( It appeared to separate the bugiyals – Ali and Bedini). There we saw the famous “Bedini vultures”. Previously Rajesh had told us about these creatures. These are huge scavengers whose wingspan are in the range of 1-2 meters! They don’t usually trouble anyone, Narayanji say. From the temple, its 15 minutes climb and then easy walk for about an hour to reach Bedini. On the way we met two Isreli travellers who had come to just visit these bugiyals(Not Roopkund!) and they were praising its beauty. As soon we could see the campsite, I ran to it and booked the best placed tent and ran straight to Kitchen tent asking “where is the paratha? ” to which Gopal said “khaana abhi bhi ban raha hai, soup ready hai” to which I say “Anything, just give”. Then? I sit watching the vultures fly and have 5/6/7(I don’t remember) glasses of soup by the time rest of the team arrives.

Campsite at Bedini

Campsite at Bedini

Bedini kund - Awesome reflection

Bedini kund - Awesome reflection

How beautiful can it get? Bedini

How beautiful can it get? Bedini

Then it started raining heavily and I wait inside the tent waiting for food. It got real cold and I slept off. It rained for about an hour and once it stopped I came out for lunch. The area was completely cloud covered and when it opened up in the evening, we saw partailly cloud covered Trishul(7120mts) to the south of Bedini, beside Nandagunti. I walked up to the Bedini kund with Deepak, Poonam and Neelima to get the reflection shots of the mighty mountain in the kund. Deepak was so pleased with the view that he summoned for Smita. The Trishul was very stubborn to open up completely. But we still got amazing views. As it got dark, it got colder and colder and there was no firewood available for bonfire (its a grassland). So Ravi, Ambreesh, kunal and me settle down in the tent playing cards(for a long time) until we were called for dinner. Soon after dinner I slid to sleep in my tent shared with Deepak and Rajesh.

Sunset at bedini. Nandagunti and Trishul, say Hi

Sunset at bedini. Nandagunti and Trishul, say Hi

I saw how beautiful the view of Nanda gunti and Trishul was, still unaware of the hidden beauty to the west of Bedini, covered with the clouds the whole time. It was just waiting for me to open the zipper of my tent the next morning! Come back and check my next post 😉

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(contd.. from previous post) —–dary!!
I wake up, feel that my bed is not so comfortable only to realize that i’m in a sleeping bag 7000ft above my real bed.

Nandagunti as seen from Lohajang campsite

Nandagunti as seen from Lohajang campsite

Sunrise at Lohajang

Sunrise at Lohajang

I come out of it, open the tent zipper and I was pleased to see the majestic Nanda gunti(6309 mts) wishing Good morning peeping out of the mammoth range in front of it. Wasting no time we clicked a few pics of the sunrise and got ready to start our 5 day journey to Roopkund. We had a briefing and introduced ourselves to another group of people who were to accompany us during the trek. Most of them were in their forties and early fifties. They had done their Kailash Maanas sarovar yaatra in 2008 and this time they had decided to complete this trek. I was impressed with the Sunrise and did not miss to capture a few snaps. After a quick breakfast (Chapati and Bhendi, If I remember it right) we split up in three groups and start our trek. I went with the group which left first( well ofcourse I was eager to see things before rest of the folks could see them!) with Gopal (a silent and ever smiling chap) as our guide.

  • Route: Loha jang to Didna
  • Distance: Approx 12kms
  • Terrain: First half distance downhill, easy walk crossing numerous streams , fields and waterfalls
    Second half is a very steep uphill to Didna
  • Time taken:Around 5 hours
Classic setting

Classic setting

Colorful fields

Colorful fields

Raan bagad falls

Raan bagad falls

Crossover - Neelganga (Photo courtesy: Poonam)

Crossover - Neelganga (Photo courtesy: Poonam)

The downhill was a very easy walk. While crossing one of the streams my sunglasses fell in to it and broke which left me thinking of what to do for the final day’s climb to Roopkund (Where sunglasses is a must). Gopal went down to the stream to retrieve my by then Pirate’s Goggles!. We found large bushes of cannabis plants (Bhaang!) all through the route. The next hour or so trek took us through colorful fields, numerous streams, beautiful waterfalls, “Lord of the Rings” styled green bridges with wet algae and stair-cased waterfalls flowing underneath, open hilltop carpetted with green lawn and a mammoth Iron/steel made bridge that help cross the river Neel Ganga which flows underneath it after falling as a kilometer sized waterfall named “Raan bagad”.

Life in hills. Not so easy

Life in hills. Not so easy

After crossing the bridge, its a steep never ending uphill climb to Didna. This is physically one of the most challenging stretches in this route. We met an 85 year old woman carrying a huge load of dry grass to feed her cattle. She was kind of half hearted to pose for a snap. She continuously blabbered something in Gharwali language and all I could make out was “what would she gain by posing for us? !”. I felt so true. But, tipping them would give them a wrong signal and I dint want to start a culture where villagers start posing to visitors for money. Further up, I met Ram and Savitha, both 5-8 year old kids who were going down with a cattle heard. I was amazed with their demeanor when they politely said “Namaste” with a gesture and smile. I asked them if they study. Savitha said something in Gharwali which I understood to be “yes”. I smiled back at them and offered them chocolates which they happily took and ran down with their cattle.

I tried counting stones. 1 2 3 4 .....

I tried counting stones. 1 2 3 4 .....

Campsite: Didna

Campsite: Didna

I was way ahead of the team along with Narayanji – our guide, Jagadish, Bhanu and Zimit. We reached Didna, a small yet beautiful village located at 8000ft above sea level. The village is quite big with colorful fields, cattle huts and stone houses. Narayanji seemed to know everyone there. All people seemed to be friendly souls who smile at anybody they see. Our campsite was on a flat land right behind the village. I ran to the campsite where porters were pitching tents and cooking food. We pitched our tent in the most comfortable location and dumped bags inside and settled down waiting for others.

Enlightened! - A view from Didna campsite(Photo courtesy: Neelima)

Enlightened! - A view from Didna campsite(Photo courtesy: Neelima)

This is the last place where we get cellphone network (Airtel/Vodaphone/BSNL). After informing the family about our whereabouts, we had lunch. The rest of the evening was eventful. We played cards(bluff) for a good long time. Then started Dumb charades in torch light. Then it got cold, dark and under clear sky we lit up campfire to play Antakshari. Narayanji with local folks started the play with a folklore ghrawali song and a million hindi songs followed thanks to Poonam and Ravi’s gigabyte sized song databases in their brain. Among the songs “yahi hai, yahi hai rang roop….” will continue to be in our memory for a long long time (well, for its never ending yahi hai! ).

The session ended with the Om mangalam bajan(Thanks to the Manas sarovar team) After the dinner everybody settled in their tents but for a few of us who stood in the dark chilling cold discussing “offline” topics of that day’s trek till 10PM! (here people retire to bed at around 8PM).

It was near Full moon and Roopkund was still on top of our dreams on that glowing night.

Click here for Next day’s post: Rendezvous with dreamland bugiyals

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Junargali

The failure of the Vasukital trek was still at the back of my mind. The himalayan addiction has no cure and my footloose attitude made me decide to do another trek in the month of holidays – Sep/oct 09. I had decided to go with a group I met in a forum but one of my friends cancelled out. With a month to go and tickets booked, there was no turning back. I had to go. I heard of IndiaHikes helping arranging it and pinged Poonam and within a matter of days we were a big gang ready to do the Roopkund trek.

I wasn’t much into the preparation for this trek as I had most of the things required but it was not the case with the rest of the group. They had looted the famous decathlon store of all its trek gears and had began a huge mail thread for discussion about it. The thread which included all kinds of nagging, checklist and even java code and scripts to make a few people happy!! All flights,trains and jeeps were booked. I had to make a few cancellations and postpone a flight to adjust to the new date of travel but was happy to be accompanied by known people for this trek which had a 50% failure rate.

I am too lazy to blog. I haven’t yet made my mind to blog about my Tapovan-Nandanvan-Vasukital trek and since I have started this, I have decided to keep it short instead of writing a novel.

The day had arrived and I had an AI flight early in the morning which reached the IGI Delhi 2 hours ahead of rest of the gang. I waited or them, reading a novel until Poonam called me telling their flight has reached IGI. In no time I met the rest of the group and was happy to know that Bhanu has got the Spare battery and charger for my camera from the US. The Raniketh express to Kathgodam was scheduled at 10.20PM and hence we departed promising to meet in the railway station.

Everybody boarded the train at old Delhi Railway station in time except for Poonam and me and we boarded it at Ghaziabad. We had seats(and a few tatkal) booked in different bogies and without much hazzle everybody slid to sleep except for our compartment where 6 of us were together busy pulling each other’s legs.

The next morning the train reached Kathgodam in time(5:30 AM) but the cabs had not yet arrived. We all introduced ourselves. Though I knew half the batch, knew the rest only on the forum. After 1-2-3 rounds of chai the cab finally came and we left the station in no time. Our driver proved to be a Shaumaker and we had a good lead from rest of the cabs. We stopped at Bhimtal to take a few photos and learned that it has a branch of Indian Fish Research Council located there.

Bhimtal

Bhimtal

We climbed on to their floating deck and the guard explained us how they cultivate and study endangered fish there. By that time the other two cabs came and we were forced out of the deck. We stopped at a roadside dhaba for breakfast and hogged all kinds of paratas royally. I still remember the taste of pakodas and onion chilly paratha with cucumber raita. We left our so called co-ordinator Ravi to settle the bill and ran from that place in our cab to get a good lead.

River kosi - The playground

River kosi - The playground

Indo-Chini bhai bhai

Indo-Chini bhai bhai

After about an hour or two we realised the other two cabs are far behind us and hence we stopped at a beautiful place on the banks of the river Kosi where we got down for a photo shoot and played in the water for a while. With still no signs of the other cars we decided to wait for them at Kasauni where we stopped for lunch. Mahatma Gandhi had called this place as “Switzerland of India” as it provides a 360 degree panoramic view of Majestic himalayan peaks.I found a few funny menu cards at this famous place.

After lunch at Kasouni, we visited the famous Baijnath Temple located 19kms off Kasouni. The shiv temple town was the capital of the Katyuri dynasty who ruled Uttaranchal during 12-13th century.  We visited the temple at sunset time and the environment was very pleasant. The Gomti river flows right next to the temple and one can feed fishes here.

Baijnath Temple

Baijnath Temple

An Evening at Baijnath

An Evening at Baijnath

History:
Baijnath was once known as Kartikyapura. One of the most important places to visit in Baijnath is the historically and religiously significant Baijnath Temple constructed in the twelfth century. The temple holds significance because, according to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva and Parvati were married at the confluence of River Gomati and Garur Ganga. Dedicated to SivaVaidyanatha, the Lord of Physicians, the Baijnath temple is actually a temples’ complex built by the Katyuri kings with the idols of Shiva, Ganesh, Parvati, Chandika, Kuber, Surya and Brahma. Also the town of Baijnath draws its name from the temple. Situated on the left bank of the Gomti River at an elevation of 1126 mts, the temples are constructed in stone. The main temple that houses a beautiful idol of Parvati is chiseled in black stone. The temple is approached from the riverside by a flight of steps made of stones constructed by the orders of a Katyuri queen. On the way to the main temple, just below the house of the Mahanta, is the temple of Bamani. Legend goes that the temple was built by a Brahmin woman and dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Camp at Patwal guest house - Lohajang

Camp at Patwal guest house - Lohajang

We passed through Gwaldham and Deval to reach Loharjung. On the way we had very good view of Mt.Trishul. With the sun setting the whole mountain was gold lit. We reached Loharjung Patwal guest house by 9PM where Arjun received us. We had quick dinner and slid into our sleeping bags inside the tents at the campsite there.

The rest of the amazing days will continue in upcoming posts. Its gonna be Legend… wait for it!

Click here for next day’s post: Lohajang to Didna

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