- Published by Anu
Life is changing, the earth's heating up and so are the seasons shifting their imminent schedules; courtesy - global warming. Summer seems like the only season that goes on throughout the year. This year's summer seemed to go on foreverrrrr and made me head to the mountains in the month of November, which is quite unlikely of a Mumbaikar (being not accustomed to winters) like me.
For anyone who has been to Himalayas would know how extremely cold it gets even during the summers at such altitude. November assured nail biting cold. So I decided to trek the Deorital-Chandrashila trail in Uttarakhand. A perfect winter trek for its easy terrain, a birding paradise, abundant wildlife (it being a part of Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary) and a grand summit with spectacular views of some of the tallest mountains in India.
The trek begins from a quaint little village called Sari. Sari is situated in Rudraprayag district near Ukhimath and is the base camp for this trek. Amongst the dense pine growth, we were rewarded with the sight of a single cherry blossom tree growing defiantly. Graduated terraced and step-farmed fields are artistically carved out of every mountain dotting the landscape.
Step farming is a farming technique used in hilly terrains to enable cultivation at high altitudes where large areas of land are not available unlike the plains. Step like farms are carved out from slopes so that oxen can be used for ploughing.
Sari to Deorital – Day 1 :
The day begins leisurely since the first day of the trek involves a short hike of 2.3kms to Deoriatal. As we start our gentle ascend our first stop was Nagraja Ratneshwar Temple.
I took off my shoes and entered the temple area. The temple sadhu welcomed me and offered me his blessings. He gave me a small introduction about the temple's history explaining the intricacies of its existence.
After I took blessings from Lord Shiva , he asked me to remember this temple and picturise it in my mind, so I could go back and share my stories with the rest of the world about its magnificence and beauty.
An hour into the climb we could see Chandrashila peak, peeking out from the clouds. The trail is a paved pathway which goes up the mountain. Beyond the top on the other side lies Deoria Tal.
One final pit-stop before the lake reveals itself, you come across few dhabas. We revived ourselves with some hot maggi and fresh lime juice. Dinner and lunch is also available at the dhabas at a nominal price for the ones who come on their own and set their own camp.
All prepared for our first grand views for the day; we headed a gentle slope downhill towards the lake. The pristine Deoria Tal revealed itself in all its glory.
Floating clouds rolling down the valley, birds chirping , the autumn tress and small winding pathways welcome you. And soon as the clouds revealed the grand peaks, we were mesmerized by what we saw. Nilkantha, Bandarpunch, Kedar Dome, Kalanag and the awe imposing 7000er mountain massif of Chaukhamba (Chaukhamba means having four peaks or summits).
Autumn had just begin and the trees stood naked with bare branches, while the red-brown leaves were sprinkled around the campsite as far as the wind took them.
Excitedly we arranged our sacks around our perfectly pitched tents, put on some warm gloves and set out to explore the campsite. Trees were all possible shades of green with hints of yellows and reds surrounding the emerald Deoria-Tal.
It takes around 45 minutes to walk around the perimeter of the lake. Towards the other end of the lake there is a small treehouse like structure created. I climbed up the ladder to the vantage point to get astounding views of the entire area and a closer look of the mountains at sunset.
With the entire region engulfed in complete darkness by 6.00 PM and an early dinner wrapped up at 8 pm, I decided to slip into my sleeping bag and call it an early night.
After a sound sleep, I woke up to the fresh mountain air and hurried towards one end of the lake. I didn't want to miss the first morning rays falling on the Peaks and their reflections in the lake. The sunrise was magnificent with the rays lighting up the peaks one after the other. Magic unfolding in front of our eyes.
Deorital to Rohini Bugyal - Day 2 :
Today's trek trail began past the lake entering into the forest thickets. On reaching a clearing we could see Sari village in the valley below on one side and Chandrashila Peak on the other. The ascend begins from this point on, winding along the mountain ridge. Huffing and puffing we climb for a whole hour and reach the flag point. A great spot to click some pictures and selfies and not to forget… catching your breath!
Moving on, we passed by a very old spooky tree with wild flowers and then began lush green meadows of Rohini Bugyal.
Our campsite was a short distance away , but was hidden from view. Then came a detour up and around a small meadow and there it was…our campsite for the day right on the slopes of the meadow. I quickly ran into the first tent which was pitched solely ahead from rest of the tents and called dibs on it. It was the best location with uninterrupted views of the mountains. Look at our tent!
Later in the evening we lit a bonfire as the temperature was dropping to quite a low.
The village horse men gathered around and joined us in singing songs and dancing to their musical versions of folklore. I lay on the grass stargazing at the million stars that lit up the sky. One of the plus points of this trek is that you get ample time to explore the campsite and spend your day as leisurely as you would like to, since the per day trekking hours range from 4-5 hours max. Take loads of nature walks, go bird spotting or take as long as you want with your camera clicking pictures ...just go wild go crazy.
Rohini Bugyal to Brujgali - Day 3 :
Stretching out of our tents, we welcomed the morning rays of the sun with a bit of stretching exercises and yoga. Rohini Bugyal to Brujgali trail is the most beautiful stretch of the entire trek. Patches of snow, fallen maple leaves strewn all over the way, misty forests with bright green grasses protruding out from the meadow slopes, waterfalls and the panoramic views of the mountains all encountered on today's hike. Higher and higher up the meadow shepherd huts and settlements came into view and the tall pines got abundantly denser. Rolling down the gentle slopes, jumping high up in the air making weird happy crazy faces I was thoroughly enjoying the hike. The mountains made me feel like I was home , like I belonged here. Brujgali is one of the most beautiful campsites and the meadows are simply stunning. I did not enter the tent at all, instead took the sleeping bags out in the stark sunshine and lazed around.
Strolling through the abandoned shepherd settlements I wondered how amazing it would be to live in these stone-made structural houses. An image started forming in my mind of these shepherds and their journey travelling through treacherous natural passes and places. It made me jealous for a bit, but then the hardships faced by them brought me back to the reality of the comforts of my home. The paved pathway to Tungnath and Chandrashila was right behind our campsite mentally preparing us for the final day of the Summit.
The Summit – Day 4 :
Summit day literally means summiting in the night :P . The only day part includes waiting at the summit to watch the dawn unfold in front of our eyes. Our trek batch-mates began climbing at 3.00 am under the moonlight. Jackals, foxes and leopards are a common sight on this trail. Fearful yet wanting to reach the summit, I mustered all my energy for the well paved yet arduous climb.
Something brown and small hastened its way into the crevices of the rock. I stopped and shushed and waited to catch a glimpse of the little creature. Up it popped out peeking from behind the rocks looking out for signs of danger. It was a cute little brown rabbit. While it kept playing peek-a-boo we moved on hoping to spot rare wildlife ahead.
There were few dhabas at designated points which were shut down but nevertheless were great spots to take rest. Tungnath temple and Chandrashila were visible to us now. Tungnath temple is closed from the month of November and the deity is shifted to the Omkareshwar Temple in the valleys of Devprayag as it is inaccessible due to heavy snowfall in the winter months.
The air gets thinner but the views get better and soon we reach the Tungnath temple. It feels serene and at the top of the world. Tungnath, (3680 mts), is the highest Shiva temple in the world and is also one of the five and the highest Paanch Kedar temples located in the state of Uttarakhand.
Chandrashila peak behind the temple rises like a pointed end of Gandalf's hat and seems to be calling out to us. A final push to the summit to reach well before sunrise is totally worth it. The panoramic views leave you spellbound, feeling like the top of the world.
Deorital to Chandrashila will always be one of the best Himalayan treks etched in my memory forever. For the mountains inspired me, mesmerized me and pushed me even more out of my comfort zone.
And in that moment I felt alive, as it lifted my soul to where it belonged - somewhere on a mountain high.
Love lifts us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry on a mountain high
Love lifts us up where we belong
Far from the world we know, up where the clear winds blow
Some hang on to "used to be"
Live their lives, looking behind
All we have is here and now
All our life, out there to find
The road is long, there are mountains in our way,
But we climb them a step every day
Time goes by
No time to cry
Life's you and I
- Joe Cocker
Were you inspired or moved by mountains? Do share your inspiration and stories in the comments below. Would love to hear about your trekking plans and crazy itineraries for 2016.
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