Alone not Lonely: Kudremukh Trek on a weekday

Rolling green hills, clouds kissing the mountains, forest trails, bamboo shrubs and a dozen waterfalls, the Kudremukh Peak trek has it all; No wonder it is called the Himalayas of the south. The scenery keeps changing on the trek and will surely amaze anyone. Kudremukh is not the highest peak of Karnataka, but it is the third highest (6207 ft) and hence a good trek, it is known for the variety of scenery it offers.

Kudremukh, which literally means Horse’s Face, was on my list for quite some time and I decided to tick that off the list this year. The reason I chose Kudremukh Trek was I wanted to experience the Western Ghats, the clouds passing over the rolling green hills was a sight I wanted to see for real. Also, it was really hot and humid in Mumbai, so Kudremukh Trek seemed like the best option.

Reaching Base Village/ HomeStay:

Kudremukh peak is in the Kudremukh National park which comes in the Chikmagalur district of Karnataka. The nearest airport is Mangalore but I got a good deal for Bangalore flight tickets and as I was planning solo, I thought it would be better to go via Bangalore. The base village for Kudremukh Trek is Mullodi, which is a remote village hence there is no direct connectivity. There are KSRTC buses to Hornadu from Bangalore bus stop; one can stop at Kalasa (you may need to request the driver to drop at the square before Kalasa). From there another vehicle or SUV to reach Kudremukh forest check post. There are many homestays around. Some homestays also arrange transport from Kalasa.

I had done my entire research and was planning to follow the same route and connect with a local person at Kalasa or any homestay. But social media is amazing, and I met Jatin from Plan the Unplanned who joined me for the trek and he has been an amazing trek lead and trek mate. We took a non-stop bus to Hassan and then another bus to Chikmagalur. From Chikmagalur to Kudremukh we went on a bike. The distance is around 95 to 97 km. It was an awesome experience on the bike, surrounded by trees, lush green patches, bamboos, jackfruit trees and coffee estates. Clouds and hills accompanied us as well. We crossed Kalasa, Kalasa main road is very cute. It seemed like a lovely quaint town. After Kalasa, we had planned a stop at a waterfall near Coffee Gudda. The area is also called Coffee Gudda, named on a famous homestay.

The waterfall is called Elneeru. Elneeru means Sweet coconut, it is said that water is as sweet or tastes similar to coconut water. The ride to Elneeru is through muddy roads and one can drive till the motorable area. Then one has to descend down a little to reach the waterfall. On the way, came across another beautiful waterfall, it looked like a wallpaper. I was overwhelmed by that waterfall itself. Jatin had to tell me that this isn’t our final destination. ๐Ÿ™‚

After further descend and a then little hike, one can hear the sound of falls in full flow and birds chirping. In some time the Elniru falls become visible. It is a huge waterfall full of energy, feeling the water on your face was a bliss. I even tasted the water, it actually tastes sweet ๐Ÿ™‚

After a rejuvenating break at Elniru falls, moved towards our Homestay- Bella Homestays. Bella Homestays is a beautiful cosy home away from home. It is a traditional style cottage with amazing views, surrounded by trees. The upper deck or aangan is a beautiful place for chai and the food tasted even better in such a setting. The sounds of nature are always there with you – birds chirping, crickets and the raindrops. Post some delicious home cooked food, we hit the bed as we had a long day the next day.

The Trek day:

One has to start early in order to be back at the homestay on time. The forest department also advises being back before 6 at least. As we were trekking on a weekday, we had the leverage to start the trek a little late. It was a rainy night and morning, so was difficult for me to get up. ๐Ÿ˜‰ We had chai on the deck, got ready and packed my daypack. Had some tasty Idli and Sambhar for breakfast followed by filter coffee. We started for the base village Mullodi in a jeep. The distance is approximately 6 km to the Forest department office, from where the trek actually starts. The ride is adventurous as one crosses coffee plantations, muddy roads with waterfalls and streams as well on the way. The forest department office is a small structure where one needs to take permission and a guide. After all required permissions we started the trek, with a guide and a dog named Pandu. At the start itself, after few minutes of walking there comes a stream crossing. As it was raining heavily and continuously the flow and depth of the stream was heavy.

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After the stream crossing, there is a slight ascent on a muddy path surrounded by ferns, several shrubs and lush green grass. This continues for around 1 to 1.5 km and then there comes an elevated plain and a stand-alone tree which is called Ontimara.

On the left on Ontimara, the trail becomes flat for some time, on the right one can see the Kudremukh valley and Somavati river flowing below. The trail soon converts into a forest trail- dark shola forests with water streams. There were a lot of leeches at this point, I initially thought I am saved from them, but later realized that it’s difficult to actually avoid them. Another stream crossing there are open meadows. It was an amazing feeling to trek through dense forests, with open meadows in between. The transition of scenery played kept the thrill till the end.

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Kudremukh peak becomes visible after some point. The clouds were coming closer and nearer as if to kiss and hug you. Amidst the open meadows, after further walking, there is a board by Forest Department Office stating the direction and distance (7 km) to Kudremukh peak. After another dense patch of trees, is another stream of water, and the last water source before the peak. After stream crossing, there is a steep ascent. All of us were walking at our own pace, and I achieved what I wanted to from the trek- deep connection with nature and solitude, all this mid-way itself.

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It started raining heavily at around 11 am. On the right, the view was mesmerizing, clouds passing over rolling lush green hills. Tried taking few time lapses there. After further ascend you reach the second Ontimara.

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Before reaching the Ontimara, I was amazed by the Kudremukh range all around me. From the ontimara, the view on the right was enthralling- rolling green hills vibrant, full of energy passing all the energy on to us. We jumped in joy and then sat there soaking in the beauty of the moment.

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After the Ontimara, the trail is a mix of narrow paths between dense forests, bamboo shrubs and steep ascents.

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The whole of Kudremukh valley opens up after some point. The guide tried to explain the structure of the peak in Kannada. He pointed at the part of the mountain which resembles the face of a horse and mentioned Kudre-mukha, and then pointed at the stomach and back of the horse and explained how the mountain resembles a horse. Language is not a barrier when both want to have a conversation. He also explained that we will climb the “horse’s back” part of the mountain and the climb is steep and zig-zag.

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The zig-zag steep climb is difficult comparatively but the views encourage to keep going. It was raining so much, along with the winds that I felt as of the raindrops are slapping me. There were times I could not even open my eyes.

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After the end of the zig-zag point, paused for some time to look and appreciate how far I have come. The rolling hills, lush green and full of life, the open meadows, the grasslands everything on the trail was just perfect, why go to Scotland when you can experience this in India itself.

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At the end of zig zag point, there is a rock cluster with a blue arrow mark showing the direction to the peak. Jatin pointed at some ruins and mentioned there used to be a British Rest house there. The last part of the trek is not a steep climb because of the shape of the mountain. It is a level walk past green fields.

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As we went closer to the highest point, the rains kept increasing. It stopped for sometime when we reached the peak. At the peak, there is Forest Department Board as well showing the details of Kudremukh peak and other peaks of Kudremukh national park. As it was raining continuously, there was no visibility, all I could see was clouds below.

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Waited sometime there to see the hills and clouds play peek-a-boo. After sometime started the descent, capturing and soaking in as much as possible. The descent was a fast one, as we wanted to reach on time and I was hungry as well. We crossed a skull as well near a stream. Jatin saw a wild boar running ahead as well. We reached back till the jeep drop point by 4:30 pm.

Leech bites, heavy rains, gusty winds nothing could stop us to conquer the peak. It was just us at the peak. Kudremukh trek is otherwise a popular trek but as it was a weekday, it was only we three on the entire trail. At many points, I was walking alone and got answers to many questions. I was alone, but not lonely; Inspired by ontimara and nature.

Straight From My Heart,

Prakriti Singh

References:

https://incrediblemalnad.com/chikmagalur/trekking/kudremukh-trek/

https://indiahikes.com/documented-trek/kudremukh-trek-2/

Kedarkantha – A Dreamy Snow Trek

Fresh winter snow, picturesque sights, the forests, clearings and pretty campsites, the trails of Kedarkantha trek are straight from a dreamland. In fact, I got some sights and memories from the trek in my dreams even after 8 days of coming back; Though this wasn’t my first Himalayan trek, the “trek hangover” was a strong one, maybe because of the settings and my improved fitness levels.

According to trekking community – Indiahikes, Kedarkantha trek is the Best Winter trek. I was looking for a winter trek to consume my annual leaves, and the title of “The Best Winter Trek” tempted me to chose Kedarkantha. Also, I was particular about experiencing Garhwal Himalayas as my last trek was in Himachal (Sar Pass).Without any further thoughts, I booked Kedarkantha trek with Indiahikes, and it was one of the best decisions of my life.

Reaching Gainchwan Gaon:

The base camp for Kedarkantha trek is Gainchawan Gaon, it is an 8-9 drive hour from Dehradun. We had a pick up from Dehradun station. The drive is beautiful with forest covers and Yamuna river and Rupin River accompanying us.

Gainchawan Gaon is near Naitwar in Uttarkashi district. The drive is through Mussoorie and then the Yamunotri marg, but later diverts to Purola road. A special permission needs to be taken at the Netwar barrier as we enter the Govind Pashu Vihar National Park. The sights after Purola were very refreshing, and the best part of the journey for me was the last 5 km, on the top of the tempo traveller, adventure started before reaching the base camp itself. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Guest House at Base Camp
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View from the window

The guest house is a beautiful wooden house, and I was lucky to get a room with amazing view. Even though most of the people had introduced themselves in the traveler during the 6-hour drive, we had again introduction and briefing session. It was a good icebreaker and gave an idea about the interests and profession of the trek mates. For me, the night at Gainchwan was an unforgettable night, gave some really good connections and memories. I have some amazing stories and memories at Gainchwan with my new friends and trek mates. The base camp fairly gives you an idea about the people with whom you can make a connection and enjoy the rest of the days. We were all very excited for the trek and hoped to see a good amount of snow, as that’s the highlight of any winter trek.

Gainchwan Gaon To Julota:

This was in actual, the first day of the trek. We were told it will be sunny, but I didn’t expect it to be that sunny. The trail goes through villages of Haltari and Altwar. The locals greeted us and we met some amazing kids along the way.

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The wooden architecture of the houses is pretty impressive. The trail was steep, but we were getting drained due to the sun, and not mainly because of the trail. I realized I had over packed when the sun was overhead and my bag felt really heavy. The second half was a forest trail with pine and oaks and less sunny, but I was already drained by that time. Even with the heavy bag pack, after a steep ascent, reached Julota campsite.

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The Julota campsite is a clearing and hence was surrounded by forest trees. Even after being drained, my trek-mates and I were chilling out and even walked a little to sit amidst the forests. It was a great feeling, just the three of us in the silence, soaking up every bit of nature and peace. However, a mild headache started post sunset, which increased in the night. I felt pukish as well, and later puked. I was getting quite anxious post that, as they are symptoms of mountain sickness. The trek leader was really helpful and told me it might be due to sun and exertion as well and to chill and take a good sleep. The good sleep really worked as my oxygen levels the next day was pretty good, more than that at the base camp. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I decided to offload my bag pack as I wanted to do the summit climb, and not exert my body before the summit day.

Julota to Pukhrola (KK Base):

This was the most dreamy and fun-filled day of the trek for me. Some of the sights seemed straight from my dreamland. The day started with forest trails, and then after some distance, we find snow patches all around. We were so excited, and all of us clicked a lot of pictures. Our trek guide kept saying, “Mam ab toh snow hi snow hain aage, baad mein photos le lena” ( There will be a lot of snow, you can click pictures later). But I could not stop clicking, Amit, the co-guide warned us that he will throw a snowball if anyone stops very frequently for pictures. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜€ The snowball fight in one of the clearings was the highlight of the trek. Just loved playing with fresh snow with everyone.

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The last part of the this day’s trail was the most scenic one. The river streams surrounded by snow and trees not only looked serene, but the sound of the water was therapeutic; Halted there for some time just to enjoy the moment. After that, we trekked through the trees to reach a Pukhrola. The beauty of Pukhrola campsite is breathtaking. It is like camping between the mountain ridges, one can see the Kedarkantha summit as well, we were at the base of Kedarkantha peak. It even started snowing for some time and was cloudy. Our trek leader was worried, as the summit climb becomes really difficult and slippery if it rains/snows. But soon the clouds cleared.

The sunset from Pukhrola was one of the best sunsets of my life, the colours, the beauty left me totally lost. The entire trek group watched and captured the sunset in peace. No amount of pictures or videos can give justice to that sunset. You have to be there, to feel it. It was an amazing time at the KK Base, we were glad we made it till here and anxious about the summit day. I prayed the weather remains supportive, as that plays a major role while climbing a peak.

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The Summit Day – Pukhrola to Kedarkantha peak

The summit day, the day for which we were waiting anxiously for the last three days. The wake up was at 4 am, and I was up before that, I am sure a lot of people were. The temperature had dropped to -2 to -3 degree in the night. With 4 layers of clothing, spikes, and gaiters, we started our attempt to conquer Kedarkantha peak. Step by step we were reaching close to our goal. In a single line, without overtaking we were following the narrow trail. We were lucky that it was a clear day. The first rest point was a good milestone, we could see the campsite from above. Snow peaks were all around us, but not at the eye level. After some rest, we started again. A steep climb for another one hour leads to a Shiva temple, mythology says this was the initial Shiva shrine Kedarnath, but Lord Shiva got disturbed during meditation and hence disappeared to the present day Kedarnath. It is said that he left his throat behind hence the peak name in Kedarkanth. (Kedar – Shiva , Kantha – Throat ). I took a halt before going up, it’s important to pause and appreciate how far you have come. And then when I reached the top of the peak, I was awestruck, mesmerized by the view. So many peaks at the eye level. A gentle reminder that we are very small, very small in this universe, yet we can conquer anything we want if we truly want it.

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The entire trek group made it, each with their own pace. We sat there enjoying the view and trying to capture the sight. That feeling was overwhelming, to make it successfully to the summit, and that breathtaking view. Our trek leader shared the names of the peaks visible, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Swaroghini and Rupin ranges, Har ki Dun valley, Drapaudi ka Danda, Bandarpooch, Kalanag. Each and every peak has a mystical story associated with it. After some group pictures, we started the descent. We had to trace the route back to the base, Pukhrola.

Kedarkantha peak- KK base- Akhoti Campsite:

Descending can become challenging when the snow melts, and as it was a steep one, our guide was keen that we reach the base on time. His common slogan changed from Chalo Chalo (Keep walking) to Bhaago Bhaago ( Run, Run). While he didn’t mean it literally, but the descent was a quick one for me. It’s more about the technique and the spikes gave good grip. Sliding was too much fun, and as the snow was fresh, we could slide on 2-3 patches. I lost balance and almost my phone on one the slide, but controlled using my elbows.

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After the point from where the campsite was seen, I purposely slowed down. When again will I get to see such sights, snow and get such good air, hence I took a halt as well. Deliberately I joined the last batch of trek mates, and then mixed feelings sink in, accomplished that we made it, sad that it’s over.

After the base, we had to descend further till our new campsite. We had to reach until around lunch time, and so all maintained a good pace. This was a fun trail, initially the same route we covered on the second day, the dreamy snow and forest trails, and then a diversion for Akhoti.

The final descent: Akhoti to Gainchwan Gaon:

Akhoti campsite is a new campsite, it is actually a thatch hence mules can be seen around. After Pukhrola, it was very difficult to like any campsite for us. Akhoti is surrounded by forests and some flowers. The sunset and even the sunrise was very beautiful from the campsite. It was beautiful in its own way, however comparing it with Pukhrola, would not be fair. As this was the last campsite of our trek, everyone was relaxing and enjoying each and every moment of it. We played few games as well.

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When we started the last day of our trek, the final descent, we realized the reason for having Akhoti as the campsite. The trail from Akhoti to Gainchwan Gaon is an amazing forest trail. There were Rhododendron trees and it was again a dreamy forest trail, minus the snow.

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We had to cross a river stream as well and climb few rocks. It was fun and challenging. This time again we took a halt to Haltari and had Maggi.As only the last part of the trek was left, we wanted to enjoy every moment of it, capturing as much as possible.

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Also, it was decided that we will do the last patch of the trek together, as a team, hence we waited for the entire group to come and then walked together till our guest house at Gainchwan Gaon. Feeling accomplished, we were back at the base camp. The stay this time at the guest house was a different one, we were relaxed, confident this time, and had a sense of achievement. Five days in mountains can change a lot of things. Spent some time walking in the village next morning, before the start of our return journey to Dehradun. The best part of travel, and in particular treks, is that you start alone, but come back with a bunch of good friends.

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Kedarkantha trek for me, indeed was like a dream, which I wished should have continued for some more time, but all dreams come to an end, and life goes on; Some lessons learned, new friends made and as always memories for a lifetime.

Straight From My Heart,

Prakriti Singh

Contest entry for The Adventurer Blog Contestย May 2018 byย Bikat Adventures”ย 

Flashback 2017: 12 Months, 12 Destinations & millions of memories

12 months, 12 Destinations, many outings and millions of memories

It’s the fifth weekend of 2018 already !! It seems like I celebrated New Year Eve just last week ๐Ÿ™‚ Time flies seriously, from one weekend to another, one month to another, and the year is almost over. I felt my 2017 was like that. One trip to another, from one holiday hangover to the other. Beaches to Mountains and repeat ๐Ÿ™‚

2017 was my most traveled and outdoor-spent year. I had decided to explore more, discover new destinations and in fact I ended up spending so much time outdoors that I couldn’t pen down my travel stories and epic journeys. Better late than never, and flashbacks are important as well!

So here it goes –

January – Kumta to Gokarna Coastal Beach Trek:

Started my first long weekend with a Coastal Beach trek. After a lot of failed plans, booked this trek with TrekMates, luckily there was only 1 seat left and without wasting any second, just booked it. Gokarna was any way in my bucket list, and a range trek along Arabian Sea Coast seemed pretty exciting. Started from a small town Kumta, in Uttara Kannada and reached Gokarna crossing 11 virgin, scenic beaches, hiking through cliffs, and breathtaking views of Arabian Sea. It was not just another trek for me, but a journey I will remember for a lifetime. Imagine chilling on a beach, without knowing the name of the beach ๐Ÿ™‚

The best part of the journey was that I started alone, but came back with a bunch of friends.

February – Bhandardhara Camping

Winter & camping go hand in hand. Lake side camping with my college friends seemed like a great idea and booked this experience along with my three college friends. This experience was again provided by Trekmates. What seemed like a small group and a silent camping experience, turned out into a night of crazy laughter, dance, music and most importantly the ghost stories. Bonfire, bunch of crazy friends and good music is a sure shot guide to a perfect camping experience.

The morning was one of the most beautiful mornings, waking up to a view is an amazing feeling. Beautiful places aren’t far away !!

March- Lonavala Drive and Wet and Joy Water Park

I thought let’s take a break in March and be a little indoors. It was a hectic work month and also the month of Holi festival. But somehow planned for a day outing and went to Lonavala for a drive. It was my first road trip on my new car, so quite an excited one for me ๐Ÿ˜‰ Though it was just a usual drive and chill plan but we ended up enjoying at a water park- Wet and Joy. Unplanned outings are best at times.

April- Lucknow

Lucknow, Nawabon ka Shahar. It was a close friendโ€™s wedding and it was unavoidable. This was more of a foodie trip. Enjoyed Lucknow Chaat and Kulfi, and obviously the wedding was too much fun. Dance, Dhol and drama, typical Indian wedding scenes. Moreover, it was like a mini college reunion.

May – Kasol , Manikaran

The most awaited month of the year, I was waiting for May from 2016. I had booked Himalayan Trek in November 2016 itself. Kasol was the base camp for my Himalayan Trek. Kasol is a place where even if you are in a group, you will find solace. The base camp is set at a beautiful place. This place is best-discovered walking, we went walking till Manikaran Gurudwara, crossing entire Kasol, the road is still fresh in my heart and mind. Kasol is like Mini Israel of India, one can see a lot of Israelis around, Israeli cafes and beautiful paintings as well. The walk towards Katagla bridge is mesmerizing as well.

June- Sar Pass, Delhi

My Journey to Wonderland, from Kasol to Sar Pass is already documented, and I can almost write a book on it. This was a Himalayan trek to Sar Pass with Youth Hostel. My return was planned via Bhuntar and Delhi. Though I started the trek alone, by the end I had a few really good friends. I had one day free, and spent it with my new friends, cafe hopping and eating in and around Connaught Place.

July- Thailand

My unplanned international trip, thanks to office departmental offsite. The off-site was planned for Bangkok and Pattaya. The trip seemed refreshing after the Himalayan trek. This was an all in one trip, shopping, partying, sightseeing and even adventure sports. Loved shopping and exploring the Floating Market, had no idea there’s love bridge in Pattaya as well.

August- Vasai Fort & Lonavala

Vasai fort was in my checklist from quite some time but finally made it in August. This was again an unplanned outing. My friend called, on Friday and we immediately made the plan. Even though some people said that there’s nothing to explore at the fort, I always believe in going , seeing and then believing; and I am glad I did. The walls and structure of the fort still remains and gives the idea of how magnificent it may have been in the past. Rains and perfect breeze added to the beauty of the outing.

I also went for a drive to Lonavala with a new friend. It was just the perfect day for a Lonavala drive.

September- Mysore Farm House

My secret hide out spot, where I always go when I feel like running away, is my sister’s farmhouse on the Mysore Ooty road. The farm life can give anyone a detox and break from the mundane city life. Epic sunsets, beautiful mornings and fresh air, just the perfect break one needs to rejunavate.

October – Igatpuri , Vihegaon

Sometimes leaving early from office and going on a drive is not a bad idea. This was around Diwali time, the last working day before the festive break. I left before lunch and decided to go to Igatpuri with my friend. The drive was amazing and we ended up discovering a beautiful waterfall – Ashoka Waterfall near Vihegaon.

November- Mysore City

November was an eventful month, with its ups and downs. I had 3 days of joblessness and I thought going to Mysore was the best idea as I had no prior bookings. So I boarded the bus to Mysore. This time though, I was in the city itself and didn’t go to my sister’s farmhouse. To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the beautiful sensations in the world.

December- Alibaug, Phanaswasdi, Owe Dam

December was a break and thanksgiving month for me. 2017 has been a wonderful year for me. A lot of travel, some good new friends and millions of memories. I was craving for a beach holiday but, and then one weekend I met a close friend for brunch but we ended up going to Alibaug. Spontaneous plans at it’s best. I spent the New Year Eve silently, with a small trek to Phanaswadi and later till Owe Dam.

Cheers to the good times and I hope 2018 gives me more reasons to laugh, explore and write.

Straight From My Heart,

Prakriti

Journey to Wonderland: Kasol to Sar Pass

Snow clad mountains amidst pine trees , the sound of river flowing, breath-taking views, beautiful sunrise and sunset, and the star-lit sky. Pretty much like a wonderland ? Yes, my journey to Sar Pass from Kasol, indeed seemed like a journey to wonderland. I was mesmerized by the natural beauty by the time I reached Kasol base camp. I was pretty excited, as it was my first Himalayan trek, which I had booked long back with Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI).

Reaching Kasol:

The best way to reach Kasol from Mumbai is taking a flight till Delhi and then taking a bus to Bhuntar. There are flights directly till Kullu also but the frequency is less, also they are quite expensive. The reason I selected to go via Delhi was the road journey from Delhi to Bhuntar. In 2006, I went on a road trip from Delhi to Manali, and it was full of breathtaking views. The journey from Delhi to Bhuntar din’t disappoint me either. River Beas accompanies you throughout the journey; the flow keeps increasing with the altitude. Mighty Beas river flowing through the hills is a sight that needs to be captured.

We reached Bhuntar early in the morning. ( Had left alone, but found a backpacker from Delhi, who was going on the same trek as mine). It is an overnight journey, we started from Delhi around 9:30 pm. Our bus was actually late; few passengers lost their bags on the way. Apparently there was some issue with the door of outside bus storage compartment and few bags fell. As an obligation, the driver took the bus few kms back, but in vain. I was glad the bags weren’t mine, couldn’t imagine a 10 day trek without my backpack !!

Bhuntar to Kasol is around 31 km. We took a state transport bus from Bhuntar to Kasol. That was one epic bus journey. The bus was full of locals, and few other backpackers like us. We got place to sit though. The best part were the songs, it seemed like an very old playlist of mine. All peppy Punjabi songs, Imran Khan, Honey Singh and other artists. The view and the playlist was a great combination. A hippie was trying to sell us drugs, he thought our purpose of going to Kasol was dope and rave parties. We somehow convinced him that we aren’t interested. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Kasol YHAI Base Camp: Reporting & Acclimatization

Finally we reached Kasol. The journey till Kasol only was so eventful, I was sure the coming days would definitely be memorable. The YHAI campsite is located on the banks of Parvati River. There are certain formalities to be done once you reach the base camp, like submitting the receipt, YHAI membership card, doctor’s certificate, etc. Post which, you get assigned a tent. Being from Mumbai, I was feeling cold at the Base camp itself. I was wondering what would happen at higher altitudes. But then after discussing with the camp staff, got assured that we will be acclimatized.

The first day at the camp I felt as if I at a military camp, the rules, the schedule, expected discipline. There were timetables and schedule displayed to give everyone a fair idea of how the upcoming days. The first day was rest day, while the rest of the days they had planned exercises, and mini treks to acclimatize the group. The training was very much helpful later at higher altitudes.

 

Grahan Village:

Grahan is a small village with only 50 houses and a population of around 350 people. Everyone knows each other here , chances are that if you meet someone here once, you will keep meeting them again. The houses are traditional wooden houses, some of them are 200 years old.

The hike to Grahan is incredibly beautiful, with picture perfect locations on the way. Just the start of the trek and I was mesmerized with the beauty of Parvati Valley. Though later I had sinus issues due to change in temperature and altitude, but soon was acclimatized and kept hiking, one step at a time.

The wooden houses are visible only in the last 100-150 m of the hike. I remember we were greeted by a group of happy children. We were the last batch of our trekking group as we were taking halts in between and soaking in the beauty of nature. A young and confident boy, Vishwas volunteered to show us the way to the YHAI campsite. Finally we reached the first campsite. Words are less to describe the beauty of the place and even the people there. You have to be there in the moment to actually understand it.

Magical Padri:

Grahan to Padri was a 9 km hike, covered in approx 6 hours. The trail was through the stream and forests. We had to cross old bridges too. The best part of this hike was the post lunch trail through the forest, I felt like taking a halt and nap there itself ๐Ÿ™‚ The views from Padri camp were mesmerizing, we could see the icy mountains, the forests and even horses grazing.

There was something magical about the place, everyone felt so happy and cheerful. I remember laughing so much with my group, my new trek mates, that my stomach was aching. We named that mountain where were discussing about trek, people, life and what not, as the Laughing Mountain. We were warned that there were snow bears around the camp-site, hence going out alone in the night was not advisable.

Ming Thatch:

In terms of distance, the trail from Padri to higher camp, Ming Thatch was longest, ie 10 kms. The trail consisted of thick dense forest, narrow bridges crossing the stream, and spectacular views of snow peaked mountains through the pine trees.ย The lunch point of this climb had amazing views. It was the best lunch of my life, lunch with a view.

On reaching the camp site, it felt like an achievement, as it was a higher altitude camp ( 11200 ft) and we reached safely.ย The oxygen level becomes less from here, and also there is a drastic change in temperature. We were advised to wear proper inner , jackets and gloves to protect from cold temperature. We got to know that Ming Thatch camp is perfect for star gazing, and even Milky Way is visible clearly post 2 am. Never in my life, I had seen the Milky Way, so I had made up my mind to get up at 2 am; I was lucky enough to get a nature’s call around that time too.

Waking up at 2 am, in freezing cold, and witnessing the wonderful galaxy, was truly an experience of a lifetime.

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Nagaru:

Ming Thatch to Nagaru was a 5 km, 5 hour climb. Even though the distance was less compared to other trails, this was more of a climb and very less of walking. This was the highest camp site, with amazing views. The altitude is 12,500 ft, and it felt great. There was no water at the camp, only water source was the glaciers. We got network here for sometime, after five days of being disconnected.

The sunset was amazing here, and the majestic mountain views can make everyone realize how small we and our problems are in this world. We had to start early the next day, 2 am scheduled wake up call. The reason for starting early was that the snow starts to melt later, hence we had to cover maximum area before that.

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Final Milestone: Nagaru to Sar Pass

The final day, the day when we will conquer Sar Pass. We started very early, with torch in one hand, and walking stick in another. This was the first time we started walking in jackets, with gloves and all. It was a different feeling altogether. We were walking in a line, the guides were very helpful. For most of us, it was the first time we were walking on so much snow. We had to cover 14 kms in 6 hours. And finally, with slow but steady pace, we reached Sar Pass, the frozen lake pass. That feeling when you are actually at the point which you were thinking about for days. Some of the patches were quite slippery, but all of us managed without any injuries.

Sar PassChai after SP


The Descent: Sar Pass to Beskari

I was assuming this would be the easy part, once that the highest point is accomplished. But this was the most slippery part, and one needs to be very careful, patient and mentally strong. I had never witnessed snow mountains so closely in my life, and there I was, walking, climbing and crossing them. Our batch could not experience Beskari slide as the snow was less, being the second last batch. But still, it was a great experience, the beauty of the place can leave anyone stunned.

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Mini Switzerland of India: Bhandak Thatch

Beskari to Bhandak Thatch trail seemed straight like a wonderland. The trek was mainly over, but the amazing views din’t leave us till the end.

Bhandak Thatch in my opinion was the most beautiful campsite of the trek. It is called as Mini Switzerland of India, and to be honest, I felt it’s exaggeration,ย  but the place actually is Mini Switzerland. We were lucky to experience rainfall at this camp site, and it just added to the beauty. View from our tent was amazing, and post rain all snow peaks were covered in more snow, making the place look more similar to Switzerland. I had mixed feelings here, happy that the trek was completed successfully, with so many amazing memories and a bunch of good travel friends; sad because it’s over. But it’s best to live in the moment and enjoy. Everything seemed magical about that place, and I was wishing the day shouldn’t end.

BhandakBhandak group sessionBhadak descent

From Bhandak, we descended to Barsheni Village crossing beautiful villages of Kalga, Pulga , Tulga and reached Manikaran. Finally had a bath, hot spring bath that too, after 10 days.ย  Celebrations continued after reaching Kasol, we were now certified trekkers.

A journey and adventure of a lifetime ended, leaving behind, memories, lessons, pictures and some great friends. I will never forget my journey to wonderland…

 

Straight From My Heart,

Prakriti