Netra Munj has been dreaming of doing a Himalayan trek since her college days. Now a college lecturer, she embarked on a trek to Har ki Dun valley, enjoying the meditative silences of the valley and merriment of her fellow trekkers, on the fag end of the year.
My fortune cookie surely mentioned that I will visit the paradise in the year 2015. What a beautiful way of bidding farewell to the year in the lap of the Shiva’s Valley – known as “Har-Ki-Dun” in the Himalayas.
The story begins on the 23rd December outside Dehradun rail station. When I reached the station at 6:30am, the place was in high gear. There were small groups with their backpacks on, chattering a way, looking forward to the exciting journey. In a few minutes, I found the Indiahikes group and I was immediately at home with the warm, smiling group of 20 from all over India from varied age groups and professions. A smile connects like nothing else.
The road from Dehradun to Sankri is a bunch of hairpins connected to one another through several mountains, lush green step farms and thick cedar and pine jungles. The houses on the hill steps come straight out of the grandma’s fairy tales. The glimpses of change in the lifestyle became visible as we reached Sankri. Temperature had fallen little below zero degree and even the cosy, wooden guest houses could barely lessen the chill.
On the 24th, we all headed to Taluka, the last motorable point on the way to Har-Ki-Dun. Backpacks offloaded, trekking poles stretched, water bottles filled and off we started!
The day’s walk was a mix of flat walkway, moderate ascents and descents along with the youthful river Supin. The river looks exactly like it was shown in the black and white Raj Kapoor movie ‘Barsaat’. The 12-to-13-kms walk was not only a treat to the eyes but it also helped to know our buddies better as we walked helping one another, sharing plates and glasses for the first time. As we neared the first campsite, the snow started showing its presence. The excitement of the trek started increasing not only for first timers but for everyone.
Our first campsite was my first ever experience of a tent stay in the mountains. We picked our tent buddies for the next 6 nights. Our evening schedule of tea, snacks, soup, chats, laughter, dumb charades and lovely dinner (including sumptuous sweets!) was started there. There was an another batch on the campsite that was returning from Har ki Dun. We all eagerly listened to their experience and were even more excited for the journey ahead. The fact that the night temperature at Har Ki Dun was -22 degree Celsius when they were there was still not enough to scare any of us!
The next day, the walk became steeper. We walked through the snow, passing through another beautiful and slightly bigger village Osla. Only one house in Osla had BSNL connection in this entire stretch of 26 km from Taluka to Har ki Dun. The grandeur of the mountains was increasing as we were moving ahead. After Osla, we could see some snow-covered houses down in the valley just by the bank of the swift river. And after that? No village, no houses..only mountains, steep climbs, little glaciers and wooden bridges to cross the swift, fierce rivers.
The second day’s camp was at Kalkatiyadhar. The camp was surrounded by the snow-clad peaks. We retired to our tents around 9 in the night. Around 2 am, I felt the need to go to the washroom. It is very tough to step out of sleeping bag into the chilly night. My tent partner Yashu was fast asleep. I pulled down my balaclava, tied my shoelaces and forced myself out of the tent. The moment I stepped out, I was mesmerised. It was a full moon night. The moon was shining bright just above my head, spreading its silver light all over the mountains making their tops glitter in the divine light. The entire valley was quiet in meditation. I was reluctant to step out a few minutes ago and now I did not want to go in again. After that, every night I stepped out of my tent and experienced this beauty till we returned to the base camp.
The last leg of the journey was full of snow. The cotton white snow-covered grounds were picture perfect. The only signs of human presence besides the trekking groups were one small tea stall and the load carrying mules with their masters. On our last ascent of the day, what I saw was enough to take my breath away! I remembered the lines from the Kedarkhand Skanda Purana: “The land north of Gangadwar is known to the wise as Paradise Ground. Apart from this land, the rest is called Earth elsewhere.”
The glittering valley was covered with fresh baby-soft snow in the lap of the Har-ki-Dun and the Swargarohini peaks! The gentle river accompanied the pine and cedar trees on the foothills of these two marvels. The peaceful air embraced the entire valley! Undoubtedly the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. At that moment, all the effort that we took to reach the destination was rewarded beyond our imagination. The two nights in the valley were beyond words.
Our mission was accomplished. The journey back was exciting as the journey forward. As it was a descent, we covered the distance in two days. On the last day, we were awarded the certificates and then we spent our time in merrymaking.
These eight days enriched all of us in so many ways! The affectionate villagers, my trek buddies, our guides and the beautiful nature have left behind so many memories to cherish. A big thanks to all of them and of course, a big thanks to Indiahikes for providing a seamlessly fulfilling trek experience.
During my journey back home, my heart kept repeating: “Oh Himalaya, the handsome…every time I see you, I fall in love with you all over again. Let the romance continue. Call me again.”