Roopkund - A Himalayan Odyssey
Our gang’s tagline should be - Nithin plans and we follow... The story is the same almost every time. This time was no different. Around 3 months ago our Tintin came up with a trekking plan to which his bro too was going for. I was skeptical at first thinking of the arduous journey but, agreed on the point that once booked we can get full refund of the fee if we cancel 15 days before the trip (inspite of me being a trek lover). Paid the amount and registered for the "Roopkund trek" from India hikes.
Most of the guys in our "Thotti gang" were ready for the trip. Decided to go ahead on the trip all fears forgotten looking at the enthusiasm in the gang. When u decide to go on such a trip the costs are above normal. Sheiki never bothered to read any mails regarding the trip to such a point that during the last week he even missed the mail where we decided to buy all the essential stuff for the trek. He finally managed to do so in the last few days.. :P
Day 1: Jun 4, 2010 -> Bangalore to Delhi.
The D-day arrived. The gang comprising of Tintin (Nithin), Sheiki (Maneesh not Meneesh :P), Harsha, Manju, D-bug (Deepak), Chandu, Abhi, Sachin, Monk(Shashi) and myself (Prasanna alias ppr) met at the BIAL for the 10:30 flight by Indigo. Checked in the rucksacks and boarded the flight which amazingly didn't even offer a single peanut during the entire flight. We were pretty hungry within half-an-hour of the flight and found Sheiki as the perfect bakara. We decided to have a in-flight treat where the attendants sold cold-old-parathas, sandwich and juices which i must say are pretty bland and over-the-top prices. Had an uneventful flight and reached Delhi by afternoon to be greeted by a gust of hot air. For folks like me who are visiting Delhi for the first time found it as if i was standing next to a boiler spewing out steam...
Our train to Kathgodam was scheduled at 10:30. So, had time enough to visit the Qutub-minar and the Akshardam temple. We were unfortunate to have missed the visit to the main temple in Akshardam though, as we were late in reaching there. Manjanna's record as a last minute shopper continued to be intact with him buying sun-caps for us in Chandni chowk. Met up with a group of 6 cousins Kishen, Siddharth, Anish, Abhishek, Kshama and Kausalya along with Anser and Sagar who were part of the gang belonging to Jun 5 batch of this years trek. Had a simple dinner of bread-jam and bananas and we boarded the Raniketh express to Kathgodam.
Day 2: Jun 5, 2010 -> Delhi - Kathgodam - Loharjung.
The train reached a couple of hours late to which we had no complaints for once as we had a goodnight's rest before the long bus journey. Met up with "The Doctors" Vinay and Harish who were the last 2 of the Jun 5 batch. The bus was ready when we arrived and we already were able to observe the difference between the hot-crowded Delhi to the cool-peaceful-town of Kathgodam. The entire route of 260 kms was through the ghat section with us having breakfast at a small town called Bhowali. The ride was very scenic with Manjanna taking every oppurtunity to click his cam. We had lunch at Kausani by which time most of us were tired of the ride and feared some of us might decide to throw-up omlettes in the bus..:P So to take our mind of that and to kill time decided to play "Mafia" organized by our "Games co-ordinator" Monk. I must admit that the game sounded pretty boring as he explained but, when we started playing we were totally engrossed and didn't know how time flew. Within no time we were in the outskirts of Loharjung and the snow capped Himalayan peaks (Trishul) clearly visible. Finally we arrived at Loharjung after an 8 hour bus ride through the ghat-section. We were recieved by Dr.Ankit who was our camp manager at Loharjung which is incidentally the base camp and starting point for the trek.Had an hours rest before we were briefed by Ankit and Dinesh about the stories and significance of Loharjung and Roopkund. Recieved our trek passes and caps. (Sheiki's dialogue: thu sumne 60 rupayee waste madidri cap mele... ;) )
Our rooms were at a higher elevation than the rest of the rooms and the 8 of us excluding manju and harsha settled and had a good nights rest before the trek.
Day 3: Jun 6, 2010 -> Loharjung-Didina.
The day finally arrived for which we had prepared for months. Left out all the unnecessary items in a spare bag and started moving towards our first destination Didina at 7:30am. Dr.Swapnil was our guide and manager for the trek along with Pradyumanji and Narendraji. The route taken is named as the "Curzon trail", most of the first part of the days trek was downward gradient with all of us grabbing sticks for our support. Mules carried our tents and spare jackets. All along the way we can observe red flowers shaped like lotus. These are Rhododendrons which are used by locals to make a drink called braas and believes to be good for health. Had breakfast of Poori near a Raun Bagad iron bridge over Kali river at 10am. Then the ascent began. The journey from here on was tedious and very slow. We took mini break about midway in the ascent and started wondering about the toughness of the trek in the coming days. The entire route is a zig-zag with approximately 52 such turns. Finally, we reached Didina around 12:30pm. Though, the trek was moderate, we were exhausted. Had braas juice (Rhododendrons) which tasted like a mixture of sherbet and cough syrup. Some guys in the gang had two cups of this too and blamed the drink for their cough later that day. :P Our stay was a dormitory with all 10 of the gang settling in the ground floor and the rest in the floor above. To kill time we decided to play cricket in the open field next to our camp. With 10 per team, Swapnil and Raju bhayya(caretaker of our mules) as captains we started the game. Manju had a ball on the mouth moment with Sheiki smashing the hard tennis ball straight into manjanna's face. Thankfully nothing serious happened. We won the match by 2 runs even with Harsha's reminiscence of Steve Bucknor's umpiring in India vs Aussie. Had a campfire setup by 7 and dinner at 8:30. Slept like a kid on this night.
Day 4: Jun 7, 2010 -> Didina-Ali Bugyal-Bedni Bugyal.
We were woken up again at 5am and finished the day’s essentials. Swapnil explained that this was the toughest day in our trek and had our body warmed up by doing some streching excercises. Ali Bugyal is clearly visible from the camp. Bugyal meant grassland or meadow and can be clearly differentiated even from Didina with the change from dark green forests to the light green meadows. The climb looked menacing to say the least. Swapnil said that it would be difficult for people to complete the entire trek if we take more than 7 hours on this day. So, a few people were allowed to leave 30 minutes ahead to make some ground in the trek. Had Poori for breakfast and were ready to leave. 10 minutes into the trek and we wished we were back in the warm bed in the dormitory. The climb took the breath out of us and were panting and resting. Then we began to ascend slowly through the Oak forest at a steady pace with the group separating into various gangs based on speed. The trees are covered with moss and dead leaves muffled our footsteps all along the way. There are around 106 zigzags to be taken to reach Ali Bugyal. With the cool breeze helping us and water bottles acting as our saviors took 2-1/2 hours to reach. The view from here is nothing short of amazing. Green meadows, with Trishul forming the backdrop, Didina visible way below and Loharjung visible far away to the left. Forgot all our tiredness in a jiffy. Took some good snaps and had our breakfast of parathas and moved toward Bedini. The walk was totally along the meadows which we enjoyed a lot. We saw wild mules grazing away happily. The last 15 minutes is a descent and taking snaps all along the way reached Bedini by 12:45pm. We had hot tomato soup which tasted good. The weather took a drastic turn within minutes of our arrival. Heavy rains engulfed us and we settled in our tents. Few of the guys came in totally drenched. Thanks to our organizers, we had our lunch and dinner within the tent. In between we had a few minutes relief where we stretched our muscles and roamed around the campsite with its beautiful view. It rained the entire night and our tent started to spray water on our faces to wake us up every few minutes. Thankfully the tent held out for the entire night and we had the rest we needed before the trek the next day.
Day 5: Jun 8, 2010 -> Bedni Bugyal-Ghora Lotani.
Due to the easy trek we had on this day we were woken up only at 6am and spent time slowly packing our bags and transferring 50% of our luggage to the mule. :P Sandip was our guide from Bedini to the entire climb till Roopkund. The entire day’s rain had done one good thing; It cleared up the weather for us. According to the locals, the weather turns bad every 3 to 4 days. The trek started with a gradual ascend with us crossing the Bedni Kund(kund refers to local tank or lake). Then it became much flatter and very easy to walk. We trotted along the path and reached midway around 1-1/2 hours. Here the guides started searching for a special root called keeda jadee which they sell in the market for 100 to 300 which is sold in-turn to China who use them in energy drinks. Me and manju tried our hand in finding one for about 15 min but were unsuccessful as expected..:D We waited for about an hour here as our organizers could not book the metal roof tents and had to set up the tents manually. We moved towards the destination which is gradual downward descent from this point and reached the tents by 1 hour. The view here again is good with a water source nearby and the next days route to Kalu Vinayak visible clearly. The weather was perfect for the entire day. We roamed around the camp site with our heads and foot covered as our tents were very warm and caused headaches and feverish feeling to any1 who stayed inside. Went for an evening walk to the forest huts; which incidentally, we were unable to book. They sold chocolate, biscuit and Omelet at decent price. We had our fair share and returned back to the camp by 7pm. Had dinner and went to bed early as we had nothing else to do.
Day 6: Jun 9, 2010 -> Ghora Lotani-Kalu Vinayak-Bhagwabasa.
Woke at 5am after the easy trek the previous day with the fears of fever and headaches long gone. By 8 we started moving to our first destination Kalu Vinayak which refers to the shrine of Lord Ganesha which has a black idol. The climb is steep and our movement was slow. The meadows ended midway where we waited for the entire gang to assemble and started moving towards the rougher terrain.The route is again a zig-zag and we saw the first sense of snow. Met a lot of piligrims from the nearby villages who came here to say their prayers. Reached the Kalu Vinayak with the Chota keluva temple along the way. Said our prayers for our safe climb and return and moved towards Bhagwabasa. Normal to oak forests to meadows to rough terrain to snow. What a change in a few days!! I loved this part of the trek. Me, Tintin and sheiki had a sooper walk. Had a snowfight. Took several pics along our way. There are stone huts built by locals which we can observe to our left along the way. Finally reached the destination with the amazing view of snow covered peaks all around us by 12:30pm. Here we had the forest huts booked. All 20 of us settled in one while the guides and cook took up another. Had maggi for lunch which tasted good after days of roti-dal. Sandip entertained with Stories of Roopkund and his card tricks. Had a big snow fight with most of the gang participating and enjoying. Many were on the snow for the first time in their lives. While the weather outside changed to a hail storm, we played a few games and had our dinner inside before we slept in the cramped up tent.
Day 7: Jun 10, 2010 -> Bhagwabasa-Roopkund-Ghoralotani-Bedini.
The day started with clear weather with a white sheet of snow all around our campsite. The moutain terrain which the previous day was a mixture of black and white had changed to total white. We had to get up and start moving by 5am if we had to reach Roopkund and travel further to Junargali. Looking at the state of snow Sandip decided it was unsafe to go to Junargali and setup our last destination as Roopkund. We left with no luggages for the first time since we arrived. Had mango juice, energy bar and chocolates for our climb. We started around 7:30am with a group moving ahead of us to keep pace. The walk on the snow was moderately difficult with steep ascent at a couple of places. We assembled before the final onslought to Roopkund which had the steepest climb in the entire trek. The climb was very steep to say the least and we panted to take in breaths every few steps. The climb was very slow and every1 made it to the top in about 30 to 45 minutes. The sense of accomplishment of reaching the destination was beyond words. We were happy and hi-fived each other. Slided down the gully towards the Roopkund pond which lies at a lower altitude to the point where we had settled i.e, Roopkund is basically a crater in the midst of the mountains. We could only find a few bones but not skeletons as the lake was totally frozen. Had our Breakfast of parathas which many opted not to have. If you considered one bite good enough then even I had breakfast.. :P Then began the journey downward back to Bhagwabasa with the melting snow making things worse. The descent was very very slow with one person making a nuisance of himself. The monk decided to be a part of himalayan folklore and slid along a gully with scared shouts of "Maga Maga" from Abhi. I must admit that at this point I lost hope of seeing "The Monk" again and sat down where ever I was. Every1 were dumbstruck. Then Deepak saw him hanging at the edge of the cliff with the help of his stick and called Sandip who raced down the terrain at Bolt's speed and brought him to safety. A storm had started by this time and we moved even slowly than before for the fear of skidding down. After about 30 minutes the storm subsided we trotted happily to Bhagwabasa where we had dinner and rested for a few hours before we moved back to Bedini which is not difficult as the gradient is downward and path not snow laden after Kalu Vinayak. How wrong was I !!!!! I storm which subsided picked up full force by the 1st hour of the return trek. Hail storm beating down our face, our ponchos flying all over the place, Drenched from top to bottom, walking-skidding along the way reached Ghora Lotani. Here the cold got to me and my movement was limited. I consulted Sandip who was staying back here to assist the next group to Roopkund the next day. He adviced me to stay back and move to Bedini the next day. Slept in wet clothes that night. The locals were very helpful. One guy gave me his dry shirt for which i cannot thank enough and wont forget. Took a paracetamol and rested for 9 solid hours.
Day 8: Jun 11, 2010 ->Ghoralotani-Bedini-Wan-Loharjung.
Woke up shivering the next day. Sandip had asked me to rent a mule and not take chances with my health. I did that and left by 7am and reached Bedini by 8:30. The gang welcomed me as though I had won a prize to which I was embarrased a lot. Thanks to friends even weaknesses of the moment can be forgotten. Tintin created a "Bollywood moment !!" ( as the Monk called it :) ) by lending me his jacket and after hour-an-hour the shivering subsided. Had breakfast and by 9:30 we were ready to move. The trek is full descent and Me, Monk and Tintin formed a gang and ran across the Oak forest laden route taking shortcuts all the time and for a change not allowing the mules to overtake us..:D But after a distance the stress on our toes and knees started to take effect and we had to eventually slow down. Here we can again observe a lot of Rhododendrons. We reached Ghairoli Patal which is a concrete building halfway into the descent and had chocolates hidden away in Harsha's bag...:P After about 2 hours trek we reached the Neel ganga river where we dipped our aching feet. The water is cold and tastes sweet. Stayed here for about 30 mins. Then the ascent to Won starts. After the fast climb down the upward climb was at a gradual pace and the route is quite confusing at places. We had to stop at quite a few places to confirm the directions. Most routes take you to Wan but who would want to take a longer route??? ;) Here we could find huge pine trees which could be easily more than 50 years by the looks of their height. Saw a lot of kids along the way who were very well-mannered and said namaste with folded hands to every passer. I cursed myself for having eaten the couple of chocos. The kids would have enjoyed them. The descent after the 30 min climb was swift and we reached the jeeps awating us. After an hours drive reached Loharjung to be greeted and congratulated by Ankit for the successful completion of the trek. Had lunch at 4pm and roamed around the town. Had hot jelabis and pakodas at Narendarji's (our guide during the 2nd phase of the trek) shop. The sweaters here are pretty good and cheap than any place I know of or have been to. Bought a couple of them and returned to our rooms. Collected our certificates and called it a day.
Altitude and hours taken for the trek:
Day 9: Jun 12, 2010 ->Loharjung-Rishikesh.
Our bus started to move by 7:30am. We had said our goodbyes to Patwalji, his wife and son the previous day. Loaded our luggages on the bus and moved to Rishikesh. The driver, I guess had registered to participate in slow-driving competition so practised that for the most part of our return journey. Dropped us in Rishikesh around 6pm where we bid our goodbyes to the other 10 members of our batch. Got a room for not so reasonable price. But the rooms were good and hot water for 24 hours. Everyone washed off the dirt accumulated since the past 9 days. Yes u heard it right. The past 9 days!!! Now it was D-bugs turn for the treat and Ice-creams were good is all I can say. Watched my first football match in this worldcup. Eng drew to USA. 2 hours sleep wasted to watch a dull match. Slept cursing the English...
Day 10: Jun 13, 2010 ->Rishikesh-Haridwar.
Woke up at 6 to visit Lakshman Jhula and the Bhara mandir. It was pretty empty at & in the morning. Had breakfast and reached the red chillies office by 8:30. We had booked for rafting "Kodiyala down:" 35 km rafting in Ganga. We were pretty excited. It had one grade four rapid. Reached the starting point by jeep. Had a wonderful time rafting. We even dived from a 15-20 feet cliff into Ganga. Lunch was provided by the organizers. Reached back to Rishikesh after 4 hour rafting at 5pm. We had earlier decided to visit Haridwar temple but now that was not feasible so visited the Ram Jhula and had some snacks there. The dinner was in the famous Chotiwala restaurant. The food was not so good but the Lassi rocked!!! The best lassi I had in quite some time. By this time we were in crunch time mode as we had 2 hours to reach Haridwar in-order to catch the Mussorie express to Delhi. To our bad luck the autos were not ready to take us to Haridwar. We took the help of Red chillies cabbie who dumped us to haridwar for 800 bucks. Reached station on time and caught the train to have a good nights rest.
Day 11: Jun 14, 2010 ->Haridwar-Delhi-Bangalore.
The train reached Delhi 1/2 an hour late and we caught a metro to Central Secretariat. Had breakfast in the metro station and took an auto to the Delhi Palam airport. The route takes you through the important offices in Delhi where you can see the Rajpath, consulates of most of the countries. Monk and Manjanna gave their treat in Pizza hut. Boarded the plane and landed in Bangalore. Home sweet home!!!
P.S: Once again thanks to Nithin for organizing and Sheiki - Chandan & D-bug - Abhi - Sachin combo in providing so much laughter all along the trip. Monk - the Games coordinator for preventing many "Omelettes" in the bus. Harsha and manju for being yourselves.
Best of luck to Deepak and Sheiki for their US bound Aspirations and to Monk for his new work. I Dont know when this gang will again be able to go on such a trip!! :(
This was one of the best trips and treks we have undertaken. I wouldn't think twice in doing it all over again...
This was originally posted here.
- 12 DAYS