Saturday, 5 March 2016

Trek to The Valley of Gods- Har-Ki-Doon

"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks. Trekking is an adventure that once you are into it, you cannot get it out of you. Trekking is not easy, it's fun".

 According to the legends, it is believed that “Har-ki_Doon” means “valley of the gods”. “Har” is one of the names of lord Shiva and “Doon” is a valley spread in the Himalayas. It is believed that lord Shiva used to stay in “Har-ki-Doon”. One day Someshwara devta, the present deity of this region, arrived in the valley from Kashmir and requested lord Shiva to move away so he can be sole lord of the valley. Lord Shiva followed his request and moved away.
                            Source: TrekUp India.

Surrounded with beautiful towering peaks, it is one of the most beautiful Himalayan treks in Uttarakhand. Also known as “valley of the gods”, Har-ki-Doon is wonderful trek for both, the beginners as well as experienced Himalayan trekkers. It is best done throughout the year except monsoon and is accessible through Govind National Park. One can notice a great variety of flora and fauna. The trek offers you to experience the local lifestyle while walking through pine forests, rivers, glaciers and ancient villages.

My love for trekking and mountaineering in the mighty Himalayas started from my second trek to Har-ki-Doon aka "The valley of Gods". Indeed it is!!

Day 1: A long drive through nature

On 30th May 2015 I was all set to start my journey towards Har-Ki-Doon. My cousin brother Pravesh decided to join me for the trek. Day 1 of our trip started from Dehradun with an early morning drive to Sankri by a bus. 

"Urghhh!!! The seats in this bus are closely spaced and we can't even rest our legs comfortably."

Me(left) and Pravesh(right). He's not going to put those headphones off any sooner.

As we were finding this 8hr journey a long one, we entered beautiful beautiful zigzag Himalayan roads with river Yamuna flowing on our right side. Those roads were good enough to give you dizziness. Pravesh was super excited to meet his grandma. After a long drive via Naugaon and Purola we entered dense pine forests of Mori where we saw beautiful roads and treacherous flow of river Tons. This drive through pine forests was the highlight of the day. Who could have ask for  a better start for the trip than the one we got.

River Tons, a major tributary to river Yamuna, Mori.

"I jumped off my seat in excitement and took my head out of the window as I saw the mighty Swargarohini(6252m) massif which means that, we are nearing Sankri base camp. Pravesh had no idea what I was doing as he kept listening to the music on my phone. Even the phone battery has started crying now"

We finally reached Sankri by 4 in the evening. Sankri is a small village that lies at an altitude of 1920m above sea level. The clock seems to slow down at Sankri. It usually gets quite breezy out there in the evening and it is the best time to spend in Sankri with sun setting behind the towering mountains.

"We are now going further down towards village Saur to meet our grandparents and cousins. We had our dinner there and relaxing in a traditional wooden house after a long journey was better than relaxing in a  5 star hotel."

Beautiful Sankri village. Mt.Swargarohini can be viewed at the far end.

Day 2: The adventure begins

First rays of sun over Swargarohini massif . 

Ready for the trek. Bright sunny day at Sankri.

We woke up early in the morning as we had to travel 12km to Taluka by taxi. Some other trekkers(around 25-30) from Pune were also therefor the Har-Ki-Doon trek. Pravesh and I decided to join them as trek guides. And yes, we made some great friends in that group. Both of us were desperate to go first therefore we got into the first jeep that was supposed to leave for Taluka. This 12km drive was enchanting and adventurous in it's own way as we were driving through narrow roads, dense forests and landslide prone areas. We reached Taluka in around 1 hour and were all set to start our trek.

At Taluka. 

Yes we are photogenic!!

At an altitude of 2410m above sea level, Taluka is the last point connected by motorable road. After a brief photo session, we started our trek to seema with the Pune group. Being a Pahadi, acclimatization was not an issue for both of us and we started our trek at a pretty quick pace leaving behind all the trekkers. These stunts are performed by trained professionals, please don't imitate. Hahaha..!!

Meeting a special old friend
"One of the best parts of the trek was that I met an old friend of mine. I did my first trek to "The valley of Gods"- Har-Ki-Doon in 2014 where I met an exuberant brown Himalayan Dog and he did more than half of the trek with us in 2014. I was so happy to see him yet again after one long year."

The dog was there with us in 2014. Well I used to be a lot skinnier those days.

He met us again. He is not sleeping by the way. That was a bad capture by Pravesh.

A good friend from Pune group.


Zoom in for a weird photobomb.

Suns out guns out.


We walked through dense forests, traditional wooden bridges and small waterfalls and reached a tea stall where we relaxed and had our pack lunch. My village Gangar was not far away from that point as we reached Gangar by 1:30pm. We all spent some quality time there near a small shop. We had an obvious photo session there as well with all the trekkers.

One of the best treks for bird watching.

Chilling at small shop near Gangar.

Living life on the edge!!

We started our final stretch for the day from Gangar to Seema. Even after a long trek, this 4km ascent was a piece of cake for both of us. I think we are lucky to be Pahadi. Finally at 4pm we reached Seema. Seema is situated at an altitude of around 2800m above sea level on the right side of Supin river. Osla village can be seen on the left side. Everyone gathered outside the Forest Rest House and had tea with delicious snacks.

There were no signs of tiredness as we all decided to play cricket there. Well you cannot separate an Indian from cricket. We all started playing with a cosco ball(god knows who brought that up) and a stick(well obviously). 

Time to play some cricket at FRH Seema.

Amazing time with amazing people.
After showing our cricketing skills we had our dinner at around 8pm and went back to our designated rooms. A corner room was given to us which felt a bit spooky(don't take it seriously). After a long chat regarding the trek we slept at 10pm and woke up early morning at 6am the next day. 

Day 3: Towards the valley of gods

Our day started with a beautiful sunny morning. After having breakfast and yet another photo session we started our trek towards Har-Ki-Doon valley. Today is a tough day as we had to cover 13kms. We had to cross the bridge on our left, Go straight if you are planning for Ruinsara valley trek.

Morning click on a bright sunny day.
Bridge over Supin river connecting Seema and Osla. It requires some special skill to  build that kind of bridge in remote areas.
The day is perfect for a trek with clear sky and a bit breezy. It's getting a bit more warm as we started the day's trek with a steep climb towards a small bridge that connects Osla(on the left) and Har-Ki-Doon valley(on the right). Pravesh and I have decided to remove our jackets and flex our muscles. 

The route towards Har-ki-Doon from Seema is not strenuous but is steep enough to test your fitness. The whole route is full with scenic views of Himalayan peaks, alpine meadows, waterfalls, Traditional wooden bridges and some tea stalls(a great sign of relief).

A small photo session on a small bridge.
Left to right: Sonali aunty, Pravesh, Me and Neeta di.

Ashutosh bhiya in action as well.

After catching our breath and clicking some photos on the bridge we decided to move ahead. But wait!! We are trapped in a traffic jam. No, there are no cars or trucks but a shepherd with a herd of sheeps.

Trapped in a traffic jam
"I think there are 50 100....ummm maybe he's handling thousands of them. Woah!! I never saw that coming. I think we are up for a pretty long delay. Pravesh being a photogenic, has decided to pose with the herd as well.
And when it was my turn to pose with the herd, Pravesh kicked my a** and asked me to save camera battery for the next few days. Huh...clever!!"

Pravesh posing with the herd.

Some beautiful scenes from Osla.
The shepherd moved further with his herd and we decided to move ahead as well. After trekking for 4-5kms we reached a tea stall. We relaxed and had some snacks at this stall with some blissful views of nearby Himalayan peaks. One of the locals had informed us that it might rain in a few hours so we decided to move further up. Trekking for another 2-3kms from this point took us to beautiful meadows of Kalkatiyadhar . Landscapic views of Mt.Black Peak(Kalanag) and Banderpoonch can be viewed from these beautiful medows of Kalkatiyadhar.

This one sums up the day. 


Leaving a trail behind.

Mt.Swargarohini and a sudden change in weather.

Pravesh posing in front of Swargarohini. He took no time in climbing that rock.

Well that was a dumb pose. Pravesh poses better than I do.

Caught in a shower
"It has started raining now and we all are taking our raincoats out. Pravesh forgot to bring his raincoat. Thanks to Sonali aunty, one of our friends from Pune group who gave her extra poncho to Pravesh. It was like water in a desert for him...Hahaha!!!"
Just few more kilometers. 

Get lost in nature and you will find yourself.

Finally after crossing some small bridges and trekking for 4-5kms from Kalkatiyadhar, we reached Har-Ki-Doon valley at 4pm. Indeed it was!! The view of the valley from the Forest Rest House with Mt.Swargarohini(6252m) kissing the sky was jaw dropping. Har-Ki-Doon peak, Hata peak, Jumdhar glacier, Har-Ki-Doon river and Ruinsara river took it's beauty to the next level. 

Eternal love for Mt.Swargarohini 
If there were some reasons for which I came to this valley again, Mt.Swargarohini was one of them. Locals consider that peak sacred and Mt.Swargarohini1 was still virgin. Pravesh and I looked at the summit and in a very confident voice we said "we'll catch you someday". 

With Ashutosh bhiya. Thanks to the guy who has kept this guitar in FRH. It's great to pose with a guitar even if you dont't know how to play it.

Har-Ki-Doon peak standing tall.

 An exhausting yet exhilarating day ended with a few(actually plenty) of photo clicks. Both of us were not at all interested in sleeping any sooner and we ended up playing cards with other local people till 1am. It was a great fun. 

Day 4: Exploring the valley

This was the day all of us were waiting for and we woke up early at 6am. There was a bit of cloud cover in the morning and all of us prayed for rain to stay away for majority of the day as we all were super excited to explore the whole region. 

Mountains+Cricket=Love <3
"It's the fourth day of our trip and we met Raj. He is head cook in the Pune group and above all, he is a great man. We have decided to play cricket at the base of Har-Ki-Doon peak. The field is quite big as we are struggling to cross the boundary. It's been 2 hrs of play and and Pravesh is still not able to middle his shot. He is still slapping the air with his bat like a tailender. It's great to see that snowfall has started in the valley and we are now going further up to explore the valley. It was a great fun playing cricket with a hand made bat."

Cricket is love!!

That's how it looks when you give a big swing to the bat without even watching the ball.
It's freezing out there and I don't know how that guy in the background is comfortable with a sleeveless tee.

It started snowing by 10am and we decided to move further up on the left side of Har-Ki-Doon peak and we encountered a Snow Leopard. The good thing was that it was far away from us and the bad thing was that we couldn't capture him on our cam. As soon as I took the camera out, he was gone. We moved further up through muddy ways and rocky surfaces. 

Exploring the valley.
  We finally reached an area at the base of Har-Ki-Doon peak near Har-ki-Doon river. The area was trekker's delight as it was full of snow. Everyone decided to put their raincoats and poncho at risk by sliding on the snow with it's help. Neeta di and Sonali aunty also joined us and we started throwing snow balls on each other. We clicked photos until our camera battery was done as if it was our last day......hahaha!!!

The trek gave some great friends....

....and great memories!!
After spending some quality time outside, we we all decided to head back to Forest Rest House as it started raining heavily. Although the fun was not going to end soon as all the trekkers played card games inside our rooms. One of the trekkers asked us to come outside as the weather was all clear by the evening and a perfect time to capture photographs. All the photographers rushed outside with their DSLRs. It felt like a Bull Running Festival of Spain.

None of us could have asked for a better evening as the whole valley looked so serene and scenic after the shower. Mt. Swargarohini was justifying it's name and the whole valley looked like "The Valley of Gods". +Ashutosh bhiya had some great photography talent and clicked few irresistible photos of Mt. Swargarohini. Pravesh was still busy in giving silly and unsuccessful attempts to charge the camera battery by blowing air into it.

Mt. Swargarohini(Stairway to Heaven)

Heaven indeed!!

Under the moon...
Burning Bright.
The fourth day of our trek was a day to remember which was full of fun and adventure. We had our dinner at 8pm and played antakshari with bonfire. The trekkers gathered around the bonfire as the night was getting extremely cold and I was struggling to find a spot close to the fire. Pravesh was trying his hands on the guitar. I had no idea which girl was he trying to impress with those bad guitar skills. Everyone decided to sleep around 10pm as we were supposed to depart next day.

And Mt. Swargarohini looked untroubled!!

Day 5: Departure :(

This day was never going to be easy as we were finding it tough to leave this beautiful valley. Our sadness could well be seen with some fake smiles on our faces in the next few pictures. There was no excitement but we were going back with some great memories. After our breakfast and a group photo with the Pune group we started our journey back to seema at around 10am. 

One last time...

On our way back to Seema, we took some photos on regular intervals. Thanks to Neeta di for clicking the photos as our camera battery was dead. We reached Seema early as it was an easy descend.

Time to say goodbye...

Not so far behind..

Near Osla.

Day 6: Last day of our trek- Back to Sankri

This day was the easiest of all and a 4km walk took us to Gangar where we relaxed. We resumed our descend to Taluka village along the direction of Supin river. Pravesh and I reached Taluka by 1pm, 2 hrs before whole Pune group. Well that was a proud moment...hahaha!! We were in no mood of taking further more photos and took our jeep back to Sankri.

Time to flex some muscles. Gangar vilage.

With Kishore uncle. Gangar village.

In the end, it was an unforgettable experience as we were completely lost in lap of nature and met some new friends.

One thing I've learnt from this trek was- "IT'S NOT ABOUT THE DESTINATION, IT'S ABOUT THE JOURNEY".

Many more trekking stories to come.


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