Har ki Dun: Valley of the Gods

Route: New Delhi — Dehradun — Sankri — Har ki Dun — Sankri — Dehradun

A journey which marked the beginning of my week long hikes, it helped me understand the true essence of trekking. Before this, I had done treks which lasted not more than 3 days and hence, I was excited for a new stretch. None of my friends were available for this trek and therefore, I decided to go alone with an adventure group which further increased my excitement. Life becomes more interesting when you try out new things and you don’t know the consequences. So was this trip. Initially, I had qualms about safety of this trek and people who would accompany me in the group but I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. And the results were amazing; I ended up having a tiring yet adventurous experience and befriended with similar or more enthusiastic travellers. Let me share the story now.

Day 0, Night 1 — Meeting Point

I had paid my trek fees of INR 9000 in advance to ‘Bikat Adventures’ which is a new travel startup. They shared with me a list of items I should carry and were responsible for all the logistics including bus/car travel, food, tents, sleeping bags. I reached ISBT, New Delhi at around 10 pm and introduced myself to the entire group of 12 people including 2 Korean guys who had just landed in India for the first time and were excited for the upcoming adventure. We left for Dehradun at 11 pm by a volvo.

Day 1 — Reaching Sankri

We reached Dehradun at 4 am and got the first surprise when one of the two Korean guys, who was travelling alone in a different volvo could not be found. His phone was switched off and we could not contact anyone in that volvo including the bus driver. At 6:30 am, we came to know that his bus had a breakdown along the way and we drove to locate and pick him up. Thereafter, we started our day long journey at 7 am and destined to reach Sankri at 5 pm. The driver of our tempo traveller resembled with the character of Amitabh Bachhan in ‘Deewar’ movie.

We stopped for breakfast in Dapta at 10 am where I was enticed with the taste of Butter Aloo Paranthe. I wandered in the balcony of the restaurant and the sound of recess bell in a nearby school grabbed my attention. I gazed at the boys who rushed towards an open ground and quickly formed teams to play football; they reminded me of my schooldays. Few girls were playing carrom on the terrace under bright sun; I realized the number of boys far outnumbered the girls. Soon, we resumed our journey and took sporadic breaks only to freshen ourselves up or buy some O.Monks.  About 60 km before Sankri, I noticed a diversion for Yamnotri which was crowded with pilgrims. Few hours later, we encountered a river road in which our tempo got stuck for few seconds.

At Sankri, we were welcomed by Vijendar who was the owner and caretaker of ‘Anjana’ guest house. It was located in an area with mountain peaks in the backdrop and a waterfall hidden in the deep forest in front. My first impression about this place was that its a beautiful weekend getaway from Delhi and secluded enough to connect yourself with nature. Later in the evening, I ventured inside the village to interact with the locals and played few matches of cricket with children who were excited to put bet against us. They used a cricket ball made up of layers of cloth tightly bound together which limits the scope of its travel and no one has to spend energy on getting the ball back if it falls in the valley. The village had a temple which opens only at the time of local Mela in July and was embellished with shapes of different animals, meaning that people respected or worshipped the diversity of local fauna. For the snacks and dinner, we were provided with personal tiffins and utensils which we had to use during our entire journey. After spending some time over bonfire, we called it a day to prepare ourselves for the upcoming adventure.

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Day 2 — Trekking starts, inside the forests

The night spent in Sankri was not easy, as I have never slept in a sleeping bag before. Moreover, dogs came into our corridors of guesthouse and started barking aimlessly in the middle of the night, which scared everyone. I woke up early with an expectation to see sunrise but the presence of clouds was disappointing. We left for Taluka which was 8 km from Sankri, crossing waterfalls and river roads with ice cold water; it was very refreshing. Two dogs had accompanied us from Sankri who eventually followed us till the end. Our trek started from Taluka which was a small village with dhabas and chai shops. It was the last point where you could buy any chocolates. As we moved ahead, it started drizzling and I quickly wore a raincoat to keep myself dry which actually helped me when it rained heavily during the later half of the day. Along the way, a massive river with mountain on one side and dense forest on the other sparked an awe feeling inside me. I saw broken wooden bridges which I suppose were more than hundred years old.

Our camp site was close to a gigantic rapid and I could easily feel the water droplets originating from it. I went into that rapid only to splash myself with enough water to rejuvenate from the enervating journey. We halted close to an under-construction power house and used its room as our kitchen. The view from our camp was breathtaking with snow laden peaks at the top and village at the foothills. Vijendar managed to get us the locally prepared alcohol which costed just INR 50 per litre and it helped to keep ourselves warm. For dinner, we had egg curry, aloo gobhi, jeera rice and sooji ka halwa and later, went to sleep after the tiring day.

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Day 3 —  Reaching Har ki Dun and struggling with the snow

A 16 km trek to our final destination, it was the hardest day of our entire journey. We started at 8:30 am and chose to take the route via Osla village. The climb was very steep and we crossed plenty of waterfalls which we used as source of drinking water. I realized the need of travelling water bottle which filters any impurity and helps in keeping your throat clean when you use the natural water sources. During the journey, I trekked along wide open grasslands and had never seen ones so lush green before. I ate a lot of toffees (licking them inside the mouth) to keep myself energized and given the limitation of food, had to control my hunger.

It was continuously drizzling and as we came closer to Har ki Dun, the rain had beautifully converted into snow. We reached our camp site at 3:30 pm, it was very close to a waterfall and green mountains. We were left with little or no energy and lit up fire to warm ourselves and dry our clothes. Suddenly, it started snowing really heavy and we struggled to raise our tents as it was difficult to keep it standing when snow gets accumulated over it. The snow stopped after an hour and as I got out of my tent, I was shocked to see everything in white which was covered with green blanket an hour ago. This was my first experience with snowfall in India and I was intoxicated with the beautiful transition which happened in front of my eyes.

Soon, Vijendar and his mates served hot pakodas and tea. We made a quick trip to the Har ki Dun which was 10 min walk from our camp site and planned to come back before dark. Upon reaching the top, I had mixed feelings. I had never seen a river originating from the melting of snow on the mountains. The picturesque was very gloomy after the rough weather and presence of wildlife around, particularly bears, was scaring me. We made a wrong estimate of daylight and it got darker earlier than we expected. While returning, our campsite was covered full with clouds and it was difficult to find my own tent; I got more scared. Our shoes were wet and my body was freezed to ice, I could not move any part of it. It started snowing again and soon, we finished our dinner to go back to our tents and sleep. It snowed really heavy the entire night, and its sound and the darkness was horrifying. One of the group mates, who wanted to pee, could not get out of the tent and managed with one of the empty liquor bottles he had. Haha ! The night was crazy and I will remember it forever.

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Day 4 — Exploring Har ki Dun and journeying back to Seema

We started early and reached the Har ki Dun spot to explore its beauty. We crossed fresh water rivers and reached the Garhwal Mandal guest house for which we had to walk long in the snow. At the top, I was snow-blinded by the UV rays and I felt the need of a powered sunglass suitable for my eyes. Har ki Dun is a great place for bird watching and luckily, I could catch the glimpse of golden, red and orange coloured birds. Imagine a waterfall at such a height with snow all around. Upon finding such a fall, I ventured to capture a good shot of it, alone and far from my group. I was so taken away by its beauty and while taking its photographs, I did not realize that I was covered with clouds again, I could not trace back the path I came from. It scared me to hell and taught me a lesson; never to venture alone in such areas, it can be really dangerous – you can fall down, get trapped in snow or panic being alone ! 5 km from Har ki Dun is a Jaundhar glacier which I heard is a good place but we were neither equipped with the right accessories nor had sufficient time to reach the glacier.

We started our return journey to Seema at 11:30 am and it rained heavily again that day. Luckily, I was wearing a raincoat which saved me from getting wet. At few areas, the trek path was devastated due to rains which drastically reduced its safety. The mud was very slippery and it was difficult to maintain body balance. I slipped about six times and in one case, I almost fell into the valley but a stone saved my life although I injured my knee severely. Now, I had one fully functional knee to walk the remaining 25 km of trek in a slippery muddy scenario. My sport shoes were not enough to maintain a good grip with the soil. Remember the wide open grasslands I talked about, they were now covered with clouds and it seemed like an endless, infinite journey. Thankfully, I managed to reach Seema, partly injured but happy to rest myself. The night spent was very relaxing over a bonfire and people shared their prior experiences of trekking. Some of them even shared real life horror experiences but I was not sure about their genuineness.

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Day 5 — Reaching Sankri

Next morning, the weather was very clear and it looked really beautiful to be able to see everything with no clouds. Reaching Sankri was fairly easy since it wasn’t raining but I was still struggling with my injured knee. We met a young local boy on the way who was going to school in Sankri and joined us in our return journey. He shared with us the rich diversity of plants and animals and how, few trees had huge medicinal value. He also told us about a story of a cricketer who committed suicide in the mountains and now, there is a temple on his name.

We finally reached Sankri in the evening and bid goodbye to Vijendar and his team for serving us with the delicious food during the entire journey, even in harsh weather. We left for Dehradun and had our dinner at one of the better restaurants of the city. Thereafter, I bid more goodbyes to my group-mates and left for Delhi.

Yes, I did it !

I am very happy for having done this trek. The experience was very enriching and I rejoiced upon every moment. I have made few good friends and met people who inspired me to travel more.

Based on my experience, I thought of sharing a list of items which I believe one should definitely carry on a trek –

  1. Trek Shoes – No, they are different from sport shoes !
  2. Torch – really helpful, get extra batteries
  3. Travelling water bottle – to filter the water, will keep your throat clear
  4. Paper roll – very important 😉
  5. Knee pad – include in your medical kit
  6. Spray for pain relief
  7. UV sunglasses – to protect yourself from getting snow-blinded
  8. Extra pair of socks – helpful during rains and snow
  9. Trekking Pole – useful to maintain your balance
  10. Toffees and chocolates – keeps you energized

2 thoughts on “Har ki Dun: Valley of the Gods

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