Travelogue - Har Ki Done Done Done Dandanaka


Note: Before you start reading. If you are planning to do Har Ki Doon on your own, it's very much doable. It's just a four day trek, to and fro from Taluka, if you are reasonably fit. If you plan on weekends, chances are there that there might be Dhabas in the middle. At least till Osla, you can be sure of it, and for little money you can get their homestay too. If at all you get a guide, try to hire a local or go through some organization. We had a terrible time with our guide, Sachin, a name you should be aware off and should stay away.

Photo of Travelogue - Har Ki Done Done Done Dandanaka 1/2 by Vikram Mn

The Beginning

It was never part of the plan, but thanks to my manager who told that I could use the comp offs along with one of my long leaves, I could make it. So special thanks to him.

Once I decided to combine the dates along with Tamil New Year's long holiday, I started searching for treks around that time. Only Har Ki Doon was available. I wasn't interested in Har Ki Doon as such as it was considered an easy trek. I wanted to do Roopkund, I wanted to see those bones. As April was not a season for it, I started searching for other treks in Uttrakhand and finalized for Har Ki Doon.

When I checked with my wingman, he immediately said 'yes' so we thought of doing it without guide but unfortunately as he had got onsite he couldn't come. Pradeep, my ex-teammate and Lakshmi, his friend joined the trek. Coincidentally we all were from same hell hole, Sairam Engineering College.

Day -2 - Feeling Home in Train

It was a bad day in office, the previous day. I was being said that I'm not responding to pings and not being available for most time. It ended of course with, "other than that, enjoy your trip," which both the person who said and heard, knew, was just the formality.

Photo of Travelogue - Har Ki Done Done Done Dandanaka 2/2 by Vikram Mn

My train was a direct one to Dehradun, it's the same Split train which I took to Chandigarh, while going to Spiti. I went to station by taking 1A as usual from my place. I was so confident that I gave correct change this time. Conductor said, "anju rooba?" I was like, "naan kuduthaenae" He showed me two rupees and asked, "idhu than unaku anju roobava?" The bond between Conductor and me is made in heaven. I haven't even got this much scolding from my father.

Apart from trekking stuff I had water bottle and food in separate packet, the usual Podi Idly and Tamarind Rice. I reached the station well on time and started watching latest episodes of Modern Family. Pradeep too reached in time. I didn't take the cash from ATM, thinking I would take in Dehradun.

Once I got into train, the familiarity was so awe inspiring that I immediately felt at home. Our topics of the day ranged from love marriage to caste abolition to work culture. It started because of the book that he was reading, "Annihilation of the Caste" by Ambedkar and I started with my "Ezam Ulagam". Most of the people informed me that the book would be a very tough read owing to its content as well as the language. It indeed was.

As Pradeep had had breakfast he restricted to only two Idlys so I had to gobble up 10 in the morning, not that I complain. I went ahead with my sleep to reading routine, on and off. Pradeep too settled with his kindle on the upper berth. For lunch, by the time I got up, he had finished a Tamarind Rice packet which I had had for him. I had a very late lunch of half packet Tamarind Rice.

As soon as we got out of our place, the i-think Bengali family occupied the window seat. Especially they didn't move out of the seat in which they'd get more air because the train moved in the opposite direction. Of course it's their seat but not even moving out for a second, was phenomenal. Even though we too do the same when we go as a family, but this was epicness overloaded.

For dinner we finished the rest of the idly and I had Tamarind Rice. Along with 150 pages of spellbinding Ezam Ulagam

Day -1 - Tadak Tadak, Tadak Tadak

I woke up quite late. I was happy that I had caused some discomfort with the family in my coupe as I was in middle berth. They couldn't use one side of the coupe. I had the rest of the Tamarind Rice and continued with Ezam Ulagam. I read nonstop and finished the book by afternoon.

Photo of Chennai Central, Tamil Nadu by Vikram Mn

Unluckily for me Nagpur had come at night so I couldn't have my regular quota of Orange juice. In some station, I think Bhopal, Pradeep got buttermilk and amazing Shrikhand which I tasted for the first time and was spellbound. That was the lunch of the day. I wasn't willing to risk eating lunch in train or outside but our hunger pangs struck which lead us to buy dry sandwich and puffs for lunch. It was as bad as it could get.

Problem started post lunch. I got free and I got into my regular habit of starting to get worried. I already had in my head that I had to write a review of this amazing book which I had read. I could have typed in phone but more that the pain of typing in phone, I was worried about losing charge. I had it switched off.

Trust me, there is some jinx in train doors and the gushing on wind. As soon as you stand there, you started imagining yourself as Jeeva, start humming, "paravayae engu parakirai..." and think about your Anandhi. Damn it, when am I ever going to grow up. So that reminiscing the past, present and future went for some time along with an alternate reality where I start imagining Anandhi in every possible circumstances, next to the Bengali family making fun of them, next to me in train door, looking in the eyes, moonlight on top, giving that puny face sleeping in the berth opposite to her and thinking that she'd be looking at me when I had closed my eyes. The list goes on. Thanks to GVM, we are never short of moments.

For night we had puffs, chapatti, mango juice and biscuits which Pradeep had said that it was his favorite during his childhood days. Nizammudin station was as bland as it could get. What were we thinking, a three course meal at the end of the day? Once we had food, we slept peacefully but that night got really cold. I had to ask that never-leaving-the-window uncle to close the window in the morning, which he didn't and asked me to shift to the upper berth.

Day 0 - A Disastrous Zeroth Day

The train reached about an hour late. So we had missed the 5.30 AM direct bus to Sankri. Our last direct bus was at 7.30 AM. We had fifteen minutes to catch the bus. But Lakshmi who was not with us had to come from hotel to get the bus which looked near impossible but we asked for some waiver with the conductor who didn't want to miss us, the long tickets. We went to Ghanta Ghar which I got to know is the Hindi name for Clock Tower. We waited there for about ten minutes much to the annoyance of other passengers. Then came the heroine entry, Lakshmi entered the bus and we set off to one long journey.

Photo of Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India by Vikram Mn

Just like my mom said, I missed the cover with water bottles in the tea shop where we were inquiring about our bus tickets to the conductor. I had gone to loo and asked them to wait in bus so that we wouldn't lose our seats but by the time I came back they were down eating samosas and thus we lost our three seater. Once they came back I had amazing Aloo Parathas, ten rupees each on a road side shop.

We had to sit in uncomfortable two seater for some time but after that we got the three seater and it was quite free. Lakshmi was very excited and thanked me for taking her on this trip. We reached Purola in sometime where we had our lunch. Purola was supposed to be the last point where most buses travel and last point for ATM and cellular network. Don't know what made me think not to take cash, I didn't draw cash in Purola too. Epic fail.

What we thought would be just an hours ride from Purola, took us forever to reach Sankri. We reached almost at 6 PM. We thought of calling our guide Sachin but didn't have any signal. We had fixed Sankri to Sankri trek for Rs. 8500, thinking it would come cheap but the entrance fee to forest department, the hotel fee, dinner and breakfast made us spend almost the same amount as that of going with any organization. We thought of reducing the trek fee to 8000 but when we talked about that to Sachin, his reply was, "I don't have anything to lose, I will walk away even now." Also he messed up with sleeping bags which he said that I didn't inform whereas I had clearly informed that I'm carrying trekking bag and he has to arrange camping and food. Our hatred towards him started on the very first day. If that was not enough the hotel receptionist said that if not interested we could very well go to some other hotel. We didn't know about the government dormitory that time otherwise we could have used that instead of the rude hotelier.

Then we had to fight for getting hot water. We finally took bath after three days and ended the day by having dinner in the dhaba which he forced us into and also took some crazy selfies. We hit the bed after a horrible zeroth day but Pradeep and Lakshmi were excited. I was still thinking of how to get rid of that asshole.

Day 1 - Sankri to Taluka Jeep, Taluka to Osla Trek

The itineraries mentioned in most of the sites are wrong. Till Taluka it's a compulsory jeep ride now which takes about an hour. We finished breakfast and reached Taluka about 9 AM. It took a while to load the luggage to pony.

Photo of Sankri, Uttarakhand, India by Vikram Mn

Sachin had asked for the remaining cash but thanks to my mess up we didn't have enough money to give him which took us to backseat. We gave him three thousand rupees and agreed to transfer the full amount. Pradeep's dad did that.

We started our hike along with India Hikes group which to my dismay was much more colorful. Murphys law always applies to me. After a few minutes, Vijaya from Bangalore started a conversation with me but we went back and forth and I couldn't meet her for the most part.

Lakshmi and Pradeep, being the first timers were worried whether the guide would catch up with us, which he did after an hour. Post that, he went first and we restarted our hike. We couldn't find our guide anywhere near. That's when the others too started getting pissed off with the guides' attitude.

We walked and walked along the stream, stopped a number of times and continued walking. Seeing Lakshmi's plight with her bag, one mountain girl offered to help with the luggage for fifty rupees. She took the bag with her to the town before Osla, got her Miranda and returned the bag back.

At quite a few distance from there we found an amazing place which had streams and rocks. Shot some good photos and Lakshmi took some great out of focus photos of me. Within minutes from there we reached Ganghat, our campsite, a couple of kilometers before Osla. We were so pissed with the guide that we weren't ready to hear his explanation. We thought it was better that he didn't come with us during the trek.

What we missed in the spot before, we compensated there. Took few great photos. Had Maggi, couple of chocolates, orange and rested for the day. In the campsite next to us was Jayasuriya, our mate whom we met during the course of the day, getting royal treatment from his guide. Here we were eating, washing our dishes, making our tents and everything by ourselves. Not that I didn't want to do it but seeing them being treated royally made us jealous and also made us hate our guide even more.

By night it had got cold. We had our dinner and settled into our tents for a good long sleep.

Day 2 - Ganghat to Kalkatti Dhar

Our horse was in no mood to start, the next day. Even after a lot of cajoling, it didn't. We started at around 10 AM that day with our supposedly packed lunch of one chocolate, one orange and one Appy. Good that the guide wasn't with us. After an almost straight path of about two kilometers we crossed a bridge and went towards the left side. After walking for a while, one of the kids announced that we were taking a wrong path. Lakshmi started to fake cry which made a villager laugh. She struck a deal of one fifty rupees with a boy to carry her bag to the next camp site. We got down to the bridge again and went towards the right side.

Photo of Osla, Uttarakhand, India by Vikram Mn

Our first half of the trek was decent. We met Trek The Himalayas group near a flat land where kids were playing cricket. There was a big rock which gave an amazing view of Snow Mountain behind for a good photograph. We took few good pictures there.

Seeing us take photos Lakshmi too came there only to get scolding from Pradeep for leaving the luggage haywire. Post that point was what the hectic trek of all. It became hectic not because of the route or elevation. Even though it had impact on us it was the rains which got us scared. It kept on raining till the time we pitched our camps. Only the previous day Sachin had told how there was a lot of snowfall on one of the treks and how they couldn't proceed further.

Once we reached inside the tent we could hear the quarrel between Sachin and the helper kid (the one who took Lakshmi's bag, remember?) he had brought. Sachin quite smartly tried to cajole him to do extra work but that kid was smarter. He escaped with 150 of Lakshmi and 300 of Sachin but he had a deal of only 250 with Sachin. Clever fella.

At about 6 PM the skies started getting clear and we could see sunlight. Lakshmi supervised in making sabji for that night which was amazing. I generally don't complain when it comes to food. But when it's better than normal I love it. It was darn cold that night and our tents were not pitched properly. Pradeep had a constant illusion that he was going to roll down and go to the bottom. But thanks to all the walking that we had done, we slept peacefully.

Day 3 - Kalkatti Dhar to Har Ki Doon

By far the best day of the trek. The initial ascent was kinda tough but once you climbed that, the breathtaking view was worth every pain. After that initial ascent where one side was like thousands of feet deep, we got to a small waterfall where we filled our water bottles, replenished ourselves and met with the colorful India Hikes gang along with Vijaya. After a customary hi bye we proceeded with our trek.

Photo of Travelogue - Har Ki Done Done Done Dandanaka by Vikram Mn

Within few stops we reached the peak at around 1 PM. We had our camp pitched in a literally shitty place but the view we got was amazing. Thanks to the sun we were able to dry off our sleeping bag and dresses. Pradeep decided that he'd sunbath for some time.

I went around here and there, took some selfies, kept on staring at the mountain as if looking at a nude woman for the first time and got inside the tent.

The sun was getting too heavy for me. After a short nap of about half an hour we went to a place from where we could see glacier. But we saw Jayasuriya there, again royal treatment. We took a couple of photos and returned back to our campsite.

That night I didn't want to risk on getting cold. I wore thermals, double socks, gloves, skull cap and everything to keep me warm because the next day we were supposed to get up at five and go to see the glacier. Thanks to all the warm clothing I had a good night's sleep.

Day 4 - Har Ki Doon to Glacier to Har Ki Doon to Osla

We got up at 5 AM and started our trek to the glacier. Lakshmi decided that she'd not be coming so she safeguarded our tents.

Photo of Har ki Doon, Sankari Range, Uttarakhand, India by Vikram Mn

Because of less luggage I could walk at a brisk pace. Sachin tried to go in front and wait till we come but I hurried along with him. He expected me to stop for a break but even though I was tired I pushed myself just to beat him. He finally had to succumb and rest. It was a nice feeling.

Pradeep who was behind us for most part caught up with us every now and then. I took a small skeleton from there as a remembrance. We reached the tip of glacier but it wasn't anything stunning like I expected and Sachin wasn't in a mood to take us further so we had to return from there.

We returned to our campsite around 9 AM. We hiked about ten kilometers in 3 hours which was quite a good pace. It took a couple of hours for the breakfast to get ready and we started from there about 11 AM bidding good bye to Har Ki Doon.

It was a long journey from there. After getting down from that risky descent we thought we had missed the route. We were in doubt for about an hour and started cursing the guide for not being with us. This, missing the route has become kind of routine for me. Happens every time. But luckily for us it was indeed the right route. We found that out when we saw a Dhaba where we rested a couple of days back.

Before reaching Osla we were in a doubt whether to go to the village or the campsite. I opted for the campsite but other two said Village. But we were not sure where Sachin had exactly asked us to come. We got to know that Sachin is indeed in village. We got a home stay for the night which had very low ceiling and extremely small door. I don't know the logic behind it but.

We saw him making food, rested for a while, got few necessary stuff from him, had dinner and went to sleep. I think because of home stay, it became quite humid inside the sleeping bag and also had few insect bites.

Day 5 - Osla to Sankri

After completing our morning ablutions from the topmost part of the village we started descending for our final days trek. That's when Lakshmi informed that Sachin had told her that he forgot to ask the jeep fare. What an ass!

Photo of Osla, Uttarakhand, India by Vikram Mn

Because he put that thing in our mind. Almost the whole journey we were planning how we would never give that amount. After half the descent my shoulders started to pain because of the weight of the luggage so I too had to take frequent stops and loosen the luggage.

Near Taluka we were able to see few birds, the one with two tail looked beautiful but couldn't capture it in my camera. Once we reached Taluka, Sachin quietly asked about the vehicle money. He was so pathetic that he couldn't make eye contact. It was awesome to stare at him and say a straight 'no'. He said, "Wouldn't it get tough if we don't reach Sankri today," as if like a warning. We were not sure whether he had even called for the vehicle. We were even prepared to stay in Taluka and walk back to Sankri the next day. The shortage of cash became a blessing in disguise.

We reached Sankri about 6 PM and this time decided to stay in the government dormitory for 170 rupees each. It was a lovely feeling 1) to have completed the trek 2) to have seen that look on Sachin. Pradeep wanted to have Chowmein that day so we went to a place that I had spotted on Day 0 while taking a casual walk. That along with Bun Omelet made a fascinating dinner which also lead to a peaceful sleep.

It seems that there is also a lake to the opposite side of glacier, which I was not aware and wasn't mentioned in any of the itineraries. That was a big miss but. With Sachin this was the most that we could do. Like Naina says, "Jitna bhi try karo, life mein kuch na kuch chhutega hi. Toh jahaan hai, uska maza lete hai na"

Day 6 - Sankri to Dehradun

We took the 5.30 AM bus to Dehradun and guess what, it was the same driver, conductor pair who came with us during our onward trip. As I had packed all my winter clothing inside I had to borrow Pradeep's shawl in the morning. But that chillness was nice, optimum level which you can enjoy. We had chai and started our bus journey. All three of us sat in separate window seat. Lakshmi taking someone's bag from a two seater and sitting there, asking him to sit behind.

Photo of Taluka, Uttarakhand, India by Vikram Mn

First few hours journey was lovely, it was like being in a ship and waving your hat to your wife and kids. No matter whatever emotions you have, you tend to miss the mountains when you return.

In our first stop I had chai again and for the rest of the change, picked up their version of stale French fries. I started sleeping from there on and we had early lunch at 11'o clock in Purola where an elderly gentleman was repeatedly asking us to come to his dhaba. Post Purola the temperature really started to raise and the heat was getting quite over the top. Add to it, the kid in the front row started to cry so the bus driver had to stop in the middle for people to get down quench their thirst, attend nature's call and mainly change kid's diapers. It's amazing how people take care of children, they don't know anything to say but they have to be taken care.

We reached Dehradun about 5 PM and had sugarcane juice, the first of many which we were going to have in coming days. When asked how to reach railway station, everyone said, "panch number Vikram ko pakadlo," which we didn't understand. Vikram here is share auto. We took Vikram and reached railway station and started searching for a while. We finally got a decent room for one thousand rupees per day.

For dinner we went to a restaurant named Rajdhani Chicken which Pradeep informed to be the one which is quite famous. I wanted to go to the corner fast food where fried chicken were kept hanging. Rajdhani Chicken Point was quite fabulous. We had a couple of chicken dishes, the one with butter and white masala was out of the world. It was part of starter but was full of gravy so had to order their Tandoori and Romali Roti which again were amazing. But if you are going to go to this place only once, better stick only to meat.

Problem started that night with repeated visits to restroom and you know why...

Day 7 - Dehradun Sight Seeing

Morning when I woke up I was tired and afraid. Did the grandma's recipe of coke and milk and skipped breakfast except for ten rupees sugarcane juice. We went to Mindrolling monastery which when now googling seems to be an exact replica of the one which is in Tibet. Its location, Clement Town is a nice little place with Tibetian stuffs and people. It was quite hippie too. We did some shopping, had juice and spent some quality leisure time in monastery. It was pleasant. I personally love monasteries.

Photo of Mindrolling Monastery, Buddha Temple Road, New Basti, Clement Town, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India by Vikram Mn

Afternoon when I suggested small glass sugarcane juice near ISBT he asked for fifteen rupees. The only point where it was fifteen rupees was where I suggested. Sweet, isn't it? My stomach again started to make noise so had to hurry down to the room as I couldn't risk it but that didn't stop me from having lunch at Siddhivinayak which was a decent veg restaurant. I opted for a Veg Pulav which looked like largely uncooked and Pradeep and Lakshmi had Paneer Butter Masala and Roti, which was nice.

I preferred to stay indoors that day and guess what, that was the best part of the trip. Sitting in the room, doing nothing and watching random episodes of Friends in comedy central. But to my horror, the episode where Chandler proposes Monica came on air. Needless to say, memories started overflowing.

'Paravayae engu parakirai...'

Day 8 - Dawn at Doon

I again skipped breakfast and went to just the FRI museum after having chota sugarcane juice for ten rupees. Every sugarcane juice other than the place I suggested had the bloody ten rupees one. Our receptionist told that they'd allow in IRA but they didn't, we went to FRI museum but much time went in booking Tatkal ticket for me, where I had to stand in an exact spot to get signal. Who could have guessed that my ticket would stop at being waitlist 2. So had to get tickets in Tamil Nadu Express.

Photo of FRI ( Forest Research Institute) Timber Museum, Brandis Road, Forest Research Institute, Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India by Vikram Mn

FRI museum too wasn't exciting as such with broken parks and charts everywhere. The cart ride two and fro was. The sugarcane juice was. Thanks to my problem I had to hurry home and couldn't go with Pradeep and Lakshmi to Ghanta Ghar. I used that time to finalize on what I was going to do. Checked a dormitory where I could rest.

Once they left I cancelled all the tickets, went to the dormitory and took some rest. There was one old Indo Russian kind of elderly gentleman who was in no mood to strike a conversation. He didn't have any luggage as such. So he was free to go wherever he wanted but I was constantly worried about leaving my camera and other stuff.

I finally did, went to have Rasamalai in an auto full of women clad in their best attire. Till now Delhi had been my favorite spot when it comes to spotting women. Now Dehradun beat it. Thanks to the number of colleges and colleges which function as colleges unlike schools/jails here, we could see much vibrant youngsters.

Once I came back, I started writing diary, for the days which I had not written I wrote from first to last line and read all the pages. It was nostalgic, sweet, sad and everything. Much of it had a mention about a particular person. Even if it's like making a note to myself to forget it, it still was at least there in that way. I closed it with a sad smile and went for dinner in the Siddhivinayak restaurant. Fried rice there was decent.

The night bus that I had booked to Delhi was a complete mess but I was too tired to notice. There were no numbers inside. You don't know the process to confirm your reservation, you don't know which bus goes where etc. But I got a decent window seat and slept in all that commotion.

Day 9 - Dilli

Having been to Delhi like numerous times, it had kind of become a second home to me. Trying to go from Kashmeri Gate to Karol Bagh I opted for bus as the crowd in metro was too much. Bus was kind of free and as it was early morning there wasn't much traffic too.

Photo of New Delhi, Delhi, India by Vikram Mn

It was again Comedy Central and Friends plus breakfast and South Indian lunch in my relative's home. Post that we went to Qutub Minar. Good for us, as it was some archaeological day, entry was free. Qutub Minar wasn't exciting as such and it wasn't as good as the Jaipur one too but the metro ride as usual was lovely.

While coming back through Monday market in Karol Bagh, had a golgappae but missed chola bhatura. I somehow miss that every time. Monday market actually seemed to be a good avenue to buy cheap necessary things. But I was in no mood for shopping so didn't get any.

Night, post dinner took a bus to station and reached the station well in advance. There was never a dearth of having juices. Lime, litchi, ice cream and mixed. It kept going on.

Day 10 - One Final Journey

It was a day I was getting fried up in the train oven. There was never a dearth of Supari clad local men in the compartment.

Photo of Qutub Minar, Seth Sarai, Mehrauli, New Delhi, Delhi, India by Vikram Mn

I slept in the morning but kept awake post having my favorite double orange juice in Nagpur. After that three people came with tons of Supari who were on a visit to Velankanni. They made train their home. But I was lot more comfortable with them than the Bengali family in my onward journey.

Their Panner Butter Masala was teasing but I rejected their offer to have food. Even though these people, whom you'd not classify as ones with much decency, they were the ones who genuinely wanted to have food, rather than asking just for namesake. If they had asked one more time I'd have been in for a treat.

After having Idly vada in Warangal I went to sleep quite early. Even though this trek wasn't part of any agenda, it was satisfying to complete it.

Frequent searches leading to this page:-

dehradun tourist point, top 10 places to visit in dehradun, dehradun local sightseeing, best places to visit near dehradun, unexplored hill stations near dehradun