If not now. When?
Have you ever slept under the stars and have woken up with the sun? Living in the mountains is wonderful, yet it’s not easy. The entire Himalayan range has the most number of trek trails and places to visit. For my first ever trek, I decided to go to a place untouched by the commercial world.
We started from New Delhi at around 6.30 pm and the ride began. This was my first trek and I was super duper excited. We were a group of eight friends who decided to take the road less traveled into one of the peaks of Garhwal Himalayan range. Chopta, is a small village located in Uttarakhand. This is the base from where the trek begins. We had our bookings done at Alpine Adventure Camp in Ukhimath which is run by an entrepreneur called Manoj Negi. His dream is to make this hometown sustainable, have lots of friends visit from around the world and to create jobs for young people where he lives who otherwise would move to cities, just like he did, in search of work.
Being on the road in a car full of friends, self claimed musicians and a super driver who has a great playlist can only mean one thing. Car Karaoke! We sang our hearts out, took a break, had dinner at a local dhaba at Roorkee and made our way towards Haridwar. Once we reached Rishikesh, we had to stop for an hour as the pass for the uphill doesn’t open before 5a.m in the morning.
In the wee hours of dawn, as the blue skies gave way to the morning sun, the Ganga flowing along us never looked more pure and golden by the sun’s rays. The breeze got cooler and our hunger pangs got more intense. There were no dhabas or restaurants for a very long stretch until we reached Devprayag where we had breakfast and again hit the road. The ride got a little bumpy in between because of the heavy landslides. As we slowly approached Ukhimath, the view became scenic. Snow clad mountains on our left, small streams and water falls on our right and in between were we! If you travel by a bus instead of your own car, they will drop you at Ukhimath after which you will have to take a local bus going towards Gopalganj. Only constraint is that there is just one bus that starts at 7.30 am and the last one is at 3.30 p.m.
We reached the Alpine Camp and everyone ran into their tents to rest. The tents were very modern and seemed sturdy. The toilets were exceptionally clean and the floor was decorated with river pebbles instead of a concrete floor. The water was ice cold and everything there made you feel like you are in the right place at the right time. Manoj ji pleased us with his culinary skills and we hogged on some yummy paranthas and egg fries. We called it a day at dusk. It was pitch dark, no cell reception and only one thing to enjoy-the vast constellation of stars above you brightening the whole sky.
Next morning, we took our cab from Ukhimath till Chopta where we started our trek. Most people from nearby villages came here to visit the Tungnath temple which is considered very auspicious. It is one of the highest Shiva temples in the country.
The first half of the trek was till the Tungnath temple. We almost took three hours to cover the 4 km trek as it is a steep trek. The trek goes through green meadows, rhododendron bushes and rocky terrains. There are drinking water tanks installed at adequate distances which were a plus point. As the altitude increased, we kept taking frequent breaks for chai and the refreshing local fruit juice made from the Dodorent flower. One key lesson: Take small steps, rest, drink water, wear good walking shoes and travel light.
We reached the temple and took an hour’s break there. There were endless meadows where we just sat and listened to the bells ring and echo through the mountains.
From Tungnath, Chandrashila Peak was another 2 hours steep trek, hilly slopes and rough terrains. It means the Moon Rock as on a full moon, the stones glitter to the reflection of the moon. It is situated at 13,000 ft above the sea level. The trek seems too harsh for some, but it is worth it. After a lot of self and co motivation, we saw the first glimpse of the small temple situated at the peak. The entire terrain has wallpaper picturesque and a carpet of small yellow and purple flowers spread across. As we reached the peak, we all sat there viewing the 360 degree panoramic view of the snow clad Himalayan peaks including Trishul, Nanda Devi and Chaukhamba. We sat there and for the first time I saw a cloud travel from one mountain peak to our peak and it rained upon us. A few hails, led to a mild rainfall and within few seconds, the summit was covered in white. This was probably one of the best moments. When you reach the summit, you feel you are at the top and there is no one else between you and the skies. We happily trekked down and spent the night under the starry skies before we headed back to the networked life. If you love the mountains, this is one place where you can enjoy both the nature and enjoy your passion to trek. You will also meet a lot of furry friends while you are on the way.
Alpine Adventures offers pick-ups from Ukhimath if you happen to miss the bus. The charges are 1699INR per person which includes the tent, bonfire, tea, snacks, dinner and breakfast. They do not provide lunch as people are usually out during the day trekking or exploring. They also provide you a guide if you need one for an additional cost of 800INR and if you wish to camp midway planning to trek to another peak, they provide you the essentials for 2000INR. I suggest staying at the camp and returning back after the trek if you are travelling back the next day. If you go by a car towards Alpine Camp, the rough road map would be
Enjoy the view, wake up with the sun, observe, breathe and explore one of the best treks the Himalayas have to offer!