How often do you visit a place thrice in a span of 5 years, but still yearn to go back soon? Not much, I guess. When mountains call, you have to return the call? Cheesy? My bad! But what can be said about the mountains without sounding corny? What can be said that has already not been said? Mountains and beaches are addictions, it is truly said. They calm your soul like a panacea for all your woes.
Which is why when my friends said, they wanted to visit Tungnath over the long weekend, I was ready without a shade of doubt. A drive of 500 kms one side, including 250 kms in the mountain was challenging, but not enough to subdue my enthusiasm one bit. We started on Friday morning and after overcoming heavy long weekend traffic at different places, especially at Rishikesh, we were at Chopta in 12 hours. We crossed quaint towns of Devprayag, Rudraprayag, Srinagar(Garhwal), Ukhimath guided by different forms of river Ganges before finally reaching Chopta at 9 pm.
Chopta is called the Switzerland of Uttarakhand and for a reason. The drive from Chopta to Tungnath can easily be one of the most beautiful drives you have ever taken in India. The lush green trees creating boulevard of sorts on your way, along with the breathtaking view of Chaukhamba and Nanda Devi range, is a sight to kill for or may be die for. It is surrounded by forests of pine, deodar and rhododendron that are rich in flora and fauna. It is the gateway to the gorgeous treks to Tungnath and Chandrashila.
We made a pit stop at one of the most beautiful camps with one of the best views in the region. The services and the camp itself was impeccable. We chilled at the bonfire for a while, then after having dinner we had the soundest sleep in a long time. The area was so quiet that we had to talk in whispers, as it felt like a sin to disbalance the harmony of that place.
Next morning we were Tungnath- Chandrashila bound. Tungnath is the highest Shiva temple in the world and is the highest of the five Panch Kedar temples. Located at an altitude of 3680 m, it is a sacred pilgrimage, so it is our duty to maintain the sanctity of the place. Tungnath is indelibly linked to the origin of the Panch Kedar temples built by the Pandavas. It is a 4 km trek, which can be easily covered in 2.5 hours one side, as the way to the temple is paved. The mesmerizing scenic beauty of Chaukhamba and Nanda Devi range accompanies you for the entire trek and motivates you when sometimes your last strand of courage starts to give up.
The view from the top is breath-taking especially on a clear day. On my second of the three trips that I have taken to Tungnath so far, I had reached on a rainy day. As soon as it stopped raining after a heavy downpour, the whole sky cleared up and the mountain ranges below stood before you till the eyes could see. The view is something that can't be explained in words or captured in pictures. In front of you lie the lush green meadows on which the cattle graze against the backdrop of snow-capped peaks, and you think to yourself, this is what real, unadulterated happiness feels like.
About 1.5 km uphill from Tungnath is the Chandrashila temple . One can get 360 degree panoramic view of the major ranges of Himalayas, hence the beauty of the sights here is indescribable. You have to see it to believe it! Pictures can never do justice to what lies ahead of you as what your eyes witness is pure magic. Those who have a problem of vertigo may feel a bit disoriented or overwhelmed by the views and it may take some time to get used to it. The way to Chandrashila is natural and very steep so it might take you 45 mins to an hour to reach there, though the distance is short.
You may feel a bit insignificant by the enormity of the view in front of you, but still, go sit in the lap of the mountains for some time and spend some quality time with yourself, listen to your inner voice in the hush of the mountains, where only the wind echoes and the silence speaks, which otherwise gets drowned in the cacophony of the city life. If you are lucky, you may meet a new-self or probably the old-self which you had forgotten existed!
From Chopta it is about 21 km drive to Sari village which is the starting point of the Deoria Tal trek. The trek goes on for 2.3 km and can be climbed in 1-1.5 hours. Unlike Tungnath trek, this trek meanders through the forest and holds the sightings of the most beautiful rhododendron flowers laden trees in the spring season. The sight is one to behold in your eyes as your path is covered with red rhododendron flowers, as if you are walking into heaven and this is exactly what you feel when you get the first view of the Deoria Tal against the backdrop of white Chaukhamba range. The reflection of the white snow-capped peaks on the crystal clear water is as if a mirror has been placed instead of the lake. The orange light at the time of the sunrise and the reflection of the mountain peaks on the lake, is a picture that you will carry in your heart and could be the best memory of your trip, if you are lucky enough to witness it.
So a lot of things do depend on the time of the trip you take. Some views that may present themselves before you may be entirely different from the other season, but equally, or may be more breath taking, which is exactly the reason why I have already visited this place thrice!
But coming to the main reason why this blog is being written in first place, is not to make people excited about this trip, but to discourage them from going there. Unless, they go with a sense of responsibility. During my recent trip to Tungnath I thought, this is probably the last time I am coming here. Reason? It is adulterated now, too much touched by us humans, and as usual, majority of us taint the things we touch. The calmness, peace and serenity of this place is gone. There are Bluetooth speakers that blare cheesy Bollywood songs about getting high, or Punjabi numbers that are played in the corniest clubs in Gurgaon. Then there are people who leave beer cans, plastic wrappers and bottles behind without giving a thought to maintain the purity of a place that is also religious for some people. So, if you have a similar plan to invade the purity of a place or to put up some pseudo-introspective facade after getting high, or play Malana trance songs in the background, without respecting the place, for some Facebook or Instagram posts that you want to show off to your friends, it is a request from a humble mountain girl, not to go there and ruin it for everyone before it is too late. This is not some 15 seconds of gloating on the social media we are talking about, this is some serious shit!
Make a promise to the mountains that you will take care of them, and in turn they will take care of you.