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A Tale of Har Ki Doon Trek



Hello friends, if you have read my previous trek story then you must aware about all my “Jugads” to do that trek. Well, if you have not read that then also don’t worry. I will give you a small recap here. I am very fond of mountains since childhood but after completing my first snow trek at Kedarkantha, now I am very sure about my first love – Mountains. The memories which I earned from my first trek are unforgettable & keeps reminding me of snowy hills, cold wind, peaceful nights and so many things. How we became used to that food in just 5 days, what is importance of a group, how local people treat us, what you should do and what not…these all are learnings from that first ever trek. It’s like, the more you try to know about mountains the more and more you fall in love with it. You feel a peace, soulful time whenever you are surrounded by mountains and its cold thin air. The experiences, the feelings you get in mountains are unexplainable. Spend at least some time with mountains & I bet you will admire its beauty.

The thing is, I never came out of that memories and beautiful feelings of that snow trek so I decided to go on one more trek but this time in autumn. The best trek usually open in this season is Har Ki Doon Valley. Har Ki Doon is situated in Himalayas amid a scenic beauty. It is also known as God’s own valley.

Again all that stuff needs to be managed like gathering people who accompanied me in trek, taking dad’s permission, taking leaves from office, booking trek, arrange travelling & so more. It’s a totally different experience when you do a thing for the first time & for more times. So this time I was like more experienced person in trekking & traveling…hahaha. The persons who were ready to accompany me in this trek were Charmi, Daisy, Sachin & Parth – all first time trekkers unlike me for whom it was second trek. So finally I booked the trek with Trek The Himalayas (TTH) and made payment. Then I started booking for traveling from Rajkot to Dehradun. That was the biggest mistake I made which gave us so much regrets as well as some good experiences too. The mistake was, booking trek first & traveling later. I suggest you to not do the same mistake never ever. So trek was booked and when I started booking for travelling, I came to know that all trains are full and tickets were in waiting list due to Diwali Holidays were about to over. OMG! Literally I have surfed so many train routes, flight tickets, buses and all the transport mediums which could be able to take us at Dehradun. Nothing worked and the trip was about to cancel just due to transport unavailability. How can I give up in such a little though important thing! Me & Parth sat at ice cream parlor just opposite side of my flat and were discussing and arranging all these at 12 am at night. Can you imagine grief due to my stupidity of not booking travelling first? Actually it was not total stupidity as in past, every time waiting list tickets get confirmed. But this time those were

Diwali holidays that put us in trouble. Anyhow Parth came to know about a train which were departing from Ernakulum and arriving at Delhi. The railway station which is in between is Baroda. We need to book that tickets from originating station to get confirmed sheets. So we booked it from Ernakulum to Delhi instead of booking from Baroda despite of high cost. I still remember every damn thing of the mess that I had created. It was so horrible. Wait… It’s not over there. It was just a first relief that we got. The main thing was, train tickets from Delhi to Dehradun were booked but not yet confirmed. Again another trouble. Anyhow we decided to reach Delhi and the journey ahead of it was to be decided after reaching Delhi. We started our journey from Rajkot to Baroda in ST bus at 8 pm on evening of 31st October 2019. We took our dinner in bus – that sandwiches brought by Daisy & Charmi. We had to board our train from Baroda at 3 AM on 1st November 2019. ST bus has taken whole 6.50 hours to drop us at Baroda bus station. Luckily bus station is nearby Railway station and we reached there on exact time. Train arrived within few minutes and we all boarded. It all seems like a movie now when I am writing this story but when I realized that it was all real, I feel so terrible. Whole day in train we played different card games like UNO and talked about so many things about each other.

At 7 pm we reached at old Delhi station. Train for Dehradun was from Nizamuddin railway station but tickets were not yet confirmed. We went to enquiry window and they told us that there are no chances of confirmation. At that time I was literally like fainted. “What to do now. How we will reach Dehradun. We will reach on time?” All these questions had make our hearts heavy. Finally we decided to reach bus station and take a bus of UPSRTC (Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation). OMG! Again we were travelling in government transport that too in totally unknown place for us. It was a bit strange but we all were together so that as the only strength. When you are travelling at unknown place, safety is utmost priority. Finally we reached at Dehradun in early morning 3 AM but our pickup for trek was at 7 AM so we booked a guesthouse and got fresh and took some rest. At 7 AM we reached at Dehradun Railway station which was our pickup point for trek. When we reached there, all trekkers were arrived and took their seats into the tempo traveler. There were 2 tempo travelers. We departed for Sankari around 7.30 AM. We were ready to welcome beauty of mountains on its way to Sankari. Tons river is on side to all the way from Dehradun to Sankari. We stopped at a place and washed our hands and legs in the cold water of Tons river & took some photographs. It made my memories refresh as we stopped at the same place when I went to Kedarkantha. All these roads and places were familiar to me this time.

We reached at Sankari in the evening on 1st of November around 6 pm. I was feeling like I belongs to there and it’s because I was visiting the same place for the 2nd time. Sankari is also base camp for Kedarkantha trek so I was familiar to that village and its small market. Due to hilly area, sun set early here than at our place so when we reached Sankari, Sun was already set. We got fresh and tired due to total 2 days travelling from Rajkot to Sankari. We took dinner and our trek guide Abhishek introduced us to our cooking staff and other trek staff i.e. Pankaj, Manubhai and Jassi. People in mountains are so kind hearted and simple. After that Abhishek briefed us for our trek, does and don’ts. We went for some shopping like hiking boots, walking sticks, poncho, etc. Then we all went to our rooms and with lots of dreams for our trek, we fell asleep. We woke up at 6 AM in the morning and felt heavy cold. We had breakfast and they gave us packed lunch for the noon. Can you imagine! Lunch was rotti and bhindi sabji. We were carrying single lunch box and OMG! They have put rottis in the box and then sabji on the rotti. That day I realized importance of two compartment lunch box. Lunch was too cold when we had it. It was like we had just extract it from the fridge. But when you are tired after such a long walk in hilly areas, believe me you eat anything given to you. We got ready, talked with other group members and departed in a Jeep for our trek’s starting point i.e. Taluka village. Trekkers who have booked mules have given their bags for loading and we carried it by own. Again a bunch of instructions given by our guide which is

most important when you do trek in Himalayas. You needs to take care of local people around you, mules and needs to maintain beauty of the mountains.

We started trek and within few minutes we were amid peace, tall trees, sounds of birds and a total dream place. There were lots of trees of Maple leaves of Yellow, Red & Brown colors. Sound of gushing water on side of the trail is so mesmerizing. This is the one specialty of Har ki Doon trek that during the whole trek you find river by your side. It’s like a companion on the trek & you never feel alone. This is the thing which attracted me the most in this trek.

As we had carried our backpack, it was difficult to walk specially for me – 1st thing was cold and 2nd was weight of backpack on my back. The trail is up & down throughout the way till the first camp. We reached Pauni Ghaat where our first camp was situated. We had dinner at night and went in our tents and discussed about the day. Though it was November, wind was so cold like January. Sleeping bags were too chilled and we afraid to enter in it. We slept as we need to wake up early in the morning. Mornings in the mountains are so freshening that you forget all tiredness of the previous day. It was clear instructions from our guide that no one will wash face as water was too cold. But I was like, “nothing will happen let me wash my face.” I washed my face and hardly reached near my tent and I fainted. I literally fell down and my friend carried me and brought me into my tent. Trek instructor had checked my BP as chances of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) is high in cool weather. But luckily I was normal within 5 minutes. After breakfast we again started walking for our second camp site.

On the way there is a village named Osla. Till the year 2017 this village don’t had electricity. They got electricity from the year 2018 only. This is the only village which has a government school and students from surrounding villages comes here daily for study by walking on the trail which we found much difficult. Life of people here is simple yet tough. I asked our guide that what these people do in case of medical emergency. What he told me was very heart touching for me. He told that, in case of any medical emergency people who have some money can take the patient to Sankari on mule and from Sankari they can get transportation. Story of the people who don’t have money is much different. They used to take the patient to Sankari by carrying them on their both hands by walking. Isn’t it heart threatening? Sometimes patient with serious medical issues dies on the way to Sankari due to the more time to reach there. When I heard that, I totally lost in deep thoughts about life. We are getting each and every facility here and still always complaining. That day my perspective for life changed and I learned most important lesson.

Trail from the first camp to second camp is totally different than trail up to first camp. It’s like wide grounds of green grass covering mountains in both sides. Huge rocks on the trail giving it a sturdy look. We stopped at a Maggie point and had Maggie and clicked some photos. Maggie is the best food everyone love to have while in mountains. We were so tired due to continuous walking and all were waiting for the next camp site.

At afternoon around 5 pm, suddenly the weather changed. Cold breeze started blowing and small snowflakes came with it. Some trekkers were happy as they thought snow fall will be there. I was much concerned as I knew the feeling of walking in snow. We wore poncho and rain coats before moving ahead. The trail covered with little snow flakes and weather became a little wintry. Mountains were hardly visible due to fog created by the snow flakes. Anyhow we reached at the camp and got in to tents. Within sometime, dinner was ready. They served us best foods one can have in the mountains for all the days. Every day after dinner, there was a desert for all of us. First day it was Fruit Custard, next day hot Gulab Jamuns, one day it was hot Jalebies. We all were waiting for deserts more than dinner. We departed after dinner and got into tents and started our music playlist. We thought other trekkers got irritated by listening our songs so we stopped it but next day they asked us why we stopped playing songs! They were enjoying our playlist and were much happy with that.

It was 5th November, 2019 and the day for which we all went to that trek – The summit day. Very excitedly we started for the day after having breakfast and taking some chocolates and energy bars for us. There was one other group tents nearby us so we have chatted with them for some time and clicked a group photo with them. We all were very happy and excited for the summit and that filled a different kind of energy in all of us. At noon we reached at the

most awaited place since we started the trek – Har ki Doon. Doon means valley i.e. a low area of land between hills or mountains, typically with a river or stream flowing through it. Scenery at summit is breathtaking. High mountains protecting the valley with it’s height and river in the valley is touching mountain’s feet for giving it protection. The picture perfect view of this valley is like we entered in a Dreamland.

I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery – air, mountain, trees and people. I thought, it is what to be happy. We had our packed lunch & it was the best lunch I ever had – in front of snowy mountains and at a holy place like that. That delightful experience was not confined for that time only but it made a permanent place in my heart. We spent almost 2 hours there but no one wants to leave that place but we had no any option. I felt that I left a part of me there while leaving that place.

On the way back to the camp, my heart was heavy and I was lost in the beauty of that place. Almost the whole way I walked alone. Hardly 1 or 2 trekkers were before me and all others were far behind. I choose to walk alone on that trail to way back and felt the peace that my soul wanted. No matter how much time you spend in mountains, your soul always remain unsatisfied and thirsty – especially of mountain lovers. I enjoyed the trail much more while descending rather than ascending. I sat on a tool like trunk of a tree and glanced at mountains as if I was bidding adieu to love of my life with teary eyes, heavy heart and with a promise to come back again. We reached at camp in the evening around 5.30. After freshen up, we chatted with other group members for some time. At night after dinner, some trekkers have shared their experiences of previous treks including me. We played game “Mafia” – what an interesting game it is. It was suggested by our trek leader Abhishek.

Next day we again started descending towards our first camp – the same camp were we stayed while ascending. Our trek guide Pankaj was with us on the whole way. It was good time spent with him with his mountain stories and his life stories. He told us so many facts about mountain life which we didn’t know before. We chatted on almost all the way back to our first camp. We clicked photos together. I don’t know from where but that day my strength increased and I reached at camp around 2.30 PM and I was second to reach at camp among all trekkers. That day they served us hot meal “Rajma Chawal”. It was an amazing experience of having hot lunch after almost 3 days and we all were very happy. We enjoyed Rajma

Chawal with full heart. After having lunch till evening we chatted in our tents and had our evening tea. Sadness of leaving that place and last day of our stay in tents could be easily observed on faces of all of us. None of us was willing to go back home. In those 5 days, we were used to live that life, used to that food, that cold weather, that gushing sound of river, those peaceful nights, that evening tea, those talks with group members, those trek leaders and guides, those cooks, that hilly road, those Maggie shops & tea houses and each and every damn thing. Even we used to not taking a bath since last 5 days…hahaha. The air in mountains is so pure that you even don’t feel that you didn’t have a bath since a week. That last night we tried to sleep in tents but hardily we could sleep. The thought of leaving that place came every time in my mind whenever I closed my eyes and that way I couldn’t sleep.

In early morning we woke up and had breakfast – actually the last breakfast at such a great place amid the mountains. Then we left for Taluka from where we supposed to travel in Jeep to Sankari. Since morning it was raining. We wore our Poncho and whole way rain was along with us. Due to rain, the trail was much slippery and on the other side mules were coming from front. As guided by the trek leader on very first day, whenever you face situation like this you just need to be on rock side and give way to mules and they will be on other side and will pass. So we literally sticked to the rock side like a lizard. Mules have thrown mud on us though it was unintentional. Extra care needed while walking on rainy trail as one mistake and you will fall down to at least 20-30 feet or may be more that. En route to Taluka, as a last memory of my trek I gathered some leaves of different trees and headed to Taluka.

Again I walked alone and this time my friends were ahead of me and reached Taluka half an hour before me. The Jeep was full & next Jeep would have taken time to be full and depart. I din’t like to wait So I decided to go in that Jeep by seating on it’s roof with one of my trek member and our cooks. Yes, you read it right, on roof of the Jeep on hilly roads. I still can’t believe that I did that. Oh god! it’s totally thrilling experience as it was raining and heavy cold wind plus no proper handle on the roof to hold. I never recommend to do this…I said never ever. It’s much risky and in case if Jeep driver had to give sudden break then chance you fell from the Jeep were very high and fall directly in the mines which were on side of the road. The other big mistake I made is, I didn’t wore poncho because I was seating on it as Jeep roof was a bit dirty. I was totally frozen due to cold rain drops and breeze. I was literally shivering and praying god to keep me safe till I reached Sankari. Along with that threat, one more thing I experienced that was mesmerizing. On the whole way to Sankari, clouds were making competition with us that they will reach before us and in that competition they were colliding with us softly. Snow has covered mountain peaks and it’s white layer was giving heavenly look to the place. That was the only but enough reason to be happy by seating on that roof. Finally after an hour’s journey we reached at Sankari and I took a deep breath and thanked god for keeping me safe. It was the most adventurous thing I did on that whole trek. All trekkers were gathered in our guest house’s dining area for dinner. After dinner certificates were distributed but I didn’t go for dinner neither collected my certificate by my own. I was too tired and was taking rest in my room. All group members decided to celebrate by partying and partying in that situation means alcohol. Being a trekking base camp, alcohol is banned in Sankari. They have arranged it from nearby village. I was too tired to wake up so gave up on the idea of celebration inspite of a strong desire. I slept well and in the morning woke up before all others. We packed our bags and left for Haridwar taking all our baggage & leaving only our hearts. It was such a memorable trip.

Wait…what! The trip is not yet ended. It’s still on. We had plan an extra day to visit Rishikesh. Generally the drop up point for trek is Dehradun only just like pickup point but during that time Dehradun railway station was closed due to maintenance hence they have changed drop up point to Haridwar. We had booked hotel in Haridwar while booking our trek only. Tempo Traveller driver had dropped us to the hotel around 8 pm on 8th November. We got fresh and then went to Har ki pedhi – Ganga Ghat. We had dinner at restaurant on the bank of river Ganga. Then we wandered in the market nearby and went back to the hotel. Next day morning around 9 AM, we left for the Rishikesh in local transportation. We reached at Rishikesh around 11 AM and went on Ram Julha. We went Rishikesh specially for river rafting. We booked our rafting for 12 km – the longest one. They took us to the starting point of rafting in a Jeep. We were given safety jackets, paddles and a bunch of instructions. Then again we moved for one more adventure.

Water of river Ganga was too much cool. We were lucky to have the best guide here also. He instructed us perfectly and during rafting he guided us about how to jump in the river in between and how to come back in the rafting boat. They have given us ropes while jumping in the river so we could easily came back in the boat.

There is a point of cliff jumping on the way of rafting to Lakshaman Julha. We did cliff jumping also. It was an another “first time” experience for me and all of us. I wanted to do it but was a bit nervous because they directly threw us in the gushing river from about 20 ft height. I don’t know how to swim but not to worry, they provides safety jackets as well. I was a bit afraid as I was the first in my group to jump. I was literally threatened and couldn’t jump on my own so they pushed me in the water.

OMG! That sinking feeling in my stomach was at it high and i just closed my eyes while I jumped. I felt like I died and I could feel nothing what was happening around me. Within hardly 3 seconds I was in the river struggling to breathe as my face was deep into water. Anyhow I managed to come back on surface and started swimming to reach nearby rock wall of a small mountain. This is a must do experience whenever you are in Rishikesh or any such other place. We had Maggie and coffee there on that small mountain in wet clothes and I was shivering but Maggie did its magic….It was so yummm. After cliff jumping, again we went

in our boat and started rafting. It was a 12 km long rafting so we were almost tired and hardly could move the paddles. When we were about to reach at our destination, we saw some foreigners relaxing on both the sides of the river bank. Some pretty girls were laying in the sand on river bank and boys with us were staring at them. They were distracted to the extent that they literally stopped their paddles…Hahaha. In few minutes, we reached at our destination and for the last time we filled our eye sights with that fascinating sunset on river bank surrounded by majestic mountains. We didn’t wanted to leave that holy place but we had no other option as our holidays were about to over and it was the last day. We left Rishikesh in hurry around 6 PM because we wanted to attend Ganga Aarti at Haridwat at Har ki Pedhi ghaat. We knew it well that chances for it were very less but then also we tried. We called an auto rickshaw and bargained for the fare and then left for Haridwar. We reached there around 7.15 PM but the Aarti was over and we were late just by 15 to 20 minutes. We had dinner at restaurant situated on the ghaat itself. Then we left for the railway station. Our train from Haridwar to Delhi was at 12 AM. We reached Delhi early morning. Our train from Delhi to Rajkot was at noon but tickets were not confirmed yet and as before, there were no chances of confirmation.. ohh no… again…. I am suggesting do not travel without confirmed

tickets please. There was only one option left with us. I think hardly few people might have chosen that option that too in case of emergency & that was, traveling in general coach. Yes…

We have taken tickets for general coach. It’s unbelievable for me now but yes we did that. It was first time for all of us that we were traveling in general coach that too for such a long distance. It’s much difficult to catch the general coach and get in to it, getting a seat is the Second priority. Anyhow we managed to get into it with all our heavy backpacks. There was no space to stand for some time then we saw the upper birth was empty. We climbed there by keeping all our luggage under the seats. I was feeling very uncomfortable in seating there. Till noon to evening we set there and then we got lower seat that too in 1 seat 4 people. I was suffering with severe headache and cold. Whole way I just laid down in a very small space, you can imagine as we were 4 people in a single seat and how much space I would have to lay down! A big Thanks to the people with me for giving me some relief in headache. At night we reached at Ahmedabad and catch bus to Rajkot. We were so tired due to that general coach journey but it was not the problem. The real worry was, we were heading to our homes which means again that busy life, crowded places and far away from that peaceful mountains. It was like, we were wandering in those memories which we have stored in our hearts. It was hard to believe that those 7 days of trek were over and we were back to our regular lives. In early morning we reached Rajkot and departed with heavy hearts but also with hope of meeting again soon in our next trip. Someone has rightly said “Go where you feel most alive.”

Written By
Drashti Andani

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