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    Roopkund Trek Journey.. Summer of 2016

    Roopkund lakeIt is known all over as the mystery lake. It’s a place nestled in the Himalayas which has lots of folklore attached to it’s name. But it has much more than this. This is one amazing trek in the Uttarakhand Himalayas that just has amazing contrasting landscapes just about as you cross each ridgeline. The trail takes you from a remote and mesmerising village of Lohajung, through gushing river crossings, verdant meadows, alluring ridge lines, dense green forest and finally though snow and Ice to a mystical lake nestled at an inspiring altitude of 5029 metres. This is one complete trek for any person who inspires to have the elements of Adventure, thrill, self discovery and endurance in one trail.

    Lohajung

    Lohajung which is the roadhead base camp for the trek is located at an elevation of 2350 metres. It is around 210 Kilometres from Katgodam. It is a small sleepy village which gets active once the Roopkund trail opens. It is the last electrified village on this side, but rarely has electricity, so get your gadgets all charged up before you reach here.

    The trail descends from Loharganj towards a stream known as Neel Ganga. The path is well defined and is covered with a forest of Rhododendron and Oak. There is a bridge to be crossed across the river. Its about an hours climb from Neel Ganga which gets a bit steep at times till you reach the village of Didna.

    Didna village

    Didna is a picturesque village located at an elevation of 2660 metres. The village is surrounded by a dense green jungle. It has about a 30 households.

    Roopkund

    From Didna its a climb right from the start. You walk through a thick forest, which is mainly of Oak and Rhododendron. After an hour you reach a grassy patch which is known as Tol Pani. The ascend gets steeper from here as you walk on a path which zigzags until you reach the top of the ridge.

    Aali bughyal

    The top is lush green and the meadow is long. This place is known as Aali Bughyal. This place offers a enchanting allround 360 degrees view. You walk along this mersmerizing rigdeline for sometime until you reach a small col. From here the trail starts to ascend again gradually. After about 2 kms after there is a turn  from where you will get the first glimse of the meadow of Bedni Bughyal.

    Roopkund trek

    DSC_0781-001

     

    Bedni bughyal is yet again a lush green meadow, with a water body in the centre which is known as Bedni Kund. There is a amzing view of the mighty 7120 m high Trishul peak from here. It is one of the most beautiful camping sites in the western Himalayas.

    refection of mt trishul in bedni kund

    Its a relatively easy trek from Bedni till the campsite of Pathar Nauchani. You cross over to the other side of the ridgeline at a place called Ghora Lautani. The tree line almost diminishes after this point. Pathar Nauchani is a small meadow situated below a ridge at an elevation of 3880 metres. This place has some wonderful views of the snow clad mountain right in front of you especially mt Maikpoli.

     

    Pathar Nachani

    The trail starts to ascend as soon as you leave Pathar Nauchani. It gets steeper as you go higher. There are exellent views of the valley below as you walk up the zig zag trail. The last part does sure test your endurance level. At the top of the ridge is called Kalu Vinayak. This place has a temple dedicated to lord Ganesha. This place offers a magnificient view of the Mt Trishool massif. You can see the entire trail till Roopkund from here.

    Kalu Vinayak

     

    From Kalu Vinayak its a relatively easy walk to wards the campsite of Bhagwawasa. Bhagwawasa is a situated at an elevation of 4300 metres and has just enough to make up for a camping place. The place has lots of rocks around with patches of snow.

    Bhagwawasa

     

     

    The trek starts early in the morning as soon as 3 A.M. from Bhagwawasa. Headlamps come in handy here, as they keep your hands free. The trail is well defined in the beginning. The amount of snow depends on the season in which you are doing the trek. there is more snow in May and June, and gets less as the monsoons set in. Post monsoon the path is devoid of any snow. The path gets narrower and steeper as you climb up. you can feel the effects of altitude, and you have to really push your limits as you are nearer to the lake.

    roopkundroopkund

    Roopkund lake is situated at an elevation of 5029 m just below the Junargali Ridgeline. As all high altitude Himalayan lakes this is considered holy. Every 12 year there is a yatra till this place by the name of  “Nanda Devi raj rath yatra” . The lake has many remains of human skeletons around it. There are many stories about these skeletons. The most prominent of the stories being that these were men who got struck in a hailstorm during one such yatra.

    Roopkund

     

    We successfully hosted 239 Roopkund trekkers in the summer of 2016, spread over a period of 8 weeks and 16 batches and out of which 224 (over 94%) successfully scaled the Roopkund. Remaining 15 will wait for their second chance and bravely respected the safety protocol.

    Thanks to all the trekkers, the staff and the mighty mountains for making it a big success.

    Happy exploring!

    rajat.

     

    Photos courtesy: Dr. Pranab Kumar Dutta

    

    What NOT to do on a Wildlife Safari!

    It’s a happy sign that many around these days, travel to experience the wilderness and encounter the wildlife. Happy in the sense that the love for the jungles is increasing. Happy in the sense that these jungle experiences might change people’s outlook towards the wild animals and the nature, in general.

    However, the experience says otherwise. People think of ‘Corbetts’ or ‘Ranthambores’ more of either a party place to get wasted on weekends, or some zoo where the great Tiger will jump out of the bushes for their Facebook selfie. But. not the people are to be blamed solely. They do not have the right picture painted anywhere. Here is an attempt to get some things right!

    Any activity inside or around the wild habitats, even the ones with positive intentions, one way or the other, is a deviation from the natural way of life. However, if there has to be an interference (activity) in the jungles, it better be the positive ones.

    Before Anything, First we should know that Why One Should NOT Travel to the National Parks?

    1. For a Weekend Booze Party.
      You travel, you burn fuel. You party, you create unnecessary waste. You smoke, again disturb such delicate environment. Loud music, the last thing one can do in or around a national park.
      Tip: Burn your money in Delhi / NCR with so many awesome pubs around.
    2. Don’t visit to sight a Tiger. Cherish the nature.
      Yes, Tigers are perhaps the most majestic creatures on this planet. The classy stripes, the elegant walk, the royal growl. There are few creatures who can walk on the land with such pride. But, we should remind ourselves national parks are not zoos. It’s their homes and they live on their own terms. Tiger sighting is a rarest of the things and that’s the best of the parts. We are very lucky just to be inside the jungle, to visit their home, where they live and rule everything around. It took me at least 12 safaris to sight my first Tiger. Yes, the adrenaline was high but the earlier eleven were equally awesome!
      Tip: Even do not visit the zoos. They cage animals.
    3. To be part of the ‘holy’ Fairs and Festivals.
      India is the land of temples. So, every major national park has one or another temple inside or around the park. Every year fairs or festivals are held which are of historic importance to the locals and it’s celebrated in much funfair. If you’re not historically related to the event please do not throng to the park. The thinner it’ll be, the better it’ll be, for the wildlife.
      Tip: Travel to Varanasi or the Himalayas for salvation.

    Now, the Important, What NOT To-Do when in the National Park Area?

    1. Drive Fast.
      Animals have the first right to pass through the roads, yes, even those outside the safari zones! Drive slow and enjoy the nature around.
      Tip: Look around for any movement, you never know which animal may be waiting for a nice click.
    2. Honk. Honk.
      All park area and around is under a no honking zone. Please be patient. Do not rush. And you’ll then not scare the lovely creatures away.
    3. Litter Around.
      Description not required. That’s something you shouldn’t do, like anywhere.
    4. Break Park Rules.
      Every park has a certain set of rules. Rules related to timings, entry restrictions, or certain do’s and don’ts. Do try to get them beforehand and obey them to its core even if there is no official around.
    5. Choose Your Stay Uninformed.
      Some places are Eco-friendly and some are simply rubbish money-minting houses. Be it a home stay or a luxury resort, read through it’s detailed information, reviews, it’s contribution to the local community around, extent to which it follows park ethics and guidelines and you’ll land at a place which is less disturbing to the nature.

      Tip: Just ask the hotel, if they can arrange a DJ party in open? If the answer is yes, your decision should be NO!

    6. Unnecessary Consumption of the Natural Resources like Water.
      Most of the parks at least in some seasons are water deficient and water table of almost all is depleting at a very high pace. Biggest contributor is of course the resorts. Try not using swimming pools or indulging in anything that deviates water from the jungle use to human use.

    What NEVER To-Do on your Jungle Safari?

    In a Jungle Safari, be it on jeep, canter or your own drive, you’re right in the middle of untroubled (supposedly) nature. Here you should be all the more extra careful.

    1. Smoke or Light Fire.
      Smoking is injurious we all know but here it’s more than health reasons. It’s a huge risk to light fire or smoke in the forests as a small spark can lead to a huge forest fire in minutes and can lead to destruction of wildlife in big numbers and also destroy irreplaceable habitat.
    2. Litter Around.
      Any waste you litter around is an exotic addition to the environment. The harm it causes to the nature is unimaginable and cumulative effect through the food chain is exponential.
    3. Try Feeding the Animals.
      Please note those are not pet animals, they live on their own and die of the survival struggle or natural causes. Any interference is highly prohibited. Even if you find any animal in pain or need, inform the park official or the wildlife guide accompanying you.
    4. Step-out of the Vehicle.
      No, you simple cannot walk inside the jungle. You aren’t totally safe even inside the vehicle. Even a few seconds on foot can prove fatal.
    5. Be Loud or Play Music.
      Jungle is peaceful, let it be so.
    6. Disturb the Guide or Driver.
      Please do not ask guide or driver for undue requests to drive fast, stay longer than permitted, drive too close to animals, or enter restricted areas.
    7. Wear Bright Clothing.
      Please wear dull, dark clothing that will camouflage you with the environment. Bright clothes are a distraction to the animals.
    8. Flash the animals or get Too Close to them.
      Capturing nature and wildlife is good but to indulge in activities that disturb animals like use of flash, getting too close to them, creating fake calls should be absolutely restrained.
    9. Expect Wild Animals to be Running and Jumping along to Greet you!

    Remember, it’s never about sighting the animals. It’s about being a part of them, experiencing what’s like to be in their land. Understandably, sighting one is a charm but greater is tracking one around!

    Tried my best to highlight important and small things that we miss out on our wildlife adventure. Please let us know if you find it useful and add more points in the comments box!

    AND, just enjoy the music of the nature, the magnificent wilderness and the beautiful game! Cheers… 🙂

    Image Courtesy – Prakash Kandpal

    

    Triund Trek – a story!

    We live the moment and it’s gone. All that’s left are the stories. Here’s a story of a friend who came to visit the mountains last monsoons and trekked to the hilltop of Triund, and hopefully not the last!

    TREK TO THE TRIUND RIDGE
    – Monisha Sharma, New Delhi

    “…Working in a travel company myself, and May to September being the most hectic time for us I certainly needed a change from my daily routine. So, I started planning with two of my friends for some break from the routine and as being always short on leaves, our target was the 15th August long weekend.

    We were planning for Dharamshala but then my lovely friend from the mountains, Visharad, gave us an option for a one day trek to Triund which would be more peaceful yet adventurous at the same time. I convinced my friends for the same, though it sounded hectic but at the same more time interesting.

    We took a Volvo from Delhi and arrived at McLeod Ganj in the morning. From McLeod Ganj we were dropped to a guest house in Dharamkot by our guide Vinod Bhaiya who accompanied us in the Trek as well. He is a very cute gentleman with a smile on his face.

    After getting fresh and having amazing breakfast we were all ready for the Trek. With Vinod bhaiya accompanying us we all started walking. The weather was amazing as always and the freshness in the air just amazing. We thought Triund would be an off beat destination and there would not be much people but as we were walking we saw  people doing trekking with us, some as groups, some individually walking and to our surprise lot of foreigner groups with their guides smiling clicking pictures and enjoying.

    Seeing them we were more motivated since I was doing trekking for the second time it was a bit tiring but the weather and beautiful view motivates you to keep moving. One side is the valley and other side mountain it is a bit risky so it’s always important to listen to the experienced guide with you.

    Halfway through when we reached a mid point a small tea stall was there and the best part was Maggi  available there. I still remember my friends getting super excited after having Maggi after a long time (it was banned at that time). The view from that tea stall was so beautiful clouds touching you face and the voice of Bhagsu waterfalls coming and everything else silent. It was just amazing. After taking a break of half an hour we started walking again…

    Vinod Bhaiya our guides encouragement and  whistle blow motivated us to keep on walking, I was tired but my friends filled with energy kept on encouraging me. At that the only thing that was motivating me to walk was I just wanted to reach on the Triund hill and just complete this Trek. We kept on walking and after almost 4 hours from the start we reached the top. To our surprise is was just a hill and a few cottages of the local people and 2 -3 tea shops but the view from the peak was just amazing…

    We could see the Dharamshala stadium on one side and the Dhauladhar mountain ranges on the other covered with Snow. And thankfully Crazy Peaks had already blocked a cottage for us we kept our luggage in it and it started raining heavily. Hill station rainfalls are very beautiful yet very heavy, but still we were enjoying every bit of it. Sitting in that cottage which started and ended it was so much fun. It was like we are back in childhood playing “ghar ghar”. There were no washrooms as such, just the tented ones or the open nature, so if anyone wanted to relax themselves they need to go at the back of stones or find a bush. Though it was hilarious doing all this but a different experience all together.

    In evening when the rain stopped we sat at a stone from where the whole view was just amazing and out of us 3 no one spoke much just quietly enjoyed the sunset with amazing tea from the kitchen of Vinod bhaiya friend and the cook for us. The feeling of being secluded, the feeling of relaxation and the beautiful weather was just enough to not feel tired. The best part was that there was no electricity up there so we were given candles in our cottage and people used torches for their tents. The basic meals of Indian Dal, Sabzi and Rice we got at dinner were far more delicious than any cuisine in the world. It was simple and maybe we were so hungry that we loved every bite of it.

    We stayed overnight at Triund hill but couldn’t come out of the cottage at night cause it was raining heavily, a very bad thunder storm and I remember my friend sleeping next to me asked I hope people staying outside in tents are safe. We went out to ask Vinod bhaiya and he updated that since the tents are water proof so the rain wouldn’t effect them. There was even a group of girls from Ireland who had opted for staying in tents.

    The whole night we could hear lighting and rain and we were praying that it stops raining so that tomorrow morning we are able to get down on time to catch our bus back to Delhi. We woke up around 6 in the morning and saw it had stopped raining so we decided that we will start our trek as soon as possible before it starts to rain again. We just changed are clothes got fresh and started walking. While coming down due to rain the stones had become slippery so we had to be extra careful while walking. Vinod bhaiya kept on helping and motivating us.

    It hardly took us 2 and half hours to come back down to Dharamkot at our guest house. We reached back and got fresh by 10 am and were all ready and free to explore McLeod Ganj as we had the Volvo in evening.

    Triund would always be special as it was my 1st trip with my office friends and its such an amazing place. A different experience all together in which I realized some times leaving luxury and enjoying a simple trip in the lap of nature is more fruitful.

    Thanks Crazy Peaks for organizing everything in a systematic way and making us go this extra mile to have a different experience all together…”

    – Photos and Words by Monisha Sharma.

    

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