"Once a year, go somewhere you've never been before." - Dalai Lama
But as luck would have it, Deoriatal Chandrashila Trek is my 5th such outing (somewhere I've never been before) since Jan 2016 starting from Nainital in Jan, Corbett in March, Mussoorie and Rishikesh in April.
Initially, it was my brothers wish that we go on a trek in the vacations, but ultimately the whole family ended up going for the trek. It was indeed a pleasant change and a different sort of vacation together considering that last time we had gone on a long family vacation was to Andamans long back in 2010.
As this was going to be our first trek we did a lot of research on different websites regarding the different treks in Himachal and Uttarakhand and ultimately decided on Deoriatal Chandrashila Trek considering that its an easy - moderate trek, considered ideal and best suited for first timers and also a birds watchers paradise.
Now that we had decided the location, we researched further as to which hiking company to choose from. We narrowed it down to Trek the Himalayas and India Hikes and ultimately chose India Hikes, and I must say, it was indeed a good decision.
Right from pre-booking till the end of the trek, India Hikes was more than supportive and cooperative with good and humble team members. We had made the booking in early April and all through April we used to get regular mail updates from our ground coordinator Suhaas regarding what all to pack and what not to pack and how to keep the trail clean and free of trash.He even made an email forum which helped everyone get acquainted even before the start of the trek.
Once we had purchased our trekking shoes, crosschecked all our items packed, we were ready to go for the trek and reached Haridwar on 14th May 2016 from Delhi by Shatabdi Express. The journey was around 6 hours long but as luck would have we had 3-4 crying babies in our boogie, so we could hardly take a nap.
We reached Haridwar by 11ish and headed to our guest room and had a good hearty lunch. After taking some rest we headed to Har ki Pauri to witness the famed Ganga Aarti. Though the atmosphere was pure divine but it was mad rush which made it impossible to witness the aarti clearly. However, it was a good experience as we saw people from all walks of life going and taking a dip in the Holy Ganges to wash away their sins.
We stocked up the remaining medicines, took some Rasna juice packets and headed back to the guest room.
Next morning we reached the Haridwar Railway station by 6:30 AM and took our seats in the Tempo Traveller which had been organized by India Hikes on additional payment to take us from Haridwar to Sari Village. Amongst our co-passengers were KK family from Pune, Praful, Mayur and Pawan from Mumbai, Alisha and Madhavi from Bangalore. The onward journey was fun as everyone was excited for the trek.
Ultimately we left Haridwar by around 8 AM and reached or destination Sari Village by around 5:30 PM in the evening after taking 2 pit stops for breakfast and lunch.
Just next to the entry for Deoria Tal trek route, there are 3-4 hotels out of which India Hikes has made its base camp in one of the hotels. The rooms were neat and clean with running water, which was more than any one could have asked for in such a location.
After we refreshed a bit, we were briefed by Vyasakh our Trek Leader about the details of our trek, our daily itinerary, and other details. Once we were done with the briefing, we had dinner and socialized with other members of the group as well before calling it a night.
Day 1: Deoria Tal
The day started with a cup of lemon tea at 6:30 in the morning followed by breakfast at 7:30.This is when we were given our trekking poles and ponchos that we had ordered online.We started our trek at 8 - 8:30 in the morning with great enthusiasm. It was a moderate trek as the trail had a lot of heighted steps.The trek is roughly 2.4 km long with an altitude gain of around 1240 feet and it took us nearly 3 hours to reach our camp site.The trail took us through rhododendron forests and the view of Sari Village kept on getting better with every step we took.
The first glimpse of Deoria Tal was splendid and the sheer beauty left us awestruck. The lake is surrounded with rhododendron forests and one can even see the Himalayan peaks Kedar Dome, Chaukhamba.
Once were relaxed, we were briefed by Vyasakh about tent pitching and how to fold and unfold the sleeping bag.
Post lunch, we went for a Parikrama of Deoria Tal as well as a small hike nearby. Just walking on a random path which you think is the right one and getting lost for a moment in the quietness and calmness of nature makes you appreciate mother nature even more.
Day 2: Rohini Bugayal
Day 2 started with a hot cup of lemon tea at 6:30 AM and witnessing the sunrise followed by a good hearty breakfast of parathas. It was a 8 km trek from Deoria Tal to Rohini Bugayal so we had a packed lunch of vegetable biryani. The trek began with an initial ascent for an hour or two and later was a combination of ascending and descending like a sine wave. We had a good relaxed break of 40-45 min for lunch and we even took a power nap sort of a thing under the shade of trees.As there was no water source midway we had to carry 2 L of water per head and we were advised to keep ourselves hydrated by taking a sip every now and then.We even had a bottle of Rasna during lunch which was very refreshing.
Post lunch we descended initially before again traversing the sine wave.We kept on asking our guide Manoj Ji about the distance left and he kept on saying "Bas 1.5 km bacha hai, aadha ghanta lagega."
This went on for an hour and a half before we finally reached our destination for the day - Rohini Bugayal. And it was such a relief that on reaching we just removed our bags and lay on the ground for some time before doing our stretching exercises.Our campsite had a water source near by and hence we were greeted with a glass of lemon juice which was extremely refreshing.
We pitched our tents and after relaxing a bit, we were served pasta along with the evening tea.As our group had people from a variety of backgrounds, it was fun listening and participating in different discussions while enjoying the beauty of Himalayas.
Our groups 2 'chidimaars' aka bird watchers had a gala time clicking different birds as both Jwalant and Prabodh disappeared as soon as we reached and were only spotted during evening tea.
Our campsite was in a meadow where there were no trees, hence it became extremely cold during the night as compared to previous night. Our trek leader Vyasakh had instructed us to put on our fleeces after we were done with stretching exercises, primarily because the body starts losing temperature gradually and exposes us to catching cold. It was because of this instruction that none of us fell ill and achieved 100% summit on Day 4.
Day 3: Rohini Bugayal to Dalkhudi
Day 3 saw us trek from Rohini Bugayal to our 3rd and last campsite at Dalkhudi. This trek again was more of a sine wave traversing with a refreshing water stream break in between.
Our bags were lighter by a kg as we were told to only take 1 L of water per head as there was a water source in between where we could refill. The water stream break was way too refreshing as we dipped our legs into the cold water and even drank from the same stream but from the upper pool. It was the perfect location for selfies and family photo sessions which we had in plenty.
We even got to hear about first-hand eye witness version of the vast devastation caused by 2013 Uttarakhand Floods from Manoj Ji. Just hearing the first-hand version of the incident was spine chilling in itself.
Like the previous day, this day also we had packed lunch and Rasna during our lunch time halt. We finally reached our campsite by around 2:30 PM and highlight of this camp site was that it was located just next to the highway. It was hardly 2-3 km from Chopta.
We had a refreshing glass of rhododendron juice and some yummy chowmein in the evening. Vyasakh briefed us that we would be having an early dinner at 6:30 pm as we had to start the final ascent towards Chandrashila the next day at 3 am. Unlike the previous camps, we didn't have to pack up our tents as we had to come back again to the same tents.
I must add that this campsite had the best view for viewing the sunset.
Day 4: The final ascent to Chandrashila
Everyone woke up at 2 AM and got ready and fresh to leave by 3 am. It was pitch dark and we were all walking in a single file with Manoj Ji in the lead and Vyasakh leading from behind the pack. As it was dark, we dint realize how far had we walked and how high had we come which we later realized while descending. As we had to come back to the same campsite we only had a daypack with a litre of water per head and space to keep the warm layer on our way down, which was actually a blessing in disguise.
It was a 7 km trek one way and the group in general completed the trek by 6:30 am. We stopped at around 4:40 for a break when Vyasakh told us to get moving as every minute counted and the view changed every moment.
This is when I took some 20-30 big steps and gained a good lead in the group and I started walking on my own in a combination of small and baby steps. Majority of the track was cemented one so it was a hard foot landing every time. After the first km or so when I took a halt, I saw two other India Hikes staff members who were walking with us initially but had taken a lead. I caught up with Bhagat Singh and together we started walking ahead, he kept on guiding me on the route and motivating me to walk fast. We reached Tunganath by 5:20 am along with Sheru, the mountain dog who had accompanied us from our campsite all the way till the summit. We waited for 5-10 min at Tunganath and then continued our ascent. At first glimpse, the peak appeared very near, but after Tunganath we realized that it was a farce, and there was a very steep ascent towards the summit. The sun started to rise at 5:40 am when I decided that I'll just keep ascending taking baby steps instead of halting and wasting time. Ultimately we reached the summit at 5:50 am and the whole summit was overcrowded with people who had climbed to witness the sunrise.
I missed the sunrise by 5 min which made me realize the importance of time and how I wish I had not halted at Tunganath for 5-10 min, I would have been on the summit by 5:40 and able to witness the sunrise. It has been rightly said by Benjamin Franklin that "Lost Time is never found again."
After 15 min of waiting could I see other members of the group on the summit. We had a prolonged stay at the summit as one fellow trekker Pavan had not yet reached and was en route with Vicky(India Hikes staff). The whole group became ecstatic when Pavan reached the summit and we finally achieved a 100 % summit with the youngest member being a 10 years old girl Vishakha.
We had a group pic at the summit and started our descent and reached Tunganath within 15 min as it was down hill and we took a lot of shortcuts. Once we were done with Tunganath Darshan we sat at a dhabha and enjoyed a hot cup of tea with maggi and snacks.
Initially we descended as a group, but eventually the group got divided with some of us walking ahead and some trailing behind. In the morning we had taken some shortcuts on our way up but while descending we just kept walking on the track and ultimately reached Chopta, from where the trail to Tunganath starts. Our campsite was 2-3 km away but we just kept walking on the roadside and reached back at around 11:30 am. Overall we covered 14 km of distance in a matter of 6 hours excluding our halts and all.
Though we did not get a clear view of the mountain peaks from Chandrashila but that didn't matter much as it was the journey of 3 days with 20 strangers who became good friends, that mattered more to me rather than the destination.
Being our last day at the camp, we had a gala time playing dumsharads, antakshari and even having a good last briefing from Vyashak.
We were indeed lucky as we didn't have to trek during the rains. However, we experienced rain and even hail as it started to rain at around 9 am when we were in the tents. Initially it started with showers but early morning the next day we experienced hail as well. The whole view changed and it became so much more serene with the clouds engulfed around the forests.
Overall it was a nice first time trekking experience thanks to India Hikes.It was so well organized that it just makes us go for another trek very soon.
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