Phokte Dara in Sikkim is a very special and hidden place. a wonderful panoramic view, a true delight for mountain lover. This place is very special as world’s highest mountain i.e. Mt. Everest & India’s highest i.e.Kanchanganga both are visible at a time from a single spot. Other visible peaks from Phokate dara are Lohtse (world’s 4 th highest), Makalu (5 th ), Nuptse, Chamlang, Three sister’s peak, Chomolonzo etc. Phokte dara offers phenominal views and can be compared to view from Gokyo-ri in Everest base camp trek. This trek is entroute Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary, providing dense forest trails.
Sikkim the tiny Himalayan state and the best kept secrets of Himalayas. It is castled between Nepal, China, Bhutan and West Bengal and overlooked by Mount Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest peak. Sikkim is attractive place for holidayers, the adventure sports enthusiast and those interested in Buddhism and Tibetology. Sikkim is paradise for botanist, about 4000 flowering plant species and 600 speicies of Orchid are found in forests of Sikkim.
Best season: March to May or October to December
How to reach Gangtok:
Nearest Airport: Bagdogara (1.5 hour of flight from Delhi) about 11 kms from Silliguiri (124 kms from Gangtok). Sikkim tourism department have started helicopter service from Silliguri to Gangtok.
Nearest railway station: Siligudi
One can reach Bagdogara by flight from Delhi or Kolkata. From here move to Dargeeling and then to Gangtok. Alternately, one can reach Kolkata by flight and catch a train to Siliguri or Siligudi. From Siliguri, Gangtok is 4 hours of drive.
Foreigners must obtain Inner Line Permit (ILP) to visit Sikkim. The permits can be obtained from all Indian missions, Tourism Office, New Delhi, Sikkim Tourism Office, Calcutta and Sikkim Tourism Office. Entry permits for visitors in Barsey Sanctuary can be obtained from the wildlife check post at Hilley and even from the Forest Secretariat, Gangtok . One has to contact: DFO Wildlife, South and West Wildlife Division, Namchi, S. Sikkim Pin: 737126, Sikkim, India, Phone : +91 3595 – 264635
Note: Rules keep on changing, hence one needs to check with tourism department and forest department, whether permissions are available for foreigneers to visit these places. With necessary permits and letters one may proceed to this trek.
Day one: Kolkata-Silliguri : One can reach early morning in Kolkata by flight. One may choose to take rest or visit places in Kolkatta for sight seeing. In the evening, one can catch train for Siliguri. Travelling overnite is best way to save time and logding expenses.
Day two: Siliguri to Gangtok : One can hire a vehicle or bus for a 4 hour journey to Gangtok. These roads are very narrow and scenic. This route would give you first hand view of this himalayan state which is actually smaller than Switzerland in size, but no way smaller in terms of natural beauty. Vast geographical and cultural differences could be found once you move ahead of Siliguri. This strategic town connects mainland India with its north eastern states. About 70% of population in Sikkim speak Nepali.
Gangtok is a nice city, situated on the slope of different hills. In India, you always tend to find small tea or coffee shops in roadside. At Gangtok, you would find similar wine shops. Rest of the day one may spend at hotel in Gangtok. Local visits in the town could be done. Flower exhibitions are regularly held in Gangtok.
Day three: Gangtok : One may spend this day in Gangtok. Permissions from the forest department and other necessary permits could be obtained. For a foreigner, permissions are required to visit Sikkim, this could be obtained from Gangtok, or their respective consulate needs to be contacted. Phote dara doesnt require any speical permission, except forest department permissions and authority letters to descent to Chiba from Phote dara. Local guide is necessary for this trek,
Day four: Gangtok – Hilley : There is no direct bus or jeep available for Hee school area. It was brake journey first from Gangtok to Jorethang & then to Hee school area. Camping can be done here, or lodging facilities can be made available on request to locals or army camps. This trek is not very popular and local assistance is required. This route is via dense forests. Local guide can be found in this area
Day five: Hilley – Barsey/Barshey: The route is not well defined and so one needs to start early. Sighting human being on this trail is rare, occassionaly one can find one or two shepherd huts. One has to cut random vegetation to make way. Stopping in between would mean treat for leeches. Local remedy of salt, tobacco and limestone works excellent on leeches. It would be only late evening one would reach Barsey. Barsey is a very nice place situated on top of the hill and surrounded by dense forest. It offers a panoramic view of mountains including Kanchanganga. The temperatures here are often below zero at night. There are two tourist lodges on top providing dormitory. This region is under Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary located in the south west corner of the West Sikkim district and spreading over 104 sq. km, across the razor sharp Singalila Range, which forms the natural international border with Nepal. In the South the Rambong Khola separates it from West Bengal.
Day six: Bersey/Barsey – Jhor Burtey: The leads through the dense forest of Rhododendron, Alpine, Conifer and mixed broadleaf trees. Enroute you would find hundreds of species of flowers and colorful leaves. The entire route is dense and through shades of forest. One has to camp at Jhor Burtney.
Day seven: Jhor Burtey – Phokte Dara : One has to keep climbing in the dense forest with a freshness in air more prominent. Midway are some huts of cowmen. By evening one would reach near Phokte dara. One may camp just below the top. Phokte dara is spot on the top of mountain at a walking distance of 30 min. Camping here is wonderful experience, with chilly and clear nights may make this more memorable.
Day eight: Phokte Dara – Uttarey : Sunrise in himalayas are very early. First sun ray falling on the snow clad peaks provide a superb view. One may get up early in morning by 0400 am and reach top of Phokte dara. From here a wonderful view of Kanchanganga, Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Kumbhkarna, Kabru, Japnu and so many peaks. This is truly a fantastic place. But unfortunately there is no mention of it on the trekking or Tourist map of sikkim. Points like Phokte dara are true treasures for a mountain lover. It’s a joy to watch some of the highest peaks of this world from a single point. Phokte dara is situated exactly on the border of India and Nepal. There are few small pillars at this place, if you cross it and stand on other side then it means you are in Nepal. From this spot peaks of Bhutan, China, Nepal and India are visible.
Enroute you may find Border security force and may check forest permission and authority letters at Chiba. In the return journey met BSF soldiers unit at Chiba.
Chiba camp is located in a picturesque location with snow peaks around. Chiba to Uttarey is a very steep down walk. Uttarey is connected by road and lodging facilities can be obtained here.
Day nine: Uttarey to Darjeeling or Gangtok: One needs to hire vehicle back to Darjeeling or Gangtok
Kudremukh Peak is the one of the highest peak in Karnataka and highest in the Kudremukh national park also known as Kudremukha National park. This peak lies about 1892 meters or 6214 feet above sea level. ‘Audre’ means horse while ‘mukha’ means face. As the name suggests, it looks like a horse face hence called Kudremukh or kudremukha. This peak lies in the forests of Kudremukh National park. Kudremukh peak trek lies on the popular trekking trails in the national park. Tickets are to be taken from the forest department before entering the park and follow the guidelines set by them. Kudremukh national park amidst Western Ghats has a very rich biodiversity and home to certain species of wildlife which is no where else found on this planet.
Nearest Airport: Mangalore(60 kms) is the nearest airport to this place. Bangalore is the nearest international airport having connecting flights from most parts of India. Bangalore is about 351 kms from Kudremukh.
Nearest Railway station: Mangalore or Udipi is the nearest big railway station. Both lie on the scenic route of Konkan railway.
How to reach Beltangady: To reach Beltangady or Beltangadi or Belthangady from Bangalore, one has to take national highway 48 or NH 48, which passes through Hassan. After Uppinangadi, a 18 km diversion from the NH 48 towards NH 13 would lead you to Beltangady. Alternate route is from Golitattu on NH 48 one may take route to Dharmastala and then to Beltangady.
To reach Beltangady from Mangalore, one can take NH 48 till Panemangaluru and then NH 13 to Beltangady.
Note: This region has leeches in plenty and so you may carry salt or tobacco powder to remove leeches.
Day one: Beltangady-Navoor (or Navuru)-Tolali, camp at Lobomane
Navoor is on Beltangady-Killoor road. Jamalagad can be seen on left along this route. Tickets to enter the park may be obtained here. After Navoor foot trail starts and most of the climb is in North north west direction on eastern side of hill range and valley on right.Tolali lies somewhere between Hiremar Guppa peak and Kudremukh peak.
Lobomane or “Lobo’s house” was a house made by Simon Lobo, a priest who made the Kudremukh ranges his home. After Simon Lobo had passed away, Lobomane is under a caretaker called Shankar. Lodging accommodation can be obtained here. Food is can also be made available on request. Grave of Simon Lobo is located just ahead of Lobomane.
Day two: Lobomane-Kudremukh summit-Lobomane about 16 kms
From Lobomane about 3-4hours of trek lead you to the summit. One may come back to Lobomane and camp. This route passes through shola (montane) forests near the top. About 30 minutes below summit is a ruined church and a small waterfall. Birds are found in abundance and is paradise for bird lovers.
Around 6-8 kms walk from Lobomane leads you to Mullodi. Further 6 kms would lead to Basrikal gate. Road is motorable after Mullodi. One has to reach Malleswara and then to Samse to catch vehicle further.
Alternatively, if one has vehicle left at Navoor, then on day three, one can trek back towards Navoor and trek to Jamala or Jamalabad fort or Jamalghad kote, situated at around 1700mts from sea level, supposedly built by Tipu Sultan near Navoor. However camping is not allowed here.
(map from karnataka tourism)
Rivers of Varahi and Sita are ideal for rafting in Udipi district on East Karnataka. Rafting here is possible during rains when water levels are high. Rafting in Sitanadi and Varahi, you may encounter Grade II and III rapids. Apart from several private agents who organise rafting, Jungle Lodges and Resorts is state government body which organises rafting in the region. With around 350 kms from Bangalore and very close to Mangalore, these rafting sites in Karantaka are quite popular.
There are two choices of rafting at Sitanadi. One is from Nisarga Dham to Belinje bridge covering 14 kms and other is Nisarga Dhama to Jomlu Tirtha which is around 22 kms.
Rafting in Varahi river is on at Anejari Nisarga Dama near Kollur. Rafting in Varahi river starts from Hosangady to New Bridge covering 24 kms or from Hosangady to Hole Shankaranarayan covering 18 kms. Here rafting can be done throughout the year.
Apart from Sitanadi rafting, rafting in Karnataka is done in Kali river in Dandeli, Varahi river in Kollur, Cavery river near Bheemeshwari and Coorg.
How to reach:
Goa is the nearest international airport for these rafting locations. Hebri and Kollur are well accessed by road from Bangalore, Mangalore and Udipi. Sitanadi Nisarga Dhama is about 35 km from Udipi. Kollur is about 70 kms from Udipi.
One can also combine one of the following options during rafting tours.
“Hampi in the Karnataka state of India is listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites”
Hampi, the domain of the erstwhile Vijayanagara Empire, amidst boulder strewn landscape is charismatic even in its ruined state and attracts thousands of tourists and pilgrims every year, says Rohan Rao.
How to Reach Hampi:
The Shila-Shilp (Stone Carvings) of the granite it bears are scattered everywhere in the vast expanse of Hampi, reminding of the richness and exquisite lineage of Vijaynagara Empire. It is very rightly said, “If dreams were made out of stone, it would be Hampi”
The fragrance of Hampi’s richness was carried by the winds far beyond the shores of India and it was a very much coveted seat then. Now lying in ruins, the Vijaynagara dynasty of the 14th Century, seated at Hampi, spreads over 26 sq. km area, amidst giant boulders and vegetation. Protected by the tempestuous river Tungabhadra in the north and rocky granite ridges on the other three sides, these granites have an epic engraved in their bodies and silently narrate the story of grandeur splendor and fabulous wealth. The splendid remains of palaces and gateways, crumbling plinths, dilapidated walls with the weeds and shrubs widening their cracks, the arches and the architectural grandeur of Hampi tell a tale of men infinite talent and power of creativity together with his capacity for senseless destruction. Every rock, every path and every monument at Hampi speak the same language; a language of glory and beauty.
Dotted around the hills and valleys are 500 plus monuments. Among them are beautiful temples, basement of palaces, remains of aquatic structures, ancient market streets, royal pavilions, bastions, royal platforms, treasury buildings. Hampi is a backpackers’ paradise, the same way the pilgrims’ delight.
In March 2002, the Government of India has announced that Hampi would be developed as an international destination centre. The State Govt. will constitute a Hampi World Heritage Area Management Authorityfor integrated development and conservation of Hampi.
Renowned historian and Kannada literary scholar M Chidananda Murthy had earlier this year demanded the Karnataka Government to take steps to confer special status to World Heritage centre Hampi on the lines of Vatican City. Dr Murthy, who had done extensive study on the Hampi ruins, alleged that the seat of power of the then Vijaynagara Empire, destroyed by a confederation of Muslim kings, still stood unprotected.
Karnataka state government has released Rs 20 crore for infrastructure development at the heritage site of Hampi. The tourism ministry has already taken steps like launching tongas for visitors to go around Hampi. Soon, battery-run vehicles will be introduced to minimise pollution. Earlier Hampi was listed under UNESCO’s endangered, but the removal of the name of world heritage site Hampi from the list of endangered monuments last year is recognition for the Hampi Development Authority which took up several works to develop it as the historic spot as per the guidelines of UNESCO. The Vijaynagara Festival organized by the Government of Karnataka in December recreates the grandeur of the bygone era.
An entire day, which the tourism packages offer to witness and experience the grandeur of Hampi, is very very limited. Imaginations, they say run wild, but even a lifetime is sometimes too short to imagine the richness that Hampi harboured in the Golden era. Still some of the significant monuments and major tourism attractions that can be witnessed give an insight of the glorious past.
Source – old archives of portal india-travel.co.in
Its wooden toys, bamboo craft, pottery art, traditional art paintings & carved bison horns are world famous and has been adding to the glory of Sawantwadi since 250 years, says Rohan Rao.
Lined by the golden strips of sun-kissed beaches on one side and bounded by the steep slopes of Deccan plateau on the other, the limited confines of the Konkan caters an unlimited vibrant space to its visitors. With a rich history, varied culture, authentic Konkani food, forts, temples and the untouched serene beaches, Konkan is a blessing bestowed on Maharashtra. Sawantwadi, an elite heritage destination nestled in these beautiful environs of Konkan is a standing testimony to our rich heritage and a sentinel of history waiting to be explored by the touristers. Thus, heritage tourism is an important component of Sawantwadi.
Established by the Sawant Bhonsale dynasty almost 300 years ago, Sawantwadi is basically a heritage town with several ancient heritage spots including Lester gate (1895), the Great Royal Palace (1790s), Chitnis wada (1836), Mathi , Atmeshwar Tali (1891), Vithal Mandir, Raghunath market and 200 years old Kolgaon darwaja.
As part of the Sahayadri hills, it has the second largest biodiversity in the whole of India. Sawantwadi is also known as a Handicraft Town with 250 years of tradition in the manufacture of wooden handicraft, pottery, gold and silver embroidery, lacquer ware and ganjifa.
Hand made Ganjifa Cards of Sawantwadi reminds everyone about richness of its art work. These cards are made from circular pieces of paper on which intricate designs of Dashavtar (Ten Avtars of God Vishnu) are hand painted. Each card pack contains 120 hand painted cards housed in equally colourful box. History says that these cards arrived in Sawantwadi 350 years ago, when Bhonsale, Royal Family of Goa settled here after fleeing from portuguese regime there. The Bhonsales brought several artisans who were versed in woodcarving & paintings. A clan of indigenous people, the Chitkaris, is skilled in the art of painting on playing cards, wooden and clay artifacts, jewellery and other embellishment. The paintings have intricate patterns depicting royal lifestyle as well as spiritual beliefs of the people in the region, dating back to almost the 7th century. This art has been preserved and patronized by the Royal family under the aegis of Sawantwadi.
Color lacquer is applied to the surface of the object to be decorated and the lacquered surface is polished using a ‘kewda’ leaf. Floral patterns are painted on the borders and surfaces. The final step involves painting mythological figures on the surfaces.
The mythological figures are painted with Chitrakatha, Temple or Ganjifa styles. Images belonging to the Chitrakatha style are of bold nature, with the figures depicting some action. Temple style usually portrays deities in a sitting position. Ganjifa is more stylish and depicts the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. This style is especially seen in the famous Ganjifa cards made during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Ecotourism is another major component of Sawantwadi. The town is blessed with natural beauty. Established around a beautiful lake, Moti Talav, it presents a panoramic view of Narendra hill in its background. A water sports center has been established at Moti Talav Lake. The area around the lake has been beautified and a Geneva Jet Fountain is installed at its center further enhancing its beauty. It is replete with ecological wonders providing a rich and unique biodiversity with interesting locations such as Kesari River, which provides water supply to the town of Sawantwadi, Nageshwar falls, Ragheshwar point, and the scenic village of Amboli .
Ecotourism is likely to fuel the demand for greener and eco friendly lifestyles, by catering not only to foreign tourists in search of simple and peaceful lifestyle, but also for the local tourists looking for affordable yet unique atmosphere distinct from urban concrete jungle. At the same time, Ecotourism provides opportunities for local people to improve their standard of living and preserve their cultural heritage, arts and crafts.
Despite the limited tourist amenities in Sindhudurg district, international tourists visit the remote yet well known hill station of Sawantwadi, known for its unique biodiversity, flora and fauna, which has 10 – 12 species of fauna and more than 59 varieties of medicinal plants. The Municipal Council of Sawantwadi has also undertaken a massive tree plantation program along roadsides and gardens. Local varieties of trees that are on the verge of extinction are being specially planted and propagated. These include Moha, Pangara, Palas and Bahawa.
Three unique projects that are shaping up in Sawantwadi are: Shilpagram, Environmental Awareness Center at Narendra Dongar and an Ayurveda-based health Center .
An Artists village, Shilpagram is a replica of the ancient Raghunath market built in 1891. Being developed on a lush green plot of 5 acres, it is built maintaining natural contours and with minimal damage to the surrounding ecosystem. The Shilpagram plan includes working areas for artisans to manufacture wood, clay and bamboo handicrafts as well as pottery and a very rare leather-craft known as Pinguli art. Local folk art like Pinguli puppet show, Dhangari Nritya (shepherd dance), Dashavtaar and Koli Nritya (fisher folk dance), shall be presented in the specially built Amphitheatre at Shilpagram. Cottages are provided for tourists staying overnight. The plan also includes waterfalls operated on solar energy, replicating the famous Amboli waterfalls. Waterfalls and streams have been planned to create a village ambience. The State Bank of India has sponsored the landscaping of the place. Large-scale tree plantation has been undertaken in the entire complex. All structures at the Artist village are constructed using locally available laterite stone.
Ayurveda Health Resort; Sawantwadi is also known for the practice of traditional Indian medicine called Ayurveda. It has one of the best Ayurveda colleges in the country. The center is proposed to be built using eco friendly techniques of construction such as laterite stones and mud walls.
The Environmental Awareness Center is situated on Narendra hill, with 11 acres of tabletop park site land demarcated by the forest department from the lush reserved forest area of the region. The Center will also serve as a demonstration center for eco friendly construction technologies as well as for renewable energy, watershed management, water and waste recycling. It will be a self-sustainable demonstration model for locals and tourists.
Indeed, places like Sawantwadi, with their natural marvels need to be preserved for their own sake. They provide inspiration and spiritual regeneration. They are a powerful representation of the forces of nature. Ecotourism must sustain these resources, not only because they serve as an evolutionary link to our future, but for the pure joy of experience
(source – 2006 archive of portal india-travel.co.in)
This year I could hardly do any treks. Had been busy with the course and also not many trekking opportunities near XLRI and Jamshedpur. I had trekked to Dalma in October and since then did not do any trek. Had decided to do some trek during my internship period.
However Mumbai is terribly hot these days, so could not decide upon location. Finally it came to going back to Harishchandragad. Vinay was also waiting for a trek. We decided to a night trek to Harishchandragad. This would have been my fifth time to Harishchandragad. Took 9 pm bus from Kalyan to Khubi Phata. It was almost midnight when we reached there. We slept in the school veranda at Khireshwar � the base village and decided to start early, instead of doing part section at night.
We started early. Pre Monsoon atmosphere had started developing, which helped us avoid summer heat. We almost completed our trek through dense fog and cold winds, unlikely weather in mid may. Early trek left us enough time to stay on the fort and Do NOTHING! Spent entire day in the cave in Khireshwar temple doing nothing but laying back and resting. We decided to trek back via different route this time � getting down at Pachnai. We got up at 4 to trek in dark and catch 6 am bus from Pachnai. But fog was so dense that we couldn�t at distance of couple of feet. We went back sleep and trekked to Pachnai � fairly simple route � in daylight.
Journey back home from Pachnai was however very tiring. We had to wait till 11 am to get the next bus. It had become terribly hot by then. Bus took us Rajur, a taluka place in Ahmednagar district. From here we shared a Jeep to Kasara. Local train from Kasara took us back home. We started 8 in the morning and reached home by 6 in the evening!
In the end, good trek after a long time. I realized in this trek amount of weight added in past year and how rusty body has been!
Vinay had been busy with his camera. His photos at
Dandeli is ideal mix of nature and adventure. Situated on the banks of river Kali it is excellent White water rafting location in Western India. Large number of rivers originate in Western ghats, Most of them are are short and swift rivers moving westwards. Kali is one such river located in North Karnataka on the borders of Maharashtra and Goa.
It is one of the popular tourist locations in North Karnataka. Mix of nature, adventure and wildlife, makes this city in Uttar Kannada district the leading tourist destination of South India.
About 9-14 kms of river rafting facility is located here with Class 3 rapids lasting for couple of hours to half a day. Non-swimmers as well as children above 12 are allowed doing rafting here. Rapids along the route are named as well. The first rapid is known as ‘Adi’s Beard’. It was a class-2/class-3 rapid depending on the water level. The second rapid or the ‘The Stitch’ is a wide formation of rocks over which water flows. The other rapids are the Smugglers’ Trove, the Stanley’s Squeeze, etc. Each rapid has a feature of its own.
Water sports is gaining attraction each day. Kali river rafting, kayaking and canoeing provides ample opportunity for flow of adrenaline.
A number of tour operators organize water sports in the region and have excellent guide and training facilities.
The rafting is organized along with several other adventure and wildlife packages. The average daily package offered by some of the tour operators is in range of USD25-40. Rafting is suspended in monsoon (June-Sept); the best season thus is from November onwards.
Dandeli is about 125 kms from Goa and can easily be reached by road from Goa and Bangalore. It is about 85 kms from Hubli railway station. It is accessible by road from Dharwad, Karwar or Londha railway station. Panji is the nearest international airport for Dandeli, while domestic flights from Mumbai/Bangalore are available to Hubli, Belgaum and Panji.
(Source – archives of old portal india-travel.co.in)
It was a cold and misty morning. One could hear the sound of water falling from the Wilson dam. Diesel engine of the boat was pumping in rhythm and throwing puffs of smoke. It seemed to be a dream, with mountains all around moving in a boat in a lake with a fog layer over it. The boat started slowly advancing towards Ratanwadi from the Shendi village at the banks of Bhandardara lake. This was indeed a beautiful start to our Ratangad to Harishchandragad trek!We had started the earlier night from Thane taking a bus to Igatpuri and early morning bus from there to Bhandardara. It would have been a long trek, so had to start early. After a hour in boat ride we land at the base of Ratangad fort near Ratanwadi village. I had brief memories of this place, list time I had visited couple of years ago. It didn�t seem a long time for me, with memories of the solo trek still fresh.
Ancient temple at Ratangad is worth watching. It is unique example of the sculpture in this region. Some of sculptures showed stories of Ramayan and other deities. We didn�t waste much time as we had long way to go. We marched our way along the route to Ratangad. At one time, route branches. One takes us to ladders on the rock face of Ratangad, while other takes us towards Harishchandragad. Taking our brunch here, we started hunting for way in the forest towards Katrabai pass. Crossing the pass lead us to a small hamlet surrounded by Ajoba, Katrabai and Ghanchakkar peaks. It had been a long day, we reached Kumshet just before sunset and took shelter in the village school. Cooking our dinner, we rested for a long day ahead!
A good nights sleep had refreshed and charged us for the day ahead. We made Egg Bhurji for our breakfast and started towards Harishchandragad. The route passes through couple of hamlets along Mula river and then to Pachnai village from where the climb for Harishchandragad starts. This was again a 6-7 hours of trek. The climb to Harishchandragad via Pachnai is special during the rains, as route intersects a number of waterfalls. Pachnai would have been a paradise during rains!
This had been my fourth visit to Harishchandragad and things have been changing here. Number of people visiting this place had made this place filthy and less attractive for stay. Finding shelter in caves was difficult, however we managed that. Enjoyed making food at Harishchandragad, Baingan Bharta and Rice combination was excellent!
We had a very lazy start on next day. We had planned to get down by the difficult Junnar Darwaja route, however starting at 11 in afternoon, we moved from Taramati peak to Balekilla and decidied to get down by regular Tolar Khind route to be in time. It still took us 6 hours to reach the highway. After sunset we had to wait a long for bus, thanks to the truck driver who took us to Murbad. A bus from Murbad to Kalyan was end of our long trek!
Trekking after a long time was so refreshing and with all new friends. I knew only Nitin More who happened to be from Bhramanti trek group. My camera was also happy having been clicked after long 6 months !!
How to reach Bhandardara:
1. Buses are available for Bhandardara from Igatpuri and Ghoti. One can take overnight bus to Igatpuri and catch the first bus (0515 hrs) to Pune via Bhandardara.
2. Alternately, one can take local train from Mumbai to Kasara. Jeeps or buses going towards Akole or Rajur would drop you at Bhandardara phata / Waranghushe, from here one can take local jeep or vehicle to Bhandardara or Shendi.
How to reach Ratanwadi:
1. Boats are available from Shendi (not frequent) to Ratanwadi. It takes an hour from Shendi to reach Ratanwadi.
2. Alternately, one can walk 4 kms from Shendi to place called Morshood. From here, small boats can take you across the lake to nearest bank of Ratanwadi.
How to reach Kumshet from Ratangad via Katrabai pass:
On the way from Ratanwadi to Ratangad, we reach a junction from where, left would lead to the ladders of ratangad, while straight path would take you towards Katrabai pass. From the junction, one walk ahead. The route passes below the Agni baan Pinnacle and then one has to take first right in the woods. One can see sign H in between. Little ahead one route goes back in left, but one takes the route going right with mountain on right side. The route will climb up to the Katarbai pass. At the pass, route straight down would lead to Kumshet. Path right takes you to small temple of Katrabai, while route left traverse along the ridge to Ghanchakkar.
How to reach Kumshet to Pachnai:
One can take the broad path ahead of the school in Kumshet and follow the path towards left little ahead. After walking ahead, there are trails going on left towards Rajur. One needs to walk towards the right towards the Mula river. There is a plateau where you can see Mula river down on right. One gets down to the place where 3 streams meet. We walk along the river banks with river on right. The river takes a left turn, we follow the river till a small village. On the top of hillock across the bank is the Patechi Vadi. A broad path from this village would take you straight to Pachnai. A well defined route from Pachnai can take you straight to Harishchandragad.
King of Himalayan Treks: Kalindi Khal Pass Expedition
(Written by Sameer Kelkar)
16 June 2006 : 5950metres, 19500feet above sea level, dividing the watersheds of the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda river systems, discovered by Shipton and Tilman in 1934 (though legend exists of folk knowing the route from ages). We knew we were in for the trek of all treks! Flying from Aurangabad to Delhi in the morning, we looked at the world we would be leaving behind … no phones, no habitation for 12 days. The trek which bordered an expedition would test our endurance, strength and more importantly decision making. Reaching Rishikesh in the evening around 8, we prepared to leave for Uttarkashi next morning. The porter at the GMVN hotel innocently replied to our query for a good restaurant �Khana toh kahi bhi accha hee milega sir, koi ganda khana kyun dega ?�- We knew we had crossed the border between Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal.
17 June 2006 : We picked up the wrong bus to get to Uttarkashi. Instead of the 2*2 luxury bus we thought we would use, we were in a rickety local bus, our sacks on the top, and the 2 of us forcing space inside. After an hour of standing in a Bombay local train like situation, we finally got seats towards the end of the bus at Chamba. Having covered the 140 km to Uttarkashi on bicycle in Diwali time, we expected to reach in 4-5 hours. However, because of the Tehri Dam backwaters, the route has been diverted. The new road is not only dusty, rough, but also 30 km longer, adding atleast a couple of hours to the journey. Villages between Old Tehri and Chinyali Saur are all submerged due to this giant 2400MW of a dam. We had a lot of interesting talk with the local people. They were quite divided on the Tehri dam issue. Then there was a chap from California, a nurse, traveling in the Himalaya for 6 months. He enraged Kaka with his talk! Kaka could only warn me to be careful at Berkeley. We finally reached Uttarkashi at 2.
We had left all the trek arrangements to Vishnu. These we now checked on reaching his office at Uttarkashi (Snow Spider Expeditions). We also had to go to the district magistrate�s office for signing some documents, permits for the trek. This done we started on the journey to Harsil. Vishnu accompanied us to this scenic resort high in the Bhagirathi valley. Located 2600m above sea level, and only 25 km before Gangotri, it boasts of some of the best views in the valley. The river basin is very broad in this part, and the Ganges leaves behind a trail of spectacular white sand beaches.
18 June 2006 : After a quick drive to Gangotri, we were ready to get started on the trek. Vishnu and Kaka prayed at the Gangotri temple for success, and we were looking back at the Gangotri temple, bidding farewell to the shrine at 11.30. The route is very broad till Chirbasa. The valley gets narrower and large cliffs loom over the track. Snow capped peaks like Mandya lie on the true left of the valley. Chirbasa, at an altitude of 3600m, brings the first views of the Bhagirathi peaks. The cluster of Chir trees justify the name given to the place. A number of dhabas provide shelter and food to pilgrims here. We ate our lunch of Maggi at one such dhaba, and proceeded on the track which slowly climbed up along the valley. 5 km onward, at an altitude of 3800m, is Bhojbasa. Named so thanks to a cluster of Bhojpatra trees, it can be called the last point of civilization in the Bhagirathi valley. There is a GMVN hotel, a meteorology centre, and Lal Baba’s ashram. The latter 2 are occupied all through the year. Light snowfall welcomed us at the dhabas above Bhojbasa, and we responded quickly by resorting to the invigorating chai. I hate the very taste of tea and coffee. But in Himalayas it is allright! In fact it is a must! Since the weather was going bad we needed to take shelter quickly. Our porters hadn’t arrived with the luggage yet. So we entered the GMVN hotel. The rooms had been destroyed by snow storms a couple of years back, so we stayed in the dorm style tent which they provided. Our porters finally came at 7.30 in evening. They were accommodated in the dhabas.
The first night of the trek brought sub zero temperatures. We began to doubt if this was the right season to do this trek. I had heard from many groups having failed to reach Kalindi in July, August and September. It made me wonder what the right season to attempt a crossing was. Vishnu was an experienced guide, having led the trek successfully around 15-20 times in the last 10 years. He assured us that the weather was with us.
19 June 2006 : Excellent views of Bhagirathi peaks in the morning light with Shivling peeping from behind a ridge set the start of the climb to Gaumukh. The broad track leads as far as 1 km before Gaumukh, where there is a series of dhabas. A large army camp had also been established here. The jawans were undergoing training in snowcraft on the Gaumukh glacier. We later saw them practicing climbing in the ice walls in the glacier. The trail becomes narrower as one comes close to the glacier and the last few steps are in moraine. The first sight of the glacier is at Gaumukh itself, where the Ganges starts its journey from a cave under a 30 foot ice wall at the head of the glacier. Some sadhus were bathing in the icy cold waters. Though I am an atheist, I appreciate the power religion has over people. I had come to this altitude hiking such a distance for my love of the mountains. For Hindu devotees it is religion. They are least concerned with the Bhagirathi peaks being clearly visible, or listening to accounts of people who have attempted the various peaks in the region. The sadhu doesn’t give a damn to whether he is at 3890m or not. The fact that he is at Gaumukh, and is watching Ganga Maa start its journey, overwhelms him of anything and everything else.
Gaumukh has been receding for many years. It once existed at Gangotri, but with global warming the glacier has been going back. Vishnu himself had seen it 100-150 feet ahead of its current position. We had also met old sadhus in Bhojbasa who had lived by the glacier there 50 years ago!
The route climbs steeply above Gaumukh, ascending the glacier from its true right. Vishnu led the walk through the rocks, mud and ice. In 30 minutes we were at the top of the glacier, standing over tonnes and tonnes of ice, snow, water covered with rocks and mud. The chaos of a glacier is simply indescribable. One thinks of glaciers as rivers of snow, and imagines them to be the flat snowfields gently rolling down valleys and mountains. They are much more than that. Glaciers have ridges, valleys, ice walls, ponds, moraines, crevices and are infinitely complicated. This was our first glacier crossing of the trek and we were in a state of awe throughout the route. It took a full hour to get across the chaos! Stones piled on top of each other (called a cairn) mark the route. This path keeps changing with the changes in the glacier. Every year a slightly different route is established to go across.
At the sides of the valley the glacier ends and the mountain faces begin. This region is extremely unstable, steep and what is worse, needs to be crossed in order to get onto the glacier or off it. Tapovan, at an altitude of 4450m, is situated above the glacier. The climb from the glacier to this meadow is extremely steep, and sometimes slippery. The Amar Ganga flows very close to the route, draining herself into the glacier. We climbed up fairly fast, reaching the campsite at 1. This climb would have been fairly tricky had the weather gone bad. However we had been blessed with sun shine.
Tapovan lies under the shadow of giant peaks such as Meru Parwat and Shivling, which we got very good views of now. Infact the base camp for both the peaks is established at Tapovan. Some features of Shivling make it resemble a Ganesh idol. The rock solid faces from all sides make it one of the most technically challenging peaks to climb. I was surprised to hear that it had been climbed from the face by a foreign team. A mini-Shivling can also be seen on one of its ridges. When Vishnu later told about the German team which had climbed the technically challenging Meru and paraglided down I was astounded. I could also appreciate the difficulty the Indian team would have faced climbing the Bhagirathi wall, which was also clearly visible.
The campsite at Tapovan is well protected by ridges from all sides. The tents were pitched and we rested. Both Kaka and I were having a headache. We planned to take a walk out in the evening, but failed to do so because of snowfall. We realized that this trend would follow us throughout the trek. Not hungry because of the sick feeling and headache, we forced ourselves to dinner, and spent an uncomfortable night. Living on altitude is something tricky. The best way to deal with the low air pressure and oxygen is doing all movements slowly, trying to breathe from the nose rather than gasping for air. I also realized we had climbed very fast that day. Particularly the last climb to Tapovan could have been done much slowly. Resolving to use this tip the next day, I tried to get some sleep.
20 June 2006 : Bed tea is the medicine required to get a tired trekker out of his sleeping bag. For a sick and tired trekker 2 cups of the medicine are required! A walk around the campsite and I felt a little stronger. Kaka was quite all right. In fact he was nicely chatting to the Mata ji at Tapovan. 2 sadhus and a Mata ji live at Tapovan most of the year. The forest department had tried to evacuate them by destroying their shelters, but they resisted moving away from what they consider their home. Mata ji had come to stay with her husband 16 years ago. She decided not to leave the place after his death and now stays with a helper. She had many a story to tell. The place is covered with 5-8 feet snow during winter, and one has to almost hibernate during that season. Her shelter was under a stone cave, with the front side constructed of wood and tin.
Bidding farewell to this wonderful lady, we left on the track to Nandanvan. A narrow path went along the valley side for a couple of km. Vishnu then started searching for a place to descent on to the glacier. The path continued on to Khada Patthar and Sunderban. There was earlier a route continuing in the valley adjacent to Kedar dome to Kedarnath, but no one has attempted it for several years now because of landslides. This place gave a grand view of the Gaumukh glacier. The snow river is very long, and extends right upto Chaukhamba peak, 25 km up the valley from Gaumukh. Right across the valley were the Raktavarna and the Sita glaciers. Chakram Hikers had attempted a peak before in the Raktavarna valley (named so because of a red coloured weed growing there). The Sita glacier valley would lead us to Kalindi Khal pass. Vishnu showed us the site of Nandanvan, right at the base of Bhagirathi peak in the Sita valley.
A scree and mud slope led down to the glacier. The glacier crossing again involved climbing various domes, traversing ridges and negotiating around the ice walls. Cairns marked the route and it took a couple of hours to reach the base of the climb to Nandanvan. We were proceeding fairly slowly, giving our body’s time to acclimatize to the altitude. This also gave us time to appreciate the ice tables and bridges in the glacier. The final climb was not as steep as the Tapovan climb and we relaxed under the sun in the Nandanvan campsite (4340m) at 1. The porters soon arrived with the camping gear and we got our afternoon nap inside the tent.
Vishnu woke us in the evening. Peeping out of the tent I got the sight of my life. Kaka asked what was outside and I could barely utter “Oh shit�� and “too much�� as I saw Shivling rising out of the clouds. Kedar Dome also stood tall amongst the clouds and the sight is beyond all description of beauty. This was Himalayas at their very best …. Simply majestic!
This feeling of elation coupled with a sense of being well acclimatized made my evening particularly bright. A long walk around the campsite, exploring the shepherd shelters around gave a big appetite followed by an excellent sleep.
21 June 2006 : First rays of the sun shining brightly on Shivling and Kedar Dome, with Bhagirathi looming over the campsite was good. But we also had some bad news. One of the porters was down with AMS. He had to be taken down to Gaumukh. Govind and Akhilesh volunteered to do the task. I was afraid they would have a very long day.
The trek to Vasuki Tal took 4 hours. We continued on a long ridge descending from the Bhagirathi range. This ridge walk was 3-4 km long and gently climbing. It separated the Bhagirathi mountains from the Sita glacier, forming a natural defense for a series of campsites, including Nandanvan. The highest of these campsites is the base for one of the Bhagirathi peaks. Like all ridge walks, this also gives excellent views in all directions. The vast mass of Sita glacier lying below, making grinding noise as rocks fell into and around the glacier, and the Kala Pahad ridge beyond. This mountain range had struck me even on the camp at Tapovan. It seems to be totally different from the other peaks, made of a dark rock and scree. Not very high, but definitely very challenging. Infact most of its peaks have remained unascended. Shivling and Kedar dome slowly disappeared from view as we went deeper into the valley.
The ridge ends in scree slopes of the Bhagirathi peak. Here we had to cross the Bhagirathi glacier. The descent to the glacier was extremely steep, and slippery. Crossing the glacier was something we had gotten used to now. However the climb of a ridge on the other side seemed tricky. A yellow rope had been fixed to aid that climb by the Bengali team attempting Satopanth peak. Kaka was doubtful if he would be able to do this portion. Vishnu and I convinced him to give it a try. Slowly we moved across the glacier.
Our porters had caught up with us by now. They used to start almost an hour after we did after packing up the campsite. With heavy loads on their back they walked much faster than us (we did the sections quite quickly, taking around 4-5 hours on all days when other groups had taken 7-8 hours). They got into a nice rhythm by taking loads on their backs. Here they descended the scree slopes very comfortably. Their confidence, strength and agility was admirable. Most of them were my age or younger, and had been on this trek once or twice before.
The climb with the fixed rope was much simpler than what it looked from across the glacier. There was some danger from rockfall in the region so we hurriedly scrambled up the ridge. Vishnu had earlier told me “Sir aap Vasuki Tal dekhenge to sab thakan door ho jayegi�� . I only realized how true that was! A small walk down brought us to the campsite by the waters. The lake was very shallow (about a foot or two at most), and spread across a nice little plain under Vasuki Parbat. The water was not very cold for the altitude of 5000m. Across the lake there were 2 camps – both Bengali teams attempting Satopanth peak. One of them had just succeeded in their quest. The other was starting the attempt. We congratulated the successful team and wished All the Best to the other team.
It was sunny in the afternoon and I settled down on a rock reading “The Traveller�� . The next day was going to be rest and all of us relaxed the evening. Govind and Vishnu came in late at 7. After helping their friend get to Gaumukh and hire a horse, they had come back to Nandanvan, picked up their load and hiked to Vasuki. They got a very well deserved soup, and rest!
22 June 2006 : We woke up lazily to watch the Bengali team depart for the Advanced Base Camp. The other team made preparations to go back. We decided to proceed for some distance on our route to acclimatize. After negotiating around a landslide ridge after Vasuki, we walked on a long ridge for some distance, until we could see Khada Patthar (our campsite for the next day). It looked quite near but the Satopanth glacier lay in between. I asked Vishnu about how much we were walking everyday. It was taking about 4-5 hours to do all the sections, but the distance was varying. From Gangotri to Bhojbasa was 14 km, and then to Tapovan was 9 km, then Nandanvan was 7 km, and the Nandanvan-Vasuki Tal leg had been 6 km. Walking on the moraine and glacier was hard work. Also the altitude made it harder.
Vasuki Parbat looked down upon our campsite. This is another very difficult and technical peak to climb. It has not even been attempted for many years now. 2 of our porters would be going back with excess load. We decided to carry only one 4 man tent and the kitchen tent, other tents would go back. Also the load of foodstuff and fuel was gradually decreasing.
I spent the afternoon finishing �The Traveller� . It snowed in the evening and we stayed inside most of the time. This typical pattern of weather was well suited for our planning. We could finish off the walking till 1-1.30 and didn�t mind if it rained or snowed a little in the evenings. What we needed was bright sunshine when we walked.
23 June 2006 : The route to Khada Patthar followed the long ridge we had seen before. This walk gave great views of the Sita glacier and the chaos within. We were to camp twice on the glacier. Vishnu had assured us that the campsites were very safe. I shuddered at the idea of having to sleep amidst the debris lying on the glacier, not knowing when some rocks may fall, some ice block may shift. The glacier kept making strange sounds, and it did feel weird to have to sleep on top of a sleeping giant.
The ridge ended on top of the Satopanth glacier. The descent was extremely slippery, with lots of loose mud and stones. Our first views of Satopanth peak left us awestruck. The peak was a perfect trapezium, the final ascent covered in tonnes and tonnes of snow. Vishnu pointed to us the ABC of the expedition teams on the Satopanth glacier. The route of ascending the peak looked impossible. There was a snow covered ridge called the �Blade� . This was the toughest part of the climb. Ropes had to be fixed on either side of the Blade, and climbers straddled the ridge with support from both sides. Scary!
A long climb up on the other side of the glacier brought us to a ridge overlooking Khada Patthar campsite. Vishnu was glad to see a stream at the campsite. We had had some problems at Nandanvan where the porters had to fetch water 1 km away from the camp. We didn�t expect to see a stream at Khada Patthar but there it was. The campsite (5500m) itself was quite small. It was in a gully protected from the cold winds from Sita glacier by a ridge. It would be our 6th night in sub zero temperatures. We were now used to shaking off the snow and frost off the tent when asleep! It had to be removed to keep the tent from caving in, and keep the outer separated from the inner of the tent.
Meanwhile my right knee was not taking all the jumping around boulders very well. I had suffered an injury condition called Runners knee and rested for 3 months from December to February. Then a very slow rebuilding program with swim running, cycling and physiotherapy. I had missed a lot of trekking and mountain biking in those months. Now I had Stok Kangri lined up after this trip. The doctor had given his okay for trekking, but I knew that jumping around from rock to rock, twisting the knee at every step on loose mud and scree, was outright abuse of the knee. I was using McKinley anti shock walking sticks to ease the pressure on the feet. My arms had started to pain with the load, but I prayed that my knees pulled it through. I confess that I was seriously contemplating going back to Vasuki Tal from Khada Patthar. The logic was simple � if the knee broke down later on in the trek it would become very difficult to get me back. The problem was that I knew Kaka would not continue onward without me. We would all have to turn back. The weather was going with us, and this was a golden window to complete the trek in. I couldn�t let it go. I made up my mind that this trek was worth completing, even if it meant that my knee would probably be all screwed up and I would get another 3 months rest!
24 June 2006 : Another 3 days to go for crossing the pass … if everything went right. We climbed the ridge overlooking the Sita glacier. The Kalindi Base camp could be seen in the distance. The glacier split near its head. We would be following the branch turning leftward. The rightward branch also used to lead to a pass to the Arwa valley, but the route was fairly technical with ice walls, innumerable crevices and danger from avalanches. Good. A small scree descent (we were used to getting on and off a glacier by now) and we began traversing the Sita glacier. Passing though a region with lots of ice tables and streams (walking on the ice felt much better than the loose rocks), we climbed up a ridge. The key to moving quickly through a glacier is getting on to the right ridge. A long ridge can get you though quickly. Trying to head straight in a direction makes one go up and down innumerable humps. That is very tiresome and time consuming at 5500m. Vishnu led us skillfully through the chaos, always leaving a pile of stones for the porters to follow.
The ridge walk itself had lots of views of the glacier. Ice walls, streams, lakes … and caves. The giant cave we saw that day on the Sita glacier was big enough for a locomotive to go in. In shape it was similar to any of the tunnels in the Khandala ghat. The Gothic arch of ice supporting the load of tonnes of snow, ice and rock. A pool of chilled water formed under the arch, and I imagined a sadhu performing the Mayurasun in the vicinity! It reminded me that most of the structures we humans build are inspired directly from nature. It is not a coincidence that we see the Gothic arch such as this at 5500m. Only this shape can support the weight lying above. All other shapes get eliminated automatically, and what we are left with indicates the optimum load bearing structure.
The glacier keeps changing every year. The route changes accordingly. Only one team had previously passed on the Kalindi Khal route before us in the season. Ridges which previously led quickly across the glacier get broken. Vishnu spotted the break early enough and plotted another route. Moving around an ice wall, we were on the opposite side of the glacier, in the volatile region bordering the glacier and mountain sides. There was a danger from rock fall, and so we hurried through the scree. Our campsite was on the main ridge within the glacier, so we had to again come into the glacier.
The ridge looked a safe getaway from the possible landslides on the mountains around. A large hanging glacier followed with an ice fall lay to our left as we went up the glacier. As we soon found out our campsite was very close to this dangerous looking giant. Fortunately a fairly deep valley separated our ridge from the mountain. The campsite itself was extremely small. Infact the stony surface was flattened with ice axe and shovel to pitch the tents. It offered magnificent views all around. The valley leading to the Kalindi Khal seemed very close, and the Avalanche peak could be spotted. Having an early dinner (as early as 6pm), we prepared to sleep. The tent is designed for 4 people not because it has enough space for 4 people, but because 4 people sleeping in creates the warmth required. Cramming people up actually works in giving a very comfortable sleep. Not if you hear rocks falling through the night! Everybody was shaken up of sleep at 2am by rocks and ice pieces falling from the hanging glacier. The noise was scary, but our porters saw that it was harmless and slept. I didn�t. I couldn�t.
25 June 2006 : A little distance ahead of the campsite we could see the ice field of the Sita glacier. Walking on the ice would be easier and involve less ups and downs. However we had to cross 2 humps before we got onto the glacier. The glacier was separated into snow fields and long moraine ridges. Between our ridge and the ice field of the glacier was a stream. We had to traverse a long way on the ridge to find a crossing over place. The stream itself is covered with snow and ice, and one needs to be careful about the strength of footing. One of our porters slipped during the crossing. He was left dangling between the 2 edges, his load pulling him down as others tried to pull him out. After 15 minutes of effort he was out of it. Fortunately the fuel he was carrying had not drowned.
We began the long haul up the ice fields of the glacier. As we had made good speed in the day we decided to camp at the last campsite before the climb to the pass. That would save us time on the next day, which was going to be particularly long. The ice field was long and beautiful. Kalindi and Avalanche peaks to our right (with Kalindi pass between them still hidden), unnamed but elegant peaks to our left and a large hump (possibly leading to Tibet) in the front. Looking back we saw the distance we had covered. Atleast 3 km on the ice field. The campsite was to our right, across a snow field and up a moraine ridge.
What appeared a snow field was a field full of streams. It may have been perfectly walkable ice early in the morning, but at 12.30, with sun shining, innumerable streams flowing through the field. It took 30 min to find a dry route through the chilled waters. The campsite was similar to the first glacier camp. Only a bit colder, a bit higher, and a lot windier!
It snowed in evening. We were used to that. It also snowed at night. We got bit worried about it being clear next morning. We were to make an early start. I was also worried about having to go back if need be. With the state of my knee, going back across the Sita glacier, crossing all the moraines of Satopanth, Bhagirathi and Gaumukh would be terrible. I would rather cross the pass and go down the Arwa valley! Vishnu had assured that there wouldn�t be any glacier in the Arwa valley. It would all be down down down along the Alaknanda.