Situated at about 11000 ft above sea level, Dayara Bugyal is a perfect trek for beginners with moderate difficulty. This gem of a place is located in Uttarakhand. The trek Is kids friendly. Believe me, you would hate to come down to the plains.
For a change, I managed to please my wife, Srividhya, by completing our holiday bookings well in advance. Even train tickets were booked. Rajdhani tickets to Delhi were available in March for April travel. Now, that’s a first. As April approached, a foreboding sense of claustrophobia gripped us at the very thought of visiting another hill station in North India. A couple of years back, we had been to Kullu Manali which was packed to the rafters and the Mall Road to me, sorry to say, resembled Dadar Station, in Mumbai . We began to get desperate and out came the map, and we shifted the destination from Nainital to Mussorie. The thought was that it will be less crowded. Then Srividhya casually remarked how about we go for a trek? Our first Himalayan Trek…hmmm..seemed to be a good idea, but the question was can our 8 year kid complete the trek?
A quick Google search guided us to a trek to Dayara Bugyal. Trek bookings were made through IndiaHikes. After completing our stay at Mussorie, we made a quick visit to Hrishikesh (so refreshing) and Haridwar( the evening Ganga Aarti is for such short duration!..all of 10 Mts for which the public had been in waiting for 3 hours!). We returned to Dehradun and stayed at Hotel Sukoon located on the Municipal Road off the EC road. The rooms were clean and comfortable, but the service is so very tardy and lackadaisical. My son, after making several exasperating calls to get a towel, literally ordered me to write a detailed review! That’s that.
On the 29th of April, we boarded a Mahindra Bolero, a workhorse of a vehicle. Our destination was Raithal which would be the base camp. Dehradun to Raithal is about 180 kms and it takes about six to seven hours to reach Raithal. People whose stomach turns into a cement mixer while travelling in the hills, take adequate medicines. Manendra, our driver, halted at a small village deliciously named Rautu ki Beli, for breakfast. The Dhabha’s name is Pokhriyal. The breakfast consisted of Aloo Paratha, generously befriended by a slab of butter and accompanied by channa masala and a tangy sauce. Heaven!
Beautiful scenic Raithal
The route was scenic and after a 6 hour drive, sometimes coasting parallel to Bhagirathi river, sometimes up on the neck of a hairpin bend, we reached Raithal at 12.30 pm. Naada, the trek leader, welcomed us with a smile and she guided us to our room. Ah! The stay was arranged with GMVN. The rooms were clean and functional. By 6.00 pm all the participants had reached. Tea would be served at 6.30 pm followed by a briefing.
View from GMVN, Raithal
27 people across India and overseas signed-up for the trek to Dayara Bugyal. Bugyal in Garhwali means a meadow. So we were to trek to the Bugyal which is about 11000 ft above sea level. I had read somewhere that the mountains make humans bend to their will. Well…never seen or heard of a human being walking all straight and ramrod like on a hill. So bend we must. As a friend of mine said on one rainy night somewhere in the Western Ghats “what a coincidence..21 nut cases all have come together ”. In our case we were 27.
As we assembled, there were handshakes and murmurs of greeting and introductions. A thin, wiry chap introduced himself as Mihir and that he was our assistant trek leader. We later found that 29th April was the first day of his career and who starts their first day in office in the hill ranges of Uttarakhand and get paid for it too?? Karthik Madhinneni began the briefing and a list of do’s and don’ts were explained. Many had done treks before in the Himalayas. Names like Rupin Pass, Saar Pass, was bandied around for effect. One of the participants casually remarked that she slid down after summiting at Rupin Pass. I thought she was joking. She wasn’t. My son, Krishna was all excited and saucer-eyed during the briefing. Sagar, another 11 years old, too was all ears. We were instructed to assemble at 8.30 a.m. the next day after tea and breakfast. The trek team was introduced – Satbir would lead the group, Karthik and Naada would hold the middle and Rajvir would manage the tail end. BP checked, oximeter reading done, health cards issued and off we went to our rooms. As we stepped out, a full moon rising amidst the inky blue mountains greeted us.
Couple of lines about Naada and Karthik. When you meet them for the first time, you will feel that they are happy go lucky and a charming choice of profession . You pack the rucksack and climb one hill after another. Make no mistake guys, they are toughies. Beneath the calm smiling veneer lies nerves of steel which shines forth in the rarefied ranges of the Himalayas.
The next day at 8.45 AM we started. The mountain paths were beautiful. Rhododendron, maple trees dotted the pathways. Soon, we got to hear Satbir’s bellowing war cry…chaloooo ( which means move your sorry ass!!) The most enjoyable element of the trek was that you can, without caring a hoot, start a conversation with the person in front of you or behind you. Imagine that in a city environment! You will have to run for cover. Satbir along with Krishna and Sagar were leading the Group on the first day. Krishna thought his parents were super fit. He, then, frequently called out to us saying his parents climb very slowly. I forgot to warn him that in the mountains, family secrets of this type can be heard for miles! Rajvir who was managing the tail end was patience personified. During the trek, some of us came in at the back of the group. He was all smiles throughout the trek. Mules are used for transportation of rations, tents etc. The beasts of burden are nimble climbers but you have to make way for them otherwise you will get knocked down.
Clear the deck!
Off we go!
Karthik in the centre and Naada on the right wearing a pink cap
Let there be light!
Ain’t this beautiful?
Soon we reached the first base- Gui. Karthik gave us the lowdown on how to pitch a tent. It was great fun. Lunch was served which was wolfed in with great gusto. The food was marvelous. The dining room became our amphitheater for a while. We retired for the night early. Nothing else to do mate!
The time was 5.00 a.m and I jumped out of the tent to a cloudless blue sky.
The 5.00 a.m. shot
Dawn- what else can I say!
Yet another day in our lives- A glorious one though!
After a piping hot black tea at 6.30 am and breakfast, we started off to the next base camp. By this time, none of the 27 were strangers! Karthik regaled the group with stories of his treks. The banter was fantastic. Soon, the second base camp approached. The view was excellent with Mt. Bandarpoonch watching over the motley group of trekkers. The joy of viewing snow-capped mountains is incomparable. Krishna was very curious as to why I was clicking pics of the hills so frequently. What can I do? Every 3 hours, the color changes! The weather changes influence the mountains so much.
How’s that for a view!
We reached the second base camp late afternoon and this time many amongst the group busied themselves in pitching the tents. Mt. Bandarpoonch ( Monkey’s tail) was omnipresent in the back ground. By the time we retired for the night, the wind had picked up speed, and we got a taste how fickle the weather is.
Mt. Bandarpoonch and the sunlit thin razor of a mountain on the right is Kala Nag- Sliver of gold
As in the previous day, we started off after breakfast to climb the summit. This time the path was rocky and couple of times I managed to tie myself into knots! How did I achieve that? We paused for a break and resumed. Soon we reached the summit and the feeling was awesome. Srividhya had some difficulty in breathing, but Karthik somehow managed to push her to the peak. Everybody became trigger happy with their camera, cell phones.
Enroute the summit
Then came the Satbir war cry…chaloooo and pointed to the far horizon. Dark clouds were gathering . On our way back, we took a break and had lunch in a very Enid Blyton-ish way on the meadows..err minus the butter dripping scones et al. We reached the base camp, and after some time we gathered in the large dining tent for tea and snacks. Soon we heard thunder and lightning and then out of nowhere hail storm began. Initially, it was great looking at the little balls of ice bounce off the green grass. Then the pelting started big time. Some of my friends made their way to their tents while we stayed put in the dining tent. Then a blinding lightning and thunder stuck somewhere nearby. Karthik urgently told us to make a run for our tents. I opened the dining tent flap..oh boy the green grass was gone and a white carpet was before us. No time to stand stare. It felt like a commando run..Go Go Go…I grabbed Krishna by his jacket literally threw him inside the tent, then I jumped and then I felt something fall on my feet. Srividhya! The tent started shaking big time….and amidst all the commotion.. I heard a sound….Krishna was sleeping! The storm lasted for two hours. For a person who was on his first Himalayan trek, it seemed to continue for eternity. As the intensity weakened, I opened the tent flaps and poked my camera outside. What a sight..all blue and white and some random yellow tent lit by head lamp. Dinner time…we all gingerly stepped out. We were served hot rotis, subzi, dal rice, and piping hot gulab jamun at 11000 feet. Can you believe that!
A different perspective
The actual one
Next day was heavenly. The weather had mellowed down, but the sky was still overcast. Bandharpoonch was looking very different. The rains had turned the hail to slippery ice, and loo run became daunting. It’s a little bit confusing..which to handle first..wobbly feet or the crashing call of nature! The camp was getting dismantled, and we began getting ready to descend. Krishna and Sagar started playing with ice-balls, entirely oblivious to their surroundings. It was fun watching them.
Mt. Bandarpoonch- All raw and shorn of his glory!
Naada, Karthik and Krishna,- Engrossed in a discussion
The descent began cautiously and then gradually picked up the pace. Soon we heard thunder, and it started raining! Out came the ponchos and all started to resemble members of a voodoo gang.
Adieu to Dayara Bugyal
As all journeys have to end, ours did too at Barsu. The de-briefing was hilarious and all fun.Our Bolero arrived next day to pick us up, and Manendra agreed to stop at Rotu Ki Beli for lunch! The lunch was better than the breakfast. This time we were accompanied by Kunal and Nirali.
Cooking up a storm
The chef video credit goes to Nirali Gada
Thus my first Himalayan Trek came to an end. Thanks to India Hikes for the arrangements. Apart from Karthik, Naada and Mhir’s company, the one everlasting memory is of the food. The cooks were fantastic. The food they dished out during the trek was heavenly for lack of adjectives.
How to reach Dayara Bugyal: Easy answer is get in touch with India Hikes or:
From Delhi, the “tar-mic” nuts can drive down till Raithal. I wouldn’t advice it. Remember you will have to drive back after the trek! Better option:
- Take the Delhi-Dehradun Shatabdi. You can get down at Haridwar/Rishikesh or at Dehradun.
- Drive down to Raithal and from there trek.
- For the ultimate trip planner, book flight till Dehradun. Then do the Point 2!