Holidays on tuesdays/thursdays –and wednessdays if you are gutsy ;-) , are devices to convert weekends into treks. This year we paid tribute to Bapu by walking 36 kms on his birthday. Sabarmati to Dandi translated to Sankhri to Har ki dhun.
We didn’t do much homework, or should I say the literature available on Har ki dhun was too little and misleading. Ideal trek for a first timer. Unless you want to temper a first timer to know trekking is serious business, it is far from ideal. I suppose since there are Forest rest house and GMVN on all stops on this trek is why it is considered easy. Another extreme factor for us was the drive. Factors like scurrying with work deadlines on Friday, lack of homework on finding the shortest route, trying to avoid the Kalsi- Chakrata gate and bad road condition, spirit of adventure trying to discover a new route, and the lure of Rajgarh waterfalls worked against us so that a drive of 540 kms thru Delhi-Solan- Rajgarh, Nauradhar-Haripurdhar-Raunhat-Tiuni took 21 hours. There is NO road after Nauradhar. It was virtually like making our own map. Don’t laugh if I tell you return journey was only 12 hours via “Via Minas”. Peculiar that it is, via-minas, as one word, is locally a very common way in Tiuni, to mean the route from Minas-Shillai-Satuan-Paonta Sahib-Pipli to Delhi. Another good route to delhi is via Mori-Purola -Naugaon-Damta-Yamuna pul–Musorrie… The onward journey of 21 hours wasn’t all torture though, it also includes 2 hours of fun at Rajgarh.
Warning: The float-chilling stunt shown here has been performed by an expert, don’t try this with your beer.
What I can tell you about Tiuni is that it’s a beautiful town built on the confluence of Tons and Pawar rivers and Tiunians dread nothing like a visiting RTO who can bring the whole town to a standstill along with Mori, Netwar, Chakrata. Apparently, this being a HP-Uttrankhand border town, the road tax officers frequently come tax hunting. It also has the craziest drivers you can find anywhere. Two trips to this place spaced an year apart have stood testimonial to the whackyness of its drivers. One has to take a cab from here or ideally from Mori to Sankhri as the last part of the road is heavy broken. Do meet Manoj chauhan aka Fauji at his hotel, his hospitality and chatter will do you good.
15 kms from tiuni is Hanol which has a ASI protected 9th century temple of Mahasu devta. ASI has converted the inside into a museum for which you need some jugad to be allowed into. Meanwhile, off the road towards Netwar you can see a Shiva face on a rock, which it is said is natural. see if you can make it out.
The trek starts from Sankhri which is about 24 kms from Mori, 54 kms from tiuni. Don’t forget to pay the permit fee at Netwar. Before I proceed further, I need to kill one joke, so that you are not caught unawares and also don’t get to hear it everytime you go there. Mr KS Rana, the caretaker at the Sankhri GMVN has a dog jiska naam doggy hai. How convenient. I remember laughing at the dog’s name last year, but this year I felt like telling Ranaji to grow up. At sankhri and through out the trek you will learn that if you are not a foreigner you are a bengali. These guys know only two classification for tourists.
Sankhri to Taluka- 12kms is a walk in the park except for two places where the road got ravaged by landslides. It was motorable till 2-3 years back before the landslide. Taluka to Osla–14kms is adventure. First time trekkers may not share your view of adventure though. A measure of the difficulties on this stretch of 14 kms is that it takes the same amount of time going up or returning down.
On the way you see Datmir and Gangad villages and flour mills powered by water flow called gharat.
Osla doesn’t however fall on the trekking route. Sema does. Sema which is 2kms from Osla actually serves as the market for Osla and is devoid of village splendour . Osla is famous for its Duryodhan temple, but the villagers will deny it. They say the diety was vanquished by the current residing diety of Someshwar some 25 years ago. I was very disapointed to know they rebuilt the whole temple. Nonetheless Osla has a good exotic feel about it.
The climb from Osla to Harkidhun is steep initially, then it passes through bugyals and forests.This part of the trek had no challenges except traffic jams caused by herds of bugyal-fed happy-go-lucky cows and sheep. One particular herd had 585 sheep/goats. I asked the “cowboy” how he manages to count them every evening, he said he doesn’t count, he just knows by looking at them if one goes missing. Abhyas-se is how he said all this in hindi, if you have to know. The trek was tiresome though as the climbs and falls were really steep and long. You can see kala nag, bandar punch, runsara peaks and then the majestic Swargarohini from half way. Har ki dhun is a very peaceful place, you would want to spend some time by yourself feeling one with the vast expanse there.You will realise it is not a destination spot by itself, it doesnt feel like one, you will want to go right towards swargarohini and jumnar glacier or left towards marinda tal and borasu pass. It is actually a huge valley flanked by massive mountains on three sides.
By the time we did a round trip, our knees hurt like mad. This night we were treated to some bonfire and good blankets at the forest rest house in Sema as the visiting Ranger, who was angry with us the previous night for not getting a permit at netwar, had left. The ranger had impecable bureacratic hindi and it was hard to not smile at his monologue in shudh hindi which we had no way of cutting into for giving explanations. It was only when he realised that Sundeep and me were garhwalis that he relented. The revelation was very dramatic though. It was almost like Sholay, dono garhwali, dono bach gaye huahahaaa..
When returning from Osla to taluka, we found this bridge being built by some sheperds to make their sheeps cross over. It was quite a sight.
Walking back from Taluka to Sankhri thru the plain jeep road was good massage for the tired feet. We took a few snaps at the spot from where we had ventured deep into the jungle last year and got lost, spent the night scared of animals, huddled under an overhanging rock. In 24 hours all we had was water and two squares of chocolate each.
From sankhri we took a cab to tiuni. The cab driver was a gniit program student from delhi and was on the rolls of a software company in okhla for 3 years, but didn’t quite enjoy it and returned home. I almost asked him what is operator overloading, just to be sure. From Sankhri we had started to get an idea that our car parked at Tiuni had seen some publicity. At tiuni, our Fauji bhai told us he had fun keep the authorities away from the car since it was stopping some drain from being dug. He offered some “wine” on which he swore, so I had some, it was good for the tired soul. 12 hours of drive lay in front of us. On the return drive from tiuni, we were blessed with the view of a big wild cat running in front of our car for quite sometime with its cylindrical tail suspended parallel to the ground. Next on agenda, get an SLR and explore areas beyond har ki dhun towards Borasu pass to Chitkul himachal or ruinsara tal to uttarkashi or even Bali pass to Yamunotri