Four of us (Me, Rajesh, Sanjay and Gurdeep) work in the same office. We were discussing long to have a weekend outing together, and finally in the afternoon of 14 June 2013, all agreed to go somewhere in Uttarakhand or Himachal, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Immediately the places that came to my mind were Khirsu or Chakrata in Uttarakhand. After much discussion, we finalized Chakrata as our target destination because of its proximity to Delhi in comparison to Khirsu. Rajesh happily agreed to take his Swift Dzire for our journey.
Before we move ahead let me introduce you to the accomplices.
Rajesh: A guy who consider himself dabangg, our finance manager of the trip and somewhat a good driver :-)
Sanjay: A newly married guy who sacrificed visit to his hometown for the sake of this trip. Kudos to him!
Gurdeep: A happy go lucky and ever smiling guy. He is always game for everything and never miss a chance to get his face poked in every photograph.
Arun: A friend of Gurdeep. His soul lies in his i5 and its Internet connection to run Facebook. An extremely positive guy who is happy in all the situations.
We got so much excited that we all left office by 3:00 pm for our homes to pack our bags. Rajesh, loaded his car with all essential stuff — fuel, bottles of drinking water, some biscuits and namkeens — picked Sanjay and Gurdeep from their home in Noida where Arun also joined our company, and then at last picked me from my place at Vaishali. By 6:00 pm, our car was running on NH-58, and the journey was fun with the jokes of Gurdeep and Arun. The only thing that was irritating and breaking our journey was the frequent nature’s calls by Arun. We halted for dinner at a dhaba before Roorkee, grabbed some Karhai paneer, Dal Makhani alongwith assorted breads (Thank God! we had these atleast one in our trip)
Since it was a trip made in haste, nothing was planned in advance, so after reaching Dehradun at around 0030 am, we all thought that it will not be wise to continue our journey ahead on mountains in the night, hence decided to take some accommodation at Dehradun only. The idea of night halt was obviously motivated by the inspirational words of Rajesh “Humne kisi se karza liya hai kya, aaj raat aaram karenge kal subah chalenge.” After much search we finally managed to find a hotel having a vacant four-bedded room, and fortunately the same was fitting our budget. Soon after checking into the hotel, we all went to sleep and put the alarm of 5:00 am in our mobiles.
15 June 2013
In the morning, our sleep was broken by the sounds of alarms blaring in five different mobiles. To our surprise, it was raining heavily in the morning, but we all were hopeful that it will stop by the time we will be ready. We all got ready by 6:30 am except Arun who took more than an hour inside the bathroom. By the time he was ready, the rain also stopped and we headed in the direction of signboard showing Chakrata.
It was quite a beautiful weather, with greenery on the trees and plants looking at their best because all the dust and dirt on them were washed off by the rain. Rajesh was driving at a constant speed and all were enjoying the beauty of the nature. Suddenly, Gurdeep made us stopped the car after hearing an alarm in his mobile. When asked, kya hua? He replied, kuchh nahi yaar breakfast time hua hai. Hearing this, we all shouted at him, abused him for making the car stopped with a screeching sound, made him buy some fruits for his breakfast from a roadside kiosk, and finally laughed at his mischief and continued ahead.
Chakrata is 95 kms from Dehradun, and a cantonment town in Dehradun district. It is situated between the Tons and Yamuna rivers, at an elevation of 7000–7250 feet. The entry of foreign nationals are strictly not allowed in Chakrata. Chakrata lies in Jaunsar district of Uttarakhand.
After crossing the Army checkpost at Kalsi, the hills turned steep and the sights of the green-laden mountains were intoxicating us. There were mango orchards all around the way for a stretch of around 10 kms. We were surprised to see that there was not even a single vehicle that have crossed or have followed us in the past one hour after crossing the Kalsi. Ignoring this fact, we continued driving and stopped in between for a small photo shoot.
After ten minutes of our drive we saw a long queue of traffic ahead of us. We parked our car at a side and walked ahead to find the cause of that jam. Reaching ahead, it was found that there were landslides from the mountain due to rain in the morning. The JCB was working hard to clear the boulders that has come on the road due to landslide. It took JCB more than two hours to clean that road and we utilized these hours in enjoying the surroundings, serenity of the place, had fun at waterfall running just below the bridge where we halted our car.
We enquired from some local people about the road condition and they assured us that there won’t be any problem further of that sort till Chakrata. Once the road gets cleared, traffic started moving slowly and we too joined the trail. Each and every villager that we were passing by were wearing woollens which was quite surprising for me, as to me the weather was pleasant but not cold. Anyways, I never noticed the time that we took in reaching Chakrata after taking a breakfast halt in a village that we crossed after that landslide.
Just before reaching Chakrata, we saw Blue Canvas Resort. Having been heard a lot about their camps, we went in to enquire if camps/rooms are available. The attendant informed us that rooms inside the Resort are completely booked but they have camping facility available at Kanasar as well, which is just 25 kms from this place and is much more beautiful and scenic facing the meadows. Actually Kanasar in 38 kms from Blue Canvas Resort and 25 kms from the main Chakrata, but the Resort attendant has fooled us (who does not love money). He showed us some photographs of the camping site which were awesome and good enough to convince our mind and heart to camp there for the night. At the same time one more car from Delhi landed there at Resort and also agreed for the camping at Kanasar. The deal in the package was to first visit Budher caves, then overnight stay at camp in Kanasar, followed by evening snacks, bonefire, dinner, morning breakfast, and then visit to Tiger Fall on the next day.
Our car got the company of one attendant cum guide from the resort and we happily moved forward. The sight of the mountains, step farms and hide and seek of clouds were mesmerizing us, and the temperature inside the car’s digital thermometer starts dipping with each kilometre of the uphill journey. The steeps and curves of the road were making us hold the holding racks of car.
The temperature finally reaches 15 degree by the time we parked our cars at Lokhandi for a tea halt. While sipping the cup of tea all of us get involved in chit chatting with their parents/partners/friends over phone, because we were aware that we will not have any electricity and probably the mobile network during camping. Arun was getting restless after coming to know about the unavailability of electricity and mobile network while camping at Kanasar. He was finding it a little difficult to live without Facebook, but now there was so turning back so he was trying to acclimatize. We also introduced ourselves with the guys in other car—Atit and Kartik. The guide (Himanshu) told us that we now have to drive for just 2 kilometres, and from there had to trek 2 kms upto Budher caves. I will not recommend that 2 kms drive to any of the tourist because the road is too narrow with bumpy holes and rocks protruding out of the road good enough to hit the bottom of small cars. On reaching an abandoned forest rest house, the cars were parked, and the guys in the other car put on their woollens. Seeing them I was cursing myself and rest four of us as none has bothered to carry even a full-sleeved shirt to face this chilly climate. This was probably the first mistake of such kind in my life where in I have not brought a jacket during my trip to hills during summers. All guys started trekking, and reached a place from where sprawling meadows were visible. It was a sight which I had never seen in my life. On seeing these intoxicating meadows at height of 8,500 ft., we all got feathers and Gurdeep started to jump from one place to another in joy. He started shouting from distance “Gauravji ek photograph to banta hai“. But by the time I took out my camera, it started raining and I managed to click only 2-3 photographs, as there was a fear of water getting inside the camera motor.
There was a temple at the top of the meadows and the novice Himanshu (Guide) instructed us “bhaiya ye pari mandir hai, iske andar mat jana, yahan sirf pariyan pooja karti hain ya koi sidhh pandit“. We obediently followed his instructions bowed our heads in front of deity from a distance. There were heads of deers hanged at the entrance of temple slaughtered by the local villagers. Some people say that it is Shiv Mandir.
Strolling ahead, we found a very beautiful and natural lake just surrounded by the meadows. My heart got sad as I was unable to take photograph of this wonderful place and lake due to intensifying rain.
There were Budher caves on the right side of the lake at a distance of just 200 metres. These caves are considered to be one of the mysteries of Uttarakhand. Tales are that Pandavas during their exile have used these caves as their hideout. These were discovered by a German national named Miola. Since then these caves are popularly known as Miola Budher Caves. As rain has spoiled all the sport,, we thought of entering these caves in search of some adventure. Hearing this idea the two guys (Atit and Hardik) and Arun from our gang backed off, we took the torch from Atit and entered inside the caves. It was a narrow path where only one person can stand at a time, so we started following each other inside the caves and the group was being lead by Himanshu. After crawling a distance of 50 metres there was a steep 250 metre drop, we declined the thoughts of daring more and came out of caves crawling back after taking few of the photographs inside the dark.
Now it was the time to go to our camping site in Kanasar at a distance of 6 kms from the place where our cars were parked. We got completely drenched by the time we came down to our cars and were shivering badly in cold. With an hope to see improvement in weather we drive down to Kanasar.
Kanasar is a beautiful hamlet in the lap of mountains with a forest rest house. The entire area has tall deodar trees with large lawns of lush green grass. The lawn also has an ancient Ram temple in its vicinity.
After reaching Kanasar we parked our cars near the locked forest rest house and thought that Himanshu would make us stay in rest house only since it was raining mercilessly, and staying in the tents will not be possible. But fortune was far from us on that day. He told us that their camps are on other side of the hills and we will have to trek steep up to a distance of 1.5 kms. With no other option, we carried bags on our back and followed Himanshu and his associates who met us at the rest house. Panting heavily, struggling with the weight of bags, steep trek and nasty rain, we reached the camp site. Ointment was applied to few of my wounds when I saw the site aside the green meadows and farming land, overlooking the beautiful Himalayas. I was hopeful that rain will stop in an hour or so and we would be able to enjoy the wild and raw surroundings in the light of bonfire.
We made ourselves comfortable in the tents, opened our bags to change the clothes but got the shock of our life as all the clothes inside the bag were equally wet like the clothes we were wearing. I decided to continue with my present set of clothes which got dried with my body heat in next two hours. The camp guys brought a battery driven LED light which ware barely emitting any light, some pakoras and masala tea by 7:30 pm in the evening. Our gang enjoyed these snacks and felt a little relieved and energetic, since we have not ate anything after breakfast. The Sun was setting behind the hills quickly and with the absence of electricity and inability to light the fire outside due to rain, darkness was building up inside the camp and outside. The sound of rain smashing against the camp started to scare us. Rajesh the dabangg, got dumb struck, the thing that was enthusing voice in him were the never ending songs of Gurdeep ‘Dil ro raha hai…’ to which Rajesh was getting irritated and saying ‘yaar chup ho ja, tere aise gaano ki wajah se hi itni barish ho rahi hai‘. Rest of us were enjoying this cat fight between the two and were trying to be back in holiday mood. Sanjay and me were quite sure that rain will subside by morning and we will be able to visit Tiger Fall. All were keen to visit Tiger Fall, but there was no voice coming out from dabangg bhai’s mouth. By 9 pm dinner was served, and post-that we slipped inside the quilts after closing the zipper inside tent. Very soon the camp got quite warm inside assuring us that atleast we will manage to have a decent sleep. We keep chit chatting inside our camp and occasionally across the camp of Gurdeep and Arun. The rain kept turning mightier with the darkness of night, and at a point we were not able to hear each other’s voice because of deafening collision sound between rain drops and tent. With prays for God, we slept in a hope of better tomorrow.
To be continued….