Panch Kedar series :Chopta-Tungnath-Deoriya tal

Uttranchal is blessed with pilgrimage destinations which are quite remote and out of bounds during off season for the hurly burly crowd. I feel for such places which don’t have a crowd of their own, so I go there to fill the gap. For remote trekking destinations seekers, Panch Kedar is a sumptuous package of five destinations. How these 5 places are connected is also very interesting- they are connected underground by the body of a huge bull. You dig up google for panch kedars and you will know the legend. Mota motee it’s like this : Pandavas who weren’t feeling very great about killing their own kith and kin and accompanied incidental brahmahatya seeked Lord Shiva for some kind words as Shiva is the great sage. Bhima was sent to look for shiva.But Shiva was in some other nongodly-feeling mood, wandering in disguise as a bull and not ready for a discourse. Also he didn’t think much about Bhima in terms of mental capacity to understand the trappings of life and karma etc in general. So he went underground, no literally. Bhima was persistent and got hold of the hind legs and tail of the bull and managed to pull parts of the bull out of the earth. 6 in fact. Horns of the bull at PashupatiNath in Nepal, Face at Rudranath, matted hair at Kalpeshwar, Arms at Tungnath, Hump at Kedarnath,torso and navel at Madhymaheshwar. What I marvel at is that all of these places are amazingly remote, it takes atleast 1-2 days of trek to get there, are very beautiful and quite in close proxmity around Okhimath/Gopeshwar. Tungnath is the easiest to reach though. 3-4 hours of trek and the highest temple of Shiva in the himalayas at 3600+ m. The temple is more than a thousand years old. This region is the best to get views of Chowkhamba, trishul , Nandadevi among others which are many. The highest point in this trek is Chandrashila which is at 14k feet ASL. This is a local maxima and you get unobstructed views in all direction. Unfortunately I cannot provide you with this view, but I can tell you its up there.

LastYear's-ChandraShila

I wonder if the title of this travelogue should have been Chandrashila, the second time unconquered peak. One of the chief reasons to go to Tungnath the second time was to complete this unfinished task. That is also the reason why this blog was not published last year. But now I can proudly write about it bcos I can see the divine plan and be at peace with it. Last year the snow was less but we were not good at estimating the time it would take to get back, so we panicked and ditched Chandrashila (or should I say Chandrashila ditched us). This year’s trip it started snowing and we didn’t even reach Tungnath. So chandrashila was out of question. Also we had a thick cloud cover and hence there would be no view.

The gang decided to not mark the journey by its destination but rather spend 1-2 hours of “quality” time at this midway place.

Anyway this time I did cover Deoriya Tal, another place with a story attached to it. You know me, here comes the story. Mahabharata, Yaksha(ghost) of the pond, all pandvas thirsty, yaksha curse-bound to the pond, waiting for someone to answer his questions and set him free. All pandav brothers dead after drinking the pond’s water.Yudhister the eldest of pandavas scores 100%. All brothers alive again.End of story. I will leak the answers, just in case- Ans 1) Man’s unconquered enemy is anger. Ans 2)His permanent disease is covetousness.there were more but this is sufficient to pass.
Deoriya tal is about 8 kms from Okhimath. Okhimath is the seat of the diety of Kedarnath when Kedarnath closes from Oct to April.The road to deoriya tal is motorable till Sari, which is a sweet little peaceful village with guesthouse facilities.

view from Sari guesthouse deoriya

We started from delhi at 1 am , via meerut mawana bijnor nazibabad kotdwar pauri srinagar rudraprayag okhimath reached Sari by 330 pm. Beware of the extra active police patrol at Satpuli, night or day, these guys are sure to stop you and ask you your whereabouts. For a weekend trip it is absolutely essential to be able to drive after 8 pm in the hills, which a new govt. rule is trying to curb. We (Sundeep and I) often have to play our dono-Garhwali card to get a clean chit. At Sari it was 4 already, locals advised us to take up a guesthouse and go early in the morning to get the Chaukhamba reflection in the pond. However we had no time to lose today as the next day was booked for Tungnath. We started the 2.5 kms trek for deoriya tal when it started raining. Deoriya tal has tents on rent right at the lake side. We were so disapointed we hadn’t thot of staying here instead of staying in civilisation in the village. The pond had a small dhaba for tea/maggi. It was quite a setting.

deoriya

Especially for weekend trippers, this is a very good option for spending a nite out in the open with a pond in between a jungle with nobody else (untill this blog was published).
Here are a few temple shots from last year’s trek. Just looking at the architecture and the stones used gives one a sense of awe and wonder. It’s totally very pashaan yugie. Even today it’s so deep in himalayas that it’s not directly accessible by road and closed half of the year due to snow, imagine being built so many years back when there were no roads in the hills, how did people not get lost, how did people even manage to keep such temples alive and discoverable by future generations (who by the way have now invented a way of not getting lost and keeping tracks alive by leaving plastic wrappers and bottles or even who-loves-who or who-was-where engravings on monuments)

While we were returning, we met a few college kids from srinagar who had started very late for the trek and were quite out of breath. One of those guys was quite impressed by us returning so early and came upto me and said “spirit man, spirit”. I usually am able to say No to strangers when it comes to last few cigrettes or last sip of liquour but his stance was little too confident and I thrust the pepsi bottle towards him, mighty pissed doing so. However his hand struck my shoulder and he said spirit man spirit. I sighed a relief. It was a double dose of humour of circumstances- first he wasn’t looking for my spirit, second we hadn’t actually touched the summit where he was headed. We had a good dinner at Srinagar while returning and were told to shut off the carlights and sit tight in case of a bear at the second bend upwards of Satpuli by the satpulis (satpuli police). People who have done all panch kedars have told me Madhyamaheshwar is the most beautiful of them all. So you know the next post.

The woods were lovely, dark and deep,
But I had Monday promises to keep,
And after miles I have to sleep

24 Comments

  • Kostubh says:

    Nice post……..qute pics…..can you send me some details for hotels where you stayed during this visit or you feel that its good to stay. Plz if you can, I’ll wait for that.

  • ajeet says:

    There are two hotels at Chopta, one is Mayadeep, and another is some govt run hotel (PWD, GMVN, one of those). I don’t remember one at Saari village, but there were plenty.

  • Arun says:

    Ah.. love your story telling style. It is fun to read. And terms like ‘local maxima’ can make me nostalgic :)

    If Garhwal is something that draws you much, you should read ‘Sacred Waters’ by ‘Stephen Alter’ about his long long walks in those regions. A great book.

  • Arun says:

    So UA is going the way of tea shops tents and guesthouses in places that were once uninhabited completely..

  • Nandan says:

    lovely. This time you didn’t mention much about locals :).

    Garhwali joke is best understood if someone had read your previous post. Do do garhwaali :). Nice way to put photos, lot of effort must have gone behind that. Esp the last one is killing.

    Keep trekking.

  • ajeet says:

    Thanks a lot Arun for the book reco. I have just started reading Jim corbett. I absolutely love the himalayas and its a great pleasure reading travelogues.
    Nandan, this time we didnt meet many locals. being a 3-4 hours walk, this was different from other treks as we didnt have to take guides and the whole area after chopta was deserted. Also we were five of us so didnt have time socialising outside the group :)

  • Raj says:

    Your Blog is very good for Travel

  • manish khamesra says:

    Ajeet,

    You are back with a post with beautiful pictures and a very jovial description. Only thing I wonder is that how easy or difficult it is to go these places if “Dono kya Ek bhi Gharwali naa ho” :)

    I am so happy to travel with you in so many remote places of Uttranchal.

    Looking forward to the next post soon :)

  • nh24 says:

    Fantastic post Ajeet!

    It read like breeze. It is good to see someone actually being at Tungnath, that I have mentioned in my post on Badrinath-Kedarnath. Those snaps are awesome.

    I also marvel at how those numerous temples would have been built and preserved through ages.

    UA is like a never ending discovery streak.

    -Rajeev

  • Girish says:

    Tungnath-deoriyataal
    the place is reallly gr8
    Advenure we experienced is unforgettable
    Visiting time shud be plannd such that u ll return before 3:30pm
    total walkng distance is around 12km to-from i.e 6-6 km and it needs huge stamina

    but the view and enjoyment u get can’t be described in words

    jst the gr8.

    thanks to mother-nature

  • testrahul says:

    Simply Amazing, Ajeet.

    I find the route you took quite interesting. Most of us take the Delhi-Haridwar-Srinagar route to enter Garhwal. But, the Meerat-Bijnour – Najibabad- Satpuli- Jawalpa Devi-Pauri- Rudraprayag route does not have heavy traffic usually.

    I feel like revisiting Chopta and Deoriataal after reading your post. …

  • ajeet says:

    Thanks Rahul. I love the Pauri route, it has less traffic, is more scenic and has the Lansdowne incentive. I have made peace with the long winded petrol guzzling climb from kotdwar to pauri, but then I get to avoid the perpetually broken road from Rishikesh to Byasi which I would say is painful, not petrol friendly either and spoils the morning feel of the mountains (as I usually hit the hills about 6-7am)

  • sandeep verma says:

    very gud place.

  • SATYAJIT MITRA says:

    Can you pls. help me out in providing the phone number of the hotel in Chopta, I intend to travel with my family next month.

  • vijay says:

    love these places very much

  • Juzer Shaikhally says:

    Will be visiting this place in June, 2010

  • Juzer Shaikhally says:

    Chopta Valley is a must to visit if your are a keen hiker/trekker. The best time would be in end March, since one might get patches of snow enroute. Pics are up on my facebook profile

  • sonali das says:

    to Gajpal Singh Rawat

    I would like to visit Duggalbvitha on October 6 & 7, 2010. can u tell us the procedure for booking accommodation

  • Nabarun says:

    Hi,
    Nice write up. Am all charged up to go ahead with my proposed trip to Chopta- Deoriyatal. Actually I intend to travel alone and make this mild trek all by myself but was not sure of the pros and cons. Now at the least I have an idea of the places which I had actually planned to visit.
    I wont be stressing on your writing skills for now but would like to see the pics you took of the places, they do not exist when viewed in both Firefox and Opera. I am really looking forward to your repost of the pics for my viewing pleasure.
    FYI i plan my trip for Haridwar and subsequently Chopta – Sari – Tunganath-Chandrashila- Karnaprayag for 2nd or 6th Nov 2010.
    Will stay in touch with you for more updates about your posts and knowhow.

    Warm regards

    nabarun

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