Rain Fury in Chakrata, Uttarakhand in June 2013 (Part I)

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 :-)

Rajesh

Rajesh


Sanjay: A newly married guy who sacrificed visit to his hometown for the sake of this trip. Kudos to him!

Sanjay

Sanjay

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.

Gurdeep

Gurdeep

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.

Arun

Arun

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.

Rajesh and Gurdeep resting in hotel at Dehradun

Rajesh and Gurdeep resting in hotel at Dehradun

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.

The gang posing for a shot

The gang posing for a shot

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.

JCB at work

JCB at work

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Fun at waterfall

Fun at waterfall

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.

Blue Canvas resort, obviously in the background

Blue Canvas Resort, obviously in the background

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.

A group picture taken in the route

A group picture taken in the route

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.

Intoxicating meadows

Intoxicating meadows

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.

Limestone's Miola Budher Caves

Limestone’s Miola Budher Caves

Ghosts inside the mysterious caves

Ghosts inside the mysterious caves

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.

Rajesh and Sanjay - tired, Gurdeep- energetic (An inside camp story)

Rajesh and Sanjay – tired, Gurdeep- energetic (An inside camp story)

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….

17 Comments

  • Nice and informative write up. May God stop this rain by tomorrow morning and ‘Ye Maston Ka Tola’ mauz kare and get the readers enjoy the Chakrata. Gurdeep’s mobile did’t ring again for lunch/dinner.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Gaurav says:

      Thanks Tridev! Gurdeep’s mobile continued to alarm for lunch, tea break, dinner and his medicine time. Unfortunately, due to lack of electricity the mobile turned dumb like all of us for rest of the journey.

  • Saurabh Gupta says:

    Great story. Hope the experience was awesome. land sliding is common in rainy season on hills. It’s really difficult to spend a night in dark without electricity specially when you are in mood of enjoyment.

    Disaster day has to come. Eagerly waiting the story of 16th June the day changed the meaning of beauty of hills.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Very detailed and interestingly told Gaurav. More so when, unlike us, you know what is in store. Kanasar looks like a beautiful place to stay put, may be in a better weather. God Bless.

  • venkatt says:

    Interesting narration and introduction of your mates, Gaurav. The next post of your trip will hopefully narrate happier moments.

  • Thoroughly enjoyed your journey however difficult it might have been for you folks ! ;) Looking forward to hearing more from you. I belong to Dehradun, was born there but haven’t visited Chakrata so far. So, it is much more interesting and curiosity satisfying recipe for me.

    • Gaurav says:

      Thanks Sushantji! Chakrata is a very beautiful place with very less population. I wish we could have seen it properly.

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Gaurav,

    Nice crisp and fresh account of the hills of Chakrata.

    A suggestion please – Hills provide so many pretty views. While we see enough people on our office drives in Delhi. Maybe you can put more scenic photos in the coming posts.

    The Budher caves look like as if they will soon morph into aliens.

    • Gaurav says:

      Hi Nirdeshji,

      I truly appreciate your feedback and realize that I should have put more pictures of hills depicting their beauty. I shall take care of this in my coming post.

  • Amitava Chatterjee says:

    Enjoyed the story.
    I heard a lot of the place but not been there…and may be someday I will go there too.
    We all know what had happened to our favourite state UK…hope you had returned home safely without any problem.

    ‘ll look forward to read your next.

  • Dear Gaurav,
    Very interesting experience you had at the road less travelled!!!
    Here is a story from other side of the land slide.
    On 16th June we, at uttarakhand faced unprecedented rainfall. Most of the places in Uttarakhand suffered severe damage (life and property), Chakrata luckily survived with fewer landslides. Our team at Blue Canvas Resort got news on the early morning of 16th that there is a road block at Lokhandi. With great difficulty (since most of the communication network were down) message was communicated to your team (through our novice guide Himanshu) to take shelter into Kanasar Guest House till we arrange (within our own means) way to open road block at Lokhandi.
    I along with my partner pankaj left Dehradun for Kanasar on 16th june in pouring rain to arrange some way to open road block at Kanasar. It took us 3 Hrs to reach Vikasnagar which is around 40 kms from Dehradun because road was flooded with water.
    From Blue Canvas Resort we picked up 3 more members of our team along with our rescue equipments (ropes, pick axe, tents, sleeping bags, ration etc.) , staple for theses roads. On crossing Chakrata we realized that road was blocked at 4/5 places before lokhandi which could be opened only through JCB.
    We used all our networking skill to arrange JCB, which reached us by 7 in the evening near jadi (8 kms before Lokhandi and 14 kms before Kanasar). With JCB leading our Scorpio we moved ahead towards Kanasar clearing road block at 4 places.
    In this way we reached Lokhandi by 11 in the evening on 16th June. There we tried to clear the road blocks till 2 in the morning in heavy rains. Temperature dipped to around 4-5 degree celsius and we were drenched to bone. At 2 AM of 17th June we called it a day and did what we could to make best of the moment “The Road less Travelled” Style. We trespassed into locked shop at Lokhandi(owner is a good friend of us) and made a bonfire for us with improptu chicken barbecue. Five of us along with 2 JCB operators somehow managed to sleep in scorpio.
    Next Morning at 6 AM of 17th June I along with 2 members of our team left for Kanasar on foot (again in heavy rains) leaving 2 members and JCB operator to supervise clearance of road. After 6 kms trek we reached our campsite and enquired about your team. We were told that you have moved on to Yamunotri road as someone suggested you that, that road is a national highway. After ensuring that our staff is safe we walked back to Lokhandi (On the way clicking some beautiful pictures of birds). By the time we reached Lokhandi Road was cleared for traffic movement.
    Note: Chakrata is a heaven on earth and as safe as any other place could be. Natural calamity like what we faced on 16th and 17 th june which washed away many places in Uttarakhand cant be predicted and foreseen. If our attendent suggested you to try out Kanasar, it was not because of “love for money” (did we ever asked you to pay for the trip???) but for “love for place” and confidence in our hospitality that we will take care of you “no matter what it takes”. If our guide couldn’t make you stay at Kanasar Guest House, it was because that property belongs to forest dept. not because he wanted to make you walk in the rain. We hope that you will travel again to Chakrata and let us show you splendour of the place and its people.
    Best Regards,
    Vikram Singh Panwar
    Founder: The Road less Travelled Ventures
    Owner: Blue Canvas Resort and Green Canvas Resort
    We eagerly await 2nd part of your story.

    • Gaurav says:

      Vikramji,

      Your efforts are truly appreciated. Unfortunately, it never came our notice that you have put in so much pain to rescue us. I am in love with the place, and will definitely visit there again to explore the beauty of the sorroundings.
      Regards
      Gaurav

  • Saurabh Gupta says:

    This was the second side of the coin Mr. Vikram. It’s really nice to read your efforts. We have planned for Chakrata in this rainy season but due to the disaster we have cancelled the trip. Can you please share the detail of your resort so that we can plan when we visit there.

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