On 10th of May 2015, a group of 4 of us embarked on a journey towards the high Himalayas. Starting at 12 in the noon, travelling via Rishikesh, Devprayag, and Rudraprayag we reached our destination for the night Saari. Saari is a small village nestled high in the Himalayas at an altitude of approx. 2000 Mts. The weather was very pleasant and it was refreshing for some of us coming from the hot plains of North India.
Next morning after a delicious breakfast of Village grown Aloo Paratha and Daal, we started our trek towards Deoriya Taal.
The trek to Deoriya though small was an arduous one to most of us not accustomed to trekking. We reached Deoriya Taal around 1:30PM in the afternoon. Deoriya Taal situated at an altitude of 2500Mts had a very pleasant weather even at Mid-day. I have been to Deoriya before but others had not. The view which they saw of the Himalayas and their reflection in the Taal simply mesmerized them. We spend the next hour just relaxing and taking the breath-taking view in front of us. Then we had our lunch and two of our group retired to their tents for some much needed rest. The two of us headed to explore areas around Taal and after trekking for a Kilometre or so we stumbled upon an area relatively unexplored. The weather was cloudy when we reached here but it started clearing as evening dawned.
We were very fortunate to experience “TRAFFIC JAM” of a different kind here and spent some time actually enjoying it
We relaxed, shot and even “Meditated” for some time at that place and then headed back for Deoriya taal. Fortunately the weather almost cleared by the time we reached Deoriya Taal and we were able to experience an amazing golden sunset at the Taal, we then trekked around a bit, sat beside the taal and then headed back towards our camp.
Sitting beside a campfire, soaking the heat of the burning wood and having dinner outside under an open sky was a first time experience for most of us and we truly relished it. Isn’t it an Irony that most of the current generation of us are so totally disconnected from nature? We say we want to go to hill stations, but yet we want all the luxuries we have in cities at those places too. Instead of relishing on the local simple made food, most of us want to dine in some star restaurants in the Mountains too. Anyways I am no one to judge people here or anywhere and so let’s come back to our camp 🙂 .
Dark clouds loomed and by 9:30PM it started to rain pretty heavily. We retired for the night and the downpour continued the whole night albeit not continuously.
The next morning we were up by 4:45 for a sunrise, the cloud cover, however still remained and all we could see were dark grey clouds over the Himalayas. We spend around the next 2 hours at the taal, trying to shoot some birds and as the weather opened up, some Himalayan ranges. We trekked back to Saari, then freshened up, charged our batteries and then headed for Chopta. We reached Chopta by 3 in the afternoon. A trek of 1 Km again to our camp site, and then the sunset there was among one of the most golden I have ever experienced. The Green grass of the Alpine Meadow, further accentuated it and the whole scene along with our tents and some other tents dotted here and there looked like a scene from some Hollywood movie, only better.
As per our itinerary we wanted to be at Chandrashila for the golden sunset in the Morning. Just to highlight, from Chandrashila Peak you can see almost all the Himalayan Ranges viewable from all of Garhwal and that makes that place really special. The weather was cloudy in the evening, by the time it was 8 PM the weather cleared and we were able to see a Gazillion stars in the dark night sky. We tried some Star trails and after our dinner retired for sleep by 11:30PM. We were again up by 1:30AM in the morning for our trek to Chandrashila.
I always wanted to see the Milky Way, or to put it correctly the densest part of our Milky Way and this was the night that wish came true. As I stepped out of my tent at 1:30AM, I was expecting to see a wonderful belt of stars clouding the sky, I was disappointed. I then remembered what I had read about in blogs of several people who had shot Milky Way earlier “YOU EYES NEED ATLEAST 15 MINUTES TO ADJUST TO PITCH DARK” and then after about 10 minutes or so I slowly began to see the wonder of the Scene. I was blown away by the scene and was so happy I wanted to cry, I would have cried if I was alone. I have said this many times before and I say this again “nature truly has surprises vast beyond anything of us can ever imagine, you could see these surprises every day of your life and still this lifetime would not suffice to see even a fraction of it “.
At around 2 AM we started on our trek towards Chandrashila. If you have read “Jim Corbett’s “books, he talks about walking in jungles in pitch dark nights only under the light of stars. Well he was most certainly right, that night the Moon rise was around 4AM in the morning, the weather was absolutely clear and while we walked towards Chandrashila we could actually see the way and walk without using our torches, only under the light of stars and let me tell you, the amount of light was staggering considering how distant and dimly lit the stars are.
For some reasons we were not able to reach Chandrashila by sunrise but we did reach Tungnath by 5 AM and no sooner did we reach there, Lord Shiva’s bhajans started playing on the loudspeaker, those bhajans felt like a good omen and a thought flashed my mind that probably Lord Shiva was actually welcoming us. Clouds had started building up as we trekked towards Tungath and by the time we reached Tungnath, it was quite clouded. The Himalayas were fortunately still visible and this is what we got (Not Bad Eh!)
After Darshan, we continued further up towards Chandrashila. The trek between Tungnath and Chandrashila is a distance of only 1 Km or so but it’s really steep and at this altitude (3500Mts) it really tested us. The path towards Chandrashila was mostly covered in snow even in the Month of May and we thoroughly enjoyed it, yeah we slipped a bit, were scared a bit, had to trek through a foot snow at some places, but yes we enjoyed it. Not many people go towards Chandrashila, as mostly return back from Tungnath, so that morning as we trekked upwards we were probably the second group towards Chandrashila that early and we were thoroughly rewarded.
On that day we were able to see around 4 Himalayan Monals all at the same place. I have seen Monals before and know how skittish they are, but here they were so comfortable to seeing humans, they allowed us to get quite close to get some shots and observe these beautiful birds for a while.
By the time we came back from Chandrashila, it was already afternoon and we headed back to our camp for a much needed rest. Weather however had some different plans, no sooner did we get inside our tents a really strong wind started blowing and a heavy downpour ensued, thanks to our guides the tents were pitched very strongly and were able to withstand the assault. The weather remained cloudy all evening and night, next morning after a small birding session and breakfast, we headed towards Makkumath.
Makkumath is a relatively unknown birding Paradise, and not many people know about it. Here we met Mr. Yashpal Negi ji, he is an Avid Birder of the Garhwal region, having an excellent knowledge of the region and an excellent guest house too. For the Next 2 days we spend most of our time with him and exploring the area around for a lot of birds. We were able to shoot more than 50 species of birds most of them not very commonly found. Lot of Knowledge sharing happened while we stayed there and it enriched us a lot in terms of our knowledge of birds.
This trip and the many other trips which we have taken in the Himalayas, though it thoroughly tests us, makes us love it even more and the call for the Himalayas is so strong that it keeps us calling again and again such that I am now convinced to say “Himalayas Forever”