Towards Uttarkashi


What is that impetus that drives man towards the conquest for Mokhsha or Nirvana? What is that insatiable feeling that urges him along that solitary road, that path which gradually narrows up to a trickle as he nears his destination? Infatuation or Disenchantment – its left for the reader to brood upon.

A very scattered plan set up the tempo for this pundit’s next travelling foray. The destination this time- Uttarkashi. An unlikely location for the ubiquitous Indian “tourist”- all too accustomed with the grandeur and splendours of mahals, waterfalls, minars, forts , crowded beaches, hill-stations and the like. The plan was scattered and patched up the night before, with the route still remaining undecided.

Cometh the hour and cometh the man. We made very early headway at seven in the morning, avoiding the traffic and being witness to some majestic scenery. The sunlight was slowly permeating its way through the alpine forests and the heavy mist that lay within – creating spectacular rays of light past the highway. The Mussourie road was climbing ever faster, the serpentine road slowly ascending ambitious heights- towards zentiths where very few had ever been!!

We stopped at Maggi Point for breakfast en-route, the name of the location being synonymous with the merchandise sold. Sitting on an armchair, having a bowl of hot steaming maggi in the cold morning and gazing down at the Dehradun valley was nothing short of a brilliant start!!

The hysteria reached greater levels as the ascent gathered steam towards its very climax. The air grew chillier- the sun shone brighter. The “Stunner” was now screeching, begging for repose. A few moments later found us 2000 metres above sea-level at the Queen of the hills – Mussourie. We decided upon taking a not oft taken route to Uttarkashi. A local had advised us against the route citing its remoteness. But, who cared. We had the whole day before us. A small road winded past the western end of the picturesque town past a few hotels. We went past some horse-riders who apparently were from the defence. We flew past their disgruntled neighs and meandered down the road mostly past whistling pines. An hour later we found ourselves near Kempty falls.

Further on, the asphalt trickled down to meagre rocky mix. Heavy trucks laden with who knew what went past us sending shockwaves down our spines. Aditya had a hard time, we being nearly hit a couple of times. A tributary of the Yamuna accompanied us along our left within the deep chasm as we approached Nainbagh.

Our initial plan was following NH-123 towards Barkot and beyond. Our steely resolve, however, went for a toss. We were convincingly won over by this gentleman who advised us to follow a road was a good 40 kms shorter. The economics behind his idea won us over: his wit and guile simply “mindblasting”, as Russel Peters, the stand-upcomedian would remark.

So saying adieu to the quaint town of Nainbagh, we headed beyond past vales, trees, boys on horses, boys with dogs, small children with who knew what!! The shortcut made numerous ascents and descents. The gravel was not a big hit with our back though. Civilization was getting thinner with every passing second.  Even the all too familiar telephone towers were missing. An hour later we collided back with NH-123 after having supposedly “missed” 40 kms and the town of  Barkot.

The next ascent brought us to the top of yet another Shivalik hill and the next forestry division and the district of Uttarkshi. The roads were definitey of those of the pre-independence era. The asphalt was missing in all the wrong places. To be very honest- everywhere. The dirt road glided down the valley past massive pine vales under the blanket of the azure skies. Rhodenderons shaded our way throughout. We hadn’t encountered a human soul in over 3 hours now!!

Then at last, out of the blue – an Accent emerged. It was one of the best sights that we had seen the entire day. Proof that civilization hath still not been lost in these remote parts.An hour and a few kilometres later, we stopped at a village for samosas. As we trooped down to the village in our gear, the local lads and lasses giggled in awe – as though Martians had landed in their mist. The adverse yet scenic road brought us to the peak of yet “another” hill-top. The first view of the Bhagirathi was nothing short of spectacular. One could clearly see a small air-strip in the background as well.

We drifted down to the valley floor on neutral gear and found ourselves at Dharasu Power station a good twenty minutes later. Dharasu is actually the junction point for the Yamunotri and Gangotri. A solid one hour drive along the battered Bhagirathi brought us to our destination Uttarkashi.

Uttarkashi is a quaint little town that lies at the very periphery of civilization. A petrol pump, a suspension bridge, a few hotels, numerous temples, a  single market with a sleazy theatre is what constitutes this town. To be honest – I was rather disappointed. After 203 kms and this was it? A quick bite followed by trip across the river, we found ourselves at Joshiyara, apparently the “twin town” to Uttarkashi. 2 kms upwards lay the sprawling campus of the
Nehru institute of Mountaineering. It was eestablished by the first Prime Minister of India – Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. The fresh air up amidst the pines emancipated our emaciated minds from the fatigue. A little museum is housed within the sprawling campus containing rare artefacts, tools and informative displays on mountaineering. The museum is however opened “ONLY” on request.

We were recommended by the curator of the museum, to a short trek to a place called Nachiketa  Tal –  which was a good hour away from Joshiyara. The late afternoon skies brought along with it chilly winds. The dark side of the valley compelled us into a warmer attire. We reached Chowranghi Khal at hlaf past four in the evening. Having parked the “Stunner” (that had alreadly had got its wind knocked out of its sails) at a teal stall, we briskly started with the 3km trek. As we found out, the “3 km” part was a major understatement. The ascent was ridiculously steep as Aditya found out the hard way. But his steely resolve was commendable. He was with a passive pundit after all!!

The trek had a few flight of stairs, a couple of resting points and scitillating vistas of the surrounding countryside. The Nachiketa Tal lay quietly nestled within the hills, perched on a narrow ravine, camouflaged all around by sprawling pines and scrubs. There was a Shiv temple at one end. The entry to the tal was guarded my this mysterious looking Godman who was very vociferous when it came to taking his pictures. He shooed us off , which we exceedingly obliged. Scary!!

The run down the hill was a bit of a breeze really. We finished it off by another 20 minutes. We left the tea-stalled owners with bewildered looks with our bounties of ‘miraculous and godsent’ stamina!! The sunset had loomed into the horzion as we drove back towards Uttarkashi. In the darkness, we had an encounter with a furry kind; a small fox jumped out of the jungle, followed us for a moment and scampered back into the darkness. At about seven, the shimmering lights of the temple town welcomed us  back. We took a moment to listen to the sounds of the evening arati that resonated around the valley.

Daybreak at Uttarkashi was one of the most spectacular things you’d eve see. An apparent ray of light apparently touched the Bhagirathi as the Sun moved over  one wall of the valley. The day begun with a quick visit to the Uttarkashi Vishwanath Temple, famed for its large tilted shivlinga. We followed National Highway 108 from Dharasu. The road was very well metalled and a joy to drive on. The Bhagirathi forever guided us on our left. On the way we encounteredhamlets like Kandi-Saur, Chiniyali Saur and the like. We encountered a rather peculiar flat hill en route. Apparently, the Bhagirathi turned static, its color turning to turquoise from the muddy brown. It was clearly apparent what damage dam-building had done to the enitre valley. The entire eco-system had been ripped to shreds, the rivers at times being choked to microrivers.

The near level road suddenly took a route up for the skies about 2 hours from the start. The road clung on the hills like a child to her mother.The air was icy cold, the shadowy regions chilly. the road meandered endlessly, never ceasing to test our tempers. Massive pinecones lay strewn all over the road. Chamba lay perched on a hill a good 2000 meters above sea level. The expansive views of the Himalayas from these roads are a sight for  sore eyes and for shutterbugs alike. You can get a glimpse of the mountains until somewhere near Mussourie. The famed Nanda Devi, The Bandar Poonch range could be clearly visible. The shoddy Chamba -Dhanaulti-Muusourie road was again a departure from the brilliant road that we had enjoyed throughout the day. From the heights of Mussourie, it was again a quick plunge down the much familiar Dehradun road, and thus marked the end of yet another memorable trip.

Below are some of the pictures. Do click on them for larger views.

Early morning on the Mussourie Road.

View of a hill, somewhere towards Dharasu

The treacherous Road!!

A view of the Bhagirathi valley.

Uttarkashi in the distance

Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi

A view of the trek path to Nachiketa Tal

Another view

At Nachiketa Tal

Sunset up in the mountains

The Uttarkashi Vishwanath Temple

Sunrays kissing the Ghats at Uttarkashi

A view of the NH-108 towards Chamba(seen on the top)

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Ankit on April 6, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    very well written…quite evident u had an amazing trip and i cud almost visualise everything…nice read!!!

    Reply

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