Monday, June 11, 2012

Dayara Bugyal Trek


In early May this year I received a mail from Indiahikes about a couple of treks being planned in late May and early June. With things being favorable in office and at home, I immediately started to research about the trek. One of those treks was to Dayara Bugyal near Uttarkashi. I looked at the blog written by earlier trekkers and looking at the photographs I was all for it. The trek was also suitable for me as it goes through forests and meadows giving good view of Himalayan peaks, it was not very difficult trek as it goes upto around 3000 mts which I thought I can tackle well and it was for 3-4 days which  could easily fit into a week of vacation. I called up Indiahikes and registered for it on their site. After that I worked out travel from Pune to Barsu (starting point of trek) and back. I packed usual stuff to be carried in a rucksack trying to keep it around 7-8 kg but it exceeded that limit. I called up Indiahikes which assured me that other people on the trek (guide & helper) would help in case I am unable to carry the stuff at certain times during the trek. Lastly it turned out that I happened to be the only trekker who will be on trek apart from trek leader (Arjun), guide/cook (Naveen) and porter (Bhaiji) with his horse (let's call him Chetak). I was not bothered by the fact that I am the only trekker for the trek and was determined to go. I was apprised about the fact that it was an exploratory trek so there won't be big group and there may not be fixed itinerary that fact I linked. Even if the trek had cancelled I would have at least gone somewhere in hills and wouldn't cancel my vacation. It turned out Indiahikes had similar plans even if they didn't get any confirmed participation. So, our spirits jammed together. This was supposed to be my first multi-day trek in Himalayas so was quite execited. Though I have been up there many times but always around towns, in vehicles and on day treks like typical tourists. I didn't think much about how will we stay in tent, how will we manage in night, food etc. which helped me enjoy myself and get surprised at times. I flew from Pune and stayed at my sister's place in Meerut.

29th May

I started from Meerut for Haridwar @ 11 PM so that I am able to reach there early morning and catch any bus to Uttarkashi which generally leave by morning. I knew that my night is going to be screwed but there was no other option. I got a bus at 11:40 PM near Meerut bus stand. The bus was going to Rishikesh. Luckily I got a seat and tried to doze off in between but the constant rattling of bus kept on waking me up. The bus also made itself prominent by going to each and every depot enroute and landing at famous Cheetal Grand restaurant. There I saw other buses including one from Delhi to Uttarkashi. I was tempted to switch bus but when I surveyed it, it didn't seem to have any empty seat and my bus was about to move. Finally reached Haridwar at 3:30 AM around 4 hours after starting from Meerut. 

At Haridwar it turned out hard to figure out whether there will be any bus to Uttarkashi. The enquiry office was closed but sundry tea-stall guys and other bus guys assured that there will be some. However, one cab guy finally gave correct information that all state transport buses are serving "Char-Dham" yatra because of which there may not be any bus from here. He asked me to better go to Natraj Chowk in Rishikesh where I could get some private transport. Heeding his advice I hopped onto the next bus going to Rishikesh. There were two elderly bengali gentleman whom I tried  to influence who were headed the same way but they were skeptical of me. Leaving them behind I was on my way to Rishikesh. The bus driver was a maniac and drove like crazy. After a couple of near misses and lots of swerves he calmed down and drove gently. The bus dropped me at bus stand in 45 minutes. The search for any state transport bus to Uttarkashi began again. Though there were minibuses parked but there were no boards on them for destination. The enquiry was closed and timetable also did not show any bus timings from Rishikesh to Uttarkashi. I asked one of the stall which was open at this time who pointed me to adjacent private bus stand where couple of buses were standing. On enquiring there it turned out one bus just left for Uttarkashi and I was late and there won't be any bus till 11 AM. I was aghast, how early than 5AM one should come to not be late I wondered? Good that I came early otherwise I was planning to come around 8-9 AM in the morning. The lack of buses was due to "yatra" traffic which took away buses. So, if you are an individual traveller  not part of organized travel then be careful and keep lot of buffer for travel on the "yatra" route. Again someone suggested to go to Natraj chowk and catch some private jeep. I walked a kilometer to Natraj chowk where handful of taxis where standing. One of them was going to Uttarkashi and seats were available but only in the back. Thankfully, luggage all went up on the carrier which did not cramp the seating area. There I met the same bengali fellows who were at Haridwar and had to fend their way till here. 

We finally started at 5:45 AM and straight hit the road to Gangotri. The twists and turns were churning my stomach and sleep was dozing me off. I got woken up couple of times due to being thrown away by swerves. The journey up was not very exciting. There was no river following our route as Bhagirathi (or Ganga) comes into picture only near Tehri. There was lot of haze due to which mountains and landscape was not looking great. The road was broken at many places due to landslide and due to dryness, there was lot of dust blowing from passing vehicles. The mountain face also looked scarred at many places due to debris from landslide and construction spreading over it. The weather was unnaturally very hot and devoid of moisture because of which loose earth of rubble was flying & getting all over you. Finally the river was seen with muddy color but very less flow. The reduced flow turned out was due to ice having started to melt only now and river would be in full flow in June. 

We were welcomed at Uttarkashi by a traffic jam which was due to a petrol pump queue. The town was non descreipt and looked just like any other small town in plains. There was no place for me to sit and wait so just sat outside the hotel where Naveen asked me to come. After dumping my rucksack with him, I went out for lunch and found one nice place for Rajma-Chawal. I was having it after a long time. Finally, my trek leader Arjun arrived at 2:30PM. We introduced each other and got talking. He was quite nice and friendly. I told him some of my exploits in travel and he was impressed with them. Naveen was busy collecting all the stuff required for trek. Once done we left for Barsu in a hired taxi. The stuff contained tents, sleeping bags, kerosene stove, diesel as fuel and food supplies. Barsu is 42 km from Uttarkashi and took 1.5 hours to reach there. In the evening we took a round of village. It is on hill slope with around 100 houses facing east. There are couple of temples and a large pond. The main deity being "Naag" or snake which are often seen around here. There were stepped fields where  wheat, potato, vegetables and even opium was being grown. This was a nice walk with some climb which I guess the leader was using to gauge my fitness. We stayed overnight at GMVN there with nice staff. Naveen treated us with nice dinner. There is another private resort called Dayara resort which is worth staying.

Barsu village against wheat fields
Barsu village and polyhouse from GMVN

Dayara Resort against wheat field in the morning

30th May

We started from GMVN at 7:30AM a little late. My rucksack was being carried on Chetak as it would bog me down and instead I was carrying a small backpack and camera. The climb started as soon as we left village. Arjun went back to fetch his GPS while I carried on. However, slowly everyone in our team overtook me. After some climb the village below looked beautiful. The trail was decently covered by trees and shrubs. The trees were mostly Oak and few Maple trees in between which Arjun showed me. There were some thorny shrubs as well and dreaded bicchho ghas which causes itching which I was instructed to stay away from. The sun was intense though it was not hot. I was sweating due to exertion but a gust of wind would cause a shiver through the body due to sweat. I was wearing a t-shirt and cotton lower which are good enough during the day. Due to sweating and exhaustion I was drinking water frequently and emptied two bottles by the time I reached Barnala. It is important to keep oneself hydrated otherwise it could lead to exhaustion to people not used to such treks. 

Trek looking up
Barnala is a small bugyal with a pond, Gujar+ kothi (hut) which is a good breaking point on the way to Dayara. This was my first glimpse with any bugyal, meadow carpeted with grass, flowers and small plants. It was lush green and thriving in the sunlight. The flowers were mainly of yellow color though they were interspersed with white and blue ones. I tried looking at the field in a slanted angle to get them in one streak. The field looked like a mustard field of plains during winter. Here I caught up with the gang and replenished water. 
Barnala Bugyal

Views from Barnala bugyal

Barnala Taal

Chetak grazing away loaded

After Barnala, I started feeling hungry and tired. Then I realized I was not carrying any dry fruits or munching and chocolates were in rucksack on Chetak. Then I really felt the importance of the packing instructions when they ask you to pack dry-fruits, chocolates and other energy boosters. At one point while taking rest I simply fell asleep. After some 30 mins Arjun came looking for me and woke me up. That was really embarrassing for me to just knock off. The trek leader gave me some dry fruits to munch from the backpack which gave me some relief. The last leg till Dayara was herculean for me and I prayed it ended soon. Finally when we reached, we were greeted by Naveen with tea and biscuits. He was ready with lunch quickly which I liked to put some energy in me. 

Entering Dayara bugyal

After lunch I went for a nap on the grass itself out in the sun. Soon some animals joined us, a group of langoors, cows and couple of dogs. Langoors were going up and down the trees and seemed curious about us. The dogs here were so different than dogs in plains. They had long and dense hair and menacing eyes but did not seem aggressive at all. They just sniffed, rubbed themselves against us and then sat quietly on the ground. I hardly heard them bark in the entire trip. I was exhausted due to trek so decided to not go for excursion with Arjun and Naveen to Bakaria top and other corners of the bugyal. There realized another important point that one should be enough physically fit that one should not just be able to reach the camp site but also roam around it to catch the views. Remember the purpose of trek is to explore, to roam around, soak in the surroundings and not just go from point A to B. 

Campsite at Dayara

Langoors at campsite

In the evening we were joined by a couple of trekkers from US who were going to Dodital. They also pitched their tent nearby and we got talking. They were pleased by hospitality from Naveen's kitchen. In the evening one of them lighted a camp fire which we all enjoyed with chit-chat on topics related to India. The dinner was good though I lost some appetite but enjoyed Kheer and Horlicks before bed. This was my first night in tent and I was looking forward to it. Arjun showed me how to use the sleeping bag and all. Though it was warm and comfortable but unable to move my legs was a problem. I did not have a sound sleep and kept waking up due to cramps in body and unable to move feet and missing pillow. On the other hand, Arjun was slept normally.

31st May

I woke up some time before sunrise when birds started chirping and went out for nature's call. It was quite chilly but not unbearable. After some time sun finally rose. Just before it peeked out from behind the peaks, the sky was oranage with dazzle from the sun. In few seconds it turned from a small glowing speck to a ball of fire and we were mesmerised.

Just before sunrise, Dayara bugyal

Peaks glowing in morning sun

Sunrise at Dayara bugyal

The sunlight in cold weather cheered me up and I went about readying for further trek. I was given a go ahead to climb adjacent hill from where we would walk on the ridge. I slowly climbed the hill which was full of grass and flowers and many flies and insects though they were not a botheration. There were some amused cows looking at me. I was gorging on the views of meadows as well as surrounding mountains. Arjun joined me soon and we then walked over a ridge covered by trees and dwarf Rhodendrons to come to a Gujar hut. The head of family greeted us and invited us to have milk. He also asked for some medicine for fever and some ointment for infection in his feet. Arjun gave crocin tablets to his wife and gave some ointment to him. We instructed him to wash his wound properly and keep it bandaged. The hot milk tasted good and after finishing it we took their leave. We came to a point called Dev kund but the pond over there was dried up. Here the trail for Dodital forked away.

Dayara bugyal in morning sun

Trek path on day 2

Dev kund (it is the one on left, dried up)
We climbed another ridge and then walked on level trail up to a point where we decided to wait for our support gang. We just lay there on the top of the ridge. I turned on my phone and played some songs including Dil Dhoondhta hai from hindi movie Mausam which was apt for this setting. Surprisingly mobile coverage was available here and sent a message home about my well being. Down below in valley there was another set of huts. The valley looked like slope in a golf course. The far away peaks were visible through haze but not very clear. After walking this ridge there was a final climb which was quite steep before we had to enter into a valley under Surya top called Syari. We climbed upto 12000 ft before descending to 11400 ft at the camp site in valley. 

Looking back at the ridge

Looking back from the ridge

Gujar kothi in the valley below
Again we were greeted with hot tea from Naveen who had already reached and pitched tents. After lunch of aloo paranthas it was time again for an afternoon siesta. Around us there was lot of activity. There were a group of mules who were not so happy with invasion of Chetak and confronted him to which he gave a defitting reply by kicking the mule. There were hundreds of sheep belonging to a shepherd which were grazing on slopes and at one instance decided to have a stampede down the valley. Then friendly dogs also appeared sensing some food. All this activity was going on while I dozed in the sun.
Syari valley

In Syari, looking up to Surya top

Sheep at Syari
Later in the afternoon we decided to have a stroll on adjacent hill and came down after watching some more vistas. While having evening tea we heard some lightning at a distance and dark clouds threatening rain. Arjun quickly realized we are in open and could be prime target for lightning so he told all of us to get into the forest in such situations. Naveen and Bhaiji being locals brushed away the possibility. We immediately collected our raincoat and torch and made way to the group of trees. Its better be safe in such climes that exude bravado and completely listen to your trek leader. We were approaching night and dark clouds threatening rain got me into a small panic. What if lightening happened in dead night, how would we go to forest in night and what if we got wet in such cold? Arjun kept me busy in talk I think so that I don't think about all these things. Thankfully the clouds receded and lightning stopped and we had pleasant evening after that. Even in night we didn't hear any trouble. Just like last night sleep was distrubed due to cramped space, hard bed etc. I could hear our horse eating away the grass even in night while I waited for the light to appear in the morning.

Vistas at Syari

Gujar is a tribe of people who live in northern plains in the state of Uttarakand, UP, Haryana and rear cattle. Their main trade is selling milk from their cattle. They mostly live in plains at the foothills but in summers climb the mountains along with their cattle when heat gets unbearable. They carry them on foot so could be called as partially nomadic tribe. 

1st June

Again I woke up well before sunrise and went out of the tent and sat on a rock for some time waiting for sun to rise. Naveen presented hot bed tea which was exemplary in this cold morning. Arjun too woke up and came out. He climbed the hill on the west to get a good view of the sun. He cajoled me to come up which I did and what a view I got. The sun was peeking out hugging side of a peak. There was a streak of cloud on the peak going away from it glowing in the sun. The railfan in me immediately conjured up image of steam engine belching grey smoke through chimney. We sat there in silence looking at the spectacle.
Sunrise at Syari

We started after having breakfast of halwa and bread butter. Today we had to climb down upto "Pichkiyan" and camp there. Barsu from there is another couple of hours climb down. We decided to take a call whether to stay at Pichkiyan or proceed to Barsu on reaching the campsite. I was neutral but later got in favor of staying back as it would be warmer at lesser height and one more opportunity to spend night in the tent and watch sunrise. We started early and took the trail which winds through the forest and comes to a junction where several trails meet. Our support gang were going to take another trail suitable for horses.

Our trail was up and down over stones, tree trunks and crossing a couple of streams. We even witnessed last patch of ice around the streams. Arjun showed me how the place must be buried under snow as evident from flattened branches of shrubs. The forest was mainly comprised of Oak trees but there were others including Bhoj tree from where bhoj patra comes from. We were constantly descending and my knees started showing signs of wavering on trying to descend. As treking pole I picked up one tree branch and broke it in couple of strokes to make it suitable to which Arjun complimented that I have become a pro now.
Views from the trek - Day 3

Oak forest - Day 3

Gujar kothi at the junction

Views from Gujar kothi
At the junction there was a Gujar hut with family actively living there. These huts are very basic ones constructed mainly of tree branches and covered with thatch or plastic sheet. The walls are not sealed and there is space between branches is open which may not be effective during winds. The families typically have sheep, cows and even buffaloes all brought from plains. Since we had to meet our companions here, we waited for them sitting on grass, soaking in the sun. There was lot of activity at this hut with people bringing in goods and exchanging and taking it forward. The sheep of the house came out to graze along with cows. After some time a little girl comes out and shoved them back. Soon our companions arrive and we set out for more descent.

We reached Pichkiyan around 12 noon. The campsite was not that great. Ground was not level, grass was not inviting and no great views. Also the water body was occupied by buffaloes and dung everywhere. We decided to push forward and go down all the way to Barsu. My knees has started hurting but comfort at the end of trek was inviting and I decided to carry along. In between we met another Gujar family who were asking for medicines for their ailing head of family. We wondered how these people especially elderly live here? These are not typical house with amenities or even neighbours to talk to. How do they pass their time? We met another set of women who were collectign firewood who had come up from Barsu. They asked for water and Arjun obliged. He was speaking to them and asking them things. On me being silent, one of the women asked me whether I don't understand their language? I said I understand on which she said that since I did not speak to them so she doubted why I was not speaking to them. I did not expect to blush at this place. These womenfolk were quite sturdy and were carrying a heavy load of firewood with them.

We encountered a bigger stream on the way with was like a stepped waterfall. We sat listening to the falling water and freshened ourselves. To cross the stream there was a tree trunk placed cross at lower level and a 'bridge' made of 3-4 slender trunks at higher level. The one at higher level was a little risky but on Arjun's encouragement I managed to cross it with some balancing. After some time we could see Barsu close by. While walking through the village there were curious looks and I walked with the air of a conqueror. Finally we reached GMVN welcomed by the staff there. Rest of the day was spent resting and chatting with staff.

Stream on the way

Barsu village from a distance

2nd June

Today we had to travel all the way back to Delhi, so we started early and decided to take local transport upto Uttarkashi. The first taxi took us to Bhatwari, there we transferred to a second one and went upto Uttarkashi. We were running short of cash as we had to pay Naveen, so we went to the ATM there. But all the ATMs were out of cash. Only around 10 AM was the cash filled again and we were able to withdraw cash.

Here I parted with Arjun who wanted to spend more time with Naveen on further association. I went to the taxi stand a little away from main area where there was a taxi ready to go to Dehradun. Instead of Rishikesh I thought to take this one and go to Dehradun which is a bigger town, easier to get transport to Delhi and it was immediately leaving. However, on SMS Arjun warned me about it being a longer route but we were already on our way. The route goes through Barkot - Mussorie a different route than one for Rishikesh. The route was similar to one we came from Rishikesh, not so good roads, dust, brown hills. Around Mussorie the vegetation changes and the forest is dominated by pine trees. However, things were not pleasant. The brown hills had parched vegetation, some forest fire brewing, lot of traffic around Mussorie and weather being warm.

Around Mussorie there seemed a cavalcade of cars mostly from Delhi. Today being saturday the Mussorie town seemed to be run over by tourists from nearby cities. Dehradun was quite warm on reaching there but some of the roads were tree lined. I got down at survey chowk and took No. 5 Vikram tempo to bus stand which is 10-12 km away. There I caught an ordinary bus going to Delhi.

Just out of Dehradun we were passing through Rajaji National park which was completely parched. There was a river course but river was all dried up, trees denuded of leaves. All this in scorching sun presented a gloomy sight. Just nearby we have Ganges and the river through park is all dry. On top of it we got stuck in jam around a narrow tunnel and memories were back to days I used to battle heat in DTC buses in Delhi. After that every town we ecountered dust, jam, cacophony be it Roorkee, Chhutmalpur, Purkaji, Muzaffarnagar. After excruciating and worst part of this vacation, I reach Delhi outer at 11 PM and went to comfort of my friends place.


Overall, this was a statisfying trip but a little worrying at state of affairs. How difficult it is to travel ordinary in the places and heat which is catching up the himalayas as well. The haze due to fire is capable of ruining entire experience. I just wish authorities are working towards retaining the charm of hills.


Debasish Banerjee said...

my email is

pls gv ur number i am going for trek in dayara need to talk

Atish Sorte said...

Nice write up and informative blog , This will surely helpful for guys who are planning for the same trek.

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