Something as simple as a walk becomes special
Vishwajit Sharma, escapes “madness” of Delhi to the serenity of mountains in Uttarakhand…
Having been quite a while since we escaped the madness of city life, a trip to Uttarakhand sounded exciting. There were many factors which went into selecting it for our family vacation, one of them being it’s relatively less touristy compared to other famous holiday destinations. Plans were made, bags packed and off we went into the place that is fondly called devbhumi (the residence of gods).
The drive itself was an indication of the excitement that awaited us in our journey. The change in the landscape reflected the change in our moods. Soon, the maddening chaos of Delhi gave way to the wide fields and villages of its neighbour, Uttar Pradesh. After a brief stopover for dinner, we resumed our journey. It wasn’t long before the sound of the car and my full stomach lulled me to sleep. When I awoke, I found my eyes meeting the silhouettes of mountains in the distance, with miles and miles of cliffs between us and them. Enthusiastically, I lowered the window, and there it was- the fresh air all over again, reminding me so strongly of my childhood days in Darjeeling. Only someone who has stayed in the mountains long enough knows what the mountain air smells like, a delightful mixture of mud, leaves and wood. The sides of my lips stretched themselves to their furthest point when I saw the board – “Welcome to Uttarakhand. Have a safe journey!” We were finally here!
After about an hour, we reached the village of Raithal, situated at an altitude of 1800m approx. It was drizzling when we arrived, but if the weather was out to dampen our spirits, it failed quite miserably. We were told that the car would go no further, and we had to take a short walk of almost 400 meters. The people at The Goat Village Dayara Bugyal (situated in Raithal) were kind enough to send us some help in the form of 3 young sturdy boys. Together, we reached our homestay along with our luggage. The Goat Village is a rural women empowerment initiative which seeks to deliver authentic Garhwali experience to the visitors, from food to accommodations. What makes their entire endeavour impressive is the focus on sustainable tourism. So there we were, far away from noise, buses, and everything else that we sought escape from. We had no electricity, with only solar lamps to guide us in the dark, which fell pretty quickly here. Anyway, this was something we were ready for, and rejoiced in. No electricity, no cell phones and no Netflix- this was what being in the company of nature was all about. We spent the rest of the time relaxing, admiring the views from our balcony, and helping ourselves to generous amounts of pakodas (fried snacks) and tea.
The next morning, after a hearty breakfast comprising of porridge and chilla (Indian styled pancake), we set off for the famous Dayara Bugyal Trek. The Dayara Bugyal trek in Uttarakhand follows a predetermined trail that goes all the way to a place called Gui, and then extends all the way up. Dayara Bugyal is an enormous alpine meadow covered with flowers with little streams cutting through them. People come here to appreciate the stupendous beauty and panoramic views. It is also famous for hosting a “Butter Festival” sometime in the month of August. We began our trek, enthusiastic as ever to reach the top. What we didn’t know then, was that the distance between the Goat Village and Dayara Bugyal could not be covered in a day. If you do take the trek, stay overnight once you reach the top and then make your way down the next day. Physical challenges aside, we were pleased to hear the sound of dry leaves crackling under our feet. On both sides of the trail, we were surrounded by thick forest stretches, with the dominant trees in them being oak and rhododendron. Another two hours of huffing, puffing and panting brought us to Gui, which is regarded as a campsite and offers fabulous views of the Gangotri and Srikanth range. But we were done! This was about as far as we could go, our bodies refused to accompany our minds. Tired and exhausted, we rested for a full three hours before making our way down, which was as trying as our way up. At Gui, we had our packed lunch, took in the beautiful views and captured the sights in our cameras. We met some local kids too, as energetic and playful as ever. As they invited us to join them in their fun and games, we let out a silly and confused smile, unable to explain to them why we were unable to do so! When you visit Gui on your way to Dayara Bugyal, it is a good idea to indulge in some photography, for the views of the mountains, which seem to stretch over to meet the valley, with the snowy mountains stealing a glance from behind, is simply one of a kind.
We did not get to Dayara Bugyal, and therefore, could not complete the trek. Were we disappointed? Sure, but not in a way that sinks your heart. This was a place which deserved repeated visits, and we turned back with the promise of coming back during our next family vacation. The next day, we left The Goat Village. Then began a 5-hour drive towards Landour, located in Mussoorie. It is a quaint cantonment town with British imprints all over it. Indeed, that is only natural, as it was built by the British Army to house their garrisons. We went exploring the places located in close proximity to La Villa Bethany the next day. There was Sisters Bazaar, which was closed when we arrived. However, we explored one or two shops which were open. The beautiful thing about Landour is that you can enjoy a leisurely walk wherever you are. All along the roads, you are accompanied by dense forests of pines, deodar and rhododendrons. Something as simple as a walk becomes special! We visited the Kellogg’s Church. Even though it was closed when we arrived, the architecture reflected its heritage and historical importance. Just beside it stands the Landour Language School, where students are taught Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi. From there, we made our way to Char Dukaan to enjoy a plate of hot piping momos along with some tea and coffee.
We hung around till the afternoon and then made our way back to the cottage for spending another night, which was the last one of the trip. We left early next morning. Did I have any great travel revelation from our vacation? No, and neither did I expect to. What the trip did do was reinvigorate me from within, like the way the earth is by the first showers after a long dreary summer. Things like touching the grass wet with the morning dew, tripping over a stone, rubbing the raw mud in your hands, listening to the whistles and chirps of birds & insects while letting the surroundings bring about a perfect calmness to your tired, crowded mind. This is what this amazing family vacation in Uttarakhand did for me. It is something to be cherished for a long time to come.