This time the goal was a trek to a place where there was no big tourist rush in the North, and that was followed by a four-day walk across the snowy mountains and tent accommodation with occasional heavy snowfall in the cold.
This trip is not just about trekking, but also about conquering an iceberg. This is how we came to know about Kedarkantha in Uttarakhand. It is a place that is not so familiar to the Malayalees. The similarity in name may at first remind Kedarnath but there is apparently no connection between the two.
The Kedarkantha trek starts from Sankri, a small village in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. Due to its location in the Govind National Park and its high risk, forest permission is mandatory for trekking. It is also a matter of giving permission only to the locals and guides there.
So it’s important to book a package for us. As it is the Winter Trek (December – March) we looked at several packages as early as December 2019. In February 2020, everything agreed to go. The train will leave for Delhi on February 19 and reach Dehradun Railway Station on February 22. There are many types of packages to choose from. I chose the Dehradun to Dehradun package. That is, they will take you from Dehradun and take you back to Dehradun itself …, a 6-day package trip.
On the evening of the 21st, as expected, Nizamuddin arrived at the Kashmiri Gate ISBT. I thought that I could take the next bus to get rid of the tiredness of being on the train for two days. When I reached Dehradun ISBT at 3.30 am, I realized that it was still 4 km to the railway station. Inside the bus stand, you can see murals reminiscent of the culture and faith of the place. The city of Dehradun woke up just as it was getting white. Many share autos are now available at the railway station. In front of the railway station, you can see many travelers with the Kedarkantha board. This includes vehicles from major tour companies. I phoned them to say that our car would also be in this group.
Since I am single, I have been added to another Hyderabad team. Our car has gone to the airport to pick them up. I’m the only one to get off at the train station. The owner of the tour company reminded us over the phone that he could come and pick us up from anywhere in Dehradun. There is also someone from the clock tower. Then I walked towards the clock tower to see Dehradun. Extremely cold, the jacket was worn when boarding a train in Delhi. It is about 2 km from the clock tower. Malayalam is not missed now as it used to be because of blogging.
My journey was looking at Google map. Maggie ate what could be described as the national dish of the North from a box store. The clock tower is built in the middle of a four-lane road. Another feature is that it has a face on all 6 sides, i.e. 6 clocks facing 6 sides. You can see the time from any angle. The tower was built in 1953 to celebrate India’s independence. There are many shops around the clock tower. Although it was not open since it was morning, I realized that it was an important shopping destination in Dehradun.
The tour operator’s message came while filming the surrounding views on camera. The flight from Hyderabad was delayed by 1 hour and therefore our train was delayed. I took the number of the person from the clock tower from their hands and sent a message. The tour operator had said that his name was Mathew and that the place was Bangalore.
I thought to myself that being a Bangalore native was enough to make me know Tamil at least a little bit. The next wait was for Matthew. So after a while, Matthew’s call came. We spoke in English on the phone. When we met, the first thing we asked for was the place. Mathew said that he is from Kerala and his place is Ernakulam and he works at Kakkanad Infopark. That was the first twist on this journey. Both of us’ solo travel plans fell through there. But it was later learned from our trip together that we got a Malayalee with no experience from Dehradun to enjoy a travel experience beyond that.
A little late came the call of the guide in our car. Dinesh will be our guide for the next six days. He only knows Hindi. I escaped because Mathews knew Hindi. Dinesh Bhai called to say that our car was coming with people from Hyderabad and asked where we were.
I thought it was good they were late. Matthew and I had time to get to know each other better. Now we are like friends who came together from home.
The second twist of the trip was where we got into our car at the end of the wait. All the seven from Hyderabad are over 50 years of age. We are going to climb to an altitude of 12500 feet, and that too by walking through the snow-capped mountains in extreme cold. Matthew and I both had doubts about how this trek would be possible for these ages who could not walk straight.
At 11 o’clock, our train left Dehradun for the village of Sankri. Sankri is about 200 km away and takes about 8 hours to reach Sankri. There were seven people from Hyderabad in the car, two of us, the driver and Dinesh Bhai. Dinesh Bhai is around 25 years old.
When I looked at Google map I realized that we were going through Mussoorie which is known as the queen of mountains. We reached Mussoorie in an hour. The climate here is quite different from that of Dehradun. Mussoorie is covered with fog and rain clouds. There is a possibility of rain at any time.
After a further 10 km drive, one of the major attractions of Mussoorie is the Kenti Falls. We stopped for lunch at Kenti, which is right next to the waterfall. The package includes food from the time of arrival in Sankri.
Soon heavy rains began. I realized it was hail. The whole area was covered with ice cubes. After the meal, we continued our journey and were prepared for different views.
We are now climbing every mountain. From time to time, as you pass through each of the villages, you can see the unique farming practices of the place, as well as the river Yamuna on one side of the road. The Yamuna is a major tributary of the Ganges. We are now on our way to Yamunotri, the source of the river Yamuna, but after a while we will turn the other way.
As soon as possible we reached Mori, the gateway to Sankri. Mori can be described as a rural and small town. This is the range of phones available. It is about 20 km to Sankri. By the way, you can see the Tones, a tributary of the Yamuna. By seven-thirty we reached Sankri. The road from Mori was very bad. You can see a lot of travelers lying here like we did.
The force of the cold seemed to increase. Here we can rent and buy all the things we need for a truck. There are plenty of shops here for that. Dinesh Bhai made our room ready.
There are three people in a room. Mathew, me and one of the Hyderabad team members were in our room. He was in good company with everyone in the Hyderabad team. As soon as we reached the room we got tea and biscuits. No more tension as the food is no longer included in the package. After drinking tea, I went out and walked to the grocery store. I had to buy a cap to put on my head. Here you will find everything you need to survive the cold and trekking. Trekkers like us are busy buying essentials.
Matthew rented a trekking stick. The rent is 200 rupees. We can only get the item for 300 rupees. The extra money will be refunded when the item is returned. It is very cold and after 8 pm everyone will be in the room and the shops will be closed. We ate and slept because we had no particular views.
I woke up at 7am on the 23rd, the first day of our trek, and ran out of the room to see the views outside. It was dark yesterday and I had no idea what was going on around me. Exterior views were more spectacular than imagined. Only the surrounding mountain ranges. Therefore, sunlight can shine here for a while.
The entire eastern hills are covered with snow. Although it was not a big deal as I had seen it many times, I was thrilled to be able to walk all over these mountains. It’s always cold outside, with no head covering and no gloves on. After drinking tea we walked towards the surrounding houses to see the village. All the houses are small, mostly single bedroom houses. Snowfall is common here during the months of December and January. Nearby is the Sankri School with only 4 classrooms and the adjoining temple. After filming everything on camera, he returned to the room. The main source of income for the people here is tourism. Everyone, including trekking guides and cooks, is from Sankri and the surrounding area.