Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tungnath Chandershila

I was planning Tungnath and Chandershila for quite some time. A casual mention with a friend ultimately finalized the program. We were four, me, Dh, Bb, Sk and everybody had this or that to do. We had only 2-3 days but still we decided to touch our destination and reach up to Chandershila for sunrise. We started around 9-30 from Kurukshetra on Thursday night, 18 June in my M-800. Sky was clear and no chances of rain. They do not allow tourist vehicles beyond Rishikesh after 7-30 PM. We reached ‘Muni Ki Reti’ around 2-00AM and decided to sleep here. At 5-30 in the morning the view of Ganga and the hills on Swargashram side was wonderful. After freshening up we rushed towards Chopta via Rudraprayag. The road from Rishikesh was being recarpeted and some patches were in a very bad shape. We had our breakfast in Srinagar around 10-00 AM and around 3-00 PM we were in Chopta. Had our lunch here.

The sky was almost clear, there are good staying options in Chopta in the form of independent huts with 2-3 beds. 8-10 eateries also cater to the needs of the pilgrims and commuters. Some hotel wallahs started telling us that we were late and it will be better to stay in Chopta for the night start for Tungnath next day to come back in the evening but after a few more FAQs we started our climb of 3 ½ or 4 kms exactly at 04-20 PM. After warming up you start feeling that the climb is although steep but doable at a steady pace as the track is well laid and cemented. It is smooth climb all along no descents at all. We reached Tungnath at 7-00 PM the setting sun was presenting a beautiful sight.

Tungnath does not have many staying options but still, as per information, the local Dhaba-wallahs can provide beds to as many as 150-200 tourists. We stayed in the Kali Kamli Dharamshala and paid 150/- for a room with quilts (just workable). Hot water is provided in buckets @ 10/-, No electricity they use kerosene lamps and solar lights. You wake up with pure carbon in your nostrils. The temple is at a very peaceful location at around 3700 meters. Oxygen is low here and quick ascent prompted AMS. I was uncomfortable with acute headache but an anti-gas pill helped me as the head-ache is mainly caused due to gas trouble and undigested food in the upper stomach. We started for Chandershila at 4-00 in the morning as suggested by the locals. Walk up to Chandershila around 1.5 kms is through rocky terrain and can take 1 to 1 ¼ hrs. The first rays of the Sun fall on Choukhamba and the Sun rises 25 minutes later from this.

One can very easily return by 7-00 AM. Chandershila is at a height of 4000 meters from MSL. Those who do not want to walk can hire ponies (one way around 200/-). If you are staying in Chopta, ponies can be hired up to Chandershila for Sunrise even. There are so many meadows around and all along the route, I wonder what it will be like in the clouds flying past you. The beauty of the area is heavenly.

Chandershila can be done from Delhi also in the same time, Chopta is 210 kms from Rishikesh.

Some more photos.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Crossing jalori

Some times our plans of a good vacation go wreck because we make too much planning and the end result is a better place to go and roam around. And it was my turn to spoil the plans this time. I had planned everything for Mc’leodganj and was staying in Ludhiana to start next morning, May 7th but things changed and I was made to abandon the idea of Mc’leodganj. Now my plan was to go up from the Mandi-Kullu side cross Jalori pass and to come down from Narkanda - Shimla side. Tirthan valley is a typical place, what you call off-beat so I thought that starting from Kiratpur at 11-00 AM can be late and I rushed towards Aut (in my M-800). Around 3-30 I crossed Aut-Tunnel had to turn back as the way was just before the tunnel and I had to turn right there. Any way up to this, I was in time but no idea of the road conditions or any staying options ahead. The road was pretty OK till Ghiyagi, where I stayed for the night. There was no traffic, no tourists and no hotels visible along the road but we kept on noting the phone numbers of the hotels from the sign boards of a few hotels around Jhibhi, Banjar and Shoja, like Devganga (01903-227005, 9418154754, 9418893860), Shivani (01903-222276, 222719), Meena (01903-222258) and Haveli (9418803244), all scattered. Remember Shoja is not more than 45 kms beyond Aut Tunnel and is the last point where you can find accommodation to spend night. Raja guest house (09418550549) is right on the road and in my opinion they will always have a room for you. Along the way there are three-four home-stays/hotels and you are likely to find accommodation there also. The area is secluded, away from tourist rush and not townish at all. It is great for walks. There is a small brook along the road (not running adjacent) and at places it can be a good option for soaking in the sun and lazing around.

There is nothing much to see around. I stayed in Shringi Vatika, Ghiyagi (01903-227029). It was a good experience for the kids to spend night in a wooden room but when on a vacation you need something more comfortable. The place is given great reviews on a number of forums but I was disappointed. The food was not good at all. An elderly couple is running the place and I really appreciate their effort to keep an option available almost through out the year. The Vatika has small stream running through it and the location is very good. After Ghiyagi the road up to Jalori-Pass via Shoja is very steep and the condition of the road is very bad specially at the sharp and steep bends. Still any vehicle can do this if the ground clearance is more than M-800.
At Jalori-Pass you are in a different world altogether. You will find greenery all around and mountains below your feet. One walk from the top goes towards Saryolsar lake (5 kms) and other can take you to Raghupur Garh Meadows (2 kms). 2-3 small Dhabas remain operational here till snow fall starts but no staying options. The Aut side of Jalori-Pass is more beautiful than the Ani side and has better staying options. From Jalori-Pass, Narkanda is another 90 kms and is like a typical transit point in the tourist circuits.
Hatu peak around 8 kms from Narkanda is an xccellent place for views of the surrounding valleys and the green hills. The location of the PWD rest house at the peak needs special mention as I have never seen a place in India at such a beautiful location. Another thing about Narkanda is food that we had in hotel ‘The Himalaya’, excellent Dal Makhani, Shahi Paneer and Naan-Parantha.