Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chakrata - A Paradise for Nature Lovers


I was not very excited to go this time untill Agni sent some links describing the place.

98 kms from Dehradun at an elevation of  about 7500 ft Chakrata is known for its serene environs, virgin forests and pollution-free atmosphere. The town has a magnificent view of the Greater Himalaya and everything around is delightfully green — deodar, Himalayan oak and rhododendron cover the hills. The only built-up area consists of some of the prettiest colonial army buildings, green- and red-roofed gables complete with rambling roses and wisteria. All this was enough to get me excited.

It was a 3 day trip. Going by Agni's antique Esteem. 
The Gang: Agni, Anirban, Manas, Aunty, Uncle (Agni's parents) and me

Agni - On driver's seat, driving the car and the trip
Anirban -  A photographer lost in the nature... want to utilize every single minute of the trip. First one to get up every morning and go for bird watching.
Aunty and Uncle - The most energetic and adventurous couple I have ever met. "Aapki energy se 
aapki umar ke pata hi nahi chalta". They are in their 60s in guess.
Manas - Sitting next to driver’s seat… cute kid supporting Agni in every possible way. The luckiest one to get the most comfortable seat
and Me - Bubbliest of all. They call me 'The Expense Manager'. Whenever camera is spared, don't leave the chance to click. 

Way to Chakrata from Delhi
Chakrata is about 330 km from delhi. There are two routes one is via panipat and kurukshetra and the second one from Ghaziabad via Loni, Baghpat, Badaut, Shamli and Saharanpur. The route via Saharanpur is less crowded. After Sahanpur the road has dense forests on both sides. Just before Herbertpur there is a left turn which goes to Gurudwara Paonta Sahib which is 10 km away and is in Himachal Pradesh. From Herbertpur another 10 km and you reach Vikasnagar. From there you start driving in the hills. Chakrata is around 60 km from Vikasnagar via Kalsi and Sahiya. The road is narrow but in good condition. 
Its important to mention here that there is no petrol pump beyond Vikasnagar. One should have enough petrol in the tank to drive about 150 km in the hill. You may get petrol paying a premium at Chakrata but that will most likely be adulterated.

We started on 22nd evening, halted that night on the way and restarted next morning.

Day 1 (23rd Jan '10) - 
In anticipation:  
The most I recall about our journey from Saharanpur to Chakata was Janta Hotel. A nice dhaba with a mango orchid at the back. I was more keen on clicking the old ladies basking in the orchid than having my meal. 
This time we had booked a Hotel in advance knowing this place has only 2 renowned hotels - Hotel Snow View and Hotel Himalyan Paradise. Based on the reviews from the visitors we chose the later. 
After a drive of around 6 kms from the main town we reached "Himalyan Paradise". Beautiful place in the lap of nature with a wonderful view of Greater Himalyas.
A warm welcome by Bittoo ji and staff, we felt quite at home. The place looked nice and cosy. A huge terrace in front of the rooms was ideal for basking in the sun in these chilly winter days.We were told that more than 40 species of birds have been identified here. the most common we saw around were brown dippers and tits.  
Rest of the day was spent talking to the locals and planning for next 2 days. Places we decided to visit are Deoban, Tiger falls and Kanasar. 

Day 2 (24th Jan '10) 
Darun Deoban:
Started for Deoban at 8 in the morning. It is some 15 kms away. Fresh, chilly air caressing our faces and bright sun warming our bodies... we were delighted to experience this chillness and warmth at the same time.
Deoban is around 10000 ft above sea level, we were feeling on top of the world literally. 
There is an extensive dense jungle with dispersed villages of the Jaunsari tribe around the area.
With complete silence all around only thing we could hear was chirping of birds. We were lucky enough to get sight of Himalayan Woodpeckers, white collared blackbirds, Brown Dipper and Green Backed tit. 
Milky white snow all around... undisturbed and untouched, we were happy to have started early to view this amazing sight.Uncle aunt chose a quiet corner to sit and enjoy the view, Agni and Manas, excited like small kids... were running around on the big patch of snow, and Ani and me, the explorers, decided to go further deep into the hills. 

Whoa.... what an amazing place it was... snow all around, the deeper you go more beauty you find. There was a place where we could see the foot steps starting from the top of the hill towards deep down the valley... seemed like bear's foot marks. little further point where there is no sunshine, chilled air numbing your nose, fingers and every thing exposed. 

Came back frozen and satisfied.

Day 3 (25th Jan '10)
Towards Tiger falls:
All young folks decided to trek on the 25th morning... early morning. We were all set to visit Tiger falls where we have to walk down 5 kms to have a glimpse of the falls and climb up the same distance. The starting point is some 10-12 kms away from our hotel. Manas decided to give Agni some rest and take the drivers seat now. After crossing some villages and villagers we reached the trek start point. 
We were told that there is a small market where we will get something to eat. But to our bad, there was only one shop there - Chauhan Tea stall, that also is about to be closed because the shopkeeper had to go shoping some stuff for the shop. We took 2 packs of biscuits and started off. 
While we were talking to the shop owner, Anirban had befriended a group of some 6-7 local kids ready to start their cricket match. The self made bat looked like "thapi" we use to beat clothes while washing them.
Praveen, the eldest of all, was happy to accompany us till the falls. Down down.... down we go... Led by the little energetic kid. They are 8 brothers and sisters. He is the eldest.
The walk was a treacherous one down the hill, and could be lethal if one does not watch his steps and slips. We kept walking on & on, but there was no sign of waterfalls.     
Finally after we had walked almost the entire trek, we caught the first glimpse of this miraculous creation of Mother Nature, very nicely hidden from view completely until you reach the exact spot. All the fatigue vanished looking at one of the highest waterfalls in India, originating at a height of about 312 ft. 
The view of water falling from such great height was truly breath-taking. We stayed there for almost an hour, while Ani clicked some pics, Manas and Agni got busy discussing the fall... its source, height, depth, etc. I silently enjoyed the gentle water droplets on my face sitting by the side of the fall. Although completely lost in the charms of this place, we soon realized it was time to make a move and start the uphill trek. If the downhill was lethal for the fear of slipping, uphill was a total nightmare, steep 5 kms climb. 
We somehow managed to reach the top where an old man was waiting  with 4 glasses and a pitcher full of cold water. He was apparently Praveen's Grand father. Praveen had told us that his family would have loved to feed us but only his old grand father is home and he might not be able to cook. His mother had gone to fetch medicine for his younger sister. 
Time to say good bye to the young chap and his grandpa in this wonderful land of nature and manly beauty. I was awestruck by the simplicity of people and nature both.

Koti Kanasar
Agni drove us back to the hotel where uncle and aunt were all ready to go. We got some paranthas packed and started for Koti Kanasar, as the locals call it. Some 26 kms from our hotel. Kanasar is on the Chakrata – Tiuni road. The road was good with amazing view of deep valleys on one side and high hills on the other. 
Patches of snow on the way made it all the more dramatic and interesting. One very peculiar thing about the place... we saw many locals eating the balls of snow. They were picking it up from the ground and eating it. But they were too shy to let us know the reason and it remained mystery as to why were they relishing those balls of snow
The place was breathtakingly beautiful with tall Deodar trees all around. It is indeed nature's paradise with untouched beauty. Some of the trees here as really old with trunk circumfrence more than 6mtrs.
If you are a nature lover like me, do visit Koti Kanasar. Highly recommended!

Ended the trip with Bonfire. Warming our bodies with fire and discussing the trip over moongfali.Nothing can be better.




Way back was as interesting as the trip. Travelling on the 26th of January. A bright sunny day... School kids going to and then coming from school after flag hoisting, A slow day with not much of activity seen on the roads. Smooth drive back home. 


The discussions while coming back were around the destination for our next trip. 


Cost of the trip: Rs1800 per person. Thanks to our efficient 'Expense Manager' ;)

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