30 November 2010

Himalayas: Deoria Tal

Uttarakhand, India

I went to India, as one does. One friend was having a wedding ceremony there and another had been demanding I should go at least once. Those brought me to Bangalore and Delhi and there were a few trips from each, but can you say you've been in India if you haven't been to the mountains? I had to find a way. Also, I had some encouragement from my friend in Bangalore who likes to run off to the mountains from time to time. She was trying to get us a set trip with a tour group, but in the end couldn't go herself. There was a couple going up on the perfect trip for me who were happy to have others join their trip, so I got to be a part of their tour. It is quite a different mode of travel than I am used to for a multi day walk.

The trip started in Rishikesh and I was in Delhi, so I got myself a 2nd class ticket and boarded the sleeper train up to Haridwar. I wasn't sure how well I would sleep in such a setup or even what exactly the setup was. There is about a car of 1st class, two or three cars of 2nd class, then a long line of 3rd class cars vanishing down the track. I had a top bunk and a pillow and blanket were provided with the mattress. Apparently the procedure was basically stow the luggage under the bottom bunk, show my ticket to the ticket taker, then stretch out to sleep. I set the phone to when I was supposed to get in and stretched out. I actually slept quite well as the car rattled along the tracks. We were pulling into a stop a couple stops away when the alarm went off and it was still dark. One of my neighbors said where we were and how many stops to Haridwar. I still hadn't seen the signs saying Haridwar when I got off a half hour late, but it certainly looked reasonable as the large station. Perhaps I am too trusting, but this time I found a taxi driver waiting for me as was supposed to be. I rode into Rishikesh in an Ambassador, the mainstay of Indian vehicles for many years and my only ride in one.

It was still a few hours early when I got to Red Chille Adventures headquarters and internet cafe, which has a great view, but I hadn't had breakfast or the morning ablations. When we started, we were a group of three. The end of November is considered the late end of the season, so no one else had joined up. We started up the winding Himalaya roads, which were quite fine at first. Good pavement, except at a ford, and people tended to their side of the road, except during the plentiful passing. But then there started to be one lane areas, where a bit of road had dropped down the side of a cliff. At least once the whole road had dropped down the cliff and the cars were going along a plowed out bit of rock. Roadwork is constant and every few miles and largely hand done. I saw one tractor and a lot of two person shovels. Going around every blind corner, there was an unabashed beep to make sure the other side knew we were coming. We stopped briefly across the river from Deoprayag where steps allowed access to one of the more holy areas of the river, the confluence where the Ganges is born.

the making of the Ganga
The confluence of the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi Rivers forming the Ganges River at Devprayag.

Continuing on along the Alaknanda River, we stopped for lunch at one of the many hotels in a busy little spot, probably around Shringar. Continuing on along the Alaknanda and then Mandakini River, we saw school children in uniform walking the miles from school to home along the side of the highway. All along, the hillsides were covered in terraces built over centuries to allow farming in these mountains.

people everywhere
A Himalaya hillside full of terraces for farming. Usually a few falling spots could be seen, but they were generally being kept in good repair and all still being used.

river in a big V
The river flowing below.

We arrived in the village of Sari, about 2000m high, late in the day. Nestled on a south facing slope, there were orange trees bearing fruit. I wouldn't have thought it was an environment that they would survive well in. The oranges themselves were quite green, but they tasted sweet and ripe. A few mules were loaded with the bare essentials, as far as this trip was concerned, and we started climbing to the ridge above to drop down a short way and stop at Deoria Tal (Lake) as the land started to turn colors. As we climbed, a temple halfway up played music to meditate by.

village in the Himalayas
Starting to climb up from the village of Sari and looking back at it.

a tree
Nearing the top of the ridge.

arriving at Deoria Tal
Traveling light up to Deoria Tal. The donkeys have all the equipment. My new companions on the right and the guide on the left and a cook in the distance.

setting up camp
The camp is used by others, some that have quite a bit of luxury for their stay which may last a while. We set up in tents on some flat spots and I felt it was quite enough luxury to have a cook and guide and not even having to set up my tent.

We poked around a bit while camp was set up. There is a path around the lake and I walked along a bit of it. Usually the mountains become shrouded in cloud in the afternoon, so we were lucky to get to see them quite clear and turning colors in the evening.

montains and lake
The three peaks of Chaukhamba visible from this angle. This is one of the 7000+m peaks, reflected in Deoria Tal. The snow level is a bit over 4000m. Click for a panorama photo.

With camp set up, we settled in for some dinner and talk, then eventually snuggled into our sleeping bags to sleep.

On to day two ->

©2010,2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 9 May 2012

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