Wandering the valleys of Kumaon

dichkaun

Well-Known Member
Just awesome, photographs or log. Thanks for sharing it. As I m basically from Ramnagar in Nainital, had drove extensively in side kumaoun, yet this part of kumaoun did not had roads that time, loved and enjoyed, regards
Yes, the road beyond Tawaghat is pretty recent. You should go now. Will enjoy.
 

AR Ardent Rambler

Well-Known Member
Today was when the things were going to get tough. Keeping that in mind I started early from Didihat. Waking up by 0530, I was out riding by 0600.


Map for the day

First off the hunt for a good place to photograph the Panchachuli peaks. Fortunately the morning was clear. There ain't many places in Didihat to get a great view of the snowy peaks. Finding a small opening between two houses, I took a few pictures and then left the town towards Askot.


First rays of sun hitting the Panchachuli Peaks

At Malli Mirthi there as an intersection and I asked for directions. I was promptly shown a shortcut to Askot. Pretty soon the road turned into a narrow trail and I wondered whether that was the right way to go. Eventually, the road opened up into a beautiful pine jungle - just the kind I love.


The beautiful pines on way to Askot


Nanda Devi from the Askot shortcut

The shortcut enters Askot through a narrow lane and then joins the Pithoragarh-Dharchula highway just below Askot.

The road is nice and wide. Here I turned towards Jauljibi.


Bridge at Jauljibi


Jauljibi tea shop


At Jauljibi, the Gauriganga river meets the Kali river. It is also the location of a famous Jauljibi Mela held in Nov every year. In the olden days the mela used to be a place for trade between India/Tibet/Nepal. With new avenues of trading, the importance mela for trade is reduced. Still the mela is visited by thousands of people from surrounding villages.

I stopped for a cup of tea. Could not find anything to eat as all shops other than this tea stall were closed.


Kids walking along the Kali river on their way to school

From Jauljibi, the road follows the Kali river to Dharchula and beyond. The river separates India and Nepal. At places there are hanging bridges to connect the two sides. I would not be surprised if some people stay on one side and work on the other side. Such is a nature of artificial lines between countries.


Sprawling town of Dharchula

The town of Dharchula was much bigger and wide spread than I had expected. The name of the town has an interesting origin. From Wikipedia: "The name of the town originate from the Runglo words for Darchyo (White colored Holy Flag erected outside every house of local community traditionally) and la (an honorific term in local language) because earlier only the darchyo / white flags were visible when seen from far away."

The road to Tawaghat mostly bypasses the town of Dharchula, passing through the slopes above the town on the Indian side. This also enabled a panoramic view of the town spread across the two countries.

A waterfall on the Nepal side of the Kali river valley


Man, machine and nature. A bridge being build between Dharchula and Tawaghat.

Post Dharchula, the road narrows with large stretches of unpaved road. It was like a forewarning for what was to come ahead as I turned into the Darma Valley from Tawaghat.


An old man and his grandson waiting for a jeep at the junction of Tawaghat

At Tawaghat, as I turned left into Darma Valley, I knew the going to Dugtu/Dantu was going to be tough. So I looked for something to eat. However, there was hardly any shops or stall for food.


Nap point selfie.


It was almost four and a half hour since I has started in the morning. Wanting a longer break, I took off my riding gear and stretched out on a parapet on the side of the road. In no time I had drifted off to sleep amidst the sound of chirping birds and falling water.


A tunnel near the dam on Dhauliganga river.

The short nap had an amazing effect and I no longer felt tired. It was what I needed for the bad roads ahead. The views were perfect and it was a pleasure riding in that environment.

Hanging bridge over the Dhauliganga river


A villager walking to across the hanging bridge


Over the hanging bridge. The road did not cross the bridge. Got onto this just for the picture.


An overloaded jeep on its way through Darma Valley. The red dot on top of the jeep is a person.

Being a remote area, there was hardly any vehicular moment on the road. The first jeep crossed me more than an hour after I entered the valley at Tawaghat. I would only see four vehicles and three bikers (who I believed eventually turned back) in the valley


Village house at the Sobala

Most of the morning, the sky has been partly cloudy. While I was concerned about not having clear visibility of the peaks, the beauty of surrounding more than compensated for it.


Waterfall on the road


Autumn Colors over a mountain stream

While the surroundings were beautiful, the road was horrible with multiple large and small water crossings. Navigating a small downwards slope, I misjudged the speed and descent, resulting in the bike skidding and a fall. The ego was hurt more than any physical injury. So finding a beautiful spot near a stream, I stopped for a break.

The stream cascaded down the rocks amidst the yellow, orange, red and greens of autumn. Just sitting there listening to water roaring down the rocks was heavenly. I wish I had stopped longer. However not knowing how far my destination was, I started off after a short break.


First view of the valley below Dugtu/Dantu villages

Little did I knew that within twenty minutes, I would have my first glimpse of the valley below Dugtu/Dantu villages. As I entered the small valley, clouds started rolling in. What luck!!

Pretty soon I was at the Dugtu Village. There are a few houses and a small shop. The trail to Phanchachuli basecamp starts from here.

At the shop I had tea, packet of chips and biscuit which I shared with a black stray hanging around.

A little later an overloaded jeep showed up. Along with the locals there was a couple visiting just like me. The wife for some reason had an expectation that there would be a fancy restaurant where the jeep stopped and they would be able to have a nice meal. Probably they had started off after breakfast from Dharchula and now it was late afternoon.

Disappointed she was taking out her anger on the tea shop owner. All he had to offer them was tea, chips and biscuits. Only choice being the choice between salty and sweet biscuits. The interaction between the two was a source of uncomfortable amusement for all others waiting for their tea to be served.

I, having arrived before the jeep, already had my hot glass of the tea in my hand. Eventually the stray jumping to catch the biscuits, I offered him, came to everyone's rescue and broke the altercation.

Asking around for a home stay, I was told that the home stays are in Dantu village which was a short distance ahead. So with a glass of warm tea and snacks under my belt I pushed off for the last stretch. The other two tourists planned to walk to the base camp and stay there.


Village of Dugtu (pic taken from Dantu later)

The small stretch was to be more difficult then I expected. Turning the corner after Dugtu, I found the bridge over Nyuli Yangti, river which flows down from the Panchachuli glacier, under construction. The flow of the river was good and the bottom of the river wasn't visible to predict the route.

I stood there exploring my options including going back, parking the bike at the shop and walking to the base camp. Then the jeep that had dropped off the two tourists came from behind. The driver, of course knowing how to navigate through the river, plunged the jeep into the river. Half way though the waters, he strategically turned right and soon was out on the other side. It was a sight to capture which I missed due to being focused on learning how the jeep was crossing the river. The guy sitting on top of the jeep motioned his hands to tell me that I should do the same.

Now it was my turn. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I missed the fact that was water of the river was coming off a glacier melting just a little distance up stream. In my mind I knew what route to take and where to make that sharp right turn.

And I started off. The moment I hit the water, the cold shocked me. Everything till the calf went numb. For a moment I lost focus and braked hard. I did remember to keep revving the bike. The last thing I wanted was to have water enter the exhaust. The moment passed, senses regained and I ploughed on. The bike stopped again behind a big boulder and I had to push back with my feet in the water to navigate around it. My boots were now full of freezing water.

Remembering where to turn, I made the final push to cross only to realize that water was much deeper on the other side. By now I was wet well above my knees. Though deeper, the river bottom was more level on this side and within seconds I was out on the other side.

All wet and freezing, the last hurdle was crossed.


Nyuli Yangti River from the other side. This picture was taken next day morning when I came down to study the flow and strategize my return crossing. The small patch below the slope on the left edge is where the road enters/exits the river.

Shivering I emptied water from my boots. There was no sun, hence the option of drying the clothes was not there. Moving ahead, I stopped at a shop below the village of Dantu, which was just around the corner. The village was further up and the small shop was open. The jeep that crossed before me was just leaving. The shopkeeper surprised me when I asked for a home stay. The village was empty. Everyone had gone to Jauljibi for voting in the panchayat elections. He did add that many of the villagers were expected that evening but he wasn't sure when they'd show up.

By now the cold socks, shoes and pant was numbing my legs and feet. I decided to walk around while I contemplated what to do. The options were to wait for the villagers to come, sleep in the shop or return to Dugtu and walk to the base camp.


Prayer flags at the Dantu Village

With numb feet, I started walking up to the village. The Panchachuli was were all shrouded amidst clouds, but I could imagine how beautiful the view would be. The village was all locked up. Looking at the way some of the houses were locked, it did not seem that the villagers were planning to return before summer.


Locked up house a Dantu

Walking down to shop, I prepared myself for the freezing river crossing back to Dugtu. I did not expect the villagers to return.

As luck would have it, the moment I descended to the shop, a jeep showed up. And voila, everyone that got off the jeep were residents of Dantu. Checking for a home stay, they consulted among themselves and allocated me to one of the houses.

Foolishly, I asked to see the house, not knowing that they all would pretty much the same. So back I walked up the hill to the village. The house I was allocated to was at the far end. It looked good and the host quite friendly.

The room was nothing fancy. A typical hill house with cattle on the lower floor and rooms on the upper. There was a mattress on the floor and few thick quilts. The low roof had wooden pegs to hang clothes. There were no plug points and the LED bulbs wee powers though solar batteries.

I asked for help to bring my saddle bags up and a neighbors son walked down to the bike with me.


My room with clothes hanging to dry. Behind the green tarp are the stairs downwards.

After taking my bag to the room, I got rid of the wet shoes and socks. Changing into something dry, I went out to have a glass of sweet tea. Sitting in the courtyard I chatted with my host. There were four people living there in the family - host, his wife, daughter and brother. The other kids were off studying in Haldwani.

After a while I went back to my room and dozed off tucked into the warm quilt.


Denu - brother of my host at Dantu, lighting up a fire to warm me up.

It was dark when I woke up. There was a fire burning and I brought my shoes out to dry. A friend of the family joined. He had just retired from the Uttarakhand health department and was planning to repair his ancestral house at Tidang. That day he was stopping at Dantu before proceeding to Tidang on the next day.

Over fire we swapped stories and then headed inside the kitchen for dinner. Dinner was a cosy affair, sitting on the floor next to the fire where food was cooking. Menu was roti, rice, potato/green beans, ghee and spicy chutney. Having only eaten a packet of biscuits and chips during the day, I wolfed down whatever was served.


Dinner in the kitchen

After dinner, as I went out to go to my room, I realized that the sky had noticeably cleared up. So I headed out behind the village and was amazed at the perfect view of Panchachuli glistening in the moonlight. Standing in the cold, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the mountain.

A few pictures later, I was back in my room. My host's wife came by to check if I was comfortable and covered me with one additional quilt.

The long tiring day had gotten me to where I had been wanting to be for the last month or so. I dozed off to a content sleep.


Panchachuli under the stars.

Pictures from next day:


Milky Way


My home stay
Nice fall captures! Nice Warm home stay under cold Milky Way!


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

dichkaun

Well-Known Member
Day 2 - Dantu Village

At some point in the night I woke up startled with the loud mooing of a cow. Then I realized that sound was coming from just below me. In the village houses, the ground floor is where the cattle are kept and upper floor is used for residence. With the low ceiling and the standing cow, the cow’s head was only a feet or two below where I was lying down echoing sounds into my bum.

At 0445 my body’s natural alarm clock went off. I knew it would be a few minutes short of five and continues to sleep. A little later I got up, put on the jacket and stepped out.

I had left my tripod outside at night. Wasn’t surprised to find it still there in the morning. It was quite cold and I fumbled while mounting the camera on the tripod head.

Having setup the camera, I pulled the jacket hood over my cap and dug my hands deep in the jacket pockets. Then I waited the light to show up.

The much awaited sunlight did not turn up, but clouds did. With that vanished my hopes of capturing the beauty of sun rising over the Panchachuli.


Waiting for the sunrise

I waited around a little longer. Then realizing that the clouds are not going to do me any favor, going back to my room, I went to sleep.
Around 0745 I stepped out again. To my surprise a few flakes of snow drifted in. For a moment I thought of going back. Then realizing the mistake I had made in Chandrataal two years back, I ignored the thought of returning and planned to stick with my original plan of staying the day there.

The first order of the day was to check out the river crossing. I wanted to figure out the best route back as getting wet would mean an entire day of uncomfortable shoes and socks.


A goat hunkering down on grass to get warm in the cold


A bit of sunrise on the peaks


A locked up house in the village

Taking a circuitous route, I walked down to the place where my bike was parked. There was a thin layer of frost formed on the seat. Wiping it away, I waited a little for the seat to warm. Then I headed down to the river.


frost on the bike seat


Dark clouds towards the side of Panchachuli. These are the ones which showered snow over the village a little while back.

Down at the river crossing, the water was flowing faster than I anticipated. I walked up and down the bank to figure out the best way to cross. Several minutes of observation yielded no results. I decided to take the plunge.

Taking off my shoes and socks, I rolled up my pants and stepped in the cold water. It was colder than I was expecting, yet the moment wasn’t as shocking as the day before. The water level was quite low compared to the previous afternoon. Slowly feeling the way through soles of my feet, I walked up to the middle of the river.

There I stood, letting my feet freeze amidst my admiration of the beauty of the valley. I was probably looking like one of those people who fish standing in the middle of water. The sun playing hide and seek with the clouds, was fortunately out while I stood there.

I now had a fairly good idea of how to cross the river. Slowly I walked back to where my shoes and socks. For a while I sat on a rock drying and warming up. Then I headed back.


River crossing



The half constructed bridge


Near the river



Panchachuli shrouded with clouds


Back at the village, I wandered around. Many houses were locked and there was hardly anyone around. I guess most had started their daily routine and were busy with that.


One of the few open houses in the village


An old woman walking to her herd of cows


An abandoned houses in the village



A glimpse of the Panchachuli above the my home stay



Nandi, pet dog of my host, enjoying the sun


Back at my home stay, I had a breakfast of maduwa choli roti, chach and ghee (ragi dosa and buttermilk). Then I hung around enjoying the warm sun and talking to my hostess and her daughter.

I was planning to walk up to the Panchachuli base camp. However, my host’s daughter persuaded me to skip that and take an alternate route. According to her the trail on Dantu side of Nyuli Yangti River offered better views of the Panchachuli and took one closer to the glacier, compared to the official and more popular trail which starts from Dugtu. Due to local politics, the official trail started from Dugtu and the base camp was built on that side.

Not one to follow the herd, I took her advice.


Shepherding – my host and her daughter


Walking with the sheep


I started off following the sheep that were being herded for their day’s outing. Soon I overtook then and followed a narrow trail which followed the course of Nyuli Yangti river high on the slopes. It was mostly flat with a slight rise in elevation.


Village of Dugtu


Nyuli Yangti flowing down from Panchachuli



Selfie on the trail


Keep walking


Dugtu village, Bon village (far off) and Brammah Parvat

After walking a while, I realized that the clouds were getting darker and the Panchachuli were getting less and less visible. Coming to a fork I turned right. The trail would take me higher but not closer to the peaks. At this point I wasn’t sure I wanted to get very close to the peaks. Just wanted to have a super relaxed day.


Autumn


Taking a break

Searching for a place to lie down, I found a nice flat area and settled down for a nap. The warm sun and a gentle breeze acted like an instant sleeping pill. I am pretty sure I was snoring with in minutes. The clouds drifted in and out of the sky as well as in my dreams.

I don’t know how long I snoozed. A large dark cloud covering the sun lowered the temperature and woke me up. Lying there I relished the shadows cross me and warmth of the day slowly returning.

Feeling hungry, I decided to head back. Dark clouds were lingering over the hills and I wasn’t planning to get caught in a drizzle or snow drift.


Panchachuli – a closer look


Autumn colors


Dark clouds over the valley


Nandi guarding her flock

Back at the home stay, Nandi was busy guarding her flock. I played around with her and the lambs. A little later I went in for lunch of rice and local rajma.

By now the sun was completely gone and it was getting cold. Going up to my room, I reviewed the pictures from last couple of days. Wasting battery was a concern as there was no electricity or charging point in the place. I did have a power bank and a USB charger which was very helpful.


Nandi, having gotten friendly by now, posing

When I stepped out, the last light of the day was fading. I sat on the verandah and listened to local gossip over a cup of tea.


Dinner preparations



Tea break

The sky was completely clear by now. I decided to head down to the foot bridge to take some pictures of flowing water with Panchachuli in the back drop.

Walking down I realized how pitch dark it was. In spite of the bright stars, nothing was visible without the torch I carried. Down at the gorge where the small bridge crossed the river it was even darker.

All attempts to capture the river were futile. The bridge was also swaying with in the wind making it impossible to place the tripod stationary. The surprise find was the milky way over the Panchachuli. Without the moon it was bright and beautiful in the sky.

After almost an hour trying to get something good, I gave up and started back.


Milky way from the foot bridge in depth of the valley

Reaching back at the home stay, dinner was still under preparation. So I went behind the house to take some more pictures. Moon was coming fast and milky way was going away.

As the first rays of the moonlight hit the snowy peaks, the view transformed. The orange glow that lit up peaks was nothing short of magical. I stood there mesmerized watching one peak after other glow a fiery orange in the light of the moon.


Moonrise and the milky way


All the four peaks glowing in the moonlight

Returning back to the kitchen I had a satisfying meal of roti, rice, cabbage and dal. It was wonderful sitting there in the warmth of the fire culminating a wonderful day – just the way I would have liked it to be.

Coming up


The ride back


The long awaited water fall
 

Shaq

Active Member
What a treat to the eyes! Beautiful vistas captured perfectly! Nat. Geographic-esque! thank you so much for showing us this part of India!
Cheers
 
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