As mentioned earlier, this trip has been narrated by my mother as I went for an adventure course during that time.
From Ukhimath we had planned to go to Deoria Tal, it would be a welcome change for us from the pilgrimage places we previously visited. To reach Deoria Tal, one has to trek 2-3 km from Sari village. We found a taxi the next morning that would drop us at Sari village. It was about 14 km and it took 30-40 mins. The metal road ends at Sari village and a trail leads up to Deoria Tal from there. Sari village does witness a flow of tourists who wishes to visit Deoria Tal and hence, there was a small but very efficient restaurant just by the road. We had some extremely delicious aloo paratha as breakfast and bought some snacks because we weren’t sure about what we will get once we reach the Tal (lake). Soon after breakfast, we started walking towards the trail. The 3 km was no big deal for us but we were worried about our younger daughter as she doesn’t have much experience in this. The first part or rather the first 1 km of the trail was one long staircase, then the rest 2 km was a normal trail. The weather was pleasant and we were also in no hurry, so we started walking at a moderate pace. After walking for approximately 10 mins or so, my daughter starts to make a fuss and she says that she can’t walk anymore. My husband tried to distract her by diverting her mind to different stuff like making her say a poem or counting the stairs but as we progressed her excuses also changed and became exceedingly absurd. When we were just 500 mts away from our destination, she started saying that she is hungry as a last resort to not walk, we gave her some snacks and a good old scolding because of her extreme fussing and it worked like magic, so finally, we started walking again and soon reached Deoria Tal.
The sight that greeted us was really wonderful. It was green as far as the eyes could see. The lake was quite big and also green, it was surrounded by forest and on one side of it, there was a huge field which served as a tenting ground for all travelers.
There again my daughter started making a scene saying that she doesn’t want to stay in a tent and she would like to stay in a hotel. The very absurdness of the request was enough to make me feel like screaming at the top of my lungs. Finally, after making her understand much with a dose of strictness, we got a tent and unpacked. The area was very foresty with the lake in the center, the tents were the only source of accommodation and they were placed around the lake for the utmost beautiful view.
There was a small make-shift eatery at Deoria Tal, we had our lunch from there only.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in leisure exploring and roaming around the lake. Met some fellow travelers and clicked some beautiful bird’s photographs.
As the day gradually gave way to night, it began to get dark, and soon it was pitch dark all around. We scrambled inside our tents and had an early dinner. The world outside our tents looked very mesmerizing, it would have been more beautiful if the weather was clearer.
For the whole day, it has been cloudy and gloomy. Before coming here, we have heard that on a clear day you could see the reflection of the surrounding snow-capped peaks ( Chaukhamba, Nilkantha, Bandarpunch, Kedar Range, Kalanag, and many others) on the lake water. That reflection has even been seen by many on a moonlit night! That’s how beautiful the place was but it was our bad luck to have stumbled there on bad weather. After dinner, we kept the leftovers in a bin beside the restaurant, just like the other travelers did. Later at night, wild animals came to eat those leftovers and we got to hear them and also became aware of the situation outside the safety of our tents. Also, we could hear fox and jackals howling at a distance, which scared my little daughter very much and she insisted on going home at that very moment and refused to sleep but after some persuasion, she agreed. The whole atmosphere of the place was mesmerizing as well as a little scary too.
The next day we prepared to leave Deoria Tal and move onto our next destination.
We started to walk down at an early hour because as the day will progress and the sun will go up, the temperature will only rise and thus making it an uncomfortable walk.
It took us about an hour to reach Sari village. We had our breakfast there and looked for a taxi that would take us to Chopta, as our next destination was Tungnath. Soon we found one, the journey was 57 km and it took us around 2 hrs. The road was extremely scenic as it passed through a deep forest.
Chopta is a small Himalayan hamlet also referred to as the mini Switzerland of India and a part of Kedarnath wildlife sanctuary. It was surrounded by meadows and an evergreen forest area. We reached there by 12 pm and feeling extremely hungry. Fortunately, there were lots of eateries and we settled for one and had hot piping khichri which was a soothing balm to our soul on that gloomy day.
Since this trip began, we have been facing bad weather and it still had no sign of lessening. Tungnath temple is the highest Shiva temple in the world and a part of Panch Kedar. It was at a distance of 3.5 km from Chopta with a concrete trail interspersed with stone cobbled sections leading up to it, making it a moderately easy trek but we didn’t want to take a chance knowing our daughter’s attitude, so we asked the owner of the restaurant we were eating at to arrange for a pony or horse for us. Indeed, he could arrange a horse for us and he also agreed to safely keep half of our luggage as we felt it unnecessary to carry all those luggage up with us for a night or two, it seemed like a tremendous waste of energy and also, it would require another horse or porter. So, I and my daughter got on the same horse and my husband walked along with us and we started our journey towards Tungnath temple situated at approx. 3600 mts.
The whole trek took us around 2 hrs but those 2 hrs flew by in a blink. The whole trail is supposedly flanked by snow-capped mountains making it extremely scenic but once again due to the bad weather condition we were unable to view anything, nonetheless, the trail was very beautiful in itself with sloping bugyals on sides and going through dense forests.
The only downside of the trek was the fact that it was quite crowded, the trail does witness a lot of footfalls throughout the day being the route of such an important pilgrimage place. As we neared the end of the trail, it suddenly became very steep and difficult. There was also a research center for Himalayan medicinal herbs near the end. Finally, we reached Tungnath, the sight that greeted us was truly out of a movie. Vast bugyals surrounded the place and white fog hovering all over it gave it a touch of mysticism.
One can also see Chopta down from Tungnath. We booked rooms at the Mandir Samiti’s guest house just beside the temple.
That was the only stay there at that point in time and surprisingly it was pretty empty because pilgrims generally visit the temple and descend down on the same day. Rarely do they hold any attraction for the natural beauty of the place, the very reason why Uttarakhand seems like a place where God might reside, the natural beauty of it that extracts an almost mystical and supernatural essence from it? So, the temple being the sole focus of the pilgrims, the rest of Tungnath was pretty empty and hauntingly beautiful. When we arrived there, it was very cloudy as aforementioned that’s why we could only see the bugyals shrouded in white swirling fog.
Soon after we settled down, I started feeling uneasy and within an hour I had high fever. Unfortunately, along with half of our luggage, we left our medical kit down at Chopta which was a very bad decision. On top of that, we underestimated the cold and had to shiver through it most of the time. It was very very cold up there. In the evening, we went to visit the Tungnath temple.
We witnessed a surreal evening Arti at the temple which was very mesmerizing and even talked with people around there at the temple. From what we gathered was that the head priest of the temple is usually someone from the neighborhood rather than someone coming from South India and there is a special puja that requires a special flower (Brahma kamal) that can only be found on a lake that is situated some mountains across. To obtain this flower, the head priest needs to walk and cross the mountains for it and he needs to do it alone. Oh, we can only begin to imagine the adventure of it.
The next day morning, another family like us came to the otherwise empty guest house. They got the room just beside ours and soon my daughter and their daughter became friends and they started playing together. It was a huge relief for me as I was not well enough to take care of her, my situation was not improving mainly because of the lack of medication and the cold. After my daughter went to play with her newfound friends, we also decided to make good use of that time and trek to Chandrashila.
It was a steep climb of 1 km to reach the summit where the Chandrashila temple was. So, the four of us, me and my husband and our neighbor parents, left for Chandrashila. It was only 1 km that’s why I thought that I could manage it too and while returning it will be totally downhill.
On that downcast damp day, we set our hearts and started walking towards Chandrashila summit (3690 mts).
After just a few minutes of walking, the other couple decided to return back as they felt that it was not their cup of tea. We continued walking through wooded hills with rich alpine vast meadows with rhododendron trees. There were rhododendron blooms on some trees but the best month for blooming is March.
Soon we reached the summit. There are many myths surrounding that temple, some say that Lakshmana built that temple and some say Rama came here to meditate after defeating Ravana, maybe we will never know the true reason but it was a feat to have built a temple at such a height and it was also a wonder that the temple is still in one piece despite facing nature’s wrath on it over the decades. It was a small temple with sloping bugyals on all sides as it was on the summit.
All around we could see fog embracing us. It was almost as if there was nothing below and we have ascended heaven but the increasing fog and darkening sky was also the indicator for approaching bad weather, so we rang the temple bell, clicked some photos, and started our journey back.
The whole experience of it was extremely pleasant. Soon we reached our hotel where a hot lunch and our daughter were awaiting us.
The next day it rained a lot and after raining for some time we could see the vast stretch of bugyal turning white at spots. At such a height, it rarely rained, it mostly snowed or it hail showered and those green bugyals turned white. After the rain, the sun shone brightly and the fog cleared to a marvelous view that lay before us.
Tungnath is surrounded by snow-capped peaks like Nanda Devi, Panch Chuli, Banderpoonch, Kedarnath, Chaukhamba, and Neelkanth. It was almost like the snow-capped mountains stretched upwards from where the bugyals ended, it felt so near.
We wished to have seen this astounding scenery when everything gets covered under a blanket of snow during winter. We even saw a Monal (Himalayan peacock) that day but from a distance. Its vibrant colors made it visible from long distances.
My husband wanted to stay at Tungnath for few more days because he absolutely loved that place but my condition was deteriorating by the hour and the hotel staff advised us to lose altitude as soon as possible otherwise my fever may even turn fatal. With a heavy heart, we started our journey down the next day morning.
Stay tuned to find out what happened next!