Pindari and Kafni glacier trek is moderate in its difficulty but extreme in its beauty. You can’t ask for anything more after you finish the trek. From walks through rhododendron forests to traversing mountain ridges, snow bridges, stream crossings to vast snow-capped landscapes, the trek has absolutely everything to offer and of course, two massive glaciers at the end. It’s situated at the Kumaon Himalayas in the state of Uttarakhand.
In May 2006, we went on this trek. We traveled from Kolkata to Haridwar by train. From there we traveled to Goaldam, stayed overnight and the next morning took a shared jeep to Bharari. It was the jeep changing point, we took another shared jeep to Song (4km). It was the endpoint of the metal road. After we reached Song, we needed to walk another 3 km to reach Lower Loharkhet. My mom is a little fragile and new to trekking needed help with her rucksack. A fellow traveler, who lived at Lower Loharkhet, helped us carry the rucksack and reach the village. His name was Condi and he was the most wonderful and honest a person possibly can be. During that small span of time, it was discussed and decided that he will be our guide for the trek. We reached Lower Loharkhet by afternoon and had lunch at ‘ghorawala guddu ka hotel’, a young man’s hotel who was a part-time horse groomer. Condi then took us to the PWD bungalow and arranged a room for us as we didn’t book earlier and then he left. Unfortunately, we had to move out to a nearby homestay as pre-booked guests arrived at the bungalow. Our homestay was very beautifully situated, we could even hear the river ( Revti Ganga) from there. I sat on its porch for a long time and listened to the gurgling sound of the river in much amazement.
Lower Loharkhet is a small, beautiful, and conventional mountain village, and one can see Upper Loharkhet from there. The road leading up to Upper Loharkhet from Lower Loharkhet is also visible from the village and is extremely steep but is accessible by land rovers. We went to explore the village in the evening before it got dark. It was truly serene.
We went around the village and sat on some big rocks, on which my father fell asleep. While we were sitting on the rocks, we encountered a very weird type of leech, we could not see them as they were so minuscule but can see droplets of blood on our legs and hands. We soon went back to our homestay. On our way back, my mother stepped on cow dung and twisted her leg, just the day before the trek began! Some village people came and advised us to put ice-cold water, which we soon got from the river below. This was new information for us.
Condi came to meet us in the evening as we had much to plan for the trek. It was decided that we would start early the next day as the route was totally uphill and 10 km in distance. It is difficult for seasoned trekkers, so it is especially challenging for me and my mother.
Our morning started at 7 a.m. the next day. It was rather hot and sunny and a tiring walk lay ahead of us. Our destination for the first day was Dhakuri (10kms) but first, we needed to reach Upper Loharkhet and the road was extremely steep and tiring till there. Land rovers can reach till Upper Loharkhet but my father is a rather adventurous man and wanted to walk all the way. We covered 3 km in 1 hour and reached Upper Loharkhet. We were greeted with a much-awaited cool breeze upon reaching there and took adequate rest as we won’t get any rest points after that for the next 7 km till Dhakuri. Soon we started walking again. Our trail snaked through some pretty barren lands and went uphill, as along the route there was an absence of any water source. That’s why the trail rarely went downhill. After going for some time through the barren lands, our trail entered a foresty area. It was an enchanting forest. The beauty of nature made us forget all about the tiredness that we were feeling. It was a refreshing splash.
Like this, we covered 2-3 Kms and suddenly our trail went a little downhill as we needed to cross a very flimsy wooden bridge to reach Tola Dhakuri. Out of the blue, in the middle of the forest, we spotted a lone tea shop. The sight of it made us dance with joy. We took a rest at the shop. I drank water and the elders drank tea. As soon as we finished, Condi prompted us to hurry as we have to go uphill the same distance that we went downhill to reach Tola Dhakuri, also the weather was becoming worse by the second and it would not be advisable to not stay there any longer. It was such a beautiful place that my mom was quite adamant about pitching our tents there for the night, plus there was a water source nearby. Father and Condi decided against it, as there was not another living soul around, even the tea shop owner lives at Upper Loharkhet and will leave by evening. A night totally alone in a forest filled with wild animals would not at all be safe.
So, we soon started walking again. The trail turned out to be breathtakingly uphill and set with stones. The stone road bruised our feet, made our knees almost fall off, and break our hips. We endured that extremely rough route for another 2 km and then sat down by the trail to eat some biscuits as it was already 1 p.m.
After we started walking again, we saw a big bell on the first turn we took, our guide exclaimed that we have finally reached Dhakuri on seeing it. We were so overjoyed that we rushed to ring it. Even my father, who is an experienced and seasoned trekker, was tired and was overjoyed upon reaching the bell. Then our guide said that the PWD bungalow was still 2 km away but it was totally downhill, we were too exhausted to even walk that much. On top of that, a heavy downpour started all of a sudden. Condi ran ahead of us to ensure rooms at the bungalow. We had dongas (made out of plastic) to protect us from rain. That was the first time I saw something like that and it absolutely delighted me. We also ran as much as we could. When we finally reached we were totally out of breath. Luckily, there were rooms available. We had a late lunch and still had much time to enjoy the serenity of the place. The bungalow was very beautifully situated with all-time on-demand hot water, big rooms, wooden walls, and stone floors. One thing I can’t help but notice that the Britishers did a good job of making rest houses at the best possible locations with sufficient amenities. Dhakuri is situated at an elevation of 2680 mts and amidst dense forest.
View of snow-capped peaks of the southern wall of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary is visible.
It is also surrounded by bugyals (expanse of grasslands).
All these combined give Dhakuri a picture post-card perfection.
That was also the place where we saw the wild snake lily for the first time. To be very honest, I was scared when I first saw it and couldn’t even touch it thinking that it would turn into a real snake. My little mind was boggled.
We stayed there for a night. The next day we would be going to Khati (8 Kms).
This travelogue is about one of the first treks that I did as a child. I was 7 when I did this one. Its memories are cherished by me even today. Also, my mother helped me write this as I have forgotten many names of the places but one thing is for sure, that the feelings I had felt there and the experiences have been etched onto my mind forever. This travelogue will be in parts, so stay tuned for the next one.