Har ki Doon 2006 - Reporting Camp

Har Ki Doon means Shiva's Valley. It is a place in UttarKashi district in Uttaranchal, India. It is a valley formed at the base of Swargarohini range in the Himalayas. Himalayas had always been an attraction to us (myself and Anoop). So when I saw an article about the National Himalayan Trekking Expedition 2006 organised by YHAI (Youth Hostel Association of India), we couldnt resist the temptation to join it. After a survey of their website www.yhaindia.org we decided to go for the Har Ki Doon Trek. Trekking to Swargarohini was a dream for David, one of our class mates, and he was the one who took us on our maiden trips to the Himalayas.
We did a small canvassing of the trek in IIT and unfortunately were able to get only one more person to join us. He is Sandeep Laxman, popularly known as Scotty. The date on which to report at the camp at Dehradun was not yet decided. I dont know what we were waiting for! In the end 23rd of May was selected as Scotty had to leave to Bombay as soon as possible. As usual, we did last minute purchase of the items to be taken for the trek on 21st and registered at the YHAI office on 22nd morning. We left for Dehradun on the same night by a bus from ISBT. The journey was pretty much comfortable. Midway it started raining and that brought in some cold winds. Rain was the last thing that we wanted on the trek and I prayed for a clear sky ahead.

Let me organise my travelogue in terms of days. The whole expedition was for 15 days and day 1 was reporting at Dehradun.

Day 1
We reached Dehradun ISBT at 04.30 in the morning. While bargaining with the auto wallahs, I noticed a 'Vikram' ready to start. Vikram is BIG three wheeler and carries 10 passengers. It is a vehicle that I have seen only in UP and uttaranchal. We had to report at the Aggarwal Trust Dharmshala near the Roadways Workshop on Haridwar Road. The driver took us to Agarwal Bhavan and dropped us there. The sight of the reporting camp that I had in mind was not this dilapidated building that stood in front of us. It had huge gate chained at many places. We waited on the deserted entrance for somebody to pass by so that we could confirm about the place. At last a security guard came up to the gate and informed us that we were at the wrong place. We had to walk a kilometre down the road. That was a practice session for the trek that lay ahead of us :-)
Refreshing ourselves with a tea, we reached the reporting camp. The camp shattered all expectations. The place was dark and gloomy. HD22 was getting ready to leave to the base camp. HD9 were all asleep. It was their last day of the expedition. We were greeted by Rajan Pandya, the camp leader and Mintoo Shah. After sometime, there was commotion in the camp and we came to know that some more members of HD23 had arrived. Rajan told us that the bus taking HD22 to Sankri will go through Mussourie and we can go with them to Mussourie. But Anoop and Sandeep were in a mood to relax and we rejected that offer. At around 08.30, we got ready to do some sight seeing at Mussourie. It was 32kms and we got a local bus. I felt giddy during the bus journey. I always have this problem while travelling in vehicles in high altitudes. It is said to happen because of weak liver :-(

A View Point in Mussourie. The serpentine roads lead to Dehradun.

Anoop had been to Mussourie on his trip to Gangotri. He had stayed in a Jain Dharmsala and he wanted to show us the place. Little did we, including him, know how far it was from where we stood. So we continued with our practice session, i.e walking along the Mall road, trying to reach Jain Dharmsala. We walked for around 3kms till the clock tower and finally got a glimpse of the Dharmsala. The walk was enjoyable. On the way we saw different vaireties of fruits in the market. One of them was Peach. I had had Iced Tea Peach flavour from our IIT Nescafe outlet, but had never seen the fruit before. So we bought a few and rejoiced our taste buds.

Scotty having Iced Tea Peach and myself enjoying the fruit

Our next destination was Kempty falls. Around 22 kms from Mussourie town, there is only one bus which goes there. The bus timings are 09.00, 12.00, 15.00 and 1800. We decided to catch the 12 o'clock bus. We rushed to the booking office, but found that the bus has left. Another alternative to reach Kempty was by car. Cars could be hired from the Kempty Stand. That day was dedicated to practice. So again we walked to the taxi stand. As we reached the place, we saw a bus ready for departure. But again luck was against us. As soon as we reached the bus, the conductor informed us that the bus is full and we cant go in it. So we resorted to go by taxi. Now arises a big problem. We dont want to take a full taxi. It is expensive. So we thought of waiting for somebody else like us who would share a taxi with us. But the biggest problem with Mussourie is that people come here either as couples or as family. And people from both these categories wont share taxi with bachelors like us. So after a wait of 30 min we got company and we vroomed to Kempty falls.
Kempty falls is a beautiful but highly commercialised tourist spot. The presence of so many shops and the artificial lakes around kills its beauty. A lot of tourists visit the place daily and there is a lot of chaos and noise. I think the best time to visit the place is during off-season.

Kempty Falls

After spending an hour at the falls, we had a snack and returned to Dehradun via Mussourie. The group HD10 had arrived after their trek. We met a few among them and got a lot of tips and tricks. We heard about their experience and the hardships of their trek. One of the members of HD9 was Rama Karedla. He is an NRI and a very experienced trekker. He made us aware of the various scenarios that we may face during the trek and the precautions and care needed for health problems. He also gave us few things from his medical kit, raincoat, etc.
Introduction session was convened post dinner. Each one of us had to say about ourselves and our prior trekking experience. We were also briefed about YHAI by the camp leader Akleem. Rama Sir sung a wonderful Hindi song. Another important event of the camp fire was the election of the leaders of HD23. Guruji was named as the Group Leader, Aman as the Co-leader, Hetal the Enviroment leader and Anoop was chosen as the MC (Ceremony leader). After a cup of milo, the camp fire ended and we bid goodnight. All of us went to sleep with hearts full of enthusiasm and anxiety.

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