Winter Expedition 2014 – Uttarkashi – Harshil – Dharali – Gangotri

Text & Photographs : Bobby Roy/ Bobby Roy Photography
Plans never work, or that is how it has been when it comes to my life. No matter how much I plan for a certain thing or a certain event in advance, there are changes, and changes which somehow clash with my travel plans. So, I’ve made it a point to not make an advance plan as far as travelling is concerned. There is love, there is life, and then there is travelling. I cannot even begin to explain just how much I am in love with travelling; so much so that it takes precedence over all the other things in life, at times!

I had come back from a wonderful winter trip of 2 days from the upper reaches of the Himachal, namely Kufri and Narkanda, but the heart always yearned for more. I wanted to go visit the deepest Himalayas, namely places like Uttarkashi and Harsil (or Harshil). I’ve always had this soft corner for Harsil, but never really got the opportunity to go and visit the place. One cold evening just as I was browsing through Facebook, I happened to come across the latest photographs from Harsil, and I instantly planned to go visit the place the next day! Yes, that is how spontaneous I am, and that is exactly when the plan actually works.
I informed two of my good buddies that we are leaving for this 3 day expedition and they had absolutely no choice in this but to say a timid ‘yes’. Bags packed, 3 super-excited souls started on this journey towards the Himalayas, without really expecting anything big, but all we wanted to do was go explore, enjoy the wonderfully cold weather up there and just find some solace while we do so.
The 7D takes a dip in the beautiful white gold

The 7D takes a dip in the beautiful white gold

The Himalayas glow white under setting sun

Those views…

Tilak soni sir takes a break alongside his gorgeous 'pal'.

Tilak soni sir takes a break alongside his gorgeous ‘pal’.

I knew we had a wonderful guide and leader for this trip in the form of Mr. Tilak Soni, who has been staying in Uttarkashi since the past 5 years now, and is an absolute master when it comes to any place in Uttarakhand, although he has travelled all through HP as well. I had called him up the evening prior to us leaving for the trip and had fixed up a few travel plans for the next 2 days. He promised we’ll find snow to our heart and soul’s content. As we had started from Delhi around 3:30am, we sped through the highway, which was in shambles at certain parts but we had actually expected such bad roads considering we were driving through, of all places, Uttar Pradesh!

Plains were spat through in a few hours, and by sunrise we had already hit the hills where the roads were much better, or that is how we thought the roads would be. Now, I am a regular traveller to Himachal, and the roads connecting Delhi and HP is superb, with toll roads all through (and a few diversions, which are well marked, et al unlike Uttarakhand where you have to literally keep 4 eyes on the road!), and you just whoosh past in no time hitting HP. But here, here it was a different ball game altogether. The roads are in pathetic condition, with craters the size of an entire planet staring right back at your face each time you think the roads would turn better from the next corner.

Tehri Dam.

Tehri Dam.

The chosen vehicle for this expeidion - the gorgeous Hyundai i20

The chosen vehicle for this expeidion – the gorgeous Hyundai i20.

Gorgeous views all around

Gorgeous views all around

The flowing river makes its way amidst some 'vanilla' landscape

The flowing river makes its way amidst some ‘vanilla’ landscape.

The roads leading to the heaven

The roads leading to the heaven

The views enroute Harshil, Uttarakhand

The views enroute Harshil, Uttarakhand

Moving towards Harshil, Uttarakahnd, we regularly get such amazing vistas

Moving towards Harshil, Uttarakahnd, we regularly get such amazing vistas

Moving towards Harshil, Uttarakhand

Moving towards Harshil, Uttarakhand

Nonetheless, after a couple of hundred kilometers of driving through some pathetic roads, we literally gave up any hope of finding some great tarmac. Negotiating through these big craters, we reached Uttarkashi around 2 in the afternoon, after a constant drive of a little more than 10 hours or so, where it generally takes about 13 hours . This is the benefit of having 3 people, all of whom can drive. We met Tilak sir at the main market, where he was getting his Maruti Eeco checked and sorted for a couple of small niggles. Now, I had never met him earlier, only heard about him and had seen the tons of pictures that he keeps sharing on social networking websites, of all the superb treks that he organizes and leads.

I, somehow had an impression of him; of a person who would be serious and somebody who perhaps likes to keep quiet. But, I am glad that he proved me wrong. And how! He is one of the most joyous persons to talk to, a jolly-natured guy who met us with so much love and affection, not to mention enthusiasm as if we were his own family. That is how I believe each one of us should ideally be. We met him, and he took us to his place, and just as you enter  the house, you can see a small sign which says, “Eagle’s Nest”, and aptly so. Now, Tilak sir runs an website by the name ‘Where Eagles Dare’ which, according to him, “is about freedom. Freedom expressed through communion with the Nature, found in the thrill of adventure.” Essentially, if you are even remotely interested in trekking, trips to high and remote Himalayas, rafting/ kayaking in those tumultuous mountain rivers or just exploring the back road of the Himalayas on your motorcycle, Tilak Soni is the ‘go-to’ man.

The three of us checked in to his home, and eventually settled into the warm and cozyness of the home. We had some good lunch, stood out in the warm sunlight, and even hiked quite a lot to witness a gorgeous sunset. Now, we urbanites are not quite used to hiking long distances, so, the hike was quite formidable and a lot of nice cardio workout for all 3 of us, while Tilak sir and his two ‘kids’ – namely two Himalayan dogs, Robin & Lucy (accompanied by a small white Spitz, appropriately named, “Honey”) just vanished through that steep hike.

Eventually, we came down, all panting and tired after that long hike while Tilak sir looked as fresh as the morning dew! Amazing what staying a few years in the hills could do to your entire physical being. After having some tummy filling dinner and making a rough plan of what we should do tomorrow, we made ourselves comfortable under the warm quilts and called it a night. I don’t even realize when I fell asleep; the last I remember was reading a few lines of the latest e-book I had purchased off Flipkart. But, one thing I surely know I had was a real goodnight’s sleep.

Himalaya Calls
Next day, we were supposed to leave by 7 or max 8am or so, but since we were a little tired from the last day’s long drive, et al, we could only start past 10am, if I remember correctly. While we carried our respective luggages, which were hardly a bag each for 3 of us, Tilak sir carries the entire world in his Eeco – which includes things like, a gas stove, quilts (if he gets stuck somewhere in the night in those hostile conditions!), enough food, water and a lot of other knick-knacks that I cannot even begin to pen down here. All packed with important stuff and ofcourse brimming with excitement within, we started towards this beautiful small village called ‘Harshil’ or ‘Harsil’. The roads were not in that good a condition, but as we approached Harsil, the views started to  change and the entire landscape started turning white, slowly but surely. THIS, this is precisely what we had come thus far for! Snow; white gold, whatever you call it, this was pure heaven.

 We made our way to Harsil and also towards this small but now abandoned village which Tilak sir showed us, and we happily explored and I photographed. By abandoned, I don’t mean permanently abandoned, mind you. You see, during the 4 odd winter months when everything is white, water is frozen and it is too cold to inhabitate, the tribe come down to a much more hospitable environment like Uttarkashi. Here, they’d happily spend the winters and go back to their respective homes once the winter months were over.
Harshil, Uttarakhand

Harshil, Uttarakhand.

The beautiful village just past Harshil

The beautiful village just past Harshil.

The small village just past Harshil, Uttarakhand

Harshil, Uttarakhand

The small village just past Harshil, Uttarakhand

The small village just past Harshil, Uttarakhand.

The local tribesmen moving out of the village to more hospitable places, for the winter season

The local tribesmen moving out of the village to more hospitable places, for the winter season.

The local people move to more hospitable places during the winter season

The local people move to more hospitable places during the winter season.

The beautiful village past Harshil, Uttarakhand

The beautiful village past Harshil, Uttarakhand.

Amidst all the snow and beautiful views, a bright yellow bull-dozer stands, and makes for a perfect frame for my camera

Amidst all the snow and beautiful views, a bright yellow bull-dozer stands, and makes for a perfect frame for my camera.

Essentially, the time of the year (December) when we reached the village, everybody but a couple of familiee had already vacated the village and it was nothing but completely desolate of any sort of human (or for that matter, animal!) presence. After spending considerable time at this beautiful village at Harshil , we decided to move on towards Gangotri, which was supposed to be the final destination of this wonderful winter trip.

We left Harshil some-time during the latter part of the afternoon and finally reached Gangotri only in the evening, mainly because of the snow covered roads and extremely bad road conditions. The Gangotri temple looked absolutely magnificient amidst the beautiful snow capped landscapes and was completely devoid of any devotees or tourists as the place was inaccessible during this time of the year (December, 2014). After photographing the place to my heart’s content and after having some warm cups of tea, thanks to the only care-taker who stays there, we headed back to Uttarkashi only after night-fall, although the original plan was to reach Uttarkashi before night-fall! But, like I said at the beginning of this story, things never ever go according to plans.
If one is not careful, accidents can and will happen. Please make sure you drive safe on the hills and in weather like this. Sights like these are a grim reminder that nature takes the final call, incase one isn't concentrating

If one is not careful, accidents can and will happen. Please make sure you drive safe on the hills and in weather like this. Sights like these are a grim reminder that nature takes the final call, incase one isn’t concentrating.

The beautiful Gangotri Temple, Uttarakhand

The beautiful Gangotri Temple, Uttarakhand.

Gangotri, Uttarakhand

Gangotri, Uttarakhand

Gangotri, Uttarakhand

Gangotri, Uttarakhand.

Gangotri, Uttarakhand

Gangotri, Uttarakhand.

Gangotri, Uttarakhand

Gangotri, Uttarakhand.

It was a little eerie driving back from Gangotri as we were the only vehicle on the road, and there was nothing or nobody else visible through the entire stretch of road. However, slowly but surely we inched towards Uttarkashi, finally hitting the town during night, thanks to some amazing driving of, who else, but Tilak sir.

Yes, we were tired and hungry, almost completely exhausted but the memory of the entire day was etched on our minds, permanently. Next day, we were supposed to bid adieu to this beautiful place, and since we planned to leave early morning, we had dinner and slept a tad early than what we urban creatures are generally used to, back home.

Dharali, Uttarakhand

Dharali, Uttarakhand.

The rest of the story was, more or less, uneventful except the fact that the entire road back to Delhi we kept talking about how wonderful of a trip we had. And we promised to ourselves, to come back again some-time soon, perhaps during the next winters, or may be before that once again to experience the lovely mountains.

 Perhaps, the Himalayas had cast its magic spell on us. All over again…
Note: A special thanks & shout-out goes to Tilak Soni sir, and his organization, Where Eagles Dare, without whom this wouldn’t have been possible at all.


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Comments

  • Tyagi  On December 4, 2016 at 12:54 AM

    Wonderful..!! i`m going there this year december, but without soni sir, it seems Harsil is my limit. Thanks for so much photos and writing.

    Like

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