[The photographs in the following post are shown as thumbnails. Click on the photos to see them in full size.]
Dunga Baba Swami Chirkuteshwar’s suggestions, deliberations and zeal got us (see following photos) going on the famous “ladies’ trek” Sundardunga.
AG: Awesome Gupta’s future father
Bhatti Bhai: Adbhut Badal Bhatt’s future father
‘Dunga Baba’ Swami Chirkuteshwar
Kanpur to Lucknow
Our journey began on the evening of June 9 when Baba and I left to Lucknow to catch ‘Bagh Express’ to reach Haldwani. The start was pretty good. Kanpur does not get much rain even in the monsoon season, but on 9th June it started raining at 3:30PM. It was some rain! We were to leave at 7:00PM from Kanpur, but could not proceed before 8:30. The “group custom” is that nobody leaves the city without a “departing beer”. T, Baba and I had a beer at our usual hangout joint and we left the campus to catch a bus to Lucknow. Kanpur to Lucknow, by bus, is around 2 hours, but heavy rain delayed us by more than one and a half hours. We arrived Lucknow Railway station at 0045 hrs to catch a train scheduled to depart at 0030 hrs. Such amazing is the service of Indian Raiways that it doesn’t let its passengers down by leaving in time. Customarily, the train was late by more than 2 hours, and we safely boarded the train with a lot of Bengalis.
Lucknow to Haldwani
Hardly anything can be said about this part of the journey apart from the fact that we slept in patches. I was awake when Baba was sleeping, and Baba was awake when I was. Both of us snored the sleep out of each other and other passengers. Despite the delayed departure from Lucknow, we reached Haldwani unexpectedly “in time” — Indian Standard Delay Time that is. We met Bhatti bhai at the bus stop to complete our trekking group. What a group it was! One was overweight, other was underweight and the third was confused whether to call himself over- or underweight. We were to catch a taxi to Nainital.
Haldwani to Nainital
Taxi charges: Rs. 50-60 per person. Nainital is the major tourist spot of Kumaon region in Uttarakhand, so it is also the place where most of the government establishments have their head offices located. We did not have our own sleeping bags and tent, so our purpose to visit Nainital was to arrange these essentials from “Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam” tourist establishment office. We were told that we do not need the tent; we could find tourist huts at all the major halts on our trek. That was it for our stay in Nainital which lasted for about 4-5 hours.
A hockey match at Nainital Municipal Corp ground
Nainital to Almora
Taxi charges: Rs. 80-100 per person. Almora is a district headqurater and a beautiful small city where I plan to stay for a long time if situations permit. We reached Almora around 6:30PM on June 10. A decent hotel room for three with basic facilities costs about Rs. 500-600 per day. We took a halt at Almora to spend that night as we had only been travelling on Jone 10. A halt means party, and some party it was! 🙂
Almora to Bageshwar
Taxi charges: Rs. 80-125 per person, depending on the vehicle you chose.
We were hoping to start very early from Almora to Bageshwar, but as it happens with grad students — they are always late in everything, even in starting “a life” — we got delayed by a few hours. At 7:30AM on June 11, we left Almora. Beautiful morning, sometimes sunny, overcast sometimes, those three hours to Bageshwar were very pleasant.
The usual mode of travel that is relatively cheaper and faster in that region is an unusual car called “Mahindra Maxx”. They will make four persons sit in place of three, but you should make sure that you don’t let that happen by paying for four for three to ensure that your journey is comfortable, slightly costlier though.
The taxi dropped us at Bageshwar at around 11:00AM.
We had to contact one Sri Inder Singh Bisht in the KMVN tourist rest house for the supplements, tent and sleeping bag, but before that happened, we decided that we purchased some essential food items, lotions, liquor, medicine and mustard oil… especially the mustard oil!
Mr. Bisht, who is the caretaker of the KMVN rest house (called “TRC”) at Bageshwar is a very helpful person. He told us the ins and outs of the trekking route. He suggested that we don’t carry a tent for it would hardly be used and would cost a fortune. If you decide to carry a tent (on rent), it will cost Rs. 6000 for security deposit, and Rs. 250 per day for its rent. That is not all, you’ll have to take a porter with you who charges Rs. 250 per day+food. A sleeping bag rented from KMVN costs Rs. 25 per day and Rs. 1200 as security deposit. We, the students, usually don’t have that kind of money, so we dropped the idea of carrying a tent and settled for just the sleeping bag.
Bisht Ji also arranged the guide, Devendra Singh, for our trek. A guide will charge you anything between Rs. 250 to Rs. 500 per day, depending on his/her experience (sadly, there are hardly any women guides out there). Devendra was to meet us in Saung (about 50 Kms. from Bageshwar). Saung is the place where trekking starts, and, generally, everyone prefers to walk on foot from that place onwards.
It was 1:00PM by the time everything was arranged in Bageshwar. We had not eaten anything since morning, so we decided to take lunch and then proceed.
Bageshwar to Bharadi to Saung
Taxi charges: Rs. 25 per person from Bageshwar to Bharadi + Rs. 20 per person from Bharadi to Saung. The way from Bageshwar to Saung is very beautiful. The road goes by the side of a river and a cool breeze will heal your tired body instantly. Following are some of the scenes shot on the way.
The halt (the photograph above) was a forced. The taxi we hired was carrying fifteen passengers, whereas the allowed number is ten. There was a police patrol, so the taxi driver dropped some of the passengers there and crossed the patrol car to wait for us half-a-kilometer ahead.
The inhabitants of the house are looking at us, and they must have had a good laugh for our looks. We, ourselves, felt like jokers in those army hats. 😉 Moreover, Bhatti bhai decided to take a piss in the stream. Thankfully it was after we satisfied our thirst…
Baba had his heart in his mouth seeing that lady. He told us, in detail, about his fantasies that involved her to almost every possibly imaginable extent. Moral of the story: if you are a female, don’t believe babas and sadhus! :-p
We had to change taxi at Bharadi, a little town in Bageshwar district. We kept waiting, waiting and waiting for the next taxi. We got so frustrated that we decided to play a guessing game. The object of our mental excercise is shown in the following photograph. Guess what it is (Post your answers as comments).
The tiring wait in Bharadi is evident from the fact that Baba decided to take a nap in the taxi from Bharadi to Saung.
We arrived at Saung at 4:30PM, and it marked the end of our journey on wheels. The real trekking was to start now. The story on foot will follow in the next part.
Any question regarding the journey so far is most welcome in comments.