First, let me give you all a bit of a background, as many of you might not be familiar with the region I’m writing about today. So, I’ll start with myself. I come from a tiny mountainous state of Uttarakhand in India. I grew up in the charming valley of Dehradun, which sits on the foothills of the lower Himalayas. Back in Dehradun, we never lose directions because the Himalayas are always visible in the north! How convenient, isn’t it? Never did I realize how handy that was, till I lived in Florida, Waterloo and Berlin subsequently; in lands as flat as a pancake!
Uttarakhand is heavily understated. It is a heaven for hikers with some amazing Himalayan trails passing through this region.
So, how did this all start? Well, I had really enjoyed some day hikes in Germany with my elder cousin, Shivi. In one of those hikes, we spontaneously made a plan to gather a group of people and go trekking in the Himalayas. After a series of brainstorming sessions which included my younger cousin, Shivang, we zeroed on Dayara Bugyal. Bugyal is a Garhwali word for “meadow”. Garhwali is a local dialect in the area.
As it is a fairly short beginner’s trek with absolutely rewarding views, Dayara Bugyal was a perfect choice. Surprisingly my mom, who is way into her mid-fifties, decided to tag along in our adventure as well, and Dad decided to accompany us till the starting point of the hike: a tiny village called Raithal in the region of Uttarkashi. Luckily, Dad also helped us in securing accommodations and making arrangements for the trek.
We started out early morning in mid-October of 2016 for a scenic 5-hour drive to the region of Uttarkashi.
Driving in the Himalayas gives an adrenaline rush. Narrow one lane roads, winding around the mountains, as one gains elevation, can make some people nauseous. Tip: If winding mountainous roads make you nauseous, carry some lemon or mango candies along. There are plenty of smaller shops on route selling these candies. Don’t forget to check expiration dates on items while buying from such shops.
Yet, the route was breathtaking. We passed by the beautiful Tehri lake, home to the controversial Tehri Dam. Here’s a pic:
The route to the Uttarkashi region was spell bounding. The roads carved out from the edge of the mountain, river Bhagirathi (one of the rivers that form Ganga or Ganges) calmly making its way downstream, villagers guiding their herd of animals down the road, tiny colorful temples and cute huts lined up on the sides of the road, it was a sight to behold. I never felt so close to my homeland: a blissful wonder, away from the chaotic and fast paced world.
Past the main town of Uttarkashi, we took a diversion to a really narrow semi-paved road. I must admit, traveling on this road was a hair-raising experience. The serpentine road was narrow, gained elevation at a rapid pace, making it absolutely impossible for upcoming vehicles to get past unless it was a spacious corner, often on a blind curve. At one point, we were driving on top of the mountain, with the river running deep down through the valley. As the sun clocked past to the west, the emerald mountains stood tall, sheathing the valleys with a gentle dark cover. Yup, amazing views made me poetic 😀 . The bumpy 45 km ride to Raithal took us 2 hours.
Raithal, a quaint Himalayan village sitting at an elevation of about 9000 ft, is the starting point for the Dayara Bugyal trek.
On arrival, we were greeted with flowers by Mamta and her group who were responsible for our entire trek. As the accommodation was not by the road, we had a short 900 m inclined hike. A pretty good warm up for tomorrow, I must say! What we had hiked to, was absolutely amazing. A couple of cute wooden cottages sat in the laps of a terraced mountain, overlooking a small farming field. Out in the front, we could see the snow-capped mountains and the river valley way afar. At the back, another range of mountains guarded us. Mamta pointed at them and told us that Dayara Bugyal was behind those mountains, so we would be trekking through them.
Our accommodation, the Goat Village, is one of the best eco-tourism initiatives I’ve ever seen. A project run by an NGO called GreenPeople, the idea is to engage the locals back into the family traditions of animal husbandry and clean organic farming while encouraging them to share their cultural traditions with the travelers in form of traditional Garhwali cuisine and much more. The guests get the opportunity to engage in farming activities on the small farming field with the locals. Result? One gets to eat the delicious organic produce, one worked so hard on, at a whole hearty Garhwali cuisine dinner!
As the night approached, we lit up a campfire to warm the chilly night. Our day ended with a delicious chicken curry and freshly plucked spinach veggie, cooked on a traditional fire stove. With our tummies full, we headed towards our rooms for a nice and sound sleep.
Next morning, we finally embarked on a 10 km hike to Dayara Bugyal. Mamta and her group were expert trekkers trained at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM). Mamta had been an absolute Braveheart as she had saved a group of 40 kids during a landslide in one of her trekking tours. It was an absolute honor to trek with such an inspiring yet down to earth woman.
Tip: NIM, based in Uttarkashi, is one of the best mountaineering training institutes in India. It has trained several famous mountaineers including some who summited Mount Everest. So for those of you who are looking for great yet affordable courses, check out NIM.
Tip: For trekkers, NIM also rents out equipment at very reasonable rates. Prior reservation is recommended as they can run out of supply in the high season.
The trekking path was a bit rough at most places. It was made of rocks and was still used by the villagers in the summer who took their herds up to Dayara Bugyal and other alpine pastures. We trodded through forests and lush green pastures and passed tiny water streams. The rain made things a bit more adventurous. But what was more adventurous was me and Shivang’s teamwork. We, lazy bums, kept on marking resting spots for each other at every few meters 😀 ! Here are some pictures I took.
By the time we reached Dayara, the sun was already starting to set. Instead of setting up a tent, we chose to stay in a traditional animal shelter called “Chhaani”. As it was the fall season, most huts were empty.
At night we ate campfire roasted potatoes and some rice, enough to drive us to a sound sleep on an extremely rainy night.
The following morning, nature finally decided to be good to us. The sky was clear with brilliant sunshine. We hiked around the place, took in some of the best views we’d seen in our entire lives. We walked on emerald green pastures dotted with tiny crystal clear water lakes. Snow clad mountains could be spotted from far away. It was heaven in the true sense. I couldn’t believe that this existed in my home state!
A description wouldn’t do justice to our experience so I’ll share some pictures. It worth mentioning that we did have a fancy cup noodle lunch at 14,000 ft 😀 .
Our way back was challenged by a heavy downpour. We reached Raithal, completely soaked in spite of wearing raincoats. Nevertheless, this was an experience I’ll remember for a lifetime.
My two cents about Dayara Bugyal:
If you are a beginner in trekking, this trek is absolutely perfect. Trekking for just 10 km will reward you with some absolutely amazing views!
Here is a map for your reference:
I hope this article inspires you to take that leap of faith and explore the lesser known trekking paths in the Himalayas.
Until then, Ciao!