Garhwal In Pictures: Memories From A Week In Uttarakhand

It was midsummer when the Uttarakhand Tourism Board invited me to explore the little lake-town of Tehri earlier this year. While the world hyped about the annual Tehri Lake Festival, I was more excited to glimpse a few other gems. I’d previously been to the north Indian state of Uttarakhand on several occasions, but this time, I was determined to see a few new places of Garhwal. Enjoy this photo-story as I show you the Lower Himalayan valleys through my perspective.

Dhanaulti From The Sky

The Lower Himalayan range is distinctly visible from Dhanaulti.

The Lower Himalayan range is distinctly visible from Dhanaulti.

The day that I was to spend relaxing in my hotel (aptly named “Dhanaulti Heights”), I chose instead to go for a hike to the nearby Surkanda Devi temple. I’m not a supporter of idol worship but I fully encourage hiking in the hills for the gorgeous views, if nothing else. Dhanaulti enjoys good weather and it is a delight to breathe in the pure air up here.

Having The Ganges Up-Close In Kaudiyala

The prettiest room I had was in Kaudiyala – a wooden cottage by the bank of the River Ganga. You can see from the video above what the scene from my balcony was. Sunrises here are unmissable, especially because nature wakes you up (think chirping birdies). The Ganges looks incredible from close quarters, so do the Shivalik Hills.

How Kanatal Turns Orange At Sunset

The glorious sunset in Kanatal.

The glorious sunset in Kanatal.

Kanatal was only a short stop for me on my way to another Garhwali destination, but I didn’t know that when I got there early in the eve. Trotting up and down the mountain trail, I thought I would have nothing much to do except talk to the locals. But the sunset proved me wrong by turning the blue sky yellow and beginning to paint this sleepy town as well.

See How The World Becomes Smaller When You Look Up?

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The higher you climb, the smaller everything on earth appears – the houses, the people, the material possessions and the problems. When I feel low, I just take a hike. Do you introspect when you go trekking? I captured this shot on my recent trek in the Garhwali mountains near Dhanaulti, Uttarakhand. #oindrilagoesfootloose #Dhanaulti #trekking #hiking #beautifulhike #girlswhotravel #girlswhotrek #Uttarakhand #incredibleindia #lightroomedits #shotoncanon #canonphotography #canon📷 #canonshot #himalayasarecalling #exploretheunexplored #exploreuttarakhand #Garhwal #garhwalhimalayas #himalayangeographic #lonelyplanetindia #natgeoyourshot #exploremore #doyoutravel #travelawesome #indiaphotosociety #igersuttarakhand #ig_captures #simplyheaven #traveldeeper

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I’ve often realized that being away from humanity has a calming effect on my soul. Perhaps that’s why I’m mostly a solo traveller. Trekking really helps to leave the world behind and let your problems become smaller as you climb up. And believe me, the endorphin rush automatically makes you happy! 😉

Learn What Love Is From The Animal Kingdom

Caught this mommy macaque walking with her baby! <3

Caught this mommy macaque walking with her baby! <3

There is so much one can learn from the birds and animals. Loving, for instance. When I read horrifying stories of parents abandoning their children or women justifying abortion, I am inclined to think humans have forgotten all about love, care and self-sacrifice. So, I look instead at animals for some hope. And they never disappoint. I was able to click this macaque mom-and-daughter duo during my hike to Kunjapuri temple in Adali, near Rishikesh.

Rafting Camps For River-Lovers

Tents and wooden rest houses in Kaudiyala

Tents and wooden rest houses in Kaudiyala

If you are not such a fan of luxury and prefer to rough it out instead, Kaudiyala offers plenty of safari tents. These campsites are usually preferred by rafters who will eventually indulge in some whitewater rafting in the Ganges. Irrespective of where you stay, you still get the same clean air and the background music of hundreds of avifauna and a gurgling river.

Appetizers For Lunch, Anyone?

A stack of bread pakoras waiting to be devoured - at a roadside stall along Garhwal's national highway.

A stack of bread pakoras waiting to be devoured – at a roadside stall along Garhwal’s national highway.

I don’t have too many pictures of Garhwali food as I was too impatient (on most occasions) to take photos before quelling my hunger. I tried a variety of millet breads (both chapatis and parathas) with plenty of potato preparations. I also remember having just snacks for lunch – savoury bread-pakoras, phaan (a wafer-like bar) and kachoris. Uttarakhand also makes some amazing desserts – jhingore-ki-kheer, baal-mithai, and loads of other milk-based sweets.

Berry-Picking In The Hills

The easy path to Surkanda Devi trek (not what I followed though ;-) )

The easy path to Surkanda Devi trek (not what I followed though 😉 )

The Himalayas are a great place to find unique coniferous trees and various shrubs and outcrops. My hikes were more fun as I would stop to look at the leaves, smell the flowers and search for fruits. On one occasion, I had run out of snacks during my walk downhill and had to fill up on a peculiar kind of yellow berries (which I washed with water, of course) in the wild. Back at my hotel, a friend had picked some kafal (little red berries) which she shared with me.

Power-Dressing: The Pahadi Way! 😉

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I can't believe it's already been half a month! I met these beautiful ladies on a work+fun trip to Uttarakhand and was quite taken by their sense of humor. We'd spent most of our days in those hills in hiking gear, so we decided to play dress-up one evening. Any style tips for me? 😉 #oindrilagoesfootloose #girlswhohike #girlswhotrek #girlswhotravel #womenintravel #womeninbusiness #indiantraveller #indianculture #travelmemories #travelstoke #travelstories #Uttarakhand #incredibleindia #traditionalindianwear #indianwomen #indianwear #chamba #Himalayas #igersindia #beautifulwomen #beautifulindia #exploremore #simplyheaven #kurta #indiankurta #ootd #travelstyle #travelfashion #hillstation #indianhillstations

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One of the most memorable evenings I had was in New Tehri, just before we all set out for the lake festival. Our gang of girls had dressed up in traditional kurtas. After days of hanging around in hiking pants, we finally had the chance to wear some makeup and look like conventional ladies. 😀

New Tehri is still miles away from the lake (Tehri Lake)

New Tehri is still miles away from the lake (Tehri Lake)

And just like that, the rollercoaster trip came to an end. I have chosen to conveniently forget the endless, tiring road journeys and the sleepless state of mind I had on most days. I now only remember the beautiful tree-lined hills, the sweet smell of berries and the wry humour of my fellow travellers.

Do you think you’ll ever go to Garhwal?

What are your favourite things to do in the mountains?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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Runcationing in Rishikesh

A year since I ran my first Himalayan run, I sit down to write about my experience. I had been on a hunt for an exotic run in India when I heard about Running and Living’s Rishikesh Cross Country run. I signed up for the 15k trail run and geared up for the mountains. Most of you know how much I enjoy running (read: Running in Lithuania – My First Half Marathon Abroad). But when you throw in a vacation to the mix, you get a girl giddy with glee! 🙂

My private sundeck with a view of the chocolate-hills

My private sundeck with a view of the chocolate-hills

Austerity Before Indulgence

My first night in Rishikesh was an Airbnb find. It was a meditation centre run by monks from Spain. The place was slightly expensive, considering how basic the room and facilities were. But if you decide to stay here, don’t forget to use my Airbnb travel credit – www.airbnb.co.in/c/ode2 for a 1679 INR (~25 USD) discount.

My Airbnb homestay - with the Spanish monks

My Airbnb homestay – with the Spanish monks

Getting to Know the Ganga

Before the sun could set, I hopped and skipped over to one of the stepped embankments of the River Ganga. This river of national pride is rapidly becoming an open drain that carries garbage along its course. This garbage is of a special kind – full of paraffin, flowers, sweets (used as prayer offering) and toxic oils. It worries me to think of all the innocent fishes which are dying a slow death in what might otherwise have been a holy place for them to swim in.

Ganga aarti in full swing

Ganga aarti in full swing

Flavours from the Street

After the disturbing sight of the rituals at the Ganga, I strolled over to the inner sanctums of Rishishesh, to explore its street food. If you have been cheating on your workout, this is a dangerous place for you to be. There is gorgeous looking food peeping out of every roadside establishment – kachoris, samosas, pooris, and all of their cousins. I gave in to my temptations and sat down inside a shop where the man behind the cooking pot knew that his stuffings of sin were stronger than my weak spirit.

Deep fried street food - carboloading for the run! ;-)

Deep fried street food – carboloading for the run! 😉

Spanish Food in Rishikesh

After feasting on North Indian street food, it was time for me to eat some more! 😀 I had the Spanish dinner (read: Lleida – A Reminiscence) which a new monk freshly prepared for me. I had a bowl of salad, baked bread, tortilla de patatas and pisto (a ratatouille of sorts). This meal was indeed the best part of my stay at this homestay.

An appetizing Spanish meal cooked by a Spanish monk

An appetizing Spanish meal cooked by a Spanish monk

Rafting through the Rapids

I spent my next morning doing what every adventure junkie does in Rishikesh – RAFTING!!! 🙂 White water rafting was not new to me (read: White Water Rafting in Kolad). But rafting in the Ganga is an experience of a lifetime! We negotiated some really nasty rapids, some as difficult as level-4. At the end of the last rapid, our guide let us jump into the river and swim in water that was easily 90 feet deep.

Selfie from my raft!

Selfie from my raft!

Nature never stops showing me how small I am in the grander scheme of things. My existence and dreams and opinions simply don’t matter when I look up at the sky and see how big the real world really is. I smiled as I saw the Himalayas from inside the river – so majestic and inviting (and the reason why in a few months I did my first Himalayan trek).

A view worth rafting for!

A view worth rafting for!

A Luxury Retreat

My next two days were spent in the most opulent resort in all of Rishikesh – Raga on the Ganges. I will do a separate blog post on my stay there as I was thoroughly impressed by their hospitality. My lodging and boarding was fully sponsored by them. It is quite luxurious to have the waters of the River Ganga flow through your shower! 😉

My luxurious hideaway at Raga On The Ganges

My luxurious hideaway at Raga On The Ganges

The Day of the Run

My big day was finally there, and I realized I was going to run 15 kilometers with only a handful of other runners (15 to be precise). I have never felt like an elite marathoner, but that day, I felt special because I was one of  select few people who decided to get out of their comfy blankets on a cold wintry morning and show up in the middle of the mountains to run over stones and pebbles.

The running trail

The running trail

This was one of my scariest runs so far. I had wild langoors and mountain dogs for company. I remember stopping on my tracks a zillion times as I ran into monkeys who looked liked they wanted to snatch my cellphone. There was also the danger of getting run over by a truck on the national highway.

We had macaques to cheer us on the way

We had macaques to cheer us on the way

I met some stray cows too after I crossed a bridge after the 9k mark. But all of this was nothing compared to having a herd of wild mountain goats block my path on a narrow trail. I was praying I’d meet their shepherd somewhere, but I was plain unlucky. I wanted the Earth to open up and swallow me because there was the vast expanse of mountain behind me, a group of crazy goats in front of me, the vertical wall of rock to my right, and the endless river (which I’d get to only if I rolled to my death down the steep escarpment) below.

The bridge to victory was finally visible!

The bridge to victory was finally visible!

I was saved by another runner who tore a branch, herded the goats away, grabbed my hand and led me across the trail. I cannot thank that man enough! He was my angel that morning. I had some much needed potatoes and eggs with electrolyte after my adventure, and even managed a grainy picture at the finish line with Rahul Verghese – the organizer of this scenic run. He happens to be a veteran runner himself.

At the finish line with Rahul Verghese - the organiser

At the finish line with Rahul Verghese – the organiser

The bounty of nature provides a nice space for us humans to sit and ponder over why the world was created and who we really are. I ended my trip by gazing into infinity and thanking God for revealing the beauty of His creations to me in the lap of my favourite mountains.

I indulge in some self reflection by the Ganga

I indulge in some self reflection by the Ganga

For more pictures, follow my daily micro blogs on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/oindrilade/.

You can also find inspiration from my Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/OindrilaGoesFootloose/.

I am on Twitter too! 🙂 https://twitter.com/OindrilaDe

Let me know if you too are into runcationing. Have you been to Rishikesh? Has your experience been any different? I’m all ears! 🙂