is known as the land of the pious where
rivers are worshipped and the mountains looked at with religious awe as
they are said to be the abode of the Gods.
The upper Garhwal regions have their clutch of tourist and pilgrimage destinations,
Mussourie and Uttarkashi being the most popular holiday destinations. The
latter consists of the Char-Dham Yatra and every summer, bus and Jeep-loads
of pilgrims rush to these four mountain-top temples.
And so it is that summertime finds the upper Garhwal regions horribly crowded.
But not all is lost because there are places hidden away that offer peace,
solitude and the embrace of the icy cold clime. There are also fabulous
walks and treks through ancient villages, alongside bubbling brooks and
that seem to answer the eternal question: what is it about the Himalayas
that generation after generation has found it to be one of the most therapeutic
and wonderful places to unwind.
Two such Himalayan hamlets are Dhanaulti and Harsil, where you can set up
base in the campsites and spend relaxed days exploring the forests and mountains
that surround them. This month we drive you to these destinations that are
truly up and away in the hills, among the clouds, and waiting to be explored.
SET FOR YOUR TRIP
roads on this 500km trip are pretty good with smooth tarmac and hardly
any broken patches, so your car will not be put through any major torture.
However, remember that these are narrow roads with a lot of traffic. Plus
there are chances of rain around Dhanaulti and snow and ice around Harsil.
Your car's tyres need to be in immaculate condition and there has to be
an experienced driver at the wheel.
At Harsil, the gearstick may feel a little stiff but don't worry - the
cold causes the oil to thicken. Start your car and let it idle for around
five minutes before you begin driving.
The defogger in your car can be a boon as the rear windshield ices up
rapidly when it is snowing. Also check that the air-conditioning vent
system is working well because you might need to direct the draft towards
the front windscreen to prevent it from fogging up from inside.
Pack in woollens, walking shoes and torches. An umbrella or a raincoat
is also necessary, else you might be stuck in your tent even when there
is a slight drizzle.
Camera batteries will not last long in the cold climate, so throw in an
extra pair. If you have rechargeable batteries, it's a good idea to carry
a device with which you can charge the batteries, using your car's cigarette
lighter as electricity in these places plays hide and seek and the voltage
Harsil, because of its proximity to the holy town of Gangotri, is a dry
area and there is no liquor on sale here.
DRIVE DELHI TO DEHRADUN
highway from Delhi to Dehradun is quite chaotic with plenty of two-wheeler
and tractor traffic. When the sugarcane harvest season is on (around May
and June) there are a number of animal carts carrying the harvest to the
sugar mills, and they cause a lot of hold-ups on the road.
Remember that the Muzzafarnagar bypass is very smooth and convenient but
do try and avoid traversing it after dark. There have been incidents of
robbery on this lonely road. Also keep in mind that it is not wise to
halt and give anybody a lift on this part of the route.
Once you're past Dehradun and Mussourie, the road narrows down sharply
and there are no safety barriers on the edge. Drive very cautiously and
sound the horn at every corner.
The road from Uttarkashi to Harsil is an imposing one, surrounded as it
is by high rocky mountains and the Bhagirathi river that flows alongside
the road. There are plenty of blind corners here too and the roads are
at times very slippery due to rain.
Pine forests abound in the area and pine needles lying on the road can
prove very dangerous and the car could skid under sharp braking.
Harsil to Gangotri, you could come across pine needles on the road. Combined
with falling rain, they make the road surface very treacherous. The Harsil-Gangotri
stretch is also extremely prone to falling rocks and we encountered huge
boulders on our trip.
Also, never follow a Jeep or an SUV too closely as the driver, thanks to
his vehicle’s high ground clearance,will not be very concerned about
driving over small rocks. If you attempt the same manoeuvre in a car with
low ground clearance, you may end up with a broken sump. Diesel-engined
Jeep taxis emit much smoke in the cold clime — this will hamper your
view of the road ahead if you follow them too closely.
There may also be instances when the road is momentarily closed due to rockfall.
The army then gets to work to blast fallen rocks with a small charge of
dynamite. It is crucial that you park your car well away from the site and
from under any precariously hanging rocks on the mountainside as the blast
could dislodge them too.
in the upper Garhwal region makes for a super driving holiday among pine
forests and snow. > The land you drive through
throws out a plethora of colour to thrill the senses. > These are the environs
around Harsil. Put on your walking shoes to explore and experience the Himalayas
at their fascinating best. > Ensure that your car’s
heater and defogger are in working condition. > Clutch of dhabas at Bhatwari
en route to Harsil. > A shepherd village near
Harsil is picture-postcard perfect. You can buy homemade woolen garments
here. > From scantily clad sadhus
to protectively dressed pilgrims, the holy temple at Gangotri brings one
and all together in its universal charm. > One of the Char-Dhams,
Gangotri. You have to be really pious to take a holy dip in the freezing
waters here. > Pack horses en route
to Gangotri, starting point of the river Ganga. > Safariz International’s
Camp Thangdar, Dhanaulti, housed in thickly forested area. Chill out here
for a refreshingly relaxed holiday. > Dhaba at Lanka, the halfway
point between Harsil and Gangotri.