Gathering miles: Road to Chakrata offers silence of forests and stillness of mountains

Posted in uwvmwtei on November 26th, 2019

first_imgIt is one thing when you set out for a premeditated destination but an entirely different scenario when you are on a road trip, pausing for minutes, resting a few hours and gathering miles, adding beautiful frames to that special box in your head. That is exactly what happened when we set out impromptu, one afternoon, with Chakrata as the destination on our Google Maps. A cantonment town in the Dehradun district of Uttarakhand, this sleepy town was once famous among the British officials for being the ideal weekend getaway. It is true that Chakrata is less known to tourists. But the night we landed in the town, the two hotels there were fully booked, with cars from Delhi-NCR choking their entrances. So much so that we had to spend the night in the car. But that is a story for another time.Picture courtesy: Mail TodayFrom Delhi, you can either reach Chakrata via Panipat and Kurukshetra or via Sahranpur – I would suggest the Sahranpur route. The trees grow closer to each other and if it is a full moon, the ride becomes magical, though a bit risky. On the first morning in Chakrata, set out for the Tiger Falls after a light breakfast from the army canteen. It is 18-20 km away from the main town. The roads, I will not mince my words, are wretched–most of the stretch isn’t tarred and construction is underway due to the yearly attack of monsoons. It is also a bit difficult to spot the waterfall, one of the tallest in the country (50m). But once you do, the fatigue of the 300 km journey coupled with horror of spending the night in the car and driving along the bumpiest of roads seem trivial.Tiger Falls makes you feel like a Lilliput, standing at the feet of a Gulliver who is roaring and gushing. The water is crystal clear and super cold – the sprays are sharp and take your breath away. But the finest part dawns upon you when you look around. Birds chirp and hundreds of butterflies whoosh by you and the perfect rainbow that the Falls has knitted near your feet. I later realise that the waterfall was named after these very butterflies with the most striking tiger prints. Tiger Falls does not have many visitors–the place has not yet fallen prey to troubling litterers, though there are signs here and there. But the voice of water drowns all your concerns. “It is too good to be true. I feel any moment now, someone would turn the tap off somewhere and it will stop,” my travelling companion voices his thoughts.advertisementSoaked to the bone, you walk up the steps that are being constructed for the convenience of tourists. There are small shops selling steaming Wai Wai, rajma chawal and piping hot tea. Bask in the sun and as you dry yourself, wolf down the modest meal that tastes divine. According to the locals, Mundali, which is 36 km away from Chakrata, offers vast ski slopes and views of snow-capped mountains. So, if you are venturing into Chakrata during winters, keep Mundali in mind. Apart from that, there are a few temples that you can visit. After lunch, we set our Google Maps to a place called Hanol, a small village about 15 km ahead of Tiuni, located on the banks of the turquoise waters of river Tons.Picture courtesy: Mail TodayAbout 94 km from Chakrata, the ride to Hanol is more delightful than the village itself. Amidst all this, do keep in mind that petrol pumps are a rare phenomenon in these areas. So fill up the tank on the way to Chakrata and again from Tiuni. On the way to Hanol, you meet Gujjars with their herds of buffaloes moving to a warmer place; the women are busy cutting the grass on the hill slopes. A local who needed a ride to the nearest town tells us they do this every day, this time of the year, until there is enough grass in their storehouse for the cattle to feed on during the winter months. Once you go up a considerable height, look down. Carpets of eyecatching pinks and yellows welcome you. Farmers in this region grow amaranth, mustard, kidney bean and much more – the step farms in the valley look like a neatly done colouring book. It is almost close to sunset when we reach Hanol. No one speaks during the last few minutes of the journey. The silence on the roads and the gleaming leaves that look like they are marinated with butter are entertaining enough.advertisementAt Hanol, check into the Garhwal Mandir guesthouse on the banks of Tons. The rooms are manageable but there is the issue of power cuts. Also, your phone might not get any reception. The sound of gurgling water and bell tolls from the nearby Mahasu temple is all one hears. The Mahasu Devta temple at Hanol is said to have built in the ninth century in the Huna architectural style. Ask the locals and they will be more than happy to tell you the many legends associated with the temple, in between huge helpings of rotis and sabji from the local shop.Picture courtesy: Mail TodayOne legend has it that a man-eating demon stayed at Hanol. A Brahmin began praying to Lord Shiva to save Hanol from the demon. Shiva directed Deolari Devi, one of his woman devotees, to help the man. On hearing the man’s story, she asked her four sons to go in search of the demon. She also asked the man to plough his fields. The man discovered four Shivalings and named them Mahasu, Pavasi, Vasik and Chalda, after the four sons. The sons killed the demon in a battle that lasted for several days. The villagers rejoiced at this and built temples for all the four brothers. Out of this, Mahasu Devta’s temple is in Hanol.The next day, when you head back, take the road that passes through Rishikesh, if you aren’t already tired of the road and have one more night to spare. There too, you can stay at the GMVN for a reasonable price. Around 130 km before Rishikesh, you are greeted by the splendid Bhagirathi that twists and turns in impeccable emerald – a substantial contrast to the turquoise Alaknanda which it will meet at Devprayag.As you head down, there is a slight chill in the air, the sun is setting and the moon that’s about to rise will appear twice its size – the mountains have given you all that you needed. Now all you need is pause at Rishikesh for a night, head to the Freedom Caf and smoke by the dark Ganges, listen to some guitar while sipping on chamomile and head back to the Garhwal Mandir for the muchneeded slumber.last_img read more