Published: July 3rd 2011June 5th 2010
Most people have heard the names of Kedarnath and Badrinath. But few may have heard the name of Tungnath. This is also a famous pilgrimage site dedicated to Lord Shiva, and falls on the way between Kedarnath and Badrinath. Anywhere in the Himalayan hills if there is a pilgrimage, there is usually a nice spot to trek to as well. As we were searching for a quick getaway to warm our feet before a longer trek in the summer of 2010, we came across Chandrasila (4090 metres) which is few metres higher on the way to Tungnath (3680 metres).
The village at the base of Tungnath is called Chopta. When you check the distance of Chopta from Delhi, it is does not look too far. So we started on a Saturday morning with a plan to complete the trip over the weekend. Everytime we forget that road distance in India, specially when you have to cross Uttar Pradesh en route, really does not give a true picture of the travel time. Our hopes of reaching Chopta by mid-day was shattered as started getting caught in traffic jams. Bad roads and several construction works did not help our cause either. Finally,
3 pm we reached Chopta.
Chopta is a typical village kind of a place which has grown bigger because of the traffic from Kedarnath to Badrinath, as well as, due to the presence of pilgrims stopping to visit Tungnath. There were a few hotels to stay, but mostly full. We did not really trouble ourselves looking for one because the tea stall where we were stopped for a snack at Chopta had a room to spare for the 3 of us. Especially attractive part was that it was a few 100 metres away from the main market square. We could sit in the evening and watch the beautiful sunset sipping tea and pakoras without too many people milling around us.
The sunrise from Chandrasila is worth a sight, as the tea stall owner told us. But to catch that we have to start our walk at 3 am in the morning. Usually this is not a problem because in the hills there is nothing much to do after sundown, and one can easily retire early to bed. But we realized that we have to pretty much walk in the dark since we have come almost empty handed, not
even a torch. I was even missing a decent warm cloth. When you are starting from the scorching heat of Delhi usually one forgets to take many things into account. But it happened to be a full moon night and we decided to use the moon light to guide us.
3 in the morning with the sound of our cell phone alarms we were up and ready for the walk. The trail till Tungnath is nicely paved. Although we were worrying about the walk in the night, it turned out that given the nice trail it was quite a smooth journey. As we kept going up towards Tungnath, and then Chandrasila, we realized that we are getting a bit late to catch the first rays of the sun on the peaks. Himanshu almost broke into a jog, while Nilanjan and I kept pushing as fast as we can. At some point Himanshu was out of our view. Finally, we reached Tungnath. The paved roads have ended, and we were wondering which way to continue to get to Chandrasila quickest. Lucky that we found someone headed for his morning ablutions.
Now I decided to speed up a little bit
more since the goal was near in sight. Suddenly, along the way I saw Himanshu clambering up a path, which I would say looked like a rock face. Along with all the moss and ice on the rocks, it definitely did not look like a trail to be followed. I yelled at Himanshu. He was already too high, and did not respond much. I managed to find an easier path. Later Himanshu told me that it was the craziest thing to do in his eagerness to reach fast.
When I managed to reach the peak, the sun was barely out, and the view was stunning. The horizon is nearly encircled by towering snow-capped peaks. You can see all the mighty ones, like the Chaukhamba, Neelkanth, Trishul. Pretty much name the peaks, and they are there. It was fantastic as the sun gradually started lighting up the peaks one by one, and gradually the rays started making its way into the ridges and valleys. We stayed glued to the spot for more than an hour watching the marvel. But it was too cold. With hardly any warm cloth, at some point it was getting unbearable. Something warm to drink was
essential. Usually sipping on a cup of tea, while watching the mighty peaks in the distance, is another pleasure not to be missed in any trip like this.
Around 11 am we were back at Chopta at our tea stall. We took a quick lunch of parathas, another staple diet, besides Maggi noodles, in the hills. Then we were again off on our long arduous journey back to Delhi. It was past midnight when we entered Delhi. We did manage to do it over the weekend, but we spent close to 20 hours sitting in a car in a span of 48 hours. Travelling in India is not one for the faint hearted, but then at the end of the hard work you do get rewarded with some pristine views still untouched by extreme modernization. There is no grand road taking you to Mount Everest, but that is probably the reason that many of these places have been able to maintain their beauty and serenity.
There are more photos below