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Himalayan treasures

J. RAMANAN

A trek up the Himalayas could be an unforgettable experience.


The lower slopes of Dunagiri are host to one of the richest ranges of floral and faunal diversity

PHOTO: J. RAMANAN

QUIET ENCHANTMENT: Breathtaking view.

One of the most electrifying moments of an adventurous traveller is to be able to get a glimpse of the Himalayan sunset. The Khanari Khal, in the Kumaon Himalayas, offers one such view. A journey through the dusty plains of Haridwar and Rishikesh takes us to Joshimath, which lies on the pilgrim route to Badrinath.

We leave the main pilgrim road and travel alongside the roaring Dhauliganga towards Malari. The road is terrifying and the drive by jeep is like being on a roller coaster. By lunchtime we reach Segri. We pass through the villages of SuraiThota and Lata.

Mountainside

Our trek begins from Segri. We cross a hanging bridge over the Bhauliganga and move through thick pine and oak forests catching an occasional glimpse of the meandering Dhauli far below. After two hours of easy trail we reach Ruing. The next day we start our long trek to Dunagiri. Initially the walk is through thick pine and deodar forests but suddenly the trail opens and we pass through six km of rock fall area. The entire slope is broken. Deforestation combined with the heavy rains and landslides in 1994 is the reason. The half-buried houses and temples of the once flourishing village of Chiachya can be seen among the stone debris.

The following day, we start very early to reach the top of the Khanari Khal Pass by evening so that we can take in the stunning sunset.

The lower slopes of Dunagiri are host to one of the richest ranges of floral and faunal diversity. This part is considered to be home for many special medicals herbs also. The plants grow during winter providing food for the animals that live in the high altitudes.

Many legends and myths are connected with Dunagiri. Throughout the length and breadth of the Himalayas it is acknowledged that Dunagiri is indeed the Sanjeevi Malai that Hanuman carried to Sri Lanka during the war with Ravana. The presiding deity, Nanda Devi, was furious with Hanuman for having chipped off a piece from the mountain without her permission. She declared that Hanuman will not be worshipped anywhere in that area and those doing so will face disastrous consequences. On his aerial route pieces of the mountain are supposed to have fallen near Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu and this hill is called Maruthuva Malai or medicine hill.

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A hospitable people


Most of the people of these villages are Bhotias, who had migrated from Tibet a long time ago. They have mingled with the locals of Kumaon and Garhwal. All these villages, situated 8,000 ft above MSL are covered deep with snow during winter and the villagers move with their cattle and sheep to the lower areas for nearly six months. They then return during summer to till their fields and cultivate barley, wheat and potatoes. No one returns from a visit to one of their homes without tasting their salt tea, delicious roasted potatoes sprinkled with salt and pepper and sathu mavu (roasted and powdered barley and wheat flour).

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