This trek was the result of another off beat assignment. I was asked by a relative, who is also a publisher, whether I would be interested in working on a coffee table book covering the Forest Rest Houses of Uttarakhand. I jumped at the opportunity and volunteered to shoot the remote and less accessible Forest Rest Houses (FRHs). The first trip was to the Northwestern regions of Garhwal and the trek to Har-ki-dun was a part it.
The Har-Ki-Dun valley lies nestled in the heart of the Govind National Park in the remote northwestern corner of Uttarakhand. This is one of the most remote and under developed parts of Uttarakhand.
This region has has been a favorite of trekkers for more than a century. Probably because it is both, relatively easy to trek in and very unspoilt. The Har-ki-dun trek takes one in easy steps, through stunning landscapes and forests, into the heart of the Himalayas. The altitude is moderate and there are no steep climbs but the views and the scenery is amazing.
Located near the headwaters of the Tons River, the Har-Ki-Dun valley can be reached by a moderate two day (30 Kms) day trek from the road head at Taluka.
Although this post only describes the trek to Har-ki-dun, this region also offers many other trekking possibilities. From Har-ki-dun one can continue across the Borasu Pass into the Sangla valley (A written permission is needed for this trek). Alternately one can trek across a ridge and go to Ruinsara Lake and then cross over the Dhumdhar Kindi pass, lying between the Bandarpunch and Swargarohini peaks, into the Ganga valley. From the Ruinsara valley one can also cross over into the Yamuna valley.
From New Delhi the most convenient route to Taluka is as follows :
New-Delhi – Panipat – Karnal – Yamuna Nagar – Paonta Sahib – Herbertpur – Vikas Nagar – Naugaon – Purola – Mori – Naitwar – Sankri – Taluka
For more details about the route see the map below :
The distance from New Delhi to Taluka is about 450 kms.
The nearest Petrol Pump is at Purola so it is a good idea to top up when crossing Purola.
Entry fees and Tariffs
An entry fee, levied on every person entering the National Park, has to paid at the entry check post at Naitwar. The details of the fees and tariffs are as below:
There are Forest Rest Houses(FRH) at Naitwar, Sankri (Interpretation Centre) and Taluka. These FRHs are very basic. They have two rooms with attached bathrooms. On the trek Seema and Har-ki-Dun also have FRHs. The reservations for the Forest rest houses have to be made at the office of the Dy. Director Govind National Park at Purola or at the office of the Director Rajaji National Park, Dehradun. In an emergency reservations for these Forest Rest Houses can also be made by contacting the Forest Range Officer at Naitwar (for the Naitwar FRH) and the Forest Range Officer at Sankri (for the Sankri, Taluka, Seema and Har-Ki-Dun FRHs).
Sankri, Taluka, Seema and Har-ki-dun also have hotels run by the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam. These are best avoided as they are in a very run down condition.
Sankri and Talk have a couple of private hotels which are better than the GMVN guest houses.
There are conflicting theories explaining the origin of the name “Har-Ki-Dun”. The usual story is that it means “Valley of the Gods” or sometimes the “Hanging valley of the Gods”. “Har” is one of the names of Lord Shiva and “Dun” is a flat wide valley at least in the foothills of the Himalayas, as in Dehradun.
The locals however insist that Har-Ki-Dun means “Lord Shiva’s Camp”. They say that “Dun” means a Duni, a fire that ascetics and sadhus light up at the place where they camp. The legend is that Lord Shiva used reside in Har-ki-dun. His “Duni” or camp was near the two huge boulders just behind the Forest Rest House. When Someshwara Devta, the present Deity of this region, arrived in the valley from Kashmir he went and requested Lord Shiva to move out of the valley as he wanted to be the sole lord of the valley. Lord Shiva humored his request and moved out of the region.
Someshwara Devta is the Presiding Deity of 23 villages in three “Pattis” or regions in the Rupin, Supin and Tons valleys. These regions are:
- Panjgain: Consisting of the villages of Sun Kundi, Pao Talla, Pao Malla, Jakhol, Sauni, Satudi, Phitari and Lewari. This region is drained by the Supin River.
- Fateh Parwat: Consisting of the villages of Duni, Vithri, Pajili, Satta, Masri, Gwal Gaon, Aduadi, Sewa, Nuranu. The Rupin River drains this region.
- Budhasu: Consisting of the villages of Dhatmir, Osla, Gangar, Puani. The Tons River drains this region.
The main temple of Someshwara Devta is in the village of Jakhol in the Supin valley, but most villages in this region also have temples dedicated to him. The Devta visits these temples according to a rigorously followed schedule.
Now also worshipped as Lord Shiva, Someshwara Devta was originally worshipped as Lord Duryodhana, the famous Anti-Hero of the Mahabharata. The Devra village near Naitwar has a temple dedicated to Lord Karna, Duryodhana’s best friend and main warrior. This area is called the Shitkur Patti (region) and Lord Karna is the presiding deity of this region.
View Har-ki-dun Trek in a larger map
30 October 2012
Drive from Naitwar to Taluka(2075m) and then trek to Seema(2625m) (Osla)
Distance (Taluka-Seema) : 14 kms Altitude Gain : 550 m Time Taken : 4 hours
We started from Naitwar at 9 am after a heavy breakfast. We were short on diesel but were assured that we would be able to get some at a small shop a few kilometers before Sankri. We did not get diesel at that shop and on a couple of more shops after that. We finally got 11 liters at a small grocery shop in Sankri. This would be enough to get us back to the nearest petrol pump at Purola.
The metaled PWD finishes a kilometer after Sankri and from here onwards one drives along a rough forest road all the way to Taluka. We were warned by the local forest officials that this road was in a very bad shape and also quite dangerous. Surprisingly, although the road is narrow and pretty roughly surfaced, it was not dangerous for a careful driver.
The drive from Sankri to Taluka is very beautiful. The road travels through some beautiful and unspoilt mixed Himalayan forests. This is good birding country and one can easily spend a day birding on this stretch. We were on a tight schedule and we hurried on, stopping only to take some shots of the Bolero at a particularly beautiful stretch of the road.
We reached the Taluka at 11:20 am. Taluka is a small settlement at the road head. The village consists of a few shops and houses, which line the road. The road ends at the Forest Rest House. The Taluka village is located about 200 meters above the Tons River on its left bank. There is a small temple dedicated to Someshwara Devta, the local deity. There is also a small pond just below the Forest Rest House. The Forest Rest house itself is located on small hill at the end of a spur and it dominates the Taluka village.
After having a glass of sweet tea and biscuits at the local dhaba, at 12 pm I started my trek to Osla. We were traveling very light. Our party consisted of Surya, a local forest guard and myself. We were carrying some warm clothes, my camera and my tripod. My friend Umesh Gogna stayed back with the vehicle at the Taluka Forest Rest House.
The track to Osla is in a reasonably good condition. The track stays on the left bank of the tons river and it passes through some very good mixed Himalayan forests. Even if one does not intend to go to Osla, for birders it is a good idea to walk up this track for an hour or two. It passed through some very good forested areas.
The track travels along the river and by passes all villages. It stays below the main village of Datmir. The other two big villages on this track, Gangar and Osla are on the right bank of the river and are connected to the track by bridges. One gets very nice views of the picturesque Gangar village from the track. The track gains altitude steadily although there are no steep climbs.
A few kilometers after the Gangar village the trees start thinning out and one gets a view of the Osla village perched high on the hillside across the Tons River. Soon the forest ends and one walks about a kilometer through a series of terraced fields to reach the small settlement of Seema. The Olsa Forest Rest House is actually located in Seema, which also has a GMVN guest house, a small local Dhaba and a few wooden huts. We reached the Seema FRH at 4 pm.
A few hundred meters before Seema there is some flat ground and a few small terraced fields which are used as a camping ground. To go to Osla from Seema one has to trek about 600 meters upstream, cross a suspension bridge and then walk back a couple of kilometers down stream. The keeper (Bangla Chowkidar) of the Forest Rest House at Seema stays at Osla. He also looks after the Forest Rest House at Har Ki Dun.
After reaching I spent a few hours photographing the Forest Rest House (FRH). The FRH is very basic. It has two bedrooms with attached baths and a small sitting room. There is no running water or electricity, although each room has a solar charged light. It seems that the GMVN accommodation is even worse than the FRH.
At 7 pm the Surya, the forest guard accompanying me, bought me a hot meal from the local Dhaba, and after an early dinner I was off to sleep by 8 pm.
31 October 2012
Trek from Seema (2625m) to Har-Ki-Dun (3025m)
Distance : 13 kms Altitude Gain : 400 m Time Taken : 4 Hours
We set off for Har-Ki-Dun at 9 am after a heavy breakfast at the Dhaba. The track to Har-Ki-Dun crosses over to the right bank of the Tons at a suspension bridge about 600 meters upstream of Seema. One track continues going upstream on the left bank. This track goes to the Ruinsara valley and the Ruinsara Lake.
After crossing over to the right bank the track climbs steeply for a few hundred meters till it reaches another fork. The track going downstream leads to Osla while the track going upstream goes to the Har-ki-dun valley.
The track climbs steadily through some terraced fields, passes above a local Devi temple and then climbs sharply up to a small pass on a spur called the Kalgati dhar.
This region is a grassland with no trees. One gets spectacular views down the Tons valley and into the Ruinsara valley with views of the south face of Swargarohini peak and the west face of Bandarpunch peak.
We had tea at a small open air dhaba set up by an enterprising local. Immediately after crossing the Kalgati dhar, there is a nice waterfall called the Charota waterfall. After the waterfall there is a small climb, from the top of this climb one gets the first view of the Har-ki-dun valley.
A couple of kilometers of a gentle undulating walk through birch and Deodar forests brings one to the Har-ki-dun forest rest house.
We reached the Har-ki-dun FRH at 1300 hrs. The Har-ki-dun FRH is located on raised spur between two valleys. It offers beautiful panoramic views of the Dhumdhar glacier and the Swargarohini peak. It must definitely rank amongst the most beautifully located Forest Rest Houses in Uttarakhand, if not in the whole of India.
I walked around the FRH and took some photographs. Later we had our packed lunch we had bought along from Seema. After lunch I went for another walk around the FRH and took some more photographs. Soon it was evening. We were lucky to witness a beautiful sunset. After another early dinner I was of to sleep by 8pm.
01 November 2012
Har-ki-dun to Taluka
Distance : 27 kms Time Taken: 8 hours
We woke up early and after another round of photography and a heavy breakfast we headed down. The plan was to have lunch at Seema and then continue onwards to Takula.
We left the Har-ki-dun FRH at 9 am and were at Seem by 12 pm. After a short rest and a quick lunch at the Dhaba, we continued onwards. We reached the Taluka FRH by 4pm.