Monday, December 26, 2011

Chilling in Chakrata – in around Chakrata

Chilling in Chakrata – in around Chakrata
View of Himalayan ranges from Chakrata Market
In our hurry to reach Chakrata before sunset we had only partaken some snacks for lunch and munched away at some biscuits only. We were almost famished by the time we reached our hotel i.e. Hotel Snow view at Chakrata. After making the due entries in the register we ordered some chowmein and coffee to begin with, even the routine Maggi garnished with eggs & vegetables seemed as palatable as some delectable & exquisite Chinese dish. Having doused the satiable hunger, we checked out of the hotel room to get a view of the surrounding environs. The view of the setting sun from hotel verandah was mesmerizing and I got on with my task of filming the same. With dusk setting in we could see piles of snow on the nearby hills and some stacked in front of the lawn. But as soon as the sun went down, it really got chilly, we rushed in and sought out the hotel attendants to light the fireplace in both the rooms of the suite, only to be informed that firewood was only available for lighting fire in one of the rooms only. So we decided to light it in the inner room that we were to occupy during the night. Having ordered dinner early, which was tailor made to one’s order, we packed up for the night, after arranging for a Jeep for visiting Deoban the next day through the Hotel reception.
View of sunset from the Hotel
Fireplace - a cozy experience
We got up late next morning, having relaxed during the night, waking up as fresh as dew. The sun was already up when we had our morning tea sitting on the porch of the hotel room and relaxing in the warmth of the sun light. Having had our ablutions, we had our breakfast and started for our excursion to Deoban. The hotel owner had informed us that the Mahindra make Jeep, rented for Rs.1200/- for 15 Kms. driver, would be able to make to the top or almost nearby and if required we would only have to trek for a kilometer or so to reach the summit and that our vehicle would not be able to negotiate the snowy patches on the road to Deoban. Deoban is situated at elevation of 2,865 meter, (9,400 feet) above sea level at a distance of 16 Km. from Chakrata entry point, Deoban is famous for the panoramic view of the Himalayas. We started at about 10.00 A.M. and reached Aloo mandi in about 20 minutes or so, which is the forest check point for the Kanasar forest range. We paid the fee for entry of persons @ Rs.20/- per head and road revival fee of Rs.75/- per vehicle/Jeep (UK-07-TA-2207 vide receipt No.704 dated 6.1.11). The guard present at the check-post informed us that the amount paid was non-refundable, even if we were unable to reach the top of Deoban and informed us that we may have to trek for about 2 kms. to reach the top as the Jeep too would not be able to pass through the heavy snow. We were further informed that the road to Kanasar & Mundali was closed due to heavy snowfall. After filming the valley below, we started for Deoban and had hardly covered a kilometer or so and negotiated two bends towards Deoban that the Jeep skidded off the snow surface, luckily it slipped in towards the embankment and not the valley below (check out in the video). We got down gingerly, however, my wife as per her ritual during vacations slipped and fell, but was saved any major damage, as I strongly held her by her scruff. I having some experience in walking over the snow, moved the group to fresh snow and on insistence of the driver trudged on upwards. The driver made light of the incident and informed that the Jeep would be able to traverse the length and that he had called in reinforcements to help him across. We trudged on for another 300 odd meters or so and found that the snow was gradually piling on as we headed upwards. My wife insisted that we do not take the risk and wait for the Jeep to come up and we all stopped at the curve above, calling out the driver at short intervals to ascertain the progress. The children were their playful self playing on the snow strewn all around, but after a lapse of an hour or so, when we could not make out about the progress being made below, we decided to move to the site below where the Jeep was stationed. So we again started our trudge back, very carefully & gingerly. Having reached the point where the Jeep was struck, we found that four young boys were working to get the Jeep out from the slush & ice. After about 10 minutes or so they were able to back the Jeep to a safe distance and we however insisted that we would only get up after the Jeep negotiated the slippery road. However, during the next attempt too the Jeep again skidded and this was enough to convince even the driver that it would not be possible to go up to Deoban. Even the other Jeep that had come to the rescue of our vehicle, was also stuck at the first bend itself. So the entourage walked back and drove down the other vehicle to safety and thereafter, the driver came back and drove us back to the forest check point, where all the helpers and drivers took a break for tea, a much needed refreshment for them.
Jeep having skidded on snow

Snow covered slope

Some more snow - sunny in the background
It was almost 12.30 P.M. and we had wasted about two hours time without achieving anything and therefore, told the driver that since he could not take us to Deoban, he should take us to Tiger falls instead. Since it was not our fault, he agreed to it and thus, we started our journey downwards on the road leading to Lakhamandal and onto Barkot on Yamunotri road. We passed by the other hotel called Himalayan Paradise which is situated at Gwasa pul about 11 Kms. from Chakrata and source of water for the township year round, especially during summers. There was ground frost at two or three points downhill too and equally treacherous for driving. After driving for another 15 odd kilometers or so the driver dropped us at a point informing us that the trek downhill for about 2 odd kilometers would start from this point onwards. We started trudging downhill and were accompanied by two urchins from nearby village, one was named Chetan Singh Rawat and the other one was the son of his father’s vassal named Ashish. From the clothes and shoes worn by the two, one could easily make out the difference in their financial status and the young kid too had learned to utilize the services of the inferior one. On the way down we saw some typical Jaunsari houses, some people ploughing the fields in primitive fashion by using bull driven ploughs. Finally, just before reaching the Tiger fall, we came across the typical local ‘water mill’ used to grind corn flour, locally called the ‘Gharat’. However, having trudged till the valley below, we were in for a shocker, as in order to view the falls directly, one had to cross a rivulet followed by a shallow stream of ice-cold water. Being fully dressed and avoiding taking any risk, we rested for a while and shot a few photographs from across the rivulet. The trudge back was a laborious effort and we had to take many a halts before reaching the road head. As no shop was available, the stock of biscuits & chips purchased at Aloo mandi by my kids was the saving grace for us and we finally came back to the hotel famished at around 4.30 P.M. and again ordered the previous days routine.
A view of the Tiger falls
The street smart urchin Chetan Singh Rawat

The poorer of the two Ashish
Close-up of Tiger falls

Inside view of the Gharat
A typical Jaunsari village house

Ancient methods of tilling land - Bullock assisted ploughing
The next morning the Hotel owner informed that for the aborted excursion to Deoban I would have to shell out half of the settled amount i.e. Rs.600/- plus the full fare for Tiger falls i.e. Rs.1200/-. I told him vehemently that we had only traveled for a few kilometers only and that the trip was aborted because of the fact that the Jeep was unable make it to the destination, moreover, I have had to pay the toll taxes, that served no purpose. I also reminded him that it was he who had assured us that we could go up to Deoban by Jeep and because of this fact only, I had hired the Jeep, moreover, I had not wasted the day and taken the Jeep for the next available destination, thus, the only payment that should be tendered, at best, would be for the extra mileage of about 4-5 Kms. only and that the payment should be negotiated accordingly. He promised to talk to the Jeep operator, but on the last day told me that I had to shell out the amount demanded. As I had not negotiated with the Jeep operator first hand, I had no other option but to comply. I have put up this incident so that fellow travelers are more aware and negotiate for such eventualities in advance. The unjustified demand for money had put us off and we decided to explore the nearby areas in our own vehicle that day, this put off the hotel owner to some extent, to my satisfaction. We had our B’fast comprising of Puri-subzi and set off to explore Chakrata.
View of Chakrata market

The now famous Billboard - check spelling of Fried rice

A typical Jansari tribal women
Chakrata is situated at an altitude of about 2100 meters or 7500 feet above mean sea level and situated between the Yamuna & Tons river valleys. The highest peak in Chakrata is the Kharamba Peak with an altitude of 3084 meters). The place was earlier known as Jaunsar Bawar, a nearby village and the local population comprised of the Jaunsari tribe. Chakrata as we know today was established as a British Cantonment in the year 1866 by Col. Hume and is home to the Special Forces of the Indian army at present. The place is still restricted for the foreigners and they are not allowed entry beyond Kalsi. The main view point is at the Chilmiri Neck, which is actually a ridge that heads towards the Tuni-Mussourie road. The view of the Himalayan ranges of Bandarpoonch and Swargarohini are outstanding & mesmerizing. After having spent some time there, we headed for the market, which is situated on the spur and offers views on both sides with valley. The small meandering market, with its slow pace and a sprinkling of people of varied origins, chitchatting or engaged in trade, offers a view, straight out of bye-gone era. The virgin tranquility of the region, with its forests of deodars & oaks, speckled with colonial masterpieces in a laid back style, is to be felt and absorbed in person and cannot be described in words. We had gone to the market for some working lunch and on the way my wife pointed out the spelling of ‘fried rice’ as ‘fride rice’ on a billboard placed outside a small cafeteria of sorts, called Chandna’s and was skeptical about entering the same. But I prevailed upon her and convinced her that for sake of memory we should definitely try it out. Our trial turned out into a triumph as the food turned out to be really outstanding with some local flavours put into the preparations, especially the Momos. Then we headed for the Tuni-Mussourie road to have a view of the area and returned late in the evening after recording a magnificent sun-set from Chilmiri Neck. The moon was up by the time we reached back in the hotel with a spur of scattered pink in the sky, thus, we concluded the visit, taking with a bit of chill & Chakrata in our memories.
View of Bandarpoonch Range from Chilmiri neck
Extreme close-up of Bandarpoonch Range

The Swargarohini Range

Another view of the Bandarpoonch range
View of Chakrata township from Mussouri-Tuni road

A Jaunsari village in the background near Ram tal Garden
The Moon accompanied by pink flakes or clouds!
While returning back to Delhi the next day we dropped by at Kalsi to see the Ashokan rock edict that dates back to almost 3rd Century B.C and was discovered by a Britisher called John Forest in 1860. Another aspect of our life that we are seldom able to see first hand, but that we use every day i.e. Jaggery, I could show its preparation to my children, first hand, in rural Haryana while returning.
Ashokan edict at Kalsi
Close-up of the Ashokan Rock edict at Kalsi
Preparing Jaggery
May like to watch the mesmerizing views of Chakrata & around in the video below -


  1. Wow..I really enjoyed reading your blog post. You have shared such detailed information about Chakrata hill station. The splendid Tiger Falls situated here is the second largest falls in India. For tourists and travellers, there are plenty of hotels in Chakrata.

  2. Really a detail post and a splendid picture .