From Dodital, Darva Top was 5 kilometers. Since Dayara Bugyal (Bugyal means grassland) was 12 kilometers from Dodital, and we were really exhausted after the 22 kilometer trek the previous day, we decided to go to Darva Top. From there we would return to Dodital and then walk back 22 kilometers to Uttarkashi.
Darva Top, everyone said offered breathtaking views. You could get a 360 degree view as you reached the top. You could see Bandarpoonch, Yamunotri and other peaks. The grassland itself was beautiful they said.
So we started.
Although we had planned to start by 7:30, we started only at 10. The climb was difficult as it was quite steep. We had to ford many small, narrow streams. The challenge was to put your feet on a few bigger stones which were well above the surface of water, without getting your shoes and socks wet.
Did I tell you the chadi (a metal shod wooden stick for support) – (I did not want to use the phrase walking stick!) helps when you trek? Oh it makes so much difference! I bought a chadi at Kedarnath. From then on, it was with me everywhere I went. I wanted to bring it back to Bangalore and showcase it, but forgot it while returning from Uttarkashi to Rishikesh. Remember to buy a chadi if you plan to trek.
Although there had been a clear sky in the morning, clouds started appearing towards noon. We trudged on hoping that it would be clear when we reached the top.
It was raining and then there were hails falling lightly. It was cold.
We saw Gujjars on the way. This is a nomadic community in this region. They graze their buffaloes in the grasslands. And they are mainly responsible for ruining all the hiking trails throughout the hills.
As we rested on one of the rocks, we saw a few Gujjar women resting behind a big boulder that was shielding them somewhat from the cold wind. One of the women asked us if we had some medicine to induce pain. One of the women was giving birth to a child! Right there in the mountains in the midst of cold winds and a hostile weather! I thought all women (these days) gave birth in hospitals! I felt really sorry for the poor woman. We did not have such a medicine. We moved on hoping nature would take care.
As we climbed on we saw boys and girls in groups returning from the top. They had been wiser to start early in the morning.
As we reached a certain point, we looked back and these were some of the views we got.
And then we had almost reached the top when there was fog all around us. The path was slippery because of the drizzle and the hails. And then a hailstorm began. We were in our raincoats but they were of no use. The winds grew strong and cold. The hails fell upon us not vertically but horizontally. We stood with our backs to the storm. My hands went numb in a matter of minutes. I put on my gloves but it made no difference. My whole body froze. Well, almost! I could move only with great difficulty. My hands felt as if a hundred needles were poking them from inside. It hurt. Yogesh and Naresh took my hands and rubbed them, but it did not help. We were caught in a snowstorm. The 360 degree view that we had hoped to get eluded us. We knew we were standing on top and there were peaks and spaces all around but we could see nothing. The weather had betrayed us. I felt a sense of indignation.
What a disappointment it was! For now, I shall be a proverbial fox and declare that the trip was still worth it, for I got to see a snowstorm which I had never seen before!
Right before our eyes a brown – green hill turned white!
As we trekked down we saw that the Gujjar woman who was to give birth had been bundled on horseback and the rest of the Gujjars climbed behind. They would climb further, right into the snow storm and go beyond, to where they lived! What a marvel human body is! What a capacity it has to adapt!
The climb down was painful. It was raining. The several small streams that we had crossed our way up had swelled with all the rainwater. With great difficulty, we forded -what may be called without too much exaggeration – rivulets, and walked towards the temple in Dodital. The surface of the river was pockmarked with raindrops. It was a different sight but a beautiful one. We were soaked to the skin.
We sat for hours before the fire in the kitchen and my hands that had gone numb, stopped hurting. A Gujjar had given to the priest a big jar of fresh buffalo milk with the instruction that kheer was to be prepared from it and we were to be served with a feast. Everywhere we went, we were treated like VIP’s. This was because Yogesh was a forest officer and it was with his permission that the Dhaba was allowed to be set up, the Gujjars were allowed to graze their buffaloes and so on… :)
That night was colder than the previous night. The next morning, we said goodbye to Dodital. In my mind I decided to come back to this place. Being a stubborn girl, I would go to Darva Top again and get that 360 degree view which had betrayed me this time.
For more pictures see Darva Top