Amidst the Silence of the Hills – A Road Trip To Chakrata

In India, Travel Guides
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History

Chakrata is a small, picturesque town situated on the majestic, lush green mountains in Uttarakhand state of India. Nestled amidst the silent hills, at an elevation of approximately 7,000 feet, the town was initially encamped by the British Indian Army for somnolence during arduous periods of advances and retreats. The credit for establishing a mysterious cantonment up the hills goes to Late Colonel Hume of the 55th Regiment of British Indian Army, in 1866. Today, the ostentatious mountains attract vacationers thirsting for adventure rather than soldiers of fortune, but their challenge is as formidable as ever.

The Hills in all their Glory

The Hills in all their Glory

How To Reach Chakrata

Last June, while camping in the scorching town of Dehradun, my friend and I were blessed with an opportunity of visiting Chakrata by jeep, at the weekend. Tourists can take either a bus or a local taxi to Chakrata from the neighboring towns of Mussorie (via Kempty Fall) and Vikasnagar or Kalsi. We took the Vikasnagar route in the afternoon, as it is closest to our destination (32 miles away from Dehradun).  It took us roughly three hours to get there.

After the Indo-China war in 1962, the elite ‘Commandment 22’- a discrete frontier force containing trained Tibetan soldiers of Indian National Army receive special training in survival and weapon handling here. Foreigners must obtain special permission from Establishment 22 for tourism purpose. Since it is a restricted region for both civilians and foreigners, fuel is hard to come by. If you are planning to hit the roads, it would be better if you fill up your fuel tanks.

Welcome to Chakrata

Welcome to Chakrata

Chakrata at a Glance

Compared to Doon, Chakrata seems green, refreshing and tidy. Minuscule villages with homely wood cottages, sharp monastery spires, terrace farms with tilled fields and narrow water canals, cramped shops in Sadar bazaar and tiled balconies facing the breathtaking sunset on the hills, all suggest that nature has been bridled to some extent, that man seems to master the harshness of mountains.

Way to the Cottage

Way to the Cottage

The Top List

Top 9 Tourist Hotspots

  1. Falls: Tiger Fall, Moigad Fall, Kimona Fall
  2. Temples: Chinta Haran Mahadev Temple, Mahasu Devta Temple at Hanol
  3. Peaks: Chilmiri Neck, Thana Danda
  4. Forest: Deoban
  5. Remote villages: Kalsi and Mundali
  6. Preserved region: Ram Tal Horticulture Garden
  7. City of God: Lakhamandal
  8. Picnic spot: Koti-Kanasar
  9. Budher Caves

Beyond the Forests

Top 10 Things To Do

  1. River rafting
  2. Camping
  3. Trekking
  4. Mountain biking
  5. Mountain climbing
  6. Village tours
  7. Jungle walks
  8. Riding horse to Forest Check Post
  9. Shopping
  10. Nature photography

Top 5 Dining Options

  1. Spring Rolls
  2. Momos
  3. Maggi/Chow Mein
  4. Manchurian
  5. Tomato Soup

Meandering through the narrow streets and dodgy corners up the hill, a gigantic signboard confirmed our arrival at the taxi stand. My friend’s extended family escorted us to their old-fashioned ‘wood and stone’ cabin, located near PWD office. The cabin was built during British occupation of the mountains. We arrived just in time for the afternoon tea. It took us barely 15 minutes to freshen up and we were all set for the marketplace.

Sadar bazaar was buzzing with throngs of people from different origins. Cold, mountain winds were hard to deal with (quick advice, don’t forget to pack one or two winter-wear if you plan to stay there for more than a week), but this did not stop us from heading inside a warm and cozy tea shop.

Deoban

Deoban

Hottest Places For Exploration

The smell of fresh, spicy tomato soup, steamed momos and piping hot spring rolls beckoned us. Uttarakhand natives have a weird obsession with Chinese cuisine. You’ll find stuff like noodles, ramen and Manchurian everywhere. It was 4pm IST and we were feeling adventurous, besides, this 1-hour break charged us up for a quick road trip. We decided to head to God’s ForestDeoban’, which is located 16kms from Chakrata, about 2865 meters above sea level. It was on-spur-of-the-moment decision, but we didn’t regret it. Making our way through dark Deodar forests, around sharp hairpin bends, we drove through Deoban and Spider Colony. It’s a beautiful spot for rock climbing, but photography is strictly prohibited here. We took the left and drove straight ahead to Vyas Shikhar.

Vyas Shikhar

Vyas Shikhar

This place has religious significance in Hindu Mythology. It witnessed the origin of the great Indian epic Mahabharata by Ved Vyas. We were at the peak to witness sunset in all its majestic glory. The surrounding landscape was so beautiful that we don’t have words to describe it. One look around gave us a view of Banderpunch peak, Trishul peak and Nanda Devi peak. Natives accompanying us pointed out the Great Wall of China at a distance. For us, the Indians, Heaven lies not just in Kashmir, but places like Chakrata, Mundali and Kalsi. Light drizzles marked the end of our journey and we returned to our temporary home.

At sharp 4am in the morning, we woke up to monstrous howl of thunder and rain. The temperatures were 6°Celcius and it was bitter cold outside. Perched on the balcony with a cup of sizzling coffee had me wonder that nature works in weird ways. It fascinates us, intimidates us and terrifies us from time to time.

The Buddhist Shrine

The Buddhist Shrine

The weather cleared around 8am. We grabbed our breakfast and dashed outside, scared to lose another minute. The next 2 days passed in blur. We travelled a lot and tried to cover most of the important locations. We offered prayers at the mystical Shivling of Chinta Haran Mahadev temple and the Buddhist Shrine. The contrast between two ancient religions was fascinating.

Shiv Linga at Chinta Haran Mahadeva Temple

Shiv Linga at Chinta Haran Mahadeva Temple

We had our own share of fun-filled picnic moments at the Chilmiri Neck near the cantonment. We could see Banderpoonch Massif and Rohini peak from there. It was the Budher Cave that fascinated us. This place was believed built by the Pandavas (5 brothers) during their exile. Beyond the caves lies the lush green Miola Tibba meadow that encircles an ancient Shiva Temple.

The grand Tiger Falls was the showstopper of this adventurous mountain journey. Having an elevation of 312 feet, this monstrous waterfall remains untouched by commercialization. Streams of water bubble through dense evergreen forest and descend down with an enchanting noise into a freshwater pool at the bottom.

A dip in the cool waters of Tiger Falls

A dip in the cool waters of Tiger Falls

We spent last few hours of our weekend camping near the falls, bathing in refreshing waters and munching on tasty berries. The weekend was almost over and time was running short, but we managed to squeeze in a visit to Ram Tal Horticulture Garden on our way back. Embellished with superior varieties of Rhododendron, Pulam and Apple trees, this scenic picnic spot is a home to beautiful migratory birds. Unfortunately, the garden was dry during the summer months, but the hilly terrain was worth a watch.

After grabbing a bite and spending a relaxing evening in the garden, we made our way back to Dehradun. What a rejuvenating trip it was!

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