21
Aug
09

Footslog’s Uttaranchal Diary

“…when an Aboriginal mother notices the first stirrings of speech in her child, she lets it handle the ‘things’ of that particular country: leaves, fruit, insects and so forth. The child, at its mother’s breast, will toy with the ‘thing’, talk to it, test its teeth on it, learn its name – and finally chuck it aside. We give our children computer games; they give their children the land.” – Bruce Chatwin ‘The Songlines’

Joshimath, situated on the confluence of the Saraswati and Dhauligana Rivers, is probably better known as a junction point for those going to Badrinath and/or Hemkund Sahib. The winter ski-slopes of Auli and the hot spring source near Tapovan too, have to be approached from Joshimath. It is also from this town that people travel to the Valley of Flowers within the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve and the Nanda Devi National Park.

To reach Joshimath, one has to travel via Chamoli. The bus drive from Chamoli to Joshimath can be nerve-wracking. There are landslides everywhere and the mountains seem to be giving in to gravity. Hardly any tree cover left. The construction and widening of the state highway to cater to the Yatri season is killing the place. So is the Hydro-electric Project of J.P. Industries. Tons of rubble from the tunnelling work by J.P. and the road-widening work are being dumped into the Alaknanda River. The river is a mass of angry, boiling, muddy water. The place is a potential environmental time bomb and one day Joshimath itself, may collapse!

How do these projects get sanctioned? Or is it a redundant question to ask in our country?

But Joshimath is still here and so is Bhavishyabadri!

Map

Very few people, however, make their way to Malari and other areas upstream of the Dhauliganga – the Niti Valley – that has remained practically alienated from the mainland.

There are no buses to Malari and those without their own vehicles, are totally dependent on the share-taxi or rather share-jeep system. No fixed timings either. The jeeps leave as and when they are bursting with passengers or one could just start walking and hope for a ride. Hitchhiking may not be possible as the ITBP drivers will ignore you and there aren’t any ‘touristy-kinds’ on route and the jeeps are full anyway! Wouldn’t recommend rooftop travel either. The roads are rough and bumpy, the driving furious and boulders attempting to put their signature on your scalp!

1

There are no hotels or forest rest houses on the Joshimath-Malari section except for the PWD rest house in Malari. Plenty of places to pitch tents though and most villages have a ‘Gram Panchayat’.

Be sure to check the road conditions before taking the Malari road. This section is reasonably motorable only after May and even then, the melting glaciers can force the Dhauliganga River to change its course and swallow large sections of the road. One could be cut-off (like me), for days!

Long stretches of the road are ‘kachha’ and the jeep journey can be harrowing.  Generally the sector towards Malari opens by end May and share-jeeps may go up to Suraithota only, as the road ahead is narrow and bad. Sometimes one may have to wait hours for a vehicle that is going towards Malari. I once waited from 7.45 am till 11 am for the mail service jeep that picks up passengers.

At times there aren’t too many jeeps and one is forced to squeeze into or be sandwiched in the vehicle that is proceeding towards Malari. There was this Mahindra jeep, one time, from Joshimath to Suraithota, and I was sharing the front seat with the driver and 5 other people!  The driver had an amazing way of manoeuvring the floor-shift over and through two pairs of knees. He also, at times, used his right foot on the brake pedal and crossed his left under the right ankle to press the accelerator. Once he looked like a dwarf ballet dancer balanced on marbles!

Apple, Peach and Walnut trees are laden with unripe fruits by mid-May and the valley seems to be coming out of its winter hibernation. Wild pink roses bloom in huge clusters and village children will offer you these once you are accepted.

Before moving on to Malari, I spent nearly a fortnight at Lata village (the only village still locking horns with the government and demanding the return of their traditional rights) – both the upper and lower dwellings. Chipko activist and Gram Pradhan of Lata, Dhan Singh Rana, was kind enough to offer his hospitality. I met the people and spent long hours with them. Talked about the problems being faced by the community ever since the creation of the Kedarnath-Nandadevi Sanctuaries. It was the same old story – people ousted from their traditional and rightful sites with all rights taken away and promises made. Eco-tourism is the key word but how do these people really benefit? There is nothing left here! The young people eventually leave for the cities.

2

“Big cities organise workshops and call a few experts from this area as show-cases. Why not have these workshops here? Why don’t visiting VIP’s/experts stay in the villages, eat the local food and drink the same water? Use this place and allow the money to reach the local people. Let Dehradun and Delhi come to Lata first! ” – Voices of people from Lata.

3

<Tuesday> there are no medical facilities available and the nearest private doctor is 15 km away (Tapovan). The village is divided into 2 separate sections – the Harijan and Kshatriya homes. There is a common approach from the road-post below and then left/right turns to respective areas. No sign of rigidity but the cast system is well established and maintained.

It is heart wrenching and at the same time awe-inspiring to see the amount of work the women do here. They are first to rise in the morning and the last to sleep when the day is done. They begin their morning by fetching water for the house – utensils to be washed, breakfast and tea to be kept ready. Many leave before sunrise to clean the cowsheds and return carrying heavy Kannu’s (wicker baskets), full of dung mixed with straw.

It is around noon that the village seems to become quiet. The women rest; only to end their siesta by 1:30 pm. Swishing of brooms indicates the beginning of another work slot – water pots to be refilled, cows to be taken out, pots and pans to be cleaned, tea to be prepared, time to wash and comb hair, lentils dried, rajma beans to be separated into different grain piles etc. Preparation for the return of the men folk from various work areas also begins.

<Wednesday> wandered down to the riverbank to see how check-dams were built. It is once again a classic example of work not being done properly. These check-dams were supposed to have been constructed in October last year – when the river is fairly low and even dry in patches, making it sensible and easier for people to undertake such work.  Practically useless now because the glaciers are melting and the river are rising. The current is furious and is sweeping away the rocks being dumped to create a dam. Everybody knows that it is the wrong time for such an undertaking, but they get paid, and so does the contractor whose job it was to finish it in October last. As a matter of fact, he will probably get another contract, through ‘friendly channels’, to do the same job again.

The women return with lacerated hands and fingers. Their nails are split, fingers swollen and the skin torn – result of hammering large chunks of rock and pulling thick wire-meshes that have sharp curved evil-looking end points.

They are still smiling!

Am running out of first-aid. Isn’t it the responsibility of the contractor and/or the PWD to provide protective gear (gloves) and first-aid? There are even children amongst these groups. Who is there to check? This is the India our leaders need to keep in mind.

<Thursday/Friday> moved down from the village yesterday to this gram panchayat room. This road-post gets totally deserted by 7 pm and everybody except an old couple leave for Lata. Realised that the door has no latch from inside. Risky business! Picked a heavy block of concrete and used it as a door-jam from inside. Hope it is sufficient to deter a snooping bear! Heavy rain by midnight. Woke up around 2:15 am to the sounds of bells and whistling with an occasional “moo” and “snort”. The Bhotiya shepherds were on the move from the plains towards Malari and beyond. Its 3:30 am and still raining. Finally dozed off with visions of Himalayan bears on horseback attacking my room! 13th Warrior working overtime!!

<Saturday> 4:15 am, the air is crisp and the sky is lit with an amazingly hushed bright glow. There is fresh snow on all the peaks. Left for a walk towards Suraithota and returned by 8:30. Met some young Lata girls dragging a huge wire-mesh. One had already cut her finger and was in great discomfort. Only 5 band-aids left.

Went to Joshimath with Dhan Singh and met Dr. A.K. Banerjee, DFO. A very positive meeting though both Dhan Singh and Banerjee kept watching each other warily. I think it is time for both parties to take stock of the situation.

We discussed ‘eco-tourism’ and it was agreed that each village ought to have a ‘Gram Paryatak Sahayata Kendra’ (Village Tourist Assistance Centre). People wanting to trek up to Lata Kharak would not require any permission/permit from the DFO’s office and could contact the Lata Gram Panchayat directly. It was also agreed that Lata village would take the first step towards establishing such a centre and that the DFO’s office would assist in any way possible, including allocation of wool; list of those already receiving some aid; clearance of backlog of wool allocation to Lata; formation of eco-cell etc.

Dr. Banerjee, who is also establishing an Interpretation Centre in Joshimath to train youth from the local community, also took the pioneering step of allowing the FRH at Lata Kharak to be used by trekkers for night halt. The Lata Gram Panchayat has blanket permission in this regard. New trekking routes are being worked-out by the DFO.  Of course, there are conditions – but keeping the village in mind. The ‘General Instructions, Terms and Conditions for all Mountaineering and Trekking Expeditions’ will be made available to all those interested and it will also be with the Gram Panchayat. Some terms and conditions are like – (a) the team/visitors will have to hire guide/porter from the local villages that fall in the trek route. Under no circumstances hiring of outside guides or porters will be allowed. (b) the team/visitors will have to contact the DFO to get the list of porters/guides from respective villages and about the payment to porter/guide fee before starting the trek. All payments to be made directly to the Gram Panchayat. There will be no middlemen, especially the ‘Raju Guide Service, Joshimath’.

Dhan Singh Rana has also agreed to offer indigenous dwellings near the river as guesthouses. These houses are generally kept locked by the villagers during summer as they themselves move to their second dwelling. I inspected the said dwellings and found them to be a wonderful place to stay. The owners have agreed to clean the houses and build toilets and provide basic facilities. Provisions can be bought locally and if required somebody could come down to cook local meals for the guests.  The money will go to the people and the Panchayat would undertake the allocation of houses at their discretion.

Those interested should write to

Shri Dhan Singh Rana

Gram Post Lata

Joshimath 246 443

Jilla: Chamoli

<Sunday> the road to Malari has opened. Weather conditions need to be taken into account. Too hot and the glaciers will melt and the river will rise again. Too much rain and there will be landslides. Catch 22 of sorts.

I wondered each day I was here as to what are the desires and aspirations of these proud people? They have already lost so much and are now in the process of losing their identities and heritage too.

Compared to them the city dwellers always seem to be lusting for more. These people have needs and city folk have desires!

Here they are content to a point with what they have and in the cities we are never content. Always want what the neighbour has and better still if more expensive. No needs but desire to possess!

<Monday> packed early and began the wait for a vehicle going towards Malari. All jeeps packed and booked by Bhotiyas shifting to Malari. Finally managed to convince a family who allowed me to travel on their jeep’s rooftop.

The posterior kneading and bone-shattering journey perched on jeep-top took nearly 2 hours and 40 minutes. I had to cling-on to the luggage bars balancing on stuff already piled-on top. Bracing my legs against objects I hung on for dear life with sheer drop on one side. Had to keep a constant look-out for pine branches, communication wires and overhanging rock edges. My body was a glob of pain and was I glad when the ride was over! Those scared of heights shouldn’t even think of visiting this place. It is not for the usual tourist anyway.

Incredible sights on the way though! Glaciers that were over 50’ thick; gigantic rock structures; multitudes of humungous landslides and razor-sharp cold wind!

The PWD rest house (2 rooms with shared toilet/bath) is just below Malari village and one needs to have permission to stay. Letter of intent can be secured from PWD office, Joshimath.  No rations are available – not even tea – and one must buy supplies before coming here.  The caretaker will cook if requested. Remember to ask for a lantern and go easy on the kerosene!

5

Malari is practically a border post and could be off-limits for foreigners – sometimes for Indian citizens too. Check situation in Joshimath before planning a trip to Malari. Ensure that you have the required permits. Beyond Malari a permit IS required.

The terrain is rugged and snow-covered mountains surround Malari. Harsh weather conditions. Many houses are damaged and will require repair. It seems that this is happens every year. The snow crushes the weak rooftops and mud walls. Most houses, though, have solid rock foundations and stone walls. Some have simple but attractive wooden balconies with carved pillars that run on at least 3 sides of the houses. Roofs are of slate stone and corrugated tin-sheets are being used too.

4

<Tuesday/Wednesday> evening shattered by loud arrival of Garhwal University Geology department students with teacher who was wearing a ‘Kanha’ cap. After mutual intros he said, “Hum bhi Tiger Project wale hain.” I pointed out that there were no tigers in this area, only to be told, “Corbett mein toe hain!” On further probing, I was gloweringly informed that his brother was the manager at some resort. Not a very promising start.

The gentleman with the Kanha cap is conducting some survey and has secured grants for the same. I was shown a new Sony handy cam and a Nikon FM3A with 70~300 lens. His students tried to lambaste me with heavy geological terms – “fissures, fractures, tectonic shifts” etc. I must really look dumb! Then one guy tried to regale me with stories of snow leopards near his house. When I hinted that I would love to visit his ‘alpine dwelling’, he quickly changed his tone and said, “Nahin, shaayad doosara wild wala leopard hoga.”

By now, their teacher had puffed and preened himself and dropped at least five names of big shots/DM/SDM/DFO/CF/IG etc. and finally and thankfully finished with the story of how his milkman in Ramnagar had throttled to death a leopard cub.

Horrible night with the teacher-guy snoring like a malfunctioning bulldozer and talking in his sleep.

<Thursday> the gang of geologists left with promises of early return.

Walked carefully through the Pagala Nala up to Malari. Then past the village to a temple that had a wooden stump outside – the kind used by butchers – sacrifices? People here are Kali worshippers.

This is really a cold, desolate and un-inviting place inspite all the beauty around.

Nearly 6 vehicles at different times have got stuck in the Pagal Nala. The freezing water is swift and knee-deep. Road beyond Malari is blocked and decide to return to Lata. No point getting stuck here. The geologists have come back too.

<Friday> the bloody geologist kept me awake with his stentorian snoring till 12:30 am. I made all kinds of sounds from my bed to counter the noise from his side. No use!

I woke him up once and asked him to change position. He blinked at me and said, “Why?”

Told him that he was a bit loud. He turned over and started a fresh sonata. I cursed aloud, oinked in unison with his serenade and even rasp-berried! No effect.

I then tried to pull his pillow away. No avail! His head was as large and heavy as his bum. Doggedly, I began to tug away his pillow – but couldn’t budge the ruddy thing. Directed the beam of my torch at his face. No help. He lay there like a pregnant walrus, neck tucked into the chest; chin folding over; left fist clenched on tummy; legs bent and spread…and the body heaved and trembled and incredible sounds emerged with effective “Phrrrrrring” of the lips. I really wanted to take my pillow, place it on his face and sit on it till he died. Never have I been so tempted! Imagine this guy in an avalanche-prone area?

Made one final bid and woke him up and asked him to remove his pillow. He said, “But then I will not be able to sleep.” I felt like telling him that he has kept me awake for over 4 hours and he could keep awake. There was 10 minutes of blissful silence and then it started again, soon rising to an un-ending crescendo that was reducing me into a giggling maniac.

I shifted to the other room and prepared to sleep on the floor. The students woke-up and sniggered at my plight and prayed for their fate when they started sharing the tent with the teacher.

Left for Lata by 6:30 am in one of the jeeps that remain in Malari overnight and leave for Joshimath early morning.

TRIVIA

The Niti Valley:

This valley lies in the Joshimath sub-division of the district with altitudes varying between 2100m and 7817m. South-southwest flowing Dhauliganga is the major river that has two main tributaries viz. the west-southwest flowing Rishiganga and west flowing Girthiganga. They make respective confluence near Reni and Kailashpur.

The Niti Valley forms nestling ground for the substantial tribal population. The Bhotiyas, with two main sub-tribes Marchha and Tolchha. Trade with Tibet was the main occupation of these communities besides rearing sheep and goat – the wool and meat. The consequences of the Indo-Chinese conflict and the eventual take-over of Tibet by China resulted in the cessation of this trade. Traditionally the locals used the pastures around Dharansi and Debrugheta for grazing their animals, mainly sheep, until the area was declared as a National Park in 1983. This declaration came as a nightmare for the local people as their economy was shattered once and for all. Over the years the community has learnt to cultivate a meagre livelihood from the available small and marginal landholding, but this is very inadequate for their subsistence.

This incredibly spectacular landscape with snow capped mountains, roaring rivers, high cascading waterfalls, unbelievable variety of flowers, medicinal plants and a serene climate was christened Devbhoomi by the forefathers of the present generation. Two main temples in the valley were constructed during the times of Adi Shankaracharya or Katyuri rule – the temple of Nanda Devi (the incarnation of goddess Parvati), at village Lata and of Lord Vishnu at Bhavishyabadri near Subhain.

The entire population in the valley is Hindu and as such all-relevant festivals are celebrated with great enthusiasm. Special festivals are linked with the migration of the communities in the valley. When the communities leave their dwellings in the higher reaches for the commencing winter, the murti (idol), of village deities are taken out in procession from the village temple and settled in some house inside the village. At this occasion the headman and other senior persons of the community host at least three Bari (feasts) for the entire village. The community bids adieu to the deity and vows to perform their rituals diligently on their return to the land. The entire celebration is called Lapsu or Lapsa.

Garhwali is the language of the region. The Marchha sub-community speaks Rongpo-kamchya, a dialect that has possibly descended from the Tibetan Dzonkha. Other than Garhwali, Hindi is the spoken language of the people.

In general, the area has three seasons – summer (April-June), monsoon (July-September) and winter (October-March). Due to sharp declination in winter temperature and heavy snowfall, the entire community beyond Juma shifts to the warmer valleys in the lower regions. The rest of the villages in this valley, particularly those falling in the NDBR, shift to their second dwellings located close to the river.

Traditional architecture still continues to exist in the region. Most houses are double-storied and built of stone and roofed with rock slates, wooden plates of deodar or bhojpatra (birch bark). The walls have wooden planks at different intervals. The rooms are small, evenly wiped by clay and dung paste. The interiors are very neat and clean.

Chipko Movement:

State owned large scale felling of trees purely for commercial gains was prevalent in the reserve area. Ultimately the villagers gathered courage to protest against the Government’s forest policy to save their environment and rich biodiversity. Saving trees by hugging, the movement got its recognition as Chipko. The mountaineering expeditions in large groups were on the rise in this sanctuary and this led to a large-scale exploitation of the resources in the form of poaching, collection of medicinal plants etc. The local communities were blamed for these exploitations as the decision makers never really bothered to think about the increasing number of expeditions and their members that were in fact responsible for the damage and depletion. Many short-sighted directives to protect the sanctuary were issued without involving the local communities. The local concerns were sidelined and the voices suppressed.

The new laws took away the traditional rights of the communities on the limited felling of timber for construction of their houses, collection of minor forest produce and grazing of stock. This ultimately resulted in a conflict between the planners and the community. Two decades have passed but the conflict is yet to be resolved and the government seems reluctant to do anything. Reports of poaching and felling of trees within the core area still continue to be reported by the local communities.

So much time has elapsed since the country’s independence, but the valley remains under-developed and neglected. There are hardly any infra-structural facilities and the once prosperous community has become economically poor and socially handicapped. The growing unrest in the valley within this close-knit community may lead to disastrous consequences. The aspirations of these people need to be address immediately. Being a border district it has a considerable geo-political significance for the newly emerged State of Uttaranchal as well as the country.

Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (NDBR):

According to a foreword in a booklet by Mr. A.S. Negi, Chief Wildlife Warden, Uttaranchal, “The basic idea behind the Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme of UNESCO is to improve the relationship between Man and Environment. The international Coordination Council (ICC) of UNESCO in its first meeting in 1971 had floated the idea of the creation of Biosphere Reserves throughout the world and so far more than 356 Biosphere Reserves in 90 countries have been created.

The main objective of the Biosphere Reserve concept is to ensure the conservation of landscape, ecosystems, species and genetic variations. Encouragement to the traditional resource systems and understanding the pattern and functioning of ecosystems are also the main conserving objects of this concept. It promotes the economic development that is culturally, socially and economically sustainable at local level. Out of the 12 Biosphere Reserves created in India, the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve enjoys a distinct place because this is the second oldest Biosphere Reserve of India created in 1988 (the first is Nilgiri created in 1986), and it is also the first Biosphere Reserve of the Himalayas (the other being the Kangchendzonga created in the year 2000).”

The NDBR has one of the most spectacular wildernesses having populations of rare and threatened mammals and lies between latitudes 79 degrees 40’ and 80 degrees 05’ and corresponding longitudes 30 degrees 17’ and 30 degrees 41’. The exotic brahmakamal, the many tinted rhododendron, the blue poppy, the musk deer and the elusive snow leopard are all native to this land. It has an area of 200,000 hectares with an inner core zone (80,000 hectares), having no human settlements and the remaining buffer zone with 12 odd villages. High mountain ridges and peaks bound this reserve from all sides except the western side, which forms a deep gorge of the river Rishiganga, and thus forms a large drainage basin. Nanda Devi, a natural monument and India’s second highest peak dominates this basin.  The entire basin is situated above 3500m while the altitude within the biosphere varies between 2100m and 7817m. After the pioneering efforts of Eric Shipton and H.W. Tilman (1934), mountaineering activities geared-up on a large scale. As a consequence there was reckless exploitation of the resources in the form of poaching, depletion of medicinal plants etc. This created a great furore amongst the locals and environmentalists. The strong resentment of the people regarding this concern forced the then Government of Uttar Pradesh to put an embargo on such expeditions since 1983.

The whole of NDBR and specially the Nanda Devi National Park (NDNP) is a unique storehouse of Himalayan herbs, shrubs and trees.

Today the Government of Uttaranchal has plans to re-open the area for mountaineering expeditions, but reports of ‘private expeditions for foreigners’ still reached my ears. Whether they had official permission could not be verified.

The Nanda Devi National Park can be approached from three villages of the Chamoli district viz. Reni, Lata and Tolma. All three villages are situated on the Joshimath-Malari road. A 9 km trek from the villages of Lata/Tolma, will reach you up to Lata Kharak (2800m), which is the periphery of the park. From Lata Kharak a trek of 7.5 km will take you to Dharansi (4250m). Both these places have spectacular sights.

Entry inside the park (after the buffer zone) is not yet open for the general tourist and trekker. It is possible only after obtaining permission from authorities in Dehradun, Gopeshwar or Joshimath.

Inside the park the long trek route will take you from Dharansi to Debrugheta, Deodi, Rishiganga and Ramani. This route is full of dense forest with rich floral and faunal diversity. The Rishiganga that emerges from the Nanda Devi glacier is the major river that flows through the park. After crossing this river one can reach up to the base area of Nanda Devi peak called Sarsopatal (5000m), which is a high alpine pasture full of wild flowers and animals. The NDNP has many mammals that are endangered and in the Red Data list. Some important mammals found here are Black Bear, Snow Leopard, Musk Deer, Blue Sheep, Himalayan Thar, Serow etc. About 200 species of birds have been identified in this area. Some species are endangered, viz. Himalayan Monal (Lophophorus impejanus), Koklass Pheasant (Pucrasia macrolopha), Western Tragopan (Tragopan melanocephalus), Himalayan Snowcock (Tetraogallus himalayenis), Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalenis) and the Lammergeir (Gypaetus barbatus).

Bhavishyabadri:

The Narsingh temple (Vishnu in his lion form), in Joshimath is one of the most important temples in the area. There is a belief, particularly amongst the Vaishnavites, that one of the arms on the Vishnu idol in this temple is gradually becoming thinner. It is said that the age of Kalyug will descend on this earth when the thinning arm shatters. A great flood will lead to the collapse of the Jai and Vijay mountains at Vishnuprayag. This will result into the blocking of the passage to Badrinath and a new temple will appear at Bhavishyabadri, in the Tapovan Valley.

Chaunsa – a typical Uttaranchali culinary delight:

This is a local Garhwali ‘daal’ (lentil) preparation.

Take equal proportions of Kaali Urad (black gram – also known as the Pahari daal) and Dhuli/Safed Urad (split and husked black gram), some Rajma (red kidney beans), Soya Beans and dried Matar (split peas – optional).

Crush the above to fine granules but avoid powdering. Transfer into a kadhaai (wok) and fry in ghee (clarified butter)/mustard oil till brown. Keep aside.

Chop onions, tomatoes and garlic (optional). Fry in ghee/mustard oil till light brown. Add salt, lal mirch (red pepper), masala and hing (asafoetida – optional) to suit taste. Keep stirring till contents turn a deep brown and then mix with the daal in the kadhaai.

Add water to prepare required consistency and bring to a boil. Cover kadhaai with lid and cook well on low flame. Stir occasionally.

Serve hot with rice and pickle! Cooked veggies and rotis are optional.

Brain Drain:

For those in transit and have-been-everywhere-and-seen-everything-but-want-timepass – Joshimath has one movie hall to offer. Actually a large shed with burlap-covered chairs. The management does not believe in exhaust fans and allows the bidi/cigarette smoke to remain in the hall to fumigate the place. I would recommend that non-smoking novice viewers buy gas masks before entering. There is no 6 pm screening and generally the night show could be a third rate semi-porn film like “Kaatil Haseena”. Day screenings turnout to be more ‘cerebral’ stuff like – Mithun Chakrabarty in and as the “Cheetah”.

Recommended reading:

# Niti Valley: Exploring Possibilities (booklet) by Dr. Dinesh Sati.

# Seven Sacred Rivers by Bill Aitken, Penguin 1992.

# The Nanda Devi Affair by Bill Aitken, Penguin 1994.

# Sacred Waters by Stephen Alter, Penguin 2001.

# Garhwal Himalayas, by Gurmeet and Elizabeth Thukral.

# Mountain Goddess: Gender and Politics in a Himalayan Pilgrimage by William Sax, OUP 1991.

General Information:

When to visit: June onwards till October.

Best Time to Visit:  Mid July to Mid August.

Nearest Railway Station: Rishikesh.

Nearest Hospital: Joshimath.

Road Route: Rishikesh-Srinagar-Karnprayag-Joshimath-Malari.

Haldwani-Ranikhet-Karnaprayag-Joshimath-Malari.

Some official addresses:

  • Chief Wildlife Warden, Uttaranchal, Dilaram Bazaar, Dehradun
  • Director, Nandadevi Biosphere Reserve, Gopeshwar (Chamoli)
  • DFO & Director, Nandadevi National Park & Valley of Flowers National Park, Joshimath 246 443 (District Chamoli)


8 Responses to “Footslog’s Uttaranchal Diary”


  1. 1 fauzia
    October 17, 2009 at 11:31 am

    I found that beautiful. You write lovely prose and your poetry seductively readable.

  2. 2 Lalit Talwar
    May 21, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Thanks for the information it is very detailed
    Lalit

  3. May 27, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing these very useful details of Niti Valley.

    Planning to Trek to Lata-Dharansi-Tolma in June-2010. By any chance do you have actual Trail Route from Lata to Dharansi & Dibrugheta on GPS or Otherwise?

    – KS

    • 4 bichhubooti
      May 27, 2010 at 4:46 pm

      There were trail routes at the DFO’s office (Joshimath). However, I suggest you contact:
      Sri Dhan Singh Rana
      Director
      Mountain Shepherd Initiative Pvt. Ltd.
      Village & Post office Lata 246 443
      (via Joshimath)
      Chamoli District, Uttarakhand
      OR
      Sunil Kainthola
      Coordinator
      Tel: +91-97193 16777
      Email: bhotiya@gmail.com

      Blue skies and walk safe!

  4. June 21, 2012 at 5:02 am

    Garhwal & Kumaon 2012 Updates for those interested:
    You will need Inner Line Permits from the District Magistrate’s office in Gopeshwar [+91-(0)-1372-252102] for Garhwal and the DM’s office in Pithoragarh [+91-(0)-5964-225301] for Kumaon. You will also need to deposit a Bank Draft for Rs. 10,000.00 at the Divisional Forest Office in Joshimath….don’t ask me why! Once you have managed to get the necessary permits – report to the Army (GSO) in Tapovan, Joshimath.
    All this will take time and a considerable ‘trek’ on its own. For local logistics, get in touch with http://www.mountainshepherds.com OR http://www.uttarakhandtrekking.com

    Would appreciate your feedback.

    • January 19, 2013 at 9:04 am

      Hi! Your blog has inspired me to travel into the Niti Valley this coming summer. However, I could not understand why and where the inner line permit would apply. Would be grateful if you can give some insight. Also about the 10K DD. Thanks!

      • January 19, 2013 at 4:52 pm

        Niti Valley is beautiful but do be careful of the melting glaciers that flood rivers and culverts. The Inner Line Permit (ILP) is required for protected/restricted areas. These restrictions are in place due to security. Even Indian citizens who are not residents of such areas require an ILP. However, foreign nationals and NRI’s are not eligible for ILP and they have to apply for a regular Protected/Restricted Area Permit (PAP). The Nanda Devi Sanctuary, Niti Ghati/Valley, Kalindi Khal and adjoining areas of Milam Glacier fall under the protected/restricted areas. Technically, you would require a permit to be in Malari and beyond. Cameras are not allowed in certain areas and be prepared for your belongings being searched by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).

        The 10K DD is a security deposit and could be less by now. I have no updates re this matter.

        As the political and wildlife scenario remains critical, it is always advisable to contact the relevant authorities in Joshimath before venturing out towards Niti Valley. I would suggest you contact the links given in my last update.

  5. April 26, 2014 at 4:27 am

    Hi, all is going perfectly here and ofcourse
    every one is sharing information, that’s in fact good,
    keep up writing.


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