When we got up in the morning at Pithoragrah we got the enchanting view of the Himalayas. We stated our journey after a visit to the nearby Ulka Devi temple. Hardly we would have traveled some 25 Kms we encountered another landslide in our route and the journey was stopped. But the PWD personnel cleared the road block quickly and the journey resumed and via Almora and along Sarayu we reached Ogla. ITBP commander from Mirthi welcomed us at Ogla ( 1320 m) and a reception was held for us.
Normally we would have traveled to Mirthi headquarters of the 14th battalion of ITBP and enjoyed their hospitality , since the route was changed because of land slide they came to Ogla to extend their hospitality. Here the commandant assured that they are with us always to protect us and also explained about the route and the precautions to be taken while trekking and the way we have to conduct on the Chinese side. A group photo of our 14th batch was also clicked. From there we left for Dharchula the ITBP escorted us from here. On the way we passed through the native village of our L.O, Bon-Koti Village, the villagers welcomed their son of soil and his group in their traditional attire and wished us all a pleasant yatra. Our L.O informed that the villagers shift to lower altitude in winter and come back to their village again in summer. After traveling about 110 Km we reached Darchula (880 m) around lunch time.
Land slides enroute
Our L.O with his villagers
Our luggage were weighed here, up to this point there was no weight restriction but as trekking is about to start and luggage has to be transported by mules weight restriction of 25 Kg per yatri came into force from here. Only the total weight of luggage of all the yatris were taken into account there was no problem for any yatri about weight in our batch. The decision about hiring of ponies and porters on the Indian side had to be made here. The fees for ponies and porters are fixed by KMVN. In 2005 the rates were as follows
Onward Journey (Uphill) Return Journey ( Down hill)
Pony Rs 2600/- Rs 2275/-
Porter Rs 2165/- Rs 1950/-
Hiring of these two services is left to the choice of the individual, as the author had read in some articles that by engaging porters we indirectly help those families and porters are helpful in many ways they know the route like the back of their palm and are excellent guides. They also take special care of our belongings and do all the errands. The author hired both pony and porter. But as I mentioned earlier some yatris were traveling for the second time or third time they didn’t engage any porter or pony.
Friendship bridge connecting India and Nepal
We were introduced to our personal porters and pony handler . The porter’s name was Devender Singh a 18 year old lad, he was very helpful during the whole yatra , he used carry my bag religiously behind me, transported my luggage and Tapaswi’s luggage safely did all the errands like fetching water and other items and also gave a helping hand when we struggled sometimes while trekking. My pony handler’s name was Rukum Ram and the pony was named Damru, meaning the rattle drum in Lord Shiva’s hand. It was also a young horse, and Rukum Ram told that this is the first time the pony is making this trip and it’s mother has made the journey three times earlier. The pony was good and was in control of the keeper so there was no problem. The porters and pony handler know the place as the back of their palm and they will be very much useful guides for us. When we travel in pony we have to be also careful and listen to what the keeper tells, he would ask us to get down where the trek is really steep and we also followed what he told because he knows the route better. Cloak room is available here at Dahrchula we left many items like second raincoat and other items here to reduce the weight. As we were behind schedule we started immediately after lunch form Dharchula to Mangti by bus.
The bus journey of 36 Kms which takes about two hours was along the course of river Kali on both sides there were numerous waterfalls. It was also raining heavily and the road was filled with water but the driver drove the vehicle efficiently. Some of the waterfalls were falling on our route and our bus also got wet at many places. Like a small child Goswami got excited by seeing the different varieties of water falls for which Mudgal told don’t get excited so much still more are to come. We also saw a hydro electric power plant on the way , we also witnessed people crossing over from Nepal to our side using pulley and all of us thoroughly enjoyed the journey. After crossing Tawaghat (914 m) towards evening when we were just short of Mangti from where the trekking starts, at a village called Gesku there was a big land slide, the soldiers of the engineering wing of BRO ( Border Roads Organization) who maintain the roads in these remote areas called GREF( General Reserve Engineering Force ) were struggling with two bulldozers to clear the debris, but to compound the problem it started to rain also, because of rains more debris started falling and became dark also so our L.O decided that we will stay for the night in that village itself and proceed further in the morning. We were accommodated in a big hall of GREF there were no beds , the service of the KMVN officials came to fore here they went into the village and brought some blankets and pillows and some cots which was sufficient for all of us. They also arranged for a simple but tasteful dinner at a local hotel, it was raining heavily outside and we all spent the night praying to the Lord to remove the obstacles which we are facing . The third day was the day of Land slides and beautiful waterfalls.