The night bus to Rishikesh and then an early morning jeep to be changed on the way by another one was all the transport that our six member team took to reach the foot of our weekend trek-Barsu, at around 3 in the cold afternoon in Garhwal hills. We aimed to reach the Dayara Bugyal the next day, so without any further delay, we took some meal from the beautiful village of Barsu and hence in another half an hour we all set forth on to our 8 km trek to the Bugyal (meaning a meadow).
It was a steep trek and we were pushed to the limit after all that traveling to finish the three km that we targeted to finish before nightfall. The steep path with a meandering stream was a lovely sight even to our tired selves and stressed minds. As the sun set, we had a hard time groping our way, but that was not to last for long because soon we saw some Gujjar huts in the village of Barnala, which had been vacated owing to the harsh winter, and therefore we spent the night in there. We cooked our own food on the ‘choolha’-each one eagerly taking their place near the fire(not because of the cooking part essentially but because it was so intensely cold that staying in any other part of the little hut would have been mere foolery!) Our novice hands soon started showing their mistakes as we proceeded and soon the whole hut was full of smoke-so we made a small chimney by plugging out some stones from the extreme end of the hut. After having that simple food, which seemed better than any feast to our hungry stomachs, we prepared our beds and soon were all set to sleep. But, perhaps slumber was not eager to follow us to our sleeping beds for the major part of the night was spent gazing here and there; each envying the other to have fallen asleep so easily; but the truth came forth in the morning when it was made overt that we all had actually spent an almost sleepless night due to the subzero temperature, and thereby giving us all a chance to have a hearty laugh!
Next morning after a speedy breakfast, we all put our foot on the next trail to our final destination. It took us around two hours to cross Gorganda and thereby reaching our final destination-the Dayara village- in another hour from Gorganda. The second part of the trail was not that steep and since we had recovered from the previous day’s exhaustion and had also acclimatized by now, this part was cheerfully welcomed by one and all. Soon we found ourselves in another Gujjar hut with bits of snow surrounding our domain. We took a brief break and again began our seemingly never-ending walk to the Bugyal itself which was just a fifteen minutes walk from our newly found home.
Situated at a height of 3,048 metres above Uttarkashi, the unimaginable beauty of this rolling meadow perplexed us all. Endless tracts of yellowish-green grass speckled white flowers and snowflakes made the landscape (in view), framed by soaring jagged snowcapped peaks.
Dayara Bugyal is what every trekker and nature lover would crave for, having been there once. It is like the drug that isn’t easy to leave- the beauty so captivating that it was impossible to take one’s eyes off it. Dayara Bugyal is perhaps the most unexploited wonder that I have seen till now. In the coming months of winter, it was to receive heavy snowfall (as told to us by the guide) and was to be soon converted into a perfect spot for skiers. It is one of the best ski slopes in India and offers an alternative to the regular, crowded slopes of Auli, Manali and Gulmarg. Still, it is cocooned from commercial tourism and therefore offers clean skiing slopes spread over a vast area of 28 sq km that takes you almost to the village of Barsu in just a fraction of the time that we spent reaching up till here!
We spent some nice time at the Bugyal-lying on the sun filled hill top and later even took a small walk with the guide to the adjacent Kana Tal (lake) which remained frozen during this time of the year. The beauty of Nature overwhelmed us and we just did not want to leave. But evening came and with it the cold, which pushed us back on our way to the little Gujjar hut that was to be our home for that night. Once back in the tent, the whole night was spent in jovial mood-cooking, singing songs, playing games et al.
Morning approached and before six we were all on the path back to Barsu. It was dark in the jungles but otherwise the full moon showed us the way. The hill tops surrounding us dazzled in the moonlight and gave us a great view of the area. In another three hours we had walked down straight to the village of Barsu and had boarded the bus back to Rishikesh and from there to Delhi; but the beauty of the hills and the sundry picturesque views of the place we had just visited simply refused to leave us.
It was then that I truly understood the meaning of Keat’s line:
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever”