Deoria Tal: Lake of the gods in the mini Switzerland of India

By Team Nomad

Five years ago, when I saw picture of Deoriatal, I remember thinking there was something majestic about the place. But there were always more challenging short terms treks like Dayara Bugyal and Valley of Flowers, and somehow Deoria Tal did not seem to be as glamorous.

For most people, the Lake is an addendum to its more famous cousin, the Chandrashila peak. Its allure seems to be overshadowed by the more commercial temple-peak circuit where on mules and in flip-flops people can be spotted heaving through the strenuous climb. Whether religious or adventurous, their travel is sorely grounded in easy availability.

Deoria Tal
Why you spy your location on the way

But that was never my intent. On a breezy Holi morning, I alighted from my bus at Rishikesh with my trusty rucksack and a trekking pole (which I mostly carry around for show). The trekking pole has never been a lifesaver but it fits into the image of a serious hiker who is well armed for possible trouble. For those who have travelled from Delhi to Himachal/Uttarakhand – there is a typical routine. One gets off at Rishikesh, and then figures out ways of transport further depending on their susceptibility to motion sickness and the weight of their pockets.

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En route Deoria Tal

While rickety buses and shared taxis can take you literally anywhere at a very reasonable deal, the private cab is where luxury lies. Now while I pride myself on my frugality and efficient budgeting, I couldn’t shake off the desire to have a backseat all to myself. I imagined stopping at various picturesque valleys and then using my very expensive camera to click awe-inspiring pictures.

I also reminded myself that as a frequent user of the Delhi Metro, Ola Share and Uber pool, I was entitled to my own cab for once. The guy driving me was as peaceful as a Buddhist monk. He introduced himself as Khalik and very courteously stowed away my luggage. Then I fell asleep. Khalik’s precise driving, coupled with a backseat made the winding road seem like a national highway in the plains.

For those of you wondering what the route was:

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Picturesque view of the Ganga from Rishikesh

Route to Deoria tal

• The road begins at Rishikesh and goes through Devprayag, Srinagar, Rudraprayag, Agastyamuni and ends at Ukhimath.
• At Ukhimath a small bifurcation, takes once to Sari village, which serves as the base camp for Deoria Tal. This entire drive takes 6-7 hours from Rishikesh and passes through the picturesque valley along the Alaknanda River.
• The route is particularly captivating after Rudraprayag and one catches glimpses of snow-capped peaks.
• Sari Village is approximately 186km. from Haridwar.

Sari Village

Sari is a tiny hamlet that has probably developed due to the emergence of Deoria Tal as a tourist destination. For those averse to camping, Sari abounds in alternative accommodation options.

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View of Sari Village from the trekking route

Locals invest in terrace farms and little guesthouses that can be leased at minimum charge. Tourist influx has created a burgeoning economy in the area for porters and trekkers. The local shepherding me, Umeed Bhatt, had asked me to wait at Sunil Guesthouse. Another crew from India Hikes also reached Sari around the same time as I did. While they took a pit stop for the night at Sari, I decided that the climb up to Deoriatal was more important. While other guides were busy briefing their relatively inexperienced crew, Bhatt asked me to head up the route if I wanted to catch the view before sunset. I was promised it would be spectacular, and trust me, I was no in way disappointed.

Trek To Deoria Tal

Although the trail is fairly well defined, my decision to carry my entire rucksack (approximately 15 kgs or more) up the very steep route slowed me down. An averagely fit person can easily complete the 2.5 km trek in one and a half hours. It took me took me two and half, thanks to my rucksack (and lack of cardio which I’m not likely to admit to in front of my friends).

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Trail to Deoria Tal

Bloggers will tell you the trek is very easy but be warned, the ascent is steep and the air is thin. It is at your own risk that you will take Deoriatal lightly. At best, you will reach the camp heaving for breath with sprained ankles or at worst be caught in hailstorms at appear at whim on the trail.

The cocky ones (the Punajbi-Delhi crowd in slippers) who raced ahead of me with the their blaring speakers initially, fell behind by a huge margin eventually. Take it from someone who has nearly died at Kedartal due to lack of supplies, wear Hiking shoes. This is not a joke.

Halfway through, you can relax at a small food shack and enjoy your share of mountain maggi. At this point, a Redbull came to my rescue (amongst other central nervous system simulators, if you get what I mean). This route is particularly famous for rare bird sightings. I spotted ravens, mynahs and migratory birds of many kinds, which make this an ideal getaway for birdwatchers. Rhododendrons add a dash of colour to the valley in the spring.

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View of Mount Chandrashila from the Trek

Nearly, at the final bend, I heard someone beckon me by name. A well-constructed hut with freshly cooked food awaited me, courtesy of Bhatt. I was somewhat reluctant since I had nearly reached the Tal, but I couldn’t refuse the efforts of the nice young man Rahul Negi who had made delicious looking food on logs and limited rations.

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This particular hut is the only permanent structure on the way and belongs to Mr. Bhatt. I was served lunch and lemon tea. Then I was hit by trek inertia. It is a common occurrence whereby you rally yourself, carrying your giant rucksack, to the very end. But then you take a break. If, god forbid, you settle down very comfortably, the herculean struggle to find any motivation to go forward is inevitable.

Negi, one of the organizers, offered to share cigarettes. After a few puffs, I launched into the last leg of the trek. That’s when the hailstorm hit. Although, Negi assured me that it was a trickle, the drizzle turned into a torrential downpour showed no signs of abating. It was my turn to laugh at the amateurs carrying their expensive speaker and trekking in slippers. I wondered how they’d beat the rain, cause it was highly unlikely that they have prepped for such an unexpected weather change. For those of planning to trek to Deoria ever, reach by 1 PM or be ready to face the onslaught of an unforgiving whimsical mountain.

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Camping at Deoriatal

Nestled in a groove of tress, the emerald lake reflects the beauty of its landscape on its surface. Even on a cloudy afternoon, which is when I arrived, the rain drops on the grass and freshly watered tress illuminated the picturesque sight. Yes, Deoriatal often turns one’s prose into poetry.

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First views of Deoria Tal

Bhatt was setting up my tent right next to the lake, from where he assured me, I would spot Mount Chaukhamba next morning. He laughed at my palpable excitement to see the enfant terrible four-peaked spectacle. And in a moment of divine intervention (no, I do not believe in god, but in sheer power of will) the sun peeped out from behind the clouds.

I still couldn’t believe I was face to face with the world’s most dangerous mountain range. Its beauty is only matched by the number of people who had died trying to attain it. The Gangotri range is known for awe-inspiring peaks like Meru, one of the toughest mountains to climb and summited for the first time as recent as 2016. Then is Mount Chaukhamba that towers over all the others, with a height of over 23,000 ft. Its four peaks distinguish from the rest of the others. Then there are other striking peaks like Thalaysagar, Kedardome, Sumeru and Mandani.

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The ice-wall Gangotri Range

The range can be spotted from the Lake, but it is the viewpoint that truly captures its magnificence. In a fangirl I couldn’t resist the comparison of the range to The Wall in Game of Thrones. Life beyond the wall, must be like that of the wildlings I thought covetously.

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Sunlight streams in on Mount Chuakhamba and neighbouring peaks.

Most people had set up tripods at the viewpoint and were capturing the sunlight on the peaks. Aside from the viewpoint one can spend a good part of the day exploring the meadows around the Tal. The locals were sharing stories of some British man who had plunged into the icy waters of the lake and swam across.

Nightlife at Deoria Tal

Yes. Deoria Tal has a nightlife. No it isn’t like the boorish mundane pub-hopping in Hauz Khas. It is communing with nature in sub-zero temperatures with a bonfire anf fellow compatriots who have sought the peace that mountain afford. The glorious sight of the moon reflected in the calm water of the lake is enough to get anyone excited.

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The lit up tents looked like shiny domes strewn across the campsite. As temperatures plunged, trekkers pulled out their supply of rum, whiskey, and even beer for the night. Groups began playing cards and enjoying their choice of spirit.

At the hut, a group was indulging themselves in a sumptuous meal. Adequately loosened by the liquor, they began talking about their lives. There is atrange sense of camaraderie between trekker. Their shared experience of the trail, alongwith the desire to explore makes them bond easily with fellow travellers. If not that and liquor, the bonfire is enough to get one talking.

I snuggled up next to the bonfire, listening to the hum of the music they were singing. Deoria Tal is an addendum, they said. But after having soaked in its sights, I couldn’t even begin to imagine what Chandrashila would look like.

I guess you’re wondering the same. But for that one you will have wait. Till then, happy-trekking fellow souls, the Nomad Team will be back with more adventures!

Sample Itinerary for Deoria Tal over a weekend

An efficiently planned itinerary for Deoria Tal will cover this trek over a weekend within a very reasonable budget.

Day 0: Delhi- Rishikesh(overnight)

Leave from ISBT Delhi around midnight in a Volvo or similar A/C bus. The bus will cost around Rs. 500 for a ticket and will drop you to Rishikesh within 5 hours i.e. by 5 am if you left at midnight.

Day 1: Rishikesh- Sari village-Trek to Deoriatal

Private Cab/ Shared Cab/ Bus from Rishikesh to Ukhimath- A bus will take 7-8 hours whereas a cab will get you there in 6 hours.

The price of a bus ticket will be approximately Rs. 80-100. A shared cab will cost around Rs. 300-400 a seat.

A private taxi will cost Rs. 5000 for a one-way drop. However, if you engage the cab for a 2-day round-trip from Rishikesh you can negotiate an all-inclusive price of Rs. 7000.

Upon reaching Sari village one can immediately proceed onward to Deoria Tal. The 2.5 km. trek will take approximately 2 hours for a person of average fitness. One can stay overnight stay at Deoriatal.

Day 2- Deoriatal Sari- Rishikesh

One can explore Deoriatal in the morning and then head down to Sari. The way down barely takes an hour. From Sari one can head to Rishikesh directly. There are plenty of overnight buses available from Rishikesh to Delhi.

DAY 3: Reach Delhi early morning.

Expenses:

The overnight stay at Deoriatal with all meals should not cost more than Rs. 1500 per person. The only major expenses are bus tickets, cab fare and overnight stay. Most tour companies offer Deoriatal as a package tour with Chandrashila peak or Rohini Bugyal.

One can extend the trip to cover these locations as well. For people on a tight budget, this entire trip can be covered in around Rs.5500 per person.

References:

Driver Mohammad Khalik- Number- 7906223035. A highly recommend driver for the hills. He tackles mountain roads with relative ease and never lets motion sickness affect anyone. I booked him through an agency but one can call him directly. He offers the most reasonable rates for a cab in this region.

– For booking details and customized tour plans mail us at:
nomadnarratives@gmail.com

 

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