Trekker’s Speak: Aastha’s Experience at 10th Special Dayara Bugyal Trek

The first Himalayan trek of my life was characterised by the long, grassy meadows, tall pine forests and rocky pathways of Dayara Bugyal; where a look in every direction offered a stunning sight of the snowy mountain ranges, whose folds seemed to increase infinitely. The constant thrum of adrenaline, the peaceful mountain air and the energy of the people around me made the experience phenomenal.

Journey from Dehradun to Raithal

The trip began when our plane touched down at Dehradun. On the first evening, I was introduced to the rest of the group, as well as the instructors. It was an enthusiastic bunch, and we blended quite easily. Only two of the thirty that had joined me were friends I knew well, but it felt like the whole group had known one another for a lifetime. The invisible boundaries that separate people didn’t seem to exist here.

The bus ride to Raithal was long and with winding roads— which began a barter trade for motion sickness pills. However, it was then that we began to notice the scenery. The tall, ragged mountains and green plains unfolded a picturesque sight. It made the drive interesting. As we neared Raithal, every window seemed to be assaulted by phones and cameras.   

The place where we stayed was in a nook high among the ghats, which offered a clear view of the great white mountains. Here, we were divided into four groups, and participated in a team activity. It was quite entertaining and helped us get to know one another better. The activity would be the subject of banter for many days that followed.

Trek to the campsite

It was from Raithal that the climb began. Early in the morning, we started our expedition. We were joined by two local instructors with some know-how about the path. Their insight helped us climb safely. As we went higher, the traces of civilisation began to grow diminished. The whirring sound of vehicles was replaced by the quiet rustle of leaves. In the place of roads were long, grassy meadows rolling over hills and dipping into valleys.

The wave of adrenaline as we breached the mountains was enough to wash over the exhaustion it caused. The local instructors, however, seemed to take the strenuous trek like a morning walk. They pointed out the characteristic flora found in that region of the Himalayas, like Rhododendron and Marsh Marigold. They also gave us the cultural context behind them. The jackets slowly came out as the air grew cold with increasing altitude.

Throughout the trek, we were blessed with the presence of three furry companions. The dogs eagerly trailed after us through the trek, and they received lots of love from the group. My heart was warmed by their unabashed affection and support.

We were on a break when Ashish Dada, one of our instructors, had us each approach a tree and embrace it. Its significance began to dawn on me as I felt the life beneath my arms. Hugging trees is a calming activity that unites us with nature. It makes us feel at ease and silences our worries.

As we drew closer to our camp, the weather grew worse. Thick clouds overtook the sky, and tiny droplets of rain dampened our clothes. We hurried to reach the campsite before it started raining. On our way, we were lured by a fake campsite nestled among the hills. The realisation that it was not ours tore through our relief.

Arrival at Chilpada

When we reached Chilpada, our true camp, the clouds burst into a hailstorm. It was so well-timed, it felt like they were greeting us. We finished the day’s climb with a celebratory shower of hailstones. We had Maggi and settled into our tents, where we would be spending the following two nights.

That evening was perhaps the most entertaining, filled with laughter and competitive spirit. Is it possible to flip a mat with seven people on it? The activity was challenging, and it aroused our creativity. Our efforts to complete it first were as amusing to watch as they were to undertake. As the day ended, we shared our reflections and the various things we learned.

Chilpada is an enchanting destination. With four layers separating my skin from the cold air, the desolate spot offered a closer look into the mountains than I’d ever witnessed. There was a valley before us and a tall, dense forest behind. Patches of snow were littered around the grass.

While we were there, we were fully isolated from civilisation. It was uncanny to think that the daily happenings would not bother us. Whatever happened in the external world was secondary, as long as we were there.

Climb to the Top of Dayara Bugyal

We ascended the rocky hills to reach the peak. Walking through snow was harder than I’d expected. We took turns sliding down the snowy slopes, which was so exhilarating that I took a second one. Rolling around in the snow and tossing snowballs was all too unique for a Pune resident.

On our way there we took a halt, gathered around, and meditated. Meditation felt different in the mountains, several thousand feet away from the chaos and bustle of daily life. Miles away from distraction, it was extremely effective.

When we stepped onto the peak, there was yet another hailstorm. Feeling the tiny hailstones beat against my skin, seeing the endless folds of snow and rock under the cloudy sky made the experience unforgettable. We could also see various Kumaon peaks from the top. It felt like the culmination of our efforts to get there.

The natural beauty that stretched for miles aroused our creativity. While the group drew sketches of the scenery, I wrote a poem that was inspired by my experience there. It received a lot of appreciation, along with the skillful drawings. Creative expression always benefits our perception; it makes it more beautiful.

The following morning was our descent from Chilpada. It felt bittersweet to leave the stunning campsite behind. As we descended, we pointed out all the sights we had observed as we climbed. We were advised to re-appreciate the beauty around us, and our final view of the snowy mountains.

Back at Rahital, we held a campfire using the fallen branches we collected on our descent. The crackling of flames mingled with our singing as we played Antakshari and chatted for hours on end. It was good to integrate with civilization once again, but it lacked the serenity I felt in the mountains.

Tourism at Rishikesh

The final destination of the trip was the bustling city of Rishikesh. We were set free to roam the city teeming with markets, stalls, and tourist attractions. We embarked on the thrills of river rafting. In the evening, the group scattered as we ventured through the crowded streets. We were able to witness the Ganga Arti. It was majestic how so many people shared their devotion in one holy ceremony.

That night we got a taste of the life of soldiers through one of the activities. It was a game of coordination and sharpness, quite exhilarating to see through. I learned Morse code using torches. We were able to complete it successfully through a united front. On the final night, we received our certificates and the instructors shared their own reflections and insights about our group.             

The Dayara Bugyal trek was an enthralling experience, made unforgettable by the presence of the instructors, Varun Dada, Ashish Dada, and Shalomi Tai. Here, I made friends that I am in touch with to this day. Even now, my heart leaps at the memory of the majestic mountains, the lush grasslands, and the togetherness that ensued.

Experience By

Aastha Dixit

Aastha is a young student, poet and an aspiring novelist who finds inspiration in the warmth and vividity of nature. She was our participant at Tenth Special Dayara Bugyal Trek 2024!

Instagram Id: aastha_050408

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