Sacred Rivers, Serene Mountains & Sheer Bliss - Trekking in Absolute Solitude through Mountain Forests & Snow-clad Himalayas in the scenic Indian state of Uttarakhand...
08.08.2011 6 °C
After our sweet success to Pindari Glacier our destination next was the Kafni Glacier. We started back from Phurkiya to Dwali and from Dwali diverted leftwards following the Kafni river towards Khatia and finally making it to Kafni Glacier the next day.
Distance Trekked : 12 kms
Trek Route: Purkhia-Dwali-Khatia
We had a long day ahead today. Our target was to trek back 5 kms returning to Dwali and thereafter from Dwali, following the Kafni trail, try trekking 7 kms upto Khatia. The drizzle outside that morning however made us a bit worried. Freshening up we had stuffed parathas for breakfast in the KMVN kitchen and started off at 8.30 am. As the way back was mostly downhill it was a comfortable trek contrary to the exhaustion we felt while approaching Purkhia.
Starting Off from Phurkia
Landscape so Lush
Landslide on the Way
Crossing Frozen Stream
Serpentine Trail over Lush Meadows
The drizzle continued as we gradually passed by the same serene landscape that we had passed by two days earlier. The maple trees, the green ferns, and the thick vegetation of the lush forest accompanied us till we reached Dwali at 10.30 am. We rested outside the Sangam tea-house shack and had some refreshing black coffee and biscuits.
Our initial plan was to stay over the night at Dwali and carry on the following day directly to Kafni. But I suggested that since it was a bit early and the weather too was getting so unpredictable, we continue trekking till Khatia, another 7 kms ahead.
Entering the Kafni Trail
We started out from Dwali at 11 am. Getting down from the steep cliff where sleepy Dwali is strategically situated, we took the trail going left alongside the Kafni river. For sometime we could feel some welcoming bleak sunrays penetrating through the overall overcast sky. Half-an-hour trek into this trail we realized this was a far open trail and more scenic than the Pindari trail.
Kafni Flowing By Swiftly
Maple Tree Standing Out
Snake or a Plant
However, the trail path was very narrow and one wrong step or a slip would be fatal - the gorge below was a straight drop till the Kafni river. The climb surely was steep as we kept halting occasionally to rest as well as to soak in the awesome views.
By now our legs were getting used to following a rhythm and Mitali too was trekking comfortably. Up ahead we could see snow-clad mountain beyond the opening of the serpentine river valley. After about an hour into our trek, it started drizzling again. But the drizzle soon turned into a heavy downpour. Our jackets and trek suits were getting soaked and we had to seek cover.
Shelter from the Pouring Rains
Luckily, we found an over-hanging rocky ledge in the midst of the trail and barely managed to lean ourselves in. It continued pouring as we squatted for the rains it to subside. As the downpour was slowly subsiding we heard some voices in the opposite direction and soon we saw a couple of porters coming down-hill braving the rains. They were being followed by an elderly couple from Bangalore, returning from their maiden Kafni trek.
We chatted with them and the news they provided was not at all encouraging. They had been to Kafni that morning and visibility was not that great but somehow they were lucky enough to see the glacier.
Mineral Water - Aqua Pure
Scenic Trail amidst Lush Forest
After sometime the rain stopped and we too stepped out to resume our trek. Mitali was gorging all the ripe wild strawberry possible that were literally growing almost all through the trail. They were smaller in size than the regular ones but were very sweet indeed.
Handful of ripe Strawberry
Green Meadows, Snow Capped Mountains
I physically was not feeling great. The height of these places and the long treks each day were perhaps taking its toll. I was feeling low in energy. Gorged in some chocolates to give me some extra boost and continued ahead. Finally, by 2.30 pm were could see ahead of us our shelter for the night.
Shelter for the Night
Khatia at Last
Seeing the two small blocks of the Khatia Gram Panchayat Guest houses at a distance gave us the impetus to trudge through the last few meters in full gusto. We realized that after each long day's trek through this wilderness, it was always so very welcoming to see from a distance the accomodation for the night. It was again a basic shelter with one block serving as the kitchen and porter's quarters, and the other block had two rooms with lines of beds with heavy quilts. The good thing I noticed was a cozy fire place in our allotted room. Views from the room itself was amazing.
Room with a View
It was quite cold and Pradip Singh, the caretaker-cum-cook welcomed us with a hot cup of black coffee. I requested, Pradip to cook us some hot khichidi and egg omelets. To our delight he lighted the fireplace and having our lunch we rested.
Early evening I took a short stroll outside. Khatia again is another scenic and serene place with majestic views of snow-clad mountains and open meadows. The clouds were casting a thin veil over the evening sky playing hide and seek with the rising half moon. As it was getting very windy, I too soon returned back to the room and sat by the fireplace.
By the Warm Fire
Dinner was served at 8 pm but I had no appetite at all. I just managed a spoonful of rice and dal and few bites of fried Sardine, which I had given Pradip to cook. Post dinner, I sat alone in front of the fireplace while Mitali retired to bed. With the last piece of wood burning away, I too retired to bed contemplating what was in store for tomorrow since it was the final leg of our trek as we would attempt to trek to the mouth of the Kafni Glacier.
Distance Trekked : 14 kms
Trek Route: Khatia-Walliagar-Kafni Glacier-Khatia
Pradip woke us up early at 4 am with a hot cup of tea. We quickly freshened up and having some hot noodles we set off at 4.45 am towards the Kafni Glacier. The weather was gloomy, cold and windy. It was still dark as the first light of dawn was breaking through. Thin clouds brushed across our faces as we started following the trail across many open lush meadows.
Dawn Breaking Through
Walking Through the Clouds
Shepherd Guard Dog in Company
Walk a Mile, Pose a While
Grassland in an Alien World
Touches the Soul
Half-an-hour into the trek, thick clouds rushed in and it was a total white-out. We could not see beyond a few meters. The climb was surely exhaustive but it did not dither our spirit. We kept surging through the steep trail with the hope that the weather would clear enabling us a clear view of the glacier. By 7.30 we reached Walliagar. We have covered almost 4 kms. Here we rested for about 30 minutes. Debu, a devout religious man, lighted a few incense sticks and offering a few fruits, we prayed to the mother for a safe trek and a divine darshan of the glacier.
Prayer Flag at Walliagarh
Debu sitting at Walliagarh
Thereafter, the trek through the lovely green meadows was truly enchanting. All around us were miles upon miles of open meadows with yellowish-green grass bushes. Herds of sheep and alpine goats with tingling bells around their neck were seen grazing around the meadows as a few shepherds were humming in a few local tunes.
All in a Line
So very Pretty
We wondered how beautiful it would have been had the cloud covering not been there. By 8.30 am as we were approaching the final leg, Mitali started giving up. I persistently tried to persuade her to continue the last couple of kilometer - we were almost there but she refused to budge. Failing to persuade her I continued...
Debu was already ahead of me. Low visibility was making it difficult for me to follow the trail properly. As one moment I felt I had taken a wrong turn and was feeling totally disoriented and lost. I gave some shouts to Debu but failed get any response back. He must have been far ahead. It was an eerily silence all around, with just the sound of the whistling wind. Making my determination stronger I tried to orient myself and continued ahead.
Crossing a huge Snow Patch
Soon, to my relief I discovered the trail again marked by some stones, and kept following it steadfastly. Suddenly, up ahead through the misty landscape, at a bend after a steep climb, I could see Debu's ice axe fixed upright atop a rock. But Debu himself does not seem to be around. Going a little further up I saw Debu, curling himself up at a small space between two rocks, was in deep prayers.
As if Debu's prayers were working, the clouds were slowly moving away what I saw in front of me gave me shiver down my spine - the entire white upper portion of the Kafni Glacier, just in fornt of me. Words are failing to describe how I felt at that moment. I just kept gazing the glacier in silence. It truly was a feeling which I would not be able to describe in words.
Partially visible Kafni Glacier - Debu's prayers seem to be working
Kafni Glacier - the 1st View- the clouds magically moved away - felt the divine hand at work
Black & White - sheer out the world experience
A photo to Treasure
After some moments, Debu broke his silence and I suggested we walk up to the mouth of the glacier, a distance of another half a kilometer. This last part of the trek was very tricky and treacherous. We had to cross over a huge slippery snow patch and thereafter balance our way through a sea of loose boulders and rocks. One wrong footing and you would fall causing injuries.
Amidst all Snow
Mouth of Kafni Glacier, underneath the moraine - Black Ice
Carefully, we treaded along till we were reached the lower mouth of the glacier. The Kafni river can be clearly seen originating beneath the huge moraine of black ice. From the left side of the glacier loose rocks were falling down continuously. The glacier moaned and cracked making us feel that we were in front of something living. The misty condition at the mouth of the glacier made us somber.
Inside the Mouth of Kafni Glacier
Kafni River - originating from within the Glacier
To Debu's surprise, I quickly started taking off my cloths as I felt an inner desire from within to take a holy dip here. It was 8.30 am. Braving the cold I just got down the big rock where we were sitting, entering the icy waters. I dipped myself into the icy waters closing my breath and prayed; thanking the Mother with my folded hands seeking her blessings.
After that Holy Bath
Strangely though I did not feel any cold as I came out of the water and wept myself dry with my hand towel. I felt truly fulfilled - a feeling I have not experienced ever before in my life. Putting along my attire, we celebrated by sharing a bar of chocolate that I was carrying in my backpack. Thereafter, we both sat down for about another 30 minutes soaking in thoroughly till reluctantly we had to make our way backwards.
Raw Nature - another shot of the majestic Glacier
Passing by the Snow Patch again
Shrine of the Stones
Blooming - life in the high Himalayas
The trek back to Khatia was relaxing but soon thick clouds came in and it was again a total white-out. We passed by Wallaigar and saw the site where Kumoan Mandal Vikas Nigam (Tourism Wing of Kumaon region of Uttarakhand ) is proposed to construct a fiber glass guest house soon. The foundation has already been completed. We thought next time if we happen to come by to Kafni, we would be able to come directly from Dwali to Walliagar. We crossed by many a herds of sheep in their thousands making a bee-line to the rich meadows.
Amidst the herd of sheep
Absorbing the Serenity
Trekking Back to Khatia
It again started drizzling and by 11.30 we reached back Khatia. We just chilled out at Khiatia the whole day, and in the evening sitting by the fireplace, celebrated our successful Pindari & Kafni Glacier wilderness trek with Debu by toasting some rum till dinner of egg curry and chapati was served by Pradip.
Distance Trekked : 18 kms
Trek Route: Khatia-Dwali-Malla Dhur-Khati
It was again a long day ahead. Pradip woke us up early at 5 am. After freshening up we had some hot noodles and we started off at 6.30 am. The weather had cleared and it was a sunny day with clear views.
Sunny Day Ahead
Breakfast of hot noodles, also seen Debu and Pradip
Moving Out from Khatia
Trekking by the Kafni river
Our intent was to reach Dwali from Khatia and thereafter continue to Khati village - a total trek of 18 kms. We walked past the the scenic trail and soaked ourselves thoroughly.
Soaking in the Serenity
Water of Life
Cute flowers in Bloom
The Walk Continues
Sheeps in the hundreds
Ready for a Fight
Shepherd and his Dogs
On the trail we came across many a herd of sheep making their way uphill to the lush meadows of Kafni. These herds are accompanied by a couple shepherd along with a few guard dogs. They skillfully guided them by whistling along. As it was a very narrow trail each time a herd od sheep approached we had to give way for them to cross safely. By 8.45 am we reached Dwali where we rested a while sipping some hot coffee and cookies.
Bridge at Dwali
Holy Confluence - Kafni & Pindari joining at Dwali
Trail from Dwali
Pindari Flows Along
Reaching Malla Dhaur Bridge
Bridge over the Pindari
Thereafter we again trekked through by the lush serene forest. Trekking down-hill it is now we realized how much we had climbed. By 11.30 am we reached Malla Dhaur and rested our tired legs at the lone tea house. We interacted with the shack owner who informed us to our amazement that he has been running this tea house since the past 30 years.
Sipping some coffee at Malladhaur
Tea Shack Owner at Malla Dhaur
By 12.30 pm we started off the last leg towards Khati. The long day's tiring trek was draining us out totally.
Walk on a High - entering Khati, passing by huge Marijuana Plantation growing wild
Finally by 2.30 pm after trekking 18 kms we reached Khati village and straightaway headed to Debu's house and made a call back home from his WLL phone that we have successfully completed the Pindari & Kafni trek safely.
Thats Khati Village
Thereafter, we trekked another half a kilometer to the check ourselves at the Sangam Tourist Cottage, situated at the outskirts of Khati village.
Finally at Sangam Cottage
Tired Legs after completing 18 kms
Sangam Cottage at Khati
The sunny weather till then gradually turned gloomy and it started pouring. We rested and in late evening sweet Khilaf brought us some home cooked lamb curry which we gorged with some hot khichidi for dinner. Satisfied, we retired early accompanied by the sound of the falling rain over Sangam Cottage's tin roof.
Distance Trekked : 12 kms
Trek Route: Khati-Kalwatati Top- Patlakhod-Supi-Talai
Diatance Travelled :
Route : Talai-Barari-Bageshwar
It was pouring hard as Debu and Khilaf reached the Sangam guest house around 8 am. We discussed with Debu whether we can get back via Kurkia but the news he shared was not so good. Continuous rains in the past week resulted in the jeeps stopped plying from Khurkia. We had two option, either we climb up to Dhakuri and thereafter move to Loherkhet or on Debu's suggestion we decided to take another local route not usually done by trekkers. This route we had to climb up over 4 kms to Kalwatati top and get down to Supi village and Talai via Patlakhod. Having some aloo parathas and egg omlate we started off at 9 am once the rains stopped.
Starting Off from Khati Village
Interaction on Way
Mushrooms in full Bloom
Moving out of Khati village we took a trail southwards moving through a thick Pine forest. It sutely was a very steep climb and it completed exhausted us to the hilt. But the trail was very scenic and once we reached the Kalwatati Top, we were rewarded by some amazing views. However the cloud cover somewhat restricted the views. Bowing our head at the shrine at Kalwatai Top and resting for sometime we continued ahead.
Trekking through a lush Pine Forest
Shrine at Kalwatati Top
Thereafter we moved through some luch meadows till we reached Patlakhod, where some habitation existed in the form of shepherd huts. Resting awhile there we moved down through some trecherous tarrain and finally we could see the cute Supi village out in the horizon. Continuous walking was undoubetedly taking it toll but it truely was a rewarding exerience.
Meadows of Patlakhod
Resting a While
Hardy Mountain People
Trekking for Livelihood not Pleasure
Following the Trecherous yet serene Trail Downhill
Entering Supi village, we were taken to a local Kumaoni home and we felt very welcoming by the host of the house. The sweet lady of the house treated us to a very tasty organic Kumaoni lunch. She informed that they do not buy anything from outside, they cultivate everything in-house in their land right from rice to wheat, from vegetable to dals.
Supi Village comes to View
Finally, some paved path, as we approched Supi
Entered Supi Village
Houseful of Hospitality
Lady of the House - so caring, she reminded me of sweet Mom
Feeding us with Care
Satisfied with that lovely Kumaoni hospitability, we bid them farewell and moved down about half a kilometer to reach Talai around 3 pm. Reaching there we realized that there were no shared jeeps to take us to Barari. Luckly we found one jeep but the driver would not budge to take us unless we paid Rs 1000.
We desperately wanted to reach Bageswar and if possible move out to Ranikhet. So, we decided to hire the full jeep and moved off. Moved through the gravel road and we nearly got stuck two three times. Reaching Barari we changed the jeep and reached Bageshwar by 5.30 pm. As it got late, we decided to stay back at Bageshwar for the night and carry on to Ranikhet the next day.
We celebrated that evening at Bageshwar and thanking Debu, we toasted to the enchanting trek to the Pindari & Kafni Glacier, promising ourselves to be back next time for the more challenging Sundardunga Trek.
Best Time to Trek
The optimal timing is between May 1st and June 30th and between September 1st and October 15th.
Both seasons has its own beauty.
How to Reach
One has to reach Bageshwar in Uttarakhand, which is about 200 kms from the Haldwani/Kathgodam Railway Station, the last rail head of the Kumaon region. From Bageshwar drive till Loharkhet from where the trek starts. But as the road is being extended, one can drive till Kurkia to start the trek 4 kms before Khati village, avoiding trekking via Dhakuri, saving one full day. Bageshwar-Kurkia would be around 50 kms.
Where to Stay
In the entire route there are no hotels after Bageshwar. At Loherkhet, Dhakuri Dwali and Purkhia, basic PWD Guest Houses & KMVN (Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam) Tourist Huts are located. At Khatia in the Kafni trail, a lone Gram Panchayat Guest House can be used. Accommodation charges are very cheap and booking can be done from Bageshwar/Loherkhet KMVN Tourist Guest House. Also, tents and sleeping bags can be hired by those seeking to camp under the open sky.