Mystery of Dronagiri

Mystery of Dronagiri

Travel tales

A land of legends, myths and awe-inspiring beauty. Dronagiri in Uttarakhand is one of those little and ancient villages with a mere population of 70-80 people and just one satellite phone. Far away from the digital world and its advances, it is very close to mother nature. It is only recently that Dronagiri opened its doors to trekkers and I didn’t want to lose an opportunity to make the best use of that.

The best part about our host, ‘TrekNomads’, was that they offered us the flexibility of choosing our trek routes according to our choice. And that’s how we decided to hike the unheard trail of Dronagiri.

We started our trek from Jumma to Ruing which is about three kilometres and from there, we went on to Dronagiri, which is another eight kilometres away.

The excitement rises drastically when the only way to cross the mighty waters of Dhauli Ganga is through a windy suspension bridge.

It was a tough trek but we managed to finish it in a day. The places after Ruing are landslide-prone areas. There are no roads but only rocky paths that have been carved out in the mountainous regions. The paths have been chipped off in several places.  Point to remember here is to take small breaks while trekking in higher altitudes, to ensure that your heart beat always remain normal. The last leg of the trek, which is a two kilometre stretch, is the toughest.

As you gain around 500-600 metres altitude, you would require a lot of energy and stamina, especially since the entire stretch makes you literally feel like you’re at the edge of the mountain.
Once you cross this stretch, you get the first glimpse of the Dronagiri village. But wait; you’ve still not reached the village. To reach the village, you will have to finish the final 700 metres, which is quite possibly the toughest part of the trek. Once you cross this, you reach the campsite.

Though we trekked this route during the pre-monsoons, we were greeted with light drizzles and a five-degree drop in the temperature.

The locals there are warm and friendly and we even got the chance to play a game of cricket with the kids followed by a round of ‘chai’ and ‘pakoras’.

The food, black tea and hot water to drink anytime you ask for should be the highlight, alongside very neatly maintained restrooms.
At night, the temperature dropped to -1 degrees and the support staff were very kind with arranging sleeping bags and quilts as we were the only group at the campsite.

After a good night’s sleep, we had to wait until the clouds cleared the next day to start our trek. The Dronagiri peak is not visible from the village.

We had to trek about 2 km ahead to a place called the Dhaar, a gentle walk from where the Dronagiri mountain is seen just across. Some of the peaks that you get a glimpse of from Dronagiri are Nandikund, Changa Banga, Hardeval, Trishul, Kalanka and more. One can trek to Lower and Upper Bagini glaciers, Garapak and Dronagiri Parvat base.

After a rather long but enjoyable trek, we reached Dronagiri village, which is like heaven on earth. The snow-capped mountains and peaks are a treat to the eyes. The temperature dips at night and it is freezing cold. It takes you a while to get acclimatised to the weather. But once you settle in, you will love the experience.

We lived in tents. There is no water resource for about five to six km around. The locals say that drinking the stream water from the mountains can prove fatal as they also flow through some poisonous plants. Considering all this, it is advised to carry two litres of water each to be on the safe side.

It was interesting to get an insight into the food culture of the people of Dronagiri village. The farming community here is very active and they carry out what is called step farming. Even the houses are constructed in step form. This is to prevent water-logging during heavy rains. Onions and tomatoes are not grown there, so people use a certain kind of herb called Jamboo Pharan which serves as a perfect substitute for onion. This grows best in the altitudes of Uttarakhand and is used in all their vegetables and curries . While rice is their staple diet, I also helped myself to plenty of ‘roti’ and ‘sabzi’- all made using herbs. It was a unique food experience.

(The author can be contacted at naveenmeetsu@gmail.com)
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