Thursday, 1 August 2013

Tour of Uttarakhand - Auli - Tapovan - Kanchula Kharak

Part 1 National Chambal Sanctuary is here.
Part 2 Lansdowne is here.
Part 3 Enroute Joshimath is here.
Part 4 Badrinath is here.
Part 5 Auli - Tapovan - Kanchula Kharak is here.
Part 6 Chopta Tunganath is here.
Part 7 Devariyatal (Deoriatal) is here.
Part 8 Kakdagaad Haridwar is here. 

Day 7

Auli was planned in the fore noon and Tapovan in the afternoon for today. Set out for Auli early with intent to stop at any suitable place on the roadside for a breakfast of fruits which we were carrying. As we climbed the mountain towards Auli, it became clear that the haze in the atmosphere at this time of the year will spoil all our chances of a good view of the Nanda Devi from the top.

Found the route to be very pretty... a fairly well paved road with quaint houses on the slopes, most boasting of garden absolutely bursting with flowers that a plains-dweller can only dream about! Half way up, we came upon a wide-ish stretch of road where we decided to have our breakfast. What a treat that was to be surrounded by towering snow-capped peaks all around, the constant chirping of the birds around and the beautiful town of Joshimath nestled way down on the slope. Perfect place for a break!

Expectedly, there was no view from the top... at least not of Nanda Devi. That will have to wait for another time though Auli had been planned with the express purpose of viewing the highest Indian peak (Nanda Devi is the highest peak entirely in India, Kanchenjunga is part in Nepal) from there. The other peaks closer were visible. Did some birding there... a Red-billed Blue Magpie, Mistle Thrush, Blackbirds, Blue capped rock thrushs, Verditer Flycatchers being the most abundant along with the Himalayan Bulbuls.

Blue capped rock thrush

Verditer Flycatcher

Grey winged Blackbird (f)

European Goldfinch

Spotted Dove
 Back for lunch and the set off for Tapovan and the hot springs. The road has been damaged in portions to the point where driving is a treacherous, laborious experience. All along the Dhauliganga which flows deep in the valley below are new Hydel projects coming up completely ruining the beauty of the place. It is now just a concrete jungle networked with dusty narrow roads where tens of trucks ply for the construction needs of the corporations and a blatant disregard for the very fragile ecology of the region. Now one can understand the reason for the scale of the disaster that hit Uttarakhand this June.

Niti Valley

Hydel Projects under construction

Golden fields ready for harvest

Harvested crop

When we reached Tapovan, we expected to see some signboards for the Hot Springs but saw nothing. On enquiry, we were told they are further up the road by about 3 kms. We rounded a rather sharp bend and abruptly came upon the Sulphur Springs. There is no signboard there but the smell of sulphur hangs strongly in the air. I was surprised to actually see the water bubble up through the many vents and boil over the edges and flow across the road. Some distance away, the natural runoff from the spring was collecting in a little Kund (man-made) where one can attempt to have a bath with these medicinal waters. By now the water is just ‘very hot’ from ‘boiling’ a few metres away.  Very interesting place!

Sulphur spring at Tapovan

Hot spring at Tapovan

Came back to Joshimath and got busy packing for destination ‘Kanchula Kharak’ tomorrow.

Day 8

A comfortable 0700hrs start saw us leisurely driving towards Chamoli, across the bridge over the Alaknanda and on towards Gopeshwar, the capital of Chamoli district. Gopeshwar is at a fair height and the road winds up rather steeply ascending towards it. The roads are very constricted and at times badly in need of repair making our progress slow. As we took the road out of town in the direction of Mandal, Chopta and Ukhimath, we realised that we were probably on the narrowest roads we’ve encountered on the trip so far.  On the one side of the road was the steep hillside and the other a drop of maybe ten thousand feet! Very picturesque though and would have been even more enchanting but for the heavy traffic from the Chardham Yatra (this is the shortest route between Kedarnath and Badrinath). 
Car wash point!


Road out of Gopeshwar towards Mandal

The gently meandering road took us through Mandal and then through very dense forests to Kanchula Kharak. Kanchula was a forest dept. Musk Deer breeding centre which is now non-operational. There is not much there but for a very nice bamboo cottage with two bedrooms and a common dining-drawing area.

On reaching we realised that there is no provision for meals and one has to drive to Chopta about 8 kms away for food. Drove there and had lunch at a dhaba which was quite good. Spent the evening walking up and down the mountainsides around Kanchula bird-watching and generally getting the feel of the place. The bird watching was very good... lots and lots to explore here...!

Touring officers rest house, Kanchula Kharak

Dense forests enroute Kanchula Kharak

Moss laden trees

Royle's Pica

Bar throated Siva

Black throated Tit

Himalayan Monal


Variegated Laughingthrush

White capped water redstart

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