The remaining two days were spent descending back down the mountain. I had thought that this would be far easier, and it was, but some of the downhill sections were absolutely brutal on the knees. And no matter what, the distances were long and walking on rocks for hours was tough on the ankles and knees. I was exhausted at the end of each day. We pretty much retraced our steps back along the same trail and spent the first night at Seema, then went down to Taluka the next day and got a taxi back to Sankri when we were done.
Today was a nice, slow rest day. All I did was sit around in a chair, bundled up in warm clothing, reading and looking at the mountains. My jaw had dropped when I first emerged from the hut and looked out at the towering mountains all around us. It was clear now and I finally saw them in all their glory. The tallest peak was almost at 20,000 feet and called Swargarohini. Legend has it that this was where the Pandavas climbed up to ascend into heaven at the ends of their lives. There was a glacier off in the distance. It was called Jaundhar Glacier.
I wasn’t quite sure if I would be in any shape to hike the next morning but when I woke up, I wasn’t at all sore! We had alu parathas and tea for breakfast and set off. This was a day of fabulous views everywhere we looked. It started off with crossing a suspension bridge, then climbing up a steep ascent. From here, it was mostly flat or a gentle uphill trail with gorgeous mountain views. We saw our first dramatic views of snowcapped mountains in the distance.
The next morning, I was woken up by a rap on the door at 6:00 AM. It was morning tea. As far as rude ways of getting woken up go, this wasn’t terrible. I put my stuff together quickly, drank up my tea and got ready to leave. We walked to a little restaurant type place next door to get breakfast. All it was was a small room with a few wood tables and benches set out at the end and a couple of benches along the wall. It was attached to a smaller section of a room with a wood fire and oven where all the food was cooked. We ate alu parathas with mango pickle for breakfast.
We left a few of our belongings in Taluka where they would be held for us until we returned. The mule and porter for the trek had not arrived, so our guide told us to start the trek and that he would catch up with us. He directed us to walk to the end of the town, which took all of two minutes, and follow the steep downhill trail towards the river. He told us to keep the river to our left for the entire day and we wouldn’t go off-track.
The way out of town was indeed extremely steep. This would not be fun to return on! It was also very well maintained and laid with big stones. I would find out in subsequent days that most Himalayan trails were very rocky compared to the ones back home, and would be very hard on the feet.
We took our own sweet time covering the first few kms by which time our guide caught up with us. We also saw a ton of other people from YHA India out on the trail. This was about the time when I realized what piss-poor shape I was in because practically everyone passed me. :P Our guide tried to get us to pick up the pace but I wanted to conserve my energy for the long 14 km distance we had to cover that day. It would suck to go fast in the beginning and run out of steam towards the end.
After having hiked quite a bit in the Cascades for the past two years or so, I thought it would be fun to go hike in the Himalayas while I was still in this part of the world. My original intention was to go hike the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. The day that I booked my ticket to Kathmandu though, Nepal was struck by a terrible earthquake, which led to me scrapping my plans and deciding to go hike in the Garhwal Himalayas of India instead. I picked the Har ki Dun trek from this list because it was listed as a beginner trek, it wasn’t at too high of an elevation, it seemed like the right time of year to do the trek, and the photo looked gorgeous. J I read up a few other blog reports of people who had done it, found a company in Delhi that could do a customized tour for two people, and enlisted my hiking buddy Chris into accompanying me.
Our route would be:
Day 1 – Drive from Mussourie to Taluka
Day 2 – Walk from Taluka to Osla (or Seema)
Day 3 – Walk to Har Ki Dun
Day 4 – Rest day at Har Ki Dun
Day 5 – Walk back to Osla/Seema
Day 6 – Walk to Taluka and drive to Sankri
Day 7 – Drive to Dehradun (we ended up driving to Rishikesh)
I flew out to Dehradun and spent a couple of days there. Chris joined me there and we went on to Mussourie a day later. Mussourie was a cool hill station that was obviously very popular with tourists. I didn’t love it as much people seem to do in India but we did get one really nice day of hiking in Jabarkhet Nature Reserve in the foothills of the Himalayas, in training for the real trek. We saw some great mountain views, some beautiful daisy fields, Tibetan prayer flags, and some black faced monkeys.
This morning I rode through Whangarei to a little town in the north of Auckland to return the bike to the rental company. The ride was mostly over the motorway and pretty dull. I started off feeling pretty gloomy that the dream was finally over. I filled the gas tank up before I dropped it off. My suitcase had been sent over from Christchurch, so I quickly packed up.
They gave me a ride back to Auckland where I had booked a spot at Base Backpackers where I splurged and booked a private room for the next two nights. I spent the next evening and day exploring downtown Auckland. It was so much livelier on a normal weekday. There were lots of cute stores where I could buy some presents to bring back home. I also found some great cafes and Asian restaurants which were a welcome refuge from the days spent on the road subsisting on deli food and homemade sandwiches.
And that’s it. It’s done! I will post a summary of the entire ride soon.
This morning, I headed out of Paihia to Opua and caught a ferry with Fiona – a local rider – and crossed over to Russell. We got some coffee and hung out and then rode Russell Road – a beautiful twisty road winding through farmlands that you could just throw the bike around. It was a brilliant couple of hours!!
We rode to her place and got some lunch, then rode back out to another friend’s place near Whangarei.
Tomorrow would be the last day of my ride. :(
Today I rode to the northernmost tip of New Zealand where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. The ride was pretty but not remarkable. I made good time and reached Cape Reinga before noon. From there it was a short walk to the lighthouse. A ton of tour buses must have made it there before me because the place was swarming with tourists – an odd sight since the ride itself had been so remote and unpopulated.
From there I rode south to Paihia in the Bay of Islands. I was going to spend an extra night there to make up for doing an uber long ride. Paihia also turned out to be so touristy though that I scrapped that plan and stayed just one night.
Auckland to Kaitaia today! It was going to be a long day, made a bit more stressful by the fact that I had no idea if Kaitaia would be my final destination or whether I’d need to hunt around to find lodging. Bad planning FTW!
The ride from Auckland on the motorway was full of cars and borrrrrrrrrring. It finally got better after the road forked off onto Highway 12. One of the highlights was going through the Waipoua Forest with its endless tight turns surrounded by beautiful trees.
Towards the end, there was a ten minute ferry crossing from Rawene to Kohukohu. The final stretch took me back on Highway 1 but it was nice and twisty this time.
I managed to find a really overpriced room in Kaitaia but it was the last one they had and I was grateful to get it.
Today I rode from Whitianga to Auckland in one shot. The latter half of the Coromandel Loop was as fantastic as the rest of it with lots of tight corners and beautiful views. The rest of it, from Thames to Auckland was dull and passable. The line of cars backed up going towards the Coromandels on the other side of the road for the long weekend was a little horrifying and I was glad to have missed it.
I reached Auckland mid-day and stayed at the YHA downtown. The place was a ghost town with all the shops and malls closed and lots of confused tourists hanging out, not quite knowing what to do with themselves.