Back to Seema, Taluka and Sankri

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.


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Har Ki Dun

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.

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Seema to Har Ki Dun

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.

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Taluka to Osla/Seema

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.

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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.


First Himalayan Hike – Har Ki Dun

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.


Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura

This was supposed to be a short pleasant ride. All I had to do that day was to get out of Hanmer Springs, turn off a country road and follow it all the way to Kaikoura. I did a part of this right. I did turn off of a country road that turned out to be divine, magical, lyrical, if you could call a road lyrical. It was full of twisties and went past beautiful rural landscapes that looked like they were straight out of a child’s storybook. Narrow curved roads, golden rolling hills, the occasional flock of sheep, an occassional church, barn or abandoned shed, this is a road I have dreamt about, not knowing where to find it.

It ended way too soon and I was abruptly deposited onto a busy motorway with semi trucks bearing down on me, a little too close for comfort. I found later that I had taken the wrong road – Parnassus St. and Leader Road, instead of Mount Lytton Road. I didn’t know if I was upset about this or not. On the one hand, I missed a reportedly beautiful road which would have taken me all the way to Kaikoura and kept me from the rude shock of riding on the motorway and getting back to reality. On the other hand, perhaps that road wasn’t as idyllic as the one that I accidentally stumbled on? I guess I will never know unless I go back and find out.

The ride along the motorway was very beautiful as it wound past the Pacific Ocean (my first view of the ocean on the other side!) but the wind was strong and there were too many trucks blasting past me on the other side. My entire time on the South Island has been on roads with very little traffic and I had begun to forget the rest of the world a little.


On the other side of the Pacific Ocean


I arrived in Kaikoura well before lunchtime and checked in to the Albatross B&B. The room I was in was the tiniest I’ve stayed in but we had an entire lounge area and kitchen for ourselves. Also, I lucked out with really cool roommates who were fun to hang out with.


I spied a flock of cormorants hanging by the water.


In the afternoon, I decided to do the Coastal Peninsula Walk which went around the entire tip of the peninsula, promising views of wildlife and epic scenery. It did not fail to disappoint! I didn’t see much wildlife outside of a bunch of seals and some birds but the scenery was consistently staggering. I took my time walking slowly and taking it all in so it took me almost an hour and a half to walk from town to the very tip of the peninsula where the ocean looked nothing short of majestic. It was very windy on account of the remnants of Hurricane Pam blowing over and the water was churning and turbulent.


Franz Josef glacier hike

Today I did a nearby hike to go see the Franz Josef glacier up close. It was only about 1.5 hours round trip. Most of it went over a flat dry river bed and it climbed up a bit towards the end.


Epic vista with the glacier in the distance