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Surkanda Devi is hill-top Hindu temple near the small town Dhanaulti in Tehri district in Uttarakhand. The height of the mountain where it is located is about 10,000 ft.
Ten years ago exactly on this day I made an entry in my journal about one of my first solo trips in the Himalayas. I traveled there when I didn't know about the term 'Solo Traveling' and hadn't even heard anything about a blog, leave alone a travel blog! Recently while cleaning the house for Diwali I found this and thought it would be really interesting to share what I wrote back then...so much has changed in all these years, what has not changed is my love for travel...
I reached Dehradun yesterday morning after an uncomfortable bus journey - there were no seats in the last deluxe bus (which are faster and more comfortable), so I sat in the driver's cabin. The cabin wasn't as bad as I originally expected, and I also had some company there - there was young guy who was a teacher in Gwalior or maybe even Indore on his first visit to the city. Surprisingly it was quite warm and we wore out jackets only in the morning as we reached Dehradun.
I was in the city for my cousin's wedding (she now has two young daughters) and had a few days before the wedding took place, so decided to use them for traveling. No one in the house understood how I could travel just by myself, all alone in the hills, with no plan whatsoever. But I did have a plan - take a bus and leave Dehradun, though I didn't tell anyone that.
Due to a Bharat Bandh called by BJP (to protest Kanchi seer's arrest), the buses to Mussoorie were infrequent and I could leave only in the afternoon in a jeep. The ride was good and quick and I reached Mussoorie before it got dark. I wasted quite some time looking for a cheap hotel and finally found a room for Rs 200 in Aashirwad Hotel (which wasn't exactly cheap then), even though my budget was Rs 150 only. I was tired and slept early after taking a few pictures in town.
The next morning I got up early and caught the 7am bus to Dhanaulti and reached after about an hour and fifteen minutes. The bus was almost empty and the journey was stunningly beautiful. Every mountain peak was a beauty which needed to be adored. The first thing that came to my mind was settling down here, which was odd as I am a Kumaoni myself (i.e. from the Himalayas). I spoke to the bus driver and he suggested that if I liked trekking, I could go to Surkanda devi which was on a hilltop close to Dhanaulti.
I wanted to start the trek as soon as possible, but no bus was available to take me to the starting point of the trek. I didn't wait for long and took off on my foot - the morning was clear and the breeze was cold, and I was simply happy and content. I had no clue that I would have to walk for three and half kilometers (which is quite a bit in the mountains) before I got the bus, and frankly speaking it was pretty tiring! The walk was great as the roads had no traffic at all and the only sound I heard was my own footsteps, or of the birds or the wind. I had a jacket and a sweater underneath and it was also not sufficient at times.
Finally I reached the base of Surkanda Devi and immediately took off. The upward journey was one of the worst I had experienced till then - it felt just too steep (I wonder if I feel that in every trek that I do!). I was tired right from the beginning and had to stop multiple times to rest before I reached the top. I met absolutely no one (this is a trend I still follow) on the way up. The trek is just about 1.3 kilometers, but to me it felt like thirteen to me :)
The view from top was very rewarding and I forgot all my tiredness. I could see snow capped mountains all around me, even though there were some clouds which blocked my view. I sat near the temple for quite some time and had small conversations with the temple priest. I was carrying some food with me and that was my breakfast. Quite oddly it was getting quite cold up there and my warm clothing was just not enough, so decided to head down after about a couple of hours.
Getting a cab at the base was not difficult and I was in Dhanaulti soon after, and had my lunch. Someone at the dhaba suggested Potato farm view point (seriously?), but it was extremely misty and it felt like evening already. I wanted to locate a place to stay within my modest budget so began looking for one. I found a tiny hotel which was practically empty and took a room there and slept off. Got up only when it was dinner time around 7pm and went to the same dhaba as the food cost only Rs 25 and was rather hot and satisfying.