It was a long and peaceful night camping on the rooftop of the road side shop at Gukti Gaul. The night was cold, the tent was warm so as usual a good amount of condensation in Leo’s tent. Grandpa woke us up coughing in the next door room. We packed up and ordered two black teas and a few cream rolls to get energized for the day. Beautiful sunset appeared over the East. We started walking along the road contouring high above the Ramganga valley till the next ridgeline to the South.
From here a small trail started climbing up at 2200m towards the peak at 3200m to cross over into the neighbouring Sarju river valley. The ridgeline was pretty steep at some places passing through forest and open meadows offering beautiful views on the surrounding valleys. Halfway up the ridge we took a break in a meadow soaking up the warmth of the morning sun while indulging in French Milka chocolate and Leo’s mix of jaggery, nuts and dry fruits.
We continued our climb along the ridgeline through a vague trail. Before the peak we were able to contour left towards the main ridgeline separating Ramganga and Sarju valleys skipping the peak. At 3000m the Northwest facing slow was partly covered by frozen snow. We continued South along the ridge towards Lahur Gwar Kharak from where a nearly completed destroyed rock path descended into the Sarju river valley. The wide flat rock steps were hardly visible. The snow covered high ranges of Southern Nanda Devi subsection were dominating the skyline from where the Pindari and Sundardunga rivers were flowing down.
After a short descend we passed through the dwelling of Bhurutal Kharak where we heard the presence of shepherds nearby. A few shelters were still inhabited in the beautiful setting surrounded by meadows. As per the map we continued descending into the valley but lost track of the rock path in the forest. Lucky one lady shepherd got us back on track and we were descending steadily along flat rock steps towards the picturesque village of Lahur surrounded by terrace farms.
A lady treated us on butter milk and. Bit further down we found a small dhaba where locals were playing cards. At 1pm we had our lunch: tea, onion pakoda, egg chowmin. From Lahur a clear rock path descends into the Sarju river valley while a new road makes its way up to the village. While crossing the river we encountered a gathering of locals offering puja at a Ganesha temple. They were preparing hundreds of pooris, aloo sabji, kichedi and yummy khir – a delicious sweet.
We indulged in a second lunch of local delicacies. While bidding goodbye the locals gave us some parcel for the road ahead. We now follow a road downstream just above the Sarju river towards the village of Song. Mid way we switched to another road which gradually took us higher up the valley slope. It gradually contoured up swinging through side valleys till we hit the trail head towards the Dhakuri pass at 2900m which would get us into the neighbouring Pindari valley.
It was a wide cobbled rock path promoted by the tourist department with sign boards and periodic shelters and benches starting below from the village of Song. We gradually ascended along the path through serene forest till the hamlet of Dhakuri at 2300m. A small settlement with only two homes used by shepherds grazing the surrounding meadows. A cold wind was blowing through the valley and we settled down for the night into a small shelter next to the path filled with hay. It was comfy and warm sleeping on top of the hay after another long day covering 25km across 2200m of elevation gain.