Uttarakhand is one of India ’s newly minted states, carved out of Uttar Pradesh. The region had been agitating for a separate existence and identity as early as 1930. Finally in 2000, they got their wish and Uttaranchal was born. For 3 years or so, the people of the state lived in peace and harmony, largely occupied in the business of painting fresh signboards that said ‘Uttaranchal’ instead of ‘Uttar Pradesh’. When the paint on the last signboard had dried people realized that they did not like the new name after all. So began another agitation to change the name to Uttarakhand. This was successfully completed in 2006 and all evidence points to the fact that people have decided to expend their energy in other productive causes.
For all its shiny newness though, the area was pretty significant in ancient myths. The Pandavas decided to end their mortal existence and ascend to heaven via the region’s Swargharohini peak (a stunningly beautiful snow clad peak and with a sharp ascent that would explain why it would have been easy to lose mortality there). The place is also riddled with the sources and confluences of several holy and important Indian rivers. Both the Yamunotri and Gangotri glaciers are located here. Haridwar, the place where the Ganges River emerges from the mountains onto the plains is located here. Rudraprayag where the Bhagirathi River meets the Alaknanda River is right here. Infact, trekking in this region was and still is rampant under the guise of pilgrimages. The Char Dham route of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath is as strenuous as it is holy. With every little effort, the faithful can get the eternal salvation they seek.
Our trekking destination was less holy and more modest. We were headed to Har Ki Dun (HKD) and Ruinsara Tal. Both are located in one of Uttarkhand’s main regions Garhwal (the other being Kumaon), about 7 hours from the state capital of Dehradun. HKD is a fairly popular route as testified by the number of tourists we met. The route was very well defined, if a little tiring. Ruinsara Tal, on the other hand was off the beaten path and a little scary. Throw in a couple of long landslides, and it becomes an area accessible only to the more enthusiastic beginners. Together, they notched up a ‘moderate’ in the trekking scale of difficulty. By themselves, both should have been easily doable by the moderately fit without much prior preparation.