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View of Pir Panjal Range in the morning from Tilgan during Hampta Circuit Trek
View of Pir Panjal Range in the morning from Tilgan during Hampta Circuit Trek

Hampta Circuit Trek is a relatively uncommon trek Route in Himachal Pradesh. Often confused with Hampta Pass Trek, this route also has its base at Manali. The route showcases exotic views of Pir Panjal Range and Bara Banghal Range. In many seasons the trekker may experience thick snow patches as well as pristine landscape. I happened to encounter this route in the month of May 2014. This blog post is about that adventure.

Mt. Kangchenjunga as seen near Goechala
Mt. Kangchenjunga as seen near Goechala

There was a time in the past when we used to refer trekking in the hills as “Poor Man’s Holiday Trip” among our friends. It was true as the treks conducted by enthusiastic trekkers from different trekking clubs of Kolkata was primarily of shoe string budgeted Alpine style. Everyone used to carry their own luggage, tents, foods and cooking utensils, plan the route and do all activities by themselves from tent pitching to cooking. Some indulged in the luxury of one porter and maybe a guide, but not more than that.

Prior to independence of India, The British ‘Sahibs’ used to indulge themselves in several trekking and camping activities in the hills too. However, along with them went several porters carrying their luggage and all other accessories. Accompanied with them went their cooks and personal servants carrying their personal belonging.

Enjoying a meal like an open air restaurant at 3800 mts altitude
Enjoying a meal like an open air restaurant at 3800 mts altitude

In the recent times, there are many tour operators who conduct such kind of trekking expeditions where the trekkers only carry a small knapsack and walk. Sometimes they carry only their camera. From making the route plan to instructing the cook in the middle of a dense jungle to prepare pizza, the tour operators do it all. On demand, even single tent accommodation and one porter per trekker is provided too. Though there are spartan toilets available in the route and many trekkers are used to  loo in the open, toilet tents are pitched on demand. Of course it comes with a price, but then there are several people who wants to enjoy trekking in this manner. Maybe they always had the wish to trek, but the thought of walking with a huge rucksack and eating two minutes noodles and tasteless soup for days have deterred them.

Sleeping Buddha from Sandakphu
Sleeping Buddha from Sandakphu

Located in the Singalila National Park, Sandakphu (3636 Mtrs) is the highest point of West Bengal. The Sanctuary is home to Himalayan red panda, barking deer, black bear and leopards. Apart from several varieties of trees there are rare orchids which embellish this sanctuary. From Sandakphu, you see a 360 degree view of Himalayan Range which includes four of five highest peaks in the world- Kanchendzonga, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu. The trek is ideal for a first timer as it has well defined trails and enough lodges with good food on the way. Best time for this trek is from October to January in winters and from March to June in summer. The Park is closed from June 16 to September 15 for the tourists.

The most conventional route to Sandakphu usually starts from Maneybhanjan through Chitrey and Meghma. However, we chose the rhododendron forest laden route of 6 km from Dhotre to Tumling (2970 Mtrs).


Madhyamaheswar Trek in the Monsoon

Madhyamaheswar Temple
Madhyamaheswar Temple

Situated in the Garwhal region of Uttarakhand State in North India, Madhyamaheshwar (3,497 mts – 11,473 ft) is the fourth of the Panch Kedar group of temples. It is mentioned in the Hindu epic Mahabharata that after the battle of Kurukshetra, Lord Krishna advised the Pandavas to take blessings from Lord Shiva so that they are pardoned from fratricide (sin of killing their cousins) and killing of Brahmins – the priest class. Lord Shiva was not interested to pardon the Pandavas. He stayed in the disguise of a bull at Guptkashi located in the same state.