A trekker and a wildlife lover at heart, I rarely miss a chance to explore the new treks. I had heard a lot from my fellow trekkers about the divine trails, snow laden peaks, enchanting forests and wonderful wildlife of Dodital in Garhwal Himalayas. Little had I imagined that this trek would be an opportunity for my first bear sighting in the Himalayas. As you must have guessed, my trekking gear was out of the closet and I was all set to embark on the Dodital trek in an organized group tour.
Located at an altitude of 3024 metres, Dodital makes an ideal beginner’s trek due to its easy to moderate level of difficulty. The Dodital lake, with its fascinating mythological history, is set at the backdrop of majestic Darwa Bugyal. According to the folklore, Lord Ganesha was born here. The lake gets its name from ‘Dodi’, the local name of the trout. Around 80 rivulets origin from this lake to merge and form the Assi Ganga.
Our day one itinerary initiated from Haridwar to reach Sangamchatti by road. We stayed overnight at the hospitable and authentic Garhwali village. It was dawn, when we set off from Sangamchatti for a modest climb through the gorgeous paddy fields of the tiny villages of Bhevra and Agoda. The scent of the oak trees and the sound of the brook near this overnight campsite had our hearts singing and our cameras clicking right away!
The magic of waking up to gurgling streams and breathing in the mountain air is too wonderful to describe in words. That was our day three, on which we headed for an estimated 7 hours / 16 km trek towards Dodital Lake traversing through the evergreen foliage of oaks, pines and rhodendrons. The path is gentle and laid out with incredibly beautiful mountain flowers, adding liberal splashes of colour here and there.
After the first hour of climb, our steps caught their natural rhythm, stopping only to fill our water bottles from the fresh water streams oozing out from the mountains. After a picnic cum lunch session at Manjhi, it was a comfortable trek to our final destination – the splendid Dodital Lake surrounded by mighty oaks standing tall and shimmering in the light of sun. A leisurely stroll around this lake gives you spiritual vibes and reveals its most prized treasure – the Golden Himalayan Trout. If I was a painter, I would have captured these speckled freshwater fish on my canvas! Since fishing is not permitted here, we were more than happy to feed these trouts.
Day four was not just another date with adventure, rather it was the time that every wildlife lover like me yearns to spend. On our way to Darwa Pass Top, our vigilant guide shushed us, pointing out to a blurred figure behind some trees, near the stream. Lo behold, to our utter bewilderment, that was the Black Himalayan bear! Huge, furry and almost frightening. This was my first bear sighting of my life.Nothing could have prepared us for spotting this bear in his most natural habitat, unaware of our big wide eyes watching him clandestinely. Keeping a safe distance (bears are known to be temperamental), we stood there mutely for half a minute, before he rambled away to his abode.
The rest of the trek was covered amidst animated the chattering about the bear, anyone could tell he had made our day. The top of the Darwa Pass found us in an arena surrounded by the breath-taking sight of Bandarpunch and Swararohini ranges. We were back, of course, in time for lunch to the tranquil setting at Dodital, for some more gossip with the locals. The next two days saw us retreat our steps to Bhevra and onwards to Haridwar.
Just for that bear and of course, a breathtaking trek I know I am visiting Dodital again. And, secretly hoping for a snow leopard to make an appearance this time.