Kareri Chronicles : Kareri Lake trek, Dharamsala – For beginners

HELLO HELLO HELLO!

I know it’s been AGES since I last updated my blog, and I also apologize for being very ignorant with replying to comments too, but this post is my way of saying that I’m back and I won’t be missing in action again!

Now that this mandatory and much-needed apology is out of the way, let’s skip to the topic I’ve been dying to discuss! My very recent trek to Kareri Lake in Dharamsala!

Mornings like these 🙂

I want to start by saying that this was the first trek I’ve done in the last 2 years (third trek overall – after the Living Root Bridges & Triund). Now, you might wonder why I am emphasizing so much on my inexperience as a trekker. That’s because if there is anyone out there who is keen on taking this trek, but feels demotivated because it sounds difficult / taxing, don’t give it a second thought and just go for it. Like I always say – if a tiny, petite girl like me can do it, so can you, and lucky for us, so did some of my friends from Bombay & Chandigarh (some had never been on a trek before)

 

The happy Kareri crew!

 

Having said that, yes – the trek is taxing (if not difficult), mainly because the terrain is quite rough and wild including a lot of heavy climbing (STEPS!!!) for a very steep part of the way. If I am being honest, I did try to turn around and return once during the trek, but like all the best tour guides out there, mine too did not let me give up, and I willingly agreed to fall for the “just a little more” trap laid out before me. Was  it worth it? Why don’t you take a look at the pictures and decide for yourself 🙂

All pictures in this post have been shot using Google Pixel XL 2! It’s the first time I traveled without a DSLR, and I swear, I did not miss it for a second!

You will find the details of the trek (relevant contacts, itinerary etc) below the pictures.

Views enroute the scenic drive to Kareri Village

 

I swear I could’ve stayed back at the village and not regretted it at all! Such a beautiful place 🙂

 

Touchdown: Kareri Village, Dharamsala

 

My room with a view on the first night in Kareri village

 

And we’re ready to go!

 

Scenes from the start of the trek!

 

Still on the road to the trail. I have a thing for tree canopies <3

 

The first dhaba you encounter on the trail, right next to a beautiful stream. You can also get in touch with the dhaba owner for paid assistance for the trek (guide / tents/ food etc).
If treks did not have steps, I’d go for one everyday!

 

Shameless Wildcraft plug cuz free shoes!

 

Gorgeous ancient tree on the trail. I fell in love with this one! Look at the roots.

 

Manan of the Jungle 😉 Isn’t this tree just marvelous? We all took turns to climb this one.

 

Monkey’ing around! That’s our tour guide Amit, who is also a bouldering enthusiast.

 

Mera Highway wala ghar <3

 

When you can finally see your destination after 5 hrs of trekking. First view of the site.

 

Pic after trek fateh toh banta hai, boss! With Latha and Manan <3

 

First view: Panorama of the lake!

 

Panorama – Part 2! (With Arjun spoiling it)

 

Abhi captured this beautiful moment on our return from the lake. In the picture – me, Arjun and Manan 🙂 Picture credits: Abhinav Chandel

 

DETAILS:

Trek level: Beginners
Start from: Kareri Village, Dharamsala (1.5 hours from Dharamsala main market)
Trek duration: 5-6 hours (Going up) 4-5 hours (Coming down)
Brief Itinerary:
Day 1 (suggested, can be done without this too):  Instead of traveling to Kareri early in the morning and starting the trek immediately, we chose to reach Kareri village a day early, and stayed at a village homestay for the night. The homestay had 3 rooms, and we were 9 people, so Arjun and I ended up setting a tent in the verandah for ourselves. This (in my opinion) turned out to be a good prep for the camping we had to do the next day.

Day 2: Wake up at the crack of dawn to see a very beautiful sunrise right outside our tents. If I can be honest, with Arjun snoring next to me, and Abhinav and Stuart snoring from the rooms behind me, I hardly caught a peaceful shut-eye throughout the night, and so the idea of it becoming brighter outside really came as a welcome escape for me. While everyone started segregating their essentials into trail backpacks and night bags (to be loaded on the khachchars), our house hosts busied themselves in preparing our breakfasts, enabling us to to start the trek on the right note! We left our homestay at approximately 8 am, and reached the lake at 1 PM. Whatever happened in-between can be seen in the pictures below.

Day 3: Another early start and this time we divided our group into two – 1) the ones who wanted to stick back and do some photography and 2) the ones who wanted to reach the toilet first! I was in the first group, and on leaving around 11 AM, we reached the village at 4 PM. It shouldn’t ideally take this long, but this was partially my fault, as I wandered off on the wrong path and that was an easy 1 hour penalty. I also tend to stop a lot on the way, talking to trees and soaking in the views, as opposed to most friends who can just run back to the destination.

If you need a tour operator to organize your trek (relieves you of the tension of carrying your own tents, food etc), you can contact Amit: 85797 20373

We were a group of 9 people, and we each Rs. 3,000 per person – this included the cab pickup and drop (ex-Dharamsala), the dinner + accommodation at the village, breakfast, trail food, and dinner the next day, and a simple breakfast on day 3, payment for the animals, tents & sleeping bags.

Trying to soak it all in!
Picture Credits: Fatima Sana Shaikh

Unforgettable memories from magical Kerala!

From peaceful getaways to adventurous haunts - Kerala has something for every kind of traveler! PC: Patricia Schussel Gomes
From peaceful getaways to adventurous haunts – Kerala has something for every kind of traveler! PC: Patricia Schussel Gomes

I am writing this article while combating severe flashback scenarios taking me back to my two weeks in Kerala, back in February 2016 – which were nothing short of a fairytale! When I signed up to participate in Kerala Blog Express 3, I only expected an all-sponsored trip to the state that I had seen only through Mani Ratnam’s eyes, but what I received in Kerala was so much more! I was the only Indian on the trip, and traveling in your own country with 29 international bloggers hailing from 24 nationalities, each curious and some absolutely clueless about your culture – is an experience words cannot describe!

So, flashback to 15th February 2016 – when 30 strangers from 25 countries set upon one epic road-trip, to a strange land in a strange continent, to the world’s biggest democracy, with nothing in common but an intense craving for adventure – and the rest, as they say, is history! Here are my top 10 unforgettable memories from this amazing adventure:

  • The traditional welcome we received at every resort
Dancing to the beats of the Theyyam artist welcoming us at Vythiri resort, alongside Betty and Patricia! PC: Jinson Abraham
Dancing to the beats of the Theyyam artist welcoming us at Vythiri resort, alongside Betty and Patricia! PC: Jinson Abraham

It all began at the official press-conference where we were swarmed by the paparazzi – it was a teaser of the two weeks to come. And sure enough, the Kerala Blog Express made each and every one of us feel so special at every step of the journey. Every resort we stepped into, would have a red carpet laid out just for us, with traditional aarti, live drums, traditional dance and welcome drinks (coconut water, obviously)! By the end of the trip we were so used to this royal treatment that when I returned to Mumbai, I was a tad disappointed at the sheer lack of recognition from the airport authorities! Let me show them my Instagram…

  • Our very own luxury floating house
Cruising over the famous Alleppey backwaters in Kerala. PC - Jinson Abraham
Cruising over the famous Alleppey backwaters in Kerala. PC – Jinson Abraham

I don’t know who (and why!) named those gorgeous waterbodies “backwaters” (it just sounds so wrong!) But I’ll stick to the common term. The famous Kerala backwaters – easily the crown jewel of the state! The one experience I was most curious AND skeptical about – because once any place is too famous, it usually ends up as a disappointment as it never matches up to the high expectations. But not true in this case. We stayed on a luxury houseboat owned by Spice Routes at the Alleppey Backwaters, and that one evening was easily the most peaceful sleep I had throughout the trip!

  • Village experience in Kumarakom
Learning traditional mat making as part of the Village Experience at Kumarakom, Kerala. PC: Jinson Abraham
Learning traditional mat making as part of the Village Experience at Kumarakom, Kerala. PC: Jinson Abraham

My blog, Untravel, is all about off-beat travel and learning a little from every place I visit. And so, our little village life experience in Kumarakom had me jumping around with joy like a little kid at the candy store! I volunteered to do every activity, including climbing a palm tree, and while I failed miserably at choir making (thrice!), I’m proud that Amma passed me in my mat-making tutorial! She didn’t speak much hindi, but she told the organizers in Malayalam – “She’s good. Let her stay here with me!” Mission accomplished, I’d say!

  • Kayaking on the Kumarakom backwaters
Kayaking over the gorgeous Kerala backwaters in Kumarakom. PC: Jinson Abraham
Kayaking over the gorgeous Kerala backwaters in Kumarakom. PC: Jinson Abraham

While kayaking can be fun no matter where you choose to do it, I would highly recommend doing it at Kumarakom backwaters! Kerala is so breathtakingly beautiful in so many ways, kayaking in Kumarakom was another gentle reminder of the same. As we made our way through the picturesque water alleys, we were greeted by locals residing by the banks of these canals, just as the sun blazed an amazing red getting ready for sundown! The canals was choker-blocked with waterplants for most parts, and while that does make kayaking here a little difficult as you have to really use all your strength to wade through the heavy roots, it also makes it all the more memorable!

  • Planting a tree in Thekkady
My mitti tree being planted at Greenwoods Resort! PC: Betty TravelsMy mitti tree being planted at Greenwoods Resort! PC: Betty Travels
My mitti tree being planted at Greenwoods Resort! PC: Betty TravelsMy mitti tree being planted at Greenwoods Resort! PC: Betty Travels

How many places can claim of keeping a part of you even after you’ve said your goodbyes? Thekkady does now, because the lovely folks at Greenwoods Resort got us to plant a sapling, which they will name after us. This way, any time I return to Thekkady, I can go check how my lovely “mitti” tree is doing!

  • Seeing elephants in the wild!
No caption needed! PC: Jinson Abraham
No caption needed! PC: Jinson Abraham

Strangely, the day I entered into an argument with the organizers about using an elephant to welcome us at a resort, also turned out to be the day when I saw one happy family of elephants in the wild! OH YEAH! BEST THING EVER! I also saw a wild boar, deer, several exotic birds and a bison! All while we cruised in our boat over the manmade lake in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary!

  • Meditation and camping amidst the tea-gardens of Munnar
Our beautiful campsite in Munnar! PC: Jinson Abraham
Our beautiful campsite in Munnar! PC: Jinson Abraham

Being a mountain child at heart, I was delighted to be back in familiar territory when we reached our campsite in Munnar. Cozily tucked amidst lush green tea-gardens with a mesmerizing view of the western ghats, our campsite was a scene right out of a dream. I thoroughly enjoyed catching the sunset away from the crowd with two fellow-bloggers. It was so serene and calm, we just sat there admiring the beautiful landscape, opening our hearts to different sounds of nature.

  • Winning the lucky draw to Pranavam Homestay
All heart at Pranavam homestay! PC: Betty Travels
All heart at Pranavam homestay! PC: Betty Travels

Ah, yes, that had to happen! Anyone who has read my blog will know how I prefer homestays over any other accommodations, and as much as I was enjoying the unfathomable luxury of the many resorts we were staying at during this trip, I was way out of my comfort zone! And luckily for me, I won the lucky draw (yes, we picked chits) to win a stay at the only homestay that was a part of our itinerary – Pranavam Homestay in Pozhuthana, Wayanad! I had the greatest time in the company of our affable hosts – Mr. Ravichandran, Rema Amma and Anwer – as we discussed politics, our families, local stories, their royal connections, India’s partition and Ravi-ettan’s Gandhian principles! Homestays are meant to offer a home away from home, and that’s exactly what Pranavam will do for you!

  • Appreciation of traditional arts at Kerala Kalamandalam
Lost in the beauty of traditional South Indian dance forms! PC: Jinson Abraham
Lost in the beauty of traditional South Indian dance forms! PC: Jinson Abraham

You think of South India, you think of classical dance! And so, when we visited the Kerala Kalamandalam in Kochi, the only government authorized arts preservation/promotion university in the state, I was excited like a little kid in a candy store! I remember how famished I was because we had not had lunch, there was no water or fan / AC, but that didn’t stop me from running around with my camera! We saw demonstrations of some of the best Indian classical dance acts like the best of South Indian dance forms like Kathakali, Mohiniyattom, Kudiyattom, Kuchipudi, Shiva Vandana, Bharat Natyam, among others!

  • The paparazzi and the celebrities
Don't we look like a gang? ;) We sure were difficult to avoid! PC: Jinson Abraham
Don’t we look like a gang? 😉 We sure were difficult to avoid! PC: Jinson Abraham

Last but not the least, in fact the most important of them all – THE EXPRESS! Like I said before, and I can’t emphasize enough, the experience of traveling with bloggers from across the globe is what truly made this trip one to be remembered for a lifetime! It’s amusing how we were the paparazzi as well as the celebrities on this trip. While we were the most excited about capturing every moment with our cameras; everyone else – from locals on the street to hotel staff to the media itself – seemed equally excited about getting us on camera! I’ll give all credit for this attention to our super-attractive bus that got all heads turning no matter where we went. We started this trip as 30 strangers and left as 30 friends. Rest assured, our love for travel will ensure we do cross paths very soon…after all, this world is a little too small for people with restless feet!

 

Help keep our travel trail clean. Don’t litter, motivate your friends to do the same!