From Tal to Bugyal: The Dodital Trek

The title of this post means from Lake (Tal) to Meadows (Bugyal)

If I were to suggest one trek for beginners (trekking enthusiasts), I would say Dodital or the Dodi Tal (Lake). Dodital is located in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. This lake is situated at over 3000m above sea level. We did this trek in June of 2018.

Image: The route leading to this high altitude fresh water lake takes you through some villages and picturesque forest.

The route begins at Sangam Chatti and has a somewhat gentle ascend with halts at Agoda, Bebra, Manjhi and then a steeper ascend to Dodital itself. But one can easily cover the first two campsites in a day even if you start at noon, like we did. And we are slow walkers.

The main lake area has wooden cabins for tourists while Agoda and Bebra have a small shop cum cabin. Here, you get aloo parathas, rajma, roti sabji daal, etc. Manjhi on the other hand, has no facilities so pitching up your own tent is the best option. Despite Manjhi lacking the beautiful lake scenery that Dodital has, it was according to me the most quaint campsite.

Image: Manjhi is not an option to stay during winters.

The village of Manjhi is inhabited during summer months and the locals bring their livestock up at this time (though not always). They tend to fields and animals and stock up on supplies during this period. They migrate back downhill before the onset of winter.

In summer, the stream flowing through the village is gushing so there is no dearth of fresh drinking water. There are no toilets nor cabin facilities. Our guide stayed with one of the villagers while we were to set up camp just some distance away.

Image: A warm meal prepared on wood fire for us by Sampathi, the lady of the house, in Manjhi village, on that cold evening!

A middle aged couple hosted us for dinner and we spent a couple of hours in their shed with the animals, sipping on chai. After resting for a bit, we took our bags and pitched our tent some distance away from the main village.

Image: Being the only trekkers there, we had the whole place to ourselves to explore and observe in wonder.

A constant stream of water could be heard which would occasionally be accompanied by voices… for the place to fill up drinking water was near our tent. Waking up to the calls of the woodpeckers, great barbets and green-tailed sunbirds, we made our way to Dodital, the place after which this trek is named. We saw several interesting species enroute which included Eurasian Nutcracker, Western crowned Warbler, Chestnut-tailed Minla and Yellow-breasted Greenfinch.

Image: The alluring Dodi Tal

Dodital offers a spectacular view. The lake is set with the background of towering hills covered with dense forest and you can see a mountain stream in the midst of it, which feeds the lake. A walking path exists around the lake which is good for birding and sighting small mammals like the Pika. A temple is located at one side overlooking the lake which has a priest who lives there in the summer. Wooden cabins are spread across the campsite which have basic facilities. Dodital is famous for harbouring Himalayan Trout and some other trout species (fish) which apparently was introduced in the lake several decades ago. Fishing in the lake requires special permit from the Forest Department. Swimming does not need permits but the lake is deep, so non-swimmers should stick to the banks (like I am). Uptil Dodital, is a good walk for beginners.

Image: There is also sand which feels like quicksand in the banks with lots of algal growth, so you should be careful about not venturing too deep and getting tangled in the plants.

The route to Darwa Pass (and Darwa Top at around 4000m asl) starts right around the edge of the lake which leads you to a steep ascend for a few hours. If you get tired by this journey, you can plan the trip such that you can return to Dodital when you start to get tired. However, if you choose to continue, then you are in for a visual treat of a lifetime! For one, you will see spectacular views of Bandarpoonch Peak and Swargarohini range. And secondly, you will see some of the most scenic and extensive meadows (bugyals) that the Himalayas has to offer.

Image: Mountain after mountain, some covered with vivid shades of purple and yellow.

Ideally, the extremely long walk will lead you to a campsite called Sima. However, our guide insisted that we continue to Khandola which was further down, for he said Sima lacked good firewood (there was a good water source). We were skeptical about this but decided not to argue. While we enjoyed the route, it did land up being a very very very long walk.

Video: Giving you an idea of the distance covered in 2-3 hours. You can then estimate how much we covered in 16 hours! You can hear me in the video.

We walked continuously for 16 hours that day reaching Khandola at around 8-30pm. I would strongly advise halting at Sima but you would need to pre-decide that with your guide. Having said that, no meadows captivated me as much as what I witnessed during this trek. The weather had even gotten a little misty and a light drizzle had begun (much to the distress of our guide). But we managed to reach our destination despite the steep descent.

Image: Endless meadows…

The last day’s walk is from Khandola to Hanuman Chatti which is easy and has a very gradual descent. We also encountered shepherds, herb collectors (jaddi-booti wale) who were more than willing to share their stash of herbs, ganja and chai. Politely declining, we continued with our journey. But the previous day’s walk had created some knee pain, so it was not that easy a walk for me!! But like I said, for beginners, the walk upto Dodital is highly recommended. But if you want a glimpse of those heavenly meadows, then you need to plan the route ahead as well at least till Darwa Pass.

Some final tips for this trek: You need to have guide for this trek, else one can wander and get lost in the wilderness. This trekking route is also a paradise for birdwatchers. Being a somewhat easy route (uptil Dodital) offers lots of opportunities to bird while trekking.

Thanks to Ashwin Mohan for his inputs.

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My name is Adithi Muralidhar. I am a nature enthusiast based in Mumbai, India.

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