From green hills to rocky cliffs, the Himalayas is one of the few experiences that have stayed with me throughout my peculiar ventures abroad. The eminent mountain ranges extend across five countries: Nepal, Bhutan, India, China, and Pakistan. Having lived in Delhi for four months, Uttarakhand became my go-to get away from the craziness of Delhi living.
Despite what people generally associate with the mountains, my two expeditions were anything but peaceful. Aside from a motorcycle accident, getting lost in the wild, losing our phones (and having it returned) among various other incidents, I lost (and found) my passport in one of the many villages up the hills. Yet, these episodes embedded within me a strange trust for the Himalayas- this naive, optimistic feeling that everything will be alright.
The road to the mountains was in itself a journey. After hopping onto a 9-hour night bus from Delhi to my friend’s village near Nainital, we began a day-long trip into the Himalayas. Dunagiri was our first stop. Originally a 4-hour ride, we got lost after a couple wrong turns and arrived after a 9-hour venture.
A historical region in Uttarakhand, Dunagiri is composed of several villages under the District of Almora. Despite it being well known for the temple of Shakti, my friend insisted on a hidden gem that overlooked the peaks of the Himalayas.
By the time we reached the foot of the hill, the sun has begun to set. With our tent and sleeping bags in hand, we began climbing a mountain that led to Pandukholi, an ashram sitting quietly by the cliffs.
Finding Peace: Pandukholi Ashram
The sky was completely dark when we reached the halfway point. Since we’ve already lost our phones on the road here, there was barely any light sources guiding our footsteps away from the cliff under.
It was horrifying.
3 hours and loads of whining later, we were finally greeted by a beaming form from afar.
It was the long-awaited spiritual haven.
Unlike cinematic ashrams, as portrayed by Hollywood favorites, this place was tucked away in the middle of nowhere. The guru greeted our arrival and immediately asked someone to get us water and cook up some chapatis. There were barely any people on the property-three students, a visitor and his guru, the guru of the ashram and his aid.
That night, we sat by a fire and chatted for some time. After showing us around the property, the guru let us to a field outside the gates to set up a tent.
We spent the next three days meditating, eating homemade meals, and waiting for the fog to clear.
It never did.
Without a question, the second leg of our trip was spent chasing snow peaks into Chopta, where we visited the highest Shiva temple in the world.
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