Toli Bugiyal Trek

Of late, Partha and I have not been very normal about Himalayas. We plan quick and implement quicker.

One evening in the first week of August, we suddenly decided to visit Himalayas in full monsoon splendour. Needless to say, it appeared a bit quacky to our near and dear ones.
This time heavens are pouring madly. Last 40 years have not witnessed such rain in Garhwal. As per newspaper reports, just two days back there has been a cloudburst killing 20 children at a school near Dehradoon.
Well! These cannot deter us. Nor they, who raised eyebrows, ‘what’s the use of going now? What can you see?’
Pardon them God, they don’t know what they say.
Is there anything to see in the Himalayas when everything is eyes?
Previously, I thought I need a destination. Now I know, destiny in the route is destination.
Where to go? The Bugiyals and forests of Garhwal are bathing now. Where else to go?
Partha does not waste time to book flight and train tickets.
Since we did Rudranath last year from Mandal and returned via Sagar, this time we plan to go from Sagar to Kalpeshwar via Toli Bugiyal and Dumak.
20th August 2010 – we board Indigo flight to Delhi. Availing pre-paid taxi, we reach Nijamuddin railway station … then AC Express … then Hardwar at 4 am … then straight to Chamoli by bus after a 12 hours journey courtesy unforeseen halts courtesy landslides.
It is such torrential rain …the road is such … it is more a boat journey in waves than bus …
No that is not yet the end. We take a car from Chamoli …then Gopeshwar …then Mandal.

Bhagat Singh’s smiles extend to the ears – ‘fir aa gaye saab?’
The same room, same food at Anasuya Lodge… and the same guide.
Anand Singh Bist is drunk as usual. He asks a cigarette and asks, ‘kab jayenge saab?’
Despite rains, we have no plan to halt. We ask about Sarvinder. No, he would not be available. Now he is a proud father.
Sarvinder comes to meet us …his joy of newfound bliss out-raining the rains.
Aanand takes a new companion – Sishupal.
Next day it rains so much until noon that we have to halt at Mandal. We spend the time roaming in and around the village and taking shots. Mandal will never cease to charm me.
Village girls at Mandal

We start early next morning by car and reach Sagar (6,560 ft).
Our trek starts from Sagar at 8 am. We pass through a village and then through fields with lush crops. 
Starting from Sagar

Last year while returning from Rudranath we descended by this route. (see Rudranath trek)
Local people in their colourful dresses are curious. Trekkers are rare at this time of the year. 
Village Girls
Village Girls
Village Girl

After 2.5 km walk, we reach a nice jutty rock-platform overlooking the valley below. What more pleasing than to anchor the butts and drink the lush valley?
The Bhukh-hartal road runs like a string. On our left behind the mountains is Gopeshwar; Sagar down there, and on our right …the road to Mandal.
Many locals are now going to Rudrnath pilgrimage by this route. Tomorrow is Rakhi Punima. We meet an old man who cries as he chants the name of Shiva. 
Devotee crying

The next 1.5 km take us through dense green forest.

We reach Pung Bugiyal.

Aanand and Sishupal have reached earlier and waiting for us at Devinder Rajowal’s Choti.

Aloo-Parota on our lap, no sooner have we reached.

Pung Bugiyal is a nice place to stay. It is surrounded by mountains on three sides. Numerous springs – resembling hair – fall luxuriously. The Bugiyal slopes gradually to the west. The narrow path goes through it like hair-divider. Cows and buffalos graze peacefully.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the sky has cleared.

After a good untimely lunch, we proceed again.

This is the beauty we have come for. As we enter the dense forest, the lush green glows. Even the shadows seem green. And the smell of rain-drenched soil. Ummmm…

Enroute Pang Bugiyal
Enroute Pang Bugiyal

Enroute Pang Bugiyal
Enroute Pang Bugiyal

The road is very slippery and we have to be careful. The other danger is leech. Oh! They are aplenty …breeding profusely. A halt …and they come in acrobatic style to taste blood.

There are plenty of suckers down there in the plains. These leeches cannot outnumber them.

Our ascent spirals…and new views unfold. So much like Life. Old experience left behind only to find them anew with new experiences.

We cross two waterfalls running across our path. What boiling ecstasy they show! The second waterfall has a concrete bridge over it.

Then we cross a river – Bir Nadi. We have been walking it upstream for quite sometime.
Ascent again after we cross the river. Far down there is a green patch on our left amidst the forest – Pung Bugiyal.

The forest is reluctant to go with us anymore. We now cross the tree line. Clouds float over the valley. Whimsical they are. Sometimes they group as if conspiring mischief; sometimes they glide alone like bird in intoxicated adventure.
We have walked 6 km from Pung Bugiyal to reach Mouli-Kharak…negotiating the last 1 km with slippery path and heavy rain. 
Reaching Mouli Kharak

Thunder-conch welcomes us.

We enter the safety of a Choti.

Two glasses of buffalo-milk each.

At last, three more abnormals like us. Bengalis. They are from Haripal. The elderly one is a police. The other two makes much joke of him. They call him captain.

After a one-hour long detention, we start again.

Now rain, now sunshine – glorious uncertainty and change of mood like Love.
1 km walk and we reach Liuti Bugiyal. Kishan Singh Bist is the owner of this single Choti. He is a residence of Goyar village somewhere down the bank of Bir Nadi. 
He charges us Rs. 150 per head for fooding and lodging. Aanand takes me aside and advises to bargain. I say to Kishan Singh, ‘why charge tourist-rate for our guides? They are locals.’

Rs. 400 for four of us – that is final.
Liuti Dhaba
The ‘room’ has a divider at the middle. On the right is Kishan’s kitchen with an oven-cum-fireplace at the centre, and the place around it is his and local’s bed; the left side is for travellers to stay. It can easily accommodate 8-10 people. Adjacent to Kishan’s kitchen is cowshed.

Two huge dogs come for friendship. They are ferocious with wild animals but very tender with us. A little cuddle at the neck, and they are very tame. Their waging tails are the flags of eternal truce.

It rains in torrents whole night. We can hardly sleep. The thunders don’t regard decibel limit.
Sky clears at morning. With a glass of buffalo milk, I go out. Liuti wraps itself in mist-wrapper to enjoy the morning cold.

Then all of a sudden, downpour starts.

It would be impossible to walk. As Partha and I discuss what to do, it is sunshine again without notice. We do not delay.
After a constant slow-ascenting trek of 2 km, we reach Panar Bugiyal (12,470 ft) at 10 am. 

There is an abandoned forest house. Adjacent to it is Prakash Singh Bhandari’s Choti.
Aanand advises to take our lunch here because it is uncertain in such inclement weather when we would reach Toli Bugiyal – still 6 km away.

Panar is one of the most beautiful Bugiyals I have ever seen. It’s a sea of wavy grass occasionally dotted with red flowers. Cows and horses graze along the slope that gradually leads to Panchaganga River bed. Mountains meditate on the other side. They look so near as if a run would take us to the tops. Rudranath temple perches there.
Rain starts. We wait until 2 pm and then proceed.

From Panar to Rudranath is 8 km, however, our route is in the opposite direction.
We trek along the ridge – on our right far below is Sagar, and on our left – some incredible landscapes of Panar Bugiyal. This part is pretty flat. 
Trekking along the Ridge. On our left is Panar Bugiyal, and on our right is Sagar Valley and Sagar Village

There are many shepherd huts in different nooks.

After 2 km, we reach a point from where our descent begins through forests. Now the path is rocky, muddy, and very slippery. Two nice waterfalls refresh us.

2 km more and we reach a small Bugiyal. Toli is another 2 km from here.

It again rains torrents. The last part is through rains the like of which I have never seen. We are completely drenched. Raincoat is useless.
New waterfalls have sprouted. With infantile joy, they run helter skelter. Some fortunate ones will reach the river others will be lost like footpath orphans. 

Descent to Toli starts 
Downhill - Enroute Toli Bugiyal
Downhill - Enroute Toli Bugiyal
Waterfall through Forest

Some part of our track is no different from their course. Big trees protect us from rain-arrows.
The forest ends all of a sudden and a huge grassland sprawls before us. A few steps more, and the highland now slopes to a misty Lake. We have reached Toli Bugiyal and this is Toli Tal.

Toli Bugiyal and Toli Lake - First View

So much mist…the other side of the Tal cannot be seen. Toil Lake seems like a pearl dropping from white blanket.

We sit on the wet grass to enjoy the scene, as Aanand and Sishupal move towards the shepherd huts far on the east bank of the Lake to find a place for our night halt.
After half an hour, the veil of mist lifts and the other side does away with coyness. A forest rest house in the distant is visible. At the backdrop of Toli Bugiyal are shadowy mountain ranges. The horses and cattle grazing look like fantasy beings.
  The play of mist, cloud, and sunshine offers us some fabulous shots.

Toli Bugiyal and Toli Lake - Local Couple

Aanand calls from afar.

We descend to the Lakeside and a passage leads us to our shepherd hut.

The owner is an ever-smiling old shepherd – Bakhtwar Singh. He says he might be 71 years old. He bends a little as he walks, yet there is no dearth of spontaneous energy in him.

Bakhtwar Singh

The hut is constructed stone on stone. Another adjacent hut is for his cows and buffaloes.

Our Hut

We almost creep into the room. The door is high and window-shaped. The room is partitioned by a low array of stones. The smaller part is for a new born calf.

Immediately we change our clothes. Bakhtwar serves us tea. As we sip sitting at the door, rain comes yet again.

After an hour, we take plastic sheets and go out. It is impossible to sit inside keeping Toli outside.

At about 5 pm, we notice Bakhtwar’s cattle returning from graze. They walk in a line along the western and southern side of the Tal.


  Cattle returning from graze
Bakhtwar’s cow returns followed by a lover bull. Bakhtwar – like the archetypal father-in-law rushes at it with a piece of wood. The wretched bull is nowhere to be seen anymore. Love vanishes in fear.
We visit Bakhtwar’s neighbourhood. There are three more shepherd-huts. We are surprised two of the owners are old women. They stay alone.

Economic freedom for women has reached this part earlier than the plains, it seems.

At 6 pm the sky is again clear. We go out to the Bugiyal, and completely surrender to her serene beauty. The only mundane concern is leech. We always have to be on the move, or sit or stand on the safe island of rocks.

Some dreamy cloud climbs the chest of mountain ranges. It is time for them to sleep. Before that, they do not forget to assume different forms and shapes like model girls to appease our photo-thirst.
As it darkens, the silence of the place becomes denser. Was I waiting for this moment or was Toli waiting for me?

Silence more silent in beauty, and beauty more beautiful in silence!

Petty mind cannot silence itself so easily. But then, there are those rare moments.

Wordsworth could have composed a better Imortality Ode and Tintern Abbey here.

Unforgettable experience! 
Toli Bugiyal - From Bakhtwar's Hut
Toli Bugiyal - From Bakhtwar's Hut
Toli Bugiyal - From Bakhtwar's Hut
Toli Bugiyal - From Bakhtwar's Hut

Forest Rest House (deserted)

Dance of Clouds  
  Dance of Clouds

Unforgettable too the way Bakhtwar took care of us. 

He asks ‘Khichri or Payasa?’ We opt for Payasa. Never have we eaten before Payasa in Garhwal in a shepherd hut.

He prepares Payasa with small grains and buffalo-milk. It tastes like Amrita. I have never eaten such Payasa before. Lest sweet kills our taste, he prepares potato-spice. We are over-stuffed.

Bakhtwar eats sitting at the door. He says it is prohibited to eat beside the oven fire.

Today is Rakhi-Purnima.

To have a moonlight bath and to enjoy Toli in celestial splendour we go out for an after-dinner walk torch in hand.

It is 9 pm now. The sky is clear. The forests around are frozen in dark. The meditating mountain ranges bath in moonlight. Torch is unnecessary.

My words fail me – I cannot describe anymore.

After an hour, Aanand reminds us of wild-beasts. We return to the hut, and sit some more time at the door. The calf is restless. It is not used with so many men in the hut.
Bakhtwar tells us it is time to close the door.

The door-closing is however ceremonial. There is no door. Bakhtwar places a piece of wood at the door leaving half of it exposed.

Aanand has already laid our mattresses around the oven-cum-fireplace. We half-enter our sleeping bags and gossip. Aanand and Sishupal sacrifice some leeches into the fire as I and Partha chant ‘Om Svaha.’
Leeches inside? It seems the night will keep us engaged. Bakhtwar smiles, ‘fir nehi ayega.’
It is hard to console our wretched soul.

Bakhtwar is a reservoir of stories. He describes his many trysts with wild beasts and a peculiar sound ‘Hara Hara’ (Shiva Shiva) he once heard in the Bugiyal when once he went out in the wind to fetch a cow in darkness.

With the mysterious, Toli Bugiyal outside everything is plausible.

I have a habit of enquiring about Mahabharata-stories. Bakhtwar does not deject me. He says, while going to Rudranath, Draupadi once took bath at Toli Tal. May be the story is Bakhtwar’s impromptu, may be localization of myth, may be he heard it from his father or someone …

But it fits. The Pandavas certainly could not have missed this beautiful place.

We have pretty good sleep at the later part of night. The room is so warm; we cannot keep us entirely in the sleeping bag.

The morning Toli offers us more beauty to fill our heart. Then it starts raining again and we have to abandon our plan to go to Kalpeshwar.

From Toli, one can go to Kalpeshwar via Dumak. However, rain spoils that plan. We decide to reach Bhukhhartal road via Kunj Gaon – about 12 km from here. The road to Kunj goes through the forest behind Bakhtwar’s hut.

After Sagar-route, this is the only connective route with Bhukhhartal road from Toli.

Bakhtwar prepares 10 rootis and potato-spice for us four. We will need them enroute. There is no other village in this route before Kunj.

After 2 km trek we reach Paunri Bugiyal. Now starts costant descent through dense forest. Once we have to cross a mighty spring flowing over our track. It roars as we gently cross it stepping over stones or knee-deep water.

For the first time in last three days, we get clear mobile-signal. Contact with home.

It is pure jungle experience as we trek on. The mossy old trees look like pillars of tradition and history. The young trees are glamour-conscious of their green beauty. The rain-bathed trees look so fresh. Even the greenness seems to have its odour. The entire route we can hardly stop. This is the most leech-prone zone. The leeches’ devotion for our lotus-feet is stupendous. Never before, I have received such earnest devotion.

About 2 km before Kunj, once, as I remove the raincoat, I find my wrist soaked in blood. I had no idea when monsier leech chose my wrist for a morning sip and had left.
The blood would not clot. Sishupal applies a leaf. Before that, I do not forget to shoot the leech-kiss – the very first kiss in my hand, afterall. 

Due to an anticoagulant (hirudin) that leeches secrete, bites may bleed more than a normal wound after the leech is removed. The effect of the anticoagulant will wear off several hours after the leech is removed and the wound is cleaned.'

Reaching Kunj, we sit on the rock-railings of a zeepable track, and have our Nasta with Roti that Bakhtwar made for us.
No zeep runs at this time here. The road is closed for landslide.
We trek another 3-4 km down and reach zeep stand. From there a shared-zeep takes us to Gopeshwar.
At lunch, we four sacrifice two chicken-tandoori in honour of our appetite-God.


More by :  Indrajit Bandyopadhyay

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Views: 3440      Comments: 13

Comment Got your point Indrajit Da..and we would definitely keep in mind..

Can I have your email id please?

Thanks in advance!

22-Aug-2016 13:54 PM

Comment Dear R.S.Dutta,

Your plan is OK. I suggest, keep 1-2 day extra … because you cannot trust the rains.

We stayed at Toli in full monsoon … yes, leeches are problem, but you have to bear with it if you want to enjoy the place. We stayed at shepherd hut … if you want to stay in shepherd hut, carry sleeping bag.

‘Safety’ is a subjective matter … at least, we did not think of that … decision is yours because there is always danger in monsoon …

Yes, carrying water from plain land is the only alternative of medicated spring water.


22-Aug-2016 10:59 AM

Comment Dear Indrajit Da,

Thanks for your valuable guidance, suggestions, inspiration and wishes.

Yes, I have gone through your Rudranath trek travelogue earlier. Couple of points on your reply -
1. Probably I could not make our plan clear to you - Starting from Rudranath in the morning, we are reaching Toli via Panar. After night stay at Toli our plan is to reach Devagram via Dumak on the next day. Our concern here was how safe will be night stay @ Toli in late September keeping monsoon and leeches in mind. Also, we are not taking tent and sleeping bag.
2. Is carrying water from plain land is the only alternative of medicated spring water?

Happy Traveling & Thanks in Advance!

21-Aug-2016 03:58 AM

Comment Dear R.S.Dutta
regarding your questions ..
1) I suggest, don't try to reach Dumak on same day ... take break at Toli & enjoy the place ...
2) Spring water is fine for some but not for all ... better not to drink it directly ...use water purifying liquid or tablet


10-Aug-2016 07:02 AM

Comment Dear R.S.Dutta

i am about 46 ... surely I like your "DADA-fying me" ...

Your plan is OK, except for the monsoon factor ... I am afraid doing this trek in 4 days would be hectic ...

First, going to Atri would not be easy now ... you have to face currents & that would be time consuming ...

Better, take the first halt at shepherd hut of Vikram Singh Bist crossing Amrita Ganga on the other side of Anusuya.

If it rains torrents, you may not be able to cross Amrita Ganga ... also beware of 'Harka Baan'

I suggest, keep 6-7 days for the entire trek ... you can never predict the weather at this time ...

Also you may check my Rudranath Trek here -

Wishing you all the best & a joyful & successful trek ... you will never forget this ... lifetime experience, I would say ...


10-Aug-2016 06:52 AM

Comment Indrajit Da,

While going through your travelogue, not only the places take a dreamy yet structured shape in my imagination, somewhere you as a person become very familiar gradually to the reader. On that note being a complete unknown person I could not resist to call you dada, hope you won't mind.

Now coming to the trekking part, we, a group of 4 men aged between 30 to 45 are planning to visit Lord Rudranath in late September this year. If the almighty wishes below is the pivotal part of our planned itinerary -
1. After night stay at Haridwar reach Mandal by car and then trek to Devi Anasuya Temple on the same day.
2. After spending night there, visit Atri Guha and Dattatreya Temple. Then trek to Rudranath Temple and reach there on the same day.
3. On the next morning after visiting near by spots of Rudranath temple reach Toli Bugyal via Panar Bugyal.
4. Spending night at Toli reach Devagram via Dumak and visit Lord Kalpeshwar. Reach Joshimath by car for night stay.

As per our understanding, this is a bit tight schedule specifically 2nd day and that's even more tight for me being a first-time trekker at the age of 30 :) However other 3 gentlemen are rookie to mid level trekker. Having solid experience in this route, can you please suggest couple of things to us -
1. How judicious is our decision to take Panar-Toli-Dumak route at that time including the night stay at Toli, specifically keeping monsoon and leeches in mind..and..if we want to avoid night stay at Toli but follow the same route - will it be possible to reach Dumak on the same day?
2. Is there any so-called 'safe drinking water' point in this route or we can drink spring water?

Happy Traveling & Thanks in Advance!

07-Aug-2016 13:08 PM

Comment @ MILIND
thanks for reading and commenting ..
yes, september is ok ... probably it would rain ...but rain has its beauty, no?
ananda's mobile no. is 09917440456

10-Feb-2014 11:48 AM

Comment Dear Indrajit ji,
I have read both trek -logs written by you.
You are great storyteller & i am hooked by these trek-logs
I want to do this trek somewhere around 15th sep 14.
Can you tell me whether it is good season & 2ndly i dont want carry tent? so is it possible?
Can you share cell no of anand (is he guide? ) & i need porter to carry my bag
pl help.
Yes, your photographs are great!!
warm regards

30-Jan-2014 01:05 AM

Comment Dear Indrajit ji,


While looking the photos of Toli and surroundings I understand that my knowledge on Uttarakhand Hiamlyas is very less. This heavenly place was totally unknown for me, this is a chance for great enjoyment. Surely I will visit this place in coming rainy season. Many thanks for this great sharing.


Vivek Awasthi
Hardoi, UP

Vivek Awasthi
04-Apr-2013 13:24 PM


why not? age is no problem. just take time and trek. i myself have a plan to go there in oct this year

14-May-2012 09:07 AM

Comment Dear Indrajit,
I treak Rudranatk in oct-2010 with Anand.It was very nice experience for me and my wife.I wish to treak rudranath -kalpeswar through toli.
My age is 58+.Is it possible to treak in this route.
Your TOLI TREK photos are splendid

14-May-2012 01:34 AM

Comment Nice and adventuorous trip to be enjoyed. Monsoon himalayas are really enchanting.

Paramartha Roy.
19-Dec-2011 01:09 AM

Comment Mandal....Bhagat Singh...Anusuya..Sagar.....Pung...Liti.......Panar....remind me of my Rudranath Trek in June. Liked the Toli Bugyal photos and description. Great adventure! Himalayas are beautiful any time of the year.

P N Mazumdar
18-Dec-2011 10:53 AM

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