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Day 2

Morning tea at 5.30 awoke us all, though several people were already awake and complaining of the smoke from the kitchen. The donkey bells had been tinkling all night, despite being stuffed with straw, leading Amit to suggest untying the bells, or sending the donkeys to distant lands to graze at night.

We set off for Bedini Bugiyal via Ali Bugiyal, carrying packed lunches as it is a long walk. Those in the know had informed us of the route – straight up the hillside from Didna, towards the lowest point of this ridge. Then along the ridge to the highest point. At the top of this hillside, all along the ridge is Ali Bugiyal, a luxurious meadow (at 12,000 feet) with splendid views of snow capped peaks on both sides. Once you cross to the other side of the ridge, you go on (follow the path) and finally down to Bedini Bugiyal.

We took three hours to get to Ali Bugiyal. The path is steeply uphill at first, through a forest, and then, once you reach the saddle of the ridge, it slopes gently upward, sometimes through trees but gradually rising till it is above the treeline and you can enjoy uninterrupted views of the peaks, until the clouds rise and block them.

Leading out of the village at Didna and up the forested hillside are many paths, each of which has innumerable forks. We kept going with our instincts, choosing the broadest path, or the one with the maximum donkey droppings, trying to head in the general direction of the saddle of the ridge. Others in the group, we learned later, took a different path, which, instead of leading to the saddle, leads straight up the hill to the highest point of the ridge, a shorter but extremely tiring route and one which even the donkeys avoid.

Ali Bugiyal, when we reached it, was every bit as breathtaking as promised. Unfortunately, we reached at 12.30, and the clouds had already begun to gather around the peaks, so we caught only fleeting glimpses of them. Those who had reached earlier, around 11, had enjoyed a panoramic view of Bandarpoonch, Chaukhamba, Neelkanth, Nanda Ghunti and Trisul.

We had a leisurely lunch break at Ali Bugiyal. Despite the clouds blocking our view, we found it an extremely pretty meadow. So much so that I decided there and then that Ali and I would have to meet once again, preferrably in the next few days. Our intended path was to take us on the return trip from Bedini Bugiyal directly to Wan, but I was already trying to work out how a quick detour to Ali could be figured in.

After lunch, we walked on. On either side the hill sloped down to the treeline. The part above the treeline was a carpet of green grass that curved in and out following the folds of the hill as graceful as the folds of a silk sari. It looked like a series of rolling golf courses, but I pity anyone who tries to tee off there. If the ball takes it into its mind to go rolling down the luxurious green slopes, it might be quite a while before the golfer can catch up with it!

The path from Ali Bugiyal follows the convolutions of the hill for a long, long way, before crossing a ridge and continuing on the other side. We were beginning to wonder when the end would ever come, as it was now close to 4 pm, when we spied the camp at the bottom of the grassy slope on the left. The more cautious walkers wanted to look for a path down, but Amit and I just scrambled down through the tufts of grass.

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Ali and Bedini Bugiyal on the Map

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Copyright 2008 Amit and Anamika Mukherjee. All rights reserved.