Desiccated at Dayara Bugyal

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <>

Last December, I went on a solo hike to Dayara Bugyal, an alpine meadow in the Garhwal Himalayas, at an altitude of some 3000m above sea level. In summer, it's a popular hiking destination, and shepherds bring their flocks there to graze, but I had the place all to myself.

I had planned to spend the first night next to Barnala Tal, a small lake just below the final ascent to Dayara. The instructions I got on how to find the lake were typically vague, however, and I had still not reached it by evening. I was tired, and decided to descend and camp next to the only water I'd found seen so far: a shallow marsh, with stinking water that turned out to be unsuitable even to filter.

As I pitched my tent, this buffalo skull was my only companion:

Skull photograph

It was not until late the next morning that I found the lake, a mere 250m further than I'd ventured the previous day, hidden from me by a shallow rise. There was a couple of centimetres of ice on the lake, and I had to smash through it to fill my bottle.

Never has a drink of water been more welcome.