Okay, so this story needs a prelude: if you're going to Kalindikhal, you need official permission from the "authorities". The latter is ill-defined. If you go to the Indian Mountaineering Federation (IMF), they will direct you to the District Magistrate (DM) of Uttarkashi, the district which contains the trek route. If you go to the Uttarkashi DM, he, pleading absence from his office, might direct you back to the IMF, or hand you over, like a sacrificial lamb, to his hierarchy of minions. After much running-around, we ended up having to get permits from both the IMF and the Uttarkashi DM. The IMF is mercifully in Delhi, and two of us were from Gurgaon, reasonably close by. The Uttarkashi affair was a nightmare, though -- read on.
14 & 15 July: Landed at Delhi airport at around 10pm after a disgustingly long flight across the Pacific and was met by a turbocharged Vladlen announcing that he had lost his luggage. Argued at length with Continental groundstaff (a pair of hassled-looking females) who hemmed and hawed and finally told us the stuff had been loaded onto the next day's flight. We filled up a claim form and morosely chugged over to the domestic airport to pick up Vishnoi, who was arriving from Bangalore. Minutes after Vishnoi's flight landed, we received word from Continental that some git had actually made off with Vladlen's pack by mistake, and had returned it, and could we please come and collect it? They didn't explain why their database insisted it was coming the next day, and we didn't ask. End result, the pack was restored to its owner and we all rolled along to Gurgaon in various stages of sleep-deprivation (Vishnoi: negligible, me: slightly less negligible, Vladlen: extreme).
Now we had to present ourselves in person at the Uttarkashi DM's office before it closed for Sunday, so we packed in record time and somehow bunged ourselves into an Innova in the wee hours of the same night. This is what the packing chaos (food, tents, stove, utensils, rope, sleeping bags, clothes...) in Panda and Happy's apartment looked like just before we abandoned it.
That's Vishnoi, Panda, Happy, the driver and Jeet (who'd popped in to see us off) from left to right. Vladlen was checking mail in the next room and Ajay had been sent off to Uttarkashi to initiate negotiations three days earlier.
The car trundled on through the night and the early hours of the morning through Haryana and Uttaranchal, making a forced detour because the direct road had been blocked to allow unending streams of "kavdes" (pilgrims) to walk their way from all over North India to Gangotri-Gaumukh to collect the water of the Ganga from its source. Only notable incident in a largely sleep-dominated drive: Vladlen getting out to piss in a large crop-field and returning to comment, "I'm sure you know this already, but we're standing in a sea of pot." If he was to be believed, cannabis did seem very popular indeed in those endless farmlands :).
We reached Haridwar sometime in the morning, where we switched to a 4WD car and Vladlen took suspicious bites off my roasted bhutta (corn) and succumbed to the guilty pleasures of roadside nimbu pani (he religiously stuck to mineral water wherever available otherwise).
From Haridwar on to Uttarkashi, passing the Tehri dam (left picture: reservoir behind the dam) and lunching at a little restaurant with a fabulous rear verandah view (right picture). It was overcast and everything was lush green.
Left picture: Us accompanying the minion with our application file (on the right) from one office to another half a kilometre away. That's Ajay in shorts on the left. Right picture: The SDM signing our forms. That room also functioned as a courtroom with a little fenced-off witness-box and everything, by the way.
Duty done, we trundled into a dharamshala stunningly located right beside the raging Bhagirathi. Here're our verandah view reflected in a mirror (left) and the temple next door (right).