Tons – The land of ancient trails.
By: Vineet Sharma
Location: Tons, Uttarakhan – INDIA
Also featured in Issue #10 | July 2012
After returning from the hot region of Southern India, it was time to hit the Himalayan region of ‘Uttarakhand’ for more mountain biking and to teach basics of mountain biking to the school kids from various parts of the country.
Our camp was located in Mora village next to the Tons River, also known as Tons Valley, which is one of the major destinations for water based adventure sports like white water rafting. Tons river is the biggest tributary of the Yamuna River and carries more water than the Yamuna itself. The Tons River is made up of two tributaries, Rupin and Supin, and is supposed to be made of the demon ‘Sarupnakaha’s tears. Flowing from alpine into a tropical region within a span of 40 KM’s, it is one of India’s most scenic, yet demanding class 4 river runs.
This place is definitely an ideal getaway if you are looking for a relaxing weekend in the midst of picturesque, natural surroundings or for the adventure enthusiasts coming on a tour to India. It has many options for white water rafting, kayaking, trekking, rock climbing and of-course mountain biking. We have been coming to this place for the last four years and have explored a variety of trails that are fun to ride and are also a good way to explore the beautiful alpine area.
Reaching Mora village is not difficult by road. There is bus service from Dehradun to a small town called Purola via Mussoorie. One can hire a jeep to reach Mora village from Purola. Reaching from Shimla to Tuni is another option but it can be very tiring and dusty if you are coming by bus as the roads are in really bad shape.
After reaching the camp site I opened my bike box to ensure nothing was broken. I could not wait to assemble the bike and get ready for a month full of action! Tons valley is famous for its notorious weather conditions. The upstream and downstream winds can become nasty without warning. After a mild rain everything looked and smelled fresher and I could not resist going out for a short spin to the grave of the tallest pine tree in Asia.
What makes this pine tree special is that it was the tallest pine tree in all of Asia and towered at 60.65 meters and the circumference measured at 2.70 meters. The tree is approx 235 years old and is named Mahavriksha by Ministry of Environment and Forests. This tree holds special importance for the people of Kiroli Tappad village as it is considered sacred by the local people and as a ritual to this wonder of nature they offer coins to the tree. The tree fell because of a heavy storm back in May 2007 and is now preserved by the forest authorities. It continues to be a source of tourist interest, courtesy the forest authorities.
The varieties of trails in and around the Mora village area are good for weekend warriors and for endurance freaks. Riding towards the nearby town ‘Tuni’ is a good trip. Which is famous for its trout fishes and one can buy them at great prices. On the way I met my old friend, Suresh, who showed me more riding options around three years back. His family moved to Tons from Nepal and he runs a small shop at Chhatra and lives happily. After a 3 Km climb you can check out a nice view of the valley from the village. The people are really friendly and will always offer you water and tea. Later I decided to descend and head towards Hanol. Hanol is famous for the ancient temple of ‘Lord Mahasu’ (Chief deity of the area) which was built around the 9th century. The road to the temple is luckily not paved and is a fun gradual ride mixed with slush, rocks and dirt. Hanol has lots of stories attached to it since the Mahabharata days. Centuries ago the place was known as Chakrapur, and it is said to be the place to which the pandavas escaped from laksha graha or the Lakhmandal on River Yamuna. The most unusual aspect of the temple is the two spherical rocks about one foot in diameter and heavy as hell. The fun part is to lift these rocks on your shoulder and head and then throw them to the ground. It is believed that only a person with a pious heart can lift up these rocks. Many people visit the temple to prove the strength of their devotion by lifting these rocks, which weigh around 80 and 100 Kgs. It’s all about technique; you have to roll the rock up in stages along your body. Strength alone can’t do it.
Riding back to campsite was even better. We had a really good time riding a sweet trail that flows to Chhatra from Hanol. This single track trail is fast and also has some small drops and technical section. The trail also connects to the Thadiar range that connects from a bridge known as “Jhoola Pul”. The last part of the trail is a 150m hike which leads to the shop located at Chhatra. The next day I decided to ride all the way to Tuni and back which turned out to be a nice 50 Km ride. Though coming back was bit tiring as a long climb and no shade sucked out a lot of my energy. The ride became flowy again once I reached Chhatra.
The following day the ride session was towards another small town called Mori. The 9km stretch from Mora is all tarmac. In between one will come across many spots from where the water from natural springs is flowing out and is super cold and absolutely clean to drink. I never miss the opportunity to fill my hydration bag with this natural mineral water. On reaching Mori I could not resist to try some of the local made snacks and then headed for a tiring 7 Km climb towards another temple called “Nanai”. The temple is located in a very isolated place and is studded with coins. It is also believed to be built in ancient times and has lot of importance in the area. The area is also full of single track trails flowing through the dense pine forest. After spending more than 2 hours riding and chilling in the trails it was time to descend back to Mori. The jeep track was fast and one can also see the valley moving along.
While heading back to the campsite I could not resist checking out another trail that was recently built towards the village called “Mohtaad”. It was full of farms and more pine trees. I also observed lot of construction going around and decided to turn back and rode all the way to the camp site. During the next couple of weeks I was scouting the area and found many trails where the climb was inevitable but coming back down was super fun. The whole month was spent riding these beautiful trails and rafting in between.
A high altitude trek nearby called Kedar Kanta at around 10,000 feet is the target for next visit. Nobody has taken bikes to this trek but it looks attractive and has possibilities to ride. While I was thinking and planning about this, the month had already passed quickly, the weather has started to become hotter during day time, and it was time to pack the bike and return to civilization with fond memories of Tons and the people that keep the place alive.