By: Vaibhav Nijhowne
Location: Uroli, Uttarakhand – INDIA
Also featured in Issue #10 | July 2012
My destination this summer was Uroli, a village located in the Ranikhet Tehsil of Almora district. A mere 25 kms from Ranikhet, this village is set in the midst of thick pine jungle. But it also has a variety of fruit orchards like plum, pear, peach, walnut, apricot, apple etc.
I had the opportunity to spend an entire month in a campsite just below the Uroli village, busy teaching children mountain biking in and around our environs. This summer we ran a new Mobile program, wherein we tour the surrounding area over a period of 5 days before heading back to base camp. So we would cycle to the temporary camp, pitch our tents, collect water and firewood, cook our own food, and wash our dishes and clean up the campsite.
Next morning, we’d pack, clear up and leave and get to the next designated camping spot and get down to setting up camp. So it was an all rounded experience but there was still a huge component of mountain biking involved.
The trails around here are varied – some jeep tracks, some rocky sections, some tarmac, loads of trails carpeted with dry pine needles, and some really steep and technical downhills too!
We head out on Day 1 from Uroli and ride along the (sort of) main jeep track all the way to Dwarson village. The trail is basically flat and slightly undulating at times. But it’s winding and reasonably fast paced. Excellent for a quick 10km dash and back if you’re in the mood for some high speed offroading. From Dwarson, we hit a tricky downhill section as it’s laden with dry pine needles. Even a moment’s loss of concentration will send you sliding around and bathed in pine needles. But that adds to the challenge of this section.
At the base of the valley, we reach Banarghat – our campsite for the first night. It’s the base of a very narrow valley along a sweet little stream flowing down the centre. So our water source was taken care of!
The next day, we ride up this steep pine needle ridden climb which later transforms into a rocky uphill which is impossible to ride up. So we do a bit of a bike’n’hike before we hit the road at Deoli Khan. From there , it’s a quick tarmac downhill and then a nasty uphill all the way to Sitlakhet village. Much to the dismay of the kids, the climb does not end there and the only change is in the surface, from tarmac to jeep track. We reach our second campsite Dev Bani and pitch up camp in the compound of an apple orchard cum hunting lodge from the days of the British Raj. This area has a very interesting jeep track that leads on towards Matila village. The track is again very speedy and undulating – so it has just the right mix of downhills, uphills, tight corners, pine needles, roots and rocks. Everything an offroad rider would love!
Day 3 is spent climbing up all the way to Syahi Devi temple at an altitude of 6000 ft above sea level. There is basically a trekking path made of cobble stones and it is quite a task trying to climb it on a bicycle. But once you get there, the view is equally worth the pains taken to get there. Also, the downhill on the way back is memorable to say the least. We take an alternate route which circles around the ridge and is very technical with rocks, shrubs, singletrack, small drops – you name it, it’s there – so bring it on!
The next day, we proceed back to our Banarghat campsite. But we avoid the tarmac and take an interesting jeep track though the pine forests. This is another tricky downhill almost all the way till we get back onto the Tarmac a few kms before Deoli Khan. Everyone reaches the road-head with a big grin on their face.
From Deoli Khan, we take the downhill track all the way back down to Banarghat. This trail is as tough on the downhill as it was on the uphill 2 days ago! There are many technical sections with roots, rocks and drops. Needless to mention, there are loads of dry pine needles that threaten to send you skidding off down the hillside! Perfect!
Our last night out camping is celebrated with a chicken dinner! On Day 5, we head back up to Dwarson (3493) and then on to Uroli. It’s good to be back at base camp and have a proper shower after 4 days! But we don’t ignore our bikes and give them a bath too!
All in all, I did this loop 3 times in the 4 weeks that I was there, and I have to admit – I did not get bored of the trails there. There is a lot of wonderful riding to be done there and I am sure there is even more that is out there, waiting to be discovered. So if you wanna get away from the heat of the city, you may want to head in that direction and scoop out Uroli and its surrounding areas. You shall not be disappointed – I assure you of that!