IMAGE: After the 1962 War with China, Gartang Gali was closed for 59 years and opened for tourists in September 2021. All photographs: Mayur Sanap/Rediff.com
Ever fancied walking down the narrow plank walkway that hugs the side of the steep Mount Husashan in China?
India's very own Gartang Gali in Uttarakhand can get you quite close to that experience, without the danger.
Tucked away deep inside the Gangotri National Park at 11,000 feet above sea level, over the gushing Jadh Ganga river, this historic high-altitude bridge served as an ancient trade route between India and Tibet.
Situated in the Nelong valley in Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi district near the India-China border, the 135-metre-long and 1.8 metre-wide stairs of this wooden bridge were re-constructed by forest officials before the bridge was re-opened for tourists in September 2021 after 59 years!
IMAGE: Visitors must register themselves at the main entrance near Bhairon Ghati with an entry ticket that costs Rs 150 for an Indian tourist and Rs 600 for a foreign tourist.
The Gartang Gali bridge is commonly believed to have been built by the Pathans of Peshawar (now in Pakistan), but that's debatable. "There is no evidence that Pehawari Pathans built the Gartang Gali bridge because they never ventured into Tibet from this side. Locals claim it was built entirely by their ancestors for easy trading between India and Tibet," Gangotri National Park forest guard officer Devendra Bisht tells me.
"The bridge was used to transport goods like salt, wool, jaggery, spices and leather."
IMAGE: An easy-gradient hike of about 2 km, from the checkpost, takes you, through the dense deodhar forest, to the Gartang Gali bridge and closer to the magical thundering sound of the Jadh Ganga river, which flows some 400 metres below in a massive gorge.
IMAGE: Revel in the mesmerising views of the Nelong valley as you hike towards the bridge. The Nelong valley is also home to endangered animals like the blue bharal (sheep) and the snow leopard.
IMAGE: The entire forest trail is well laid out with white arrows pointing you towards the bridge.
IMAGE: The first glimpse of Gartang Gali after a steep hike. The tree line disappears, and you get clear views of the bridge and the river.
The Jadh Ganga river originates from the Lambi glacier and meets the Bhagirathi river, that flows from Gaumukh glacier in Gangotri.
IMAGE: For the safety of visitors, only 10 people are permitted to walk at a time on the bridge; they must maintain a distance of one metre from each other as they climb.
IMAGE: The bridge is cut into a granite stone on a vertical rock face. The new construction has iron rods for support with wooden logs made from deodhar (Himalayan cedar) trees.
IMAGE: The steepest section of the bridge boosts your adrenaline as you soak in the beauty of the surroundings. The snow-capped mountains and greenery make it all the more spectacular.
IMAGE: Look at that view!
Just 20 km before Gartang Gali lies the picturesque hamlet named Harsil. It is a perfect place to book your accommodation after your trek to Gartang Gali is done. Tourists are not allowed to venture into the Nelong valley post 5 pm.
IMAGE: Famous for its lavish apple orchards, a combined tour of Harsil makes for a great visit. You can also plan your visit this area during the Harsil Apple Festival, which takes place in the last week of November each year.
How to reach:
By air: Jolly Grant airport at Dehra Dun is the nearest airport to Gartang Gali, situated almost 250 km away by road.
By rail: The nearest railway station is Rishikesh, located 250 km away by road. Dehradun and Haridwar stations are also close and are options.
By bus: The Uttarakhand state transport bus runs regularly from New Delhi to Uttarkashi. Hire a cab or shared jeep from Uttarkashi to Gartang Gali, which is about 95 km away.
Where to stay: The state government's Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam guest house in Harsil is a good option. Alternatively, there are a number of hotels and homestays in the valley.