Lately, a variety of things, not last of them ennui, have kept me from doing much writing. And even though the last three months saw some travel, I did not pen it down.
Here I start again, and hopefully this time I will do justice to these pretty holidays.
After a long absence from the hills, it was with much expectation that I had set out to Tirthan. And it was with the same enthusiasm that the valley greeted its travelers. Every day spent here was beautiful, and in it’s own unique way.
Tirthan is a river flowing from the Himalyas. It passes through the Great Himalayan National Park, a 700 + sq km natural reserve abundantly rich in biodiversity and a delight for bird watchers and nature-lovers. There are many small villages along the Tirthan which can be visited. The place has no hotels, but there are some guest houses and home-stays where one can live in the same style as the residents of the valley.
We were staying in a small village called Nagni. The route from Delhi to Nagni is a long one, and takes about 12-13 hours of driving at a stretch. Since we started almost at noon from Delhi, we had decided that we will break our journey in Chandigarh (mainly because it is a lovely city and we were getting a nice guest house to stay). Even in late April, Chandigarh has a pleasant weather in which you can spend a whole evening walking around the Sector-17 or the lake, or its many wide roads anywhere.
It was a long drive from Chandigarh too and it still took us about 8 hours of driving to reach Nagni. By the time we arrived, it was almost 5 pm. The temperatures were very low compared to the sizzling heat of Delhi where we had started. We were staying in a home stay, in a local house made of wood, called Khem Bharti home stay, which the owner is now renaming to Trout valley resort. The house is along the river (which all houses in Tirthan seem to be), and with its wooden flooring was a comfortable place to stay. There were small glitches though – the village transformer went kaput and we did not have electricity for 3 days – but those are minor things which can crop up in the remote locations.
Our stay was organized by Panki Sood from Sunshine Adventure, a very interesting and friendly person who spent a good amount of time with us during this trip, and told us many stories about the valley and things beyond. He and his brother have been promoting eco-tourism in the Tirthan valley and now also taking it to different parts of Himalyas.
On the morning after arrival, with a sumptuous breakfast composing of local jams and honey amongst other things, we set out to the Jalori pass, which is 30 km away from Nagni. The terrain is not so easy, and the road is narrow, so it took us over 1 hour to get there, but even along the way we had begun to see how beautiful was the promised destination. Along the way were villages like Shoja, Shringi, which, nestled into the hills looked more alluring than the last. The pass itself was a lovely stop. We were greeted by a warm cup of chai, which was quite welcome in the cold. Quite out of the ordinary as it was April end, there had been some snow fall on the previous day, We had planned to do a short trek to Serolsar lake, which is about 5-7 km from the pass, but found that the entire route was covered with snow.
But a plan is a plan, and it takes something drastic to alter it – so we set out, even though our flimsy sport shoes were unfit for walking in the snow. In a few minutes, not only were we slipping repeatedly, but a lot of snow got into the shoes and caused wet discomfort! We kept on walking however, and contrary to our expectation, it took us more than 1.5 hours to get to the lake. All the while we were convinced that the final lake would be inaccessible – but it was a delight to see that lake hiding behind snowy hills, lined with frosting.
We spent a few quiet moments at the lake, where we were the only ones. It is amusing how satisfied one feels in places where only they have arrived – you feel like the sole owner for a short while.
After a quick packed lunch, we started to head back. But we had taken only two steps and the snow started to fall. It was so pretty to see the entire scene covered with white drops. It was also a little scary because if the snow became too much, it would be hard to reach our car. So we walked fast, and that was much harder with the cold and our inadequate clothing (most of us just had one jacket, and not snow jackets at that). We reached back in an hour, and it was the hot tea and hot masala maggi that saved the day. In a little while we left Jalori to head back. The road was much more slippery with the fresh snow which was quickly packing into ice, and the downward journey had to be much more cautious and slow.
We stopped for food at Shringi – Pammi Aunty’s cooking is rather famous in these parts and we wanted to try it first hand. She cooked everything afresh, and even with the recently had maggi, it tasted good.
The next two days we trekked into and camped in the national park (GHNP), but I will break that for a second post.