Tirthan Valley, Parvati Valley and Barot Valley are not so common tourist destinations among the Bengalis or to the travelers of Eastern part of India as they are to the tourists of Delhi or Chandigarh. When I planned for this trip I took some tips from the people who visited these places. Every time I plan a trip I do a lot of homework. But this was a bit different one from other plans. So the advice I got, failed in the beginning of the tour. So I should inform that it is risky to get down before Aut Tannel if it is not day time and no public vehicle is available there before 9 AM either for Bhuntar or for Banjar.
Tirthan is a beautiful valley with so many places to stay like Sairopa, Nagini, Sojha, Gussaini, Gada Gusaini, etc. Banjar is a transit point from where one can get public transports for these places. There is a Forest rest house at Sairopa. There are home-stays also in every places. I stayed in Sairopa. I planned to stay at Sojha for 2 nights and visit Serolsar lake. But in the end of March there was 6 feet high snow and local people dissuaded me to go there. I went to Jalori pass but it was unfortunate, due to late retreating monsoon this year(2019 March) everywhere there was too much snow and I could not visit Jalori mata temple. Trout fishing in Tirthan river and trek in Himalaya National Park are the main attractions of this valley.
Parvati is also a beautiful Valley in Kullu district situated beside Parvati river. I went to Kasol via Bhuntar. Kasol is a bit crowded place now a days. I went to Tosh via Manikaran and Barsaini. Tosh and Kalga both are beautiful places with their pristine scenic beauty. People mostly gothere for Kheerganga trek. Parvati Valley is also famous for its Israeli food and narcotics. I tasted Israeli food.
Manikaran is a sikh pilgrimage with hot spring. From Manikaran I went to Mandi and from Mandi I went to tranquil Barot Valley beside Uhl river. I liked it very much though it apparently looked a bit dull. It is famous for Trout fish and there is a government run Trout fishing farm.
From Barot Valley I went to Rewalsar via Mandi. It is a place full of Tibetians. There are few Tibetan Monasteries and a Gurdwara. There is a large lake in the middle of the small hill town which is full of fish. After visiting Rewalsar I went back at last to Mandi and stayed two nights there, Mandi is a large hill town. From Mandi Taxi stand I hired a Taxi to visit Prashar lake which is unique for its natural beauty. I had to trek 3+3 km through the snow to reach the lake. Next day I came down to Chandigarh to catch Kalka mail.
Manimahesh Kailash is a pilgrimage in Himachal Pradesh which is considered as the abode of Manimahesh Shiv, it is not so popular like Kedarnath for its difficult accessibility. The altitude of the Manimahesh Peak is 5653 meter and the height of the Manimahesh lake is 4040 meter ( 13, 390 ft) which is a high altitude lake situated at the foot of the peak. The lake is the venue of a highly revered pilgrimage trek undertaken during the month of August/September. Hadsar is the last motorable point, after that it is a 17/18 km (app) trek. Pony is also available. But one has to walk time to time on the way because at some places slopes are very steep.
When I planned the trip I planned for visiting Kugti Village. It’s an Eco village. There is Kathik Swami temple 7 kilometer up hill from the village. There is no motorable road up to Kugti. It is 10 km from Hadsar. Shared jeeps ply from Hadsar to Kugti. One has to walk 2 km to reach the village. There is no hotel, only one forest rest house is there but locals give shelter for night.
I also planned to cover a major part of Dhauladhar circuit of Himachal pradesh. After visiting Kathikswami I went back to Chamba to complete the circuit. I could not see Dhauladhar range in this trip because it was all covered with cloud and mist. Kajjiyar looked mystic with clouds. Dalhausie is a typical Himalayan hill station established by British. McLeodgunge is also a very beautiful place and the market there is alluring for those who love shopping.
The end of the trip was a fiasco for me. When the car reached near Pathankot, the driver informed us that all the trains had been cancelled due to political chaos. On that day the verdict against Baba Ram Rahim was announced, he had been accused for several crimes. His disciples started breaking government properties, attacked press and media people. Curfew was declared in several places, transport services were detained for unlimited time. Communication services were withheld. I became too much worried and called my son over phone. He was in Bengaluru then. He asked me which was the nearest airport. The nearest airports were Chandigarh and Amritsar, but it was not possible to travel within Punjab so I preferred Jammu airport to get flight to come back to kolkata. I went to the interstate bus terminus to inquire about the bus service to go to Jammu from Pathankot. When I came back the flight tickets of next two days were already sold, so I went to Jammu and waited there two days to get the flight. It was my 4th Jammu visit, so there was nothing much left to see. I went to the Raghunathji temple and roamed around the market, and had Kebabs from Papa Di Hatti.
Tirthan is a beautiful valley in Himachal Pradesh near Kullu. Normally I read a lot before planning a trip. But sometimes those information do not work. It happened in the Tirthan trip also. According to the information, which I received from a travel forum, I took HP tourism’s Volvo bus “Himsuta” from Delhi ISBT for Manali to get down at Aut. It was instructed that one should get down before Aut tunnel, where the road bifurcated, to get a bus for Banjar. The Volvo started at 6 PM from Delhi. My co-passenger was an old man from Bhuntar. When I informed him that I had to get down before Aut tunnel he discouraged me to do so saying that it would not be wise to get down there as the place would remain absolutely deserted at 5 AM in the morning. He instructed the conductor to drop me after crossing the tunnel where there would be light and locality.
It was completely dark when the bus dropped me on the road of Aut at 5 o’clock in the morning. It was drizzling. I found an ATM where there was light. I walked in front of it with my luggage. Three dogs came running towards me. I had an old newspaper in my hand. One of them snatched it and two others started sniffing my bags. I felt scared. Then suddenly the burglar alarm of the ATM started ringing. I felt completely bewildered. There were vehicles on the highway which passed by very fast.
I saw a carrier van was coming down slowly along an unmetalled road. As soon as it took a turn in front of the ATM I shouted desperately for help. There were two persons in the van. They asked me to enter into the car. If it was a big city I would prefer to be bitten by the dogs than to ask help from two strangers. But it was Aut, so without any hesitation I accepted the lift. They took me to a nearby tea shop, offered me tea. They were two civil engineers who were on duty for some construction work. They came down to the tea stall to have morning tea and snacks.
In the shop there were three men sitting and having tea, two of them also experienced the same like me taking shelter in the ATM, and later came to the tea stall. I waited there for the local bus to go to Banjar. In the mean time I had my breakfast there. Then a taxi came for distributing news paper in the morning. The tea stall owner negotiated with the driver and managed a lift for me up-to Banjar instead of hundred rupees. The taxi driver dropped me at Banjar bus stand. He suggested me to stay at Sairopa instead of Nagini. I boarded a local bus and reached Sairopa. It was a nice place.
There is Himalayan National Park in Sairopa. It is also famous for trout fishing. One has to get permit for fishing and to trek into the forest from the Forest office. There is a Forest Rest house in Sairopa. Himalayan Magpies are in plenty in this valley with other species of birds.
Bharmor is a small hill town in the district of Chamba and the starting point of Manimahesh Yatra. Bharmani Mata is the goddess of the place. One should visit Bharmani Mata before visiting Manimahesh. She is the Shakti of Manimahesh Shiva. So after reaching Bharmor I visited Bharmani mata temple, it was accessible by car as well as by foot, I took a shared jeep to reach there. There is another temple in Bharmor which is called Chaurashi temple. It is said that the temple was built 1400 years ago, it is at the center of the town. There was a fair during that time when I visited Chaurashi temple.
In the premises of the Chaurashi temple there were several small temples. Chaurashi means eighty-four. I visited Shiva temple, Ganapati temple and few other temples. I took several photos of the temples and the idols. When I entered the Narasimha temple I asked the priest if I could take a photo, but he denied, I bowed and put a ten rupees note in the donation box and came out.
A wicked idea came into my mind. I thought I must take a photo of Narasimha from outside zooming my camera lens hiding behind the eyes of the priest. I took the photo. Then a strange incident happened. I could not take a single photo after that in the temple yard. My camera showed that the memory card was full. I remembered that I had forgotten to clean the memory card of my camera before this trip. One can say this was a coincidence. But I was scared. How could I take photos after this, the main part of the journey was still left for which I had been craving for long ago.
Eventually I found a man with a computer doing photo editing in a shop in the market. I asked him to clear out my memory card. He did so, though I lost some of my photos of Bharmoni mata temple. I felt relieved and thanked God that if it had happened on the way to Manimahesh, it would become a disaster for me as I could not get even a single snap of the places till I reached Dalhausie. Manimahesh was one of the most difficult pilgrimage and I could not think of going there for the second time in my life at this age.
After that experience I never try to take a photo of any idol where taking photo is prohibited. One may call me superstitious but I am not ashamed to say that I am superstitious when I am traveling to Himalayas and I do not want to take any risk with anything. If I don’t take a photo of an idol it does not matter much to me because my intention is to see the places and the beauty of the nature. I keep the images of those gods in the memory card of my mind with due reverence. I consider Himalayas is itself a god. Going there is always a pilgrimage to me.
Kalga is a small village in Parvati valley. It is not a very popular tourist destination. To reach Kalga one has to trek 2 km uphill from the main road crossing the barrage on Parvati river near Barsiani. When I went to Kalga I heard that the local authority was planning to make a motorable road to reach the village. I went to Kalga from Tosh. I took a porter from the barrage because the road was slippery due to ice, and it was risky for me to walk alone on the steep hilly path with a heavy luggage on my back.
Reaching Kalga the porter took me to a hotel which was closed. In the month of March hotels remain mostly closed because tourists’ season starts from April. There was a home-stay near that hotel, it was quite cheap but not suitable for me, young trekkers were there who came for Kheerganga trek. Their leader was an experienced man who asked my budget and called another home stay owner on mobile who took me to his home stay which was half a kilometer away from that place inside the village. No path could be seen, the whole area was covered with thick layer of snow, the man took me to his home-stay holding my hand. The home stay was run by the owner and his family. As the owner’s wife was not at home then and I was feeling hungry, he allowed me to cook my lunch using their kitchen.
It was an extraordinary experience to sit in their balcony. As far as I could see all around there was snow. The village was surrounded by snow covered mountain ranges. I wished to walk around but did not get the courage to move in the ice. So I kept on watching the nature sitting on the balcony till dusk. It became very cold as soon as the sun set. I felt comfortable to sit by the fireplace. The wife of the home-stay owner made roti sabzi at night. The taste of the sabzi was different from other places of Himachal and delicious also. The beauty of Kalga is still very pristine because of it’s remoteness. If the road is made that will bring economic development for the locals, but may not prove beneficial for the travelers like us who seek solitude and natural beauty.
Barot is a place that apparently does not look glamorous like other hill stations. Buses ply directly from Mandi to Barot. I reached Barot Valley in a Sunday afternoon when it was raining heavily. While we were proceeding towards Barot from Ghatasni our bus stopped frequently to be allowed to pass because there was quite a rush of private cars and the road was too narrow. I came to know from a girl, who was a local and happened to be my co-passenger, that Barot was becoming a popular weekend destination for the people of Chandigarh. There is a dam on Uhl river and the river is famous for trouts. There is also a government run trout farm.
As it was raining cats and dogs, I asked the girl if the hotels or home-stays were distant from the bus stand. She informed me that just beside their house there were two home-stays. She offered me to stay in their home also. I got down from the bus, they gave me lift in their car which came to receive them from the bus stand. Her brother was with her who was an army jawan posted at Kargil. I lodged in a home-stay beside their house. The room was clean with basic amenities like geyser and the rent was considerably cheap because it was neither season nor even weekend. Food was simple but tasty. I went to the girl’s house later. They were very friendly people. They were seven sisters and a brother. Their parents were not at home. They had an aged aunt and her deaf and dumb husband with them. I took a cup of tea in their house sitting beside the fire place.
Next morning was sunny, I took a stroll in the village after having breakfast. At the time of breakfast the lady of the home-stay requested me to take lunch outside. While walking along the village path I found her working in the field on the mountain quite away from the place. Himalayan women are very hard working. They work inside and outside home. The village is small and spread in the both side of the river. In the morning I covered one side and in the afternoon I went to the other side crossing a wooden bridge made only for pedestrians. The natural beauty of the village uncovers itself if someone stays there and moves around in the nature. Its beauty was addictive. There was a small water falls in the village. A person gave me lift up to the falls in his car while taking back his children from the school. I came back in the evening and had dinner. Next morning I left the valley.
When I reached Tosh it was raining with small particles of ice. I managed a room in a hotel very near to the taxi stand for the night halt. The room was good as per my expectation in such a remote place. I kept my luggage there. I could not stay in the room as there was nothing to do except lying on the bed and I did not want to sleep during daytime. I was offered by the hotel manager to sit beside the fireplace of the dining hall as I was partly drenched and was shivering with cold.
A man was sitting there, he did look neither elegant nor rich anyway, but I came to know that he owned the hotel and few other hotels also at very strategic points like this one. He and his manager were taking marijuana from a hush pipe ( chillum ) from time to time. Initially I could not realize what they were smoking, but later on I found whoever was coming taking a puff or two from the pipe in turn. I thought that it was too cold and probably it was necessary to take something for stimulation to bear such cold. Few boys came back after trekking and asked for a browny which looked like a small chocolate pastry. I became quite surprised when I knew each costs 500 rupees.
As it was raining continuously and there was no electricity so I could neither go outside for a walk nor lie in my room for rest. The whole day I sat idle beside the fire watching people having hush or marijuana in different forms or ways. All the boys, came there, were mostly from 20 to 35 years old. They were from Delhi or Chadigarh or Kerala. All of them were sober and very well behaved. I talked with them the whole day. During lunch a group of people came trekking from Barsaini. But they did not stay at Tosh, they had their lunch, and went back again wearing rain coats. Everyone considered it unnatural to come in the rain taking so much risk and hassle and not enjoying the surreal beauty of Tosh staying one night there. It started snowing heavily at around 6 o’clock. It was a magical experience. In the evening electricity was restored. I ordered my dinner. After dinner, while bidding good night to all, I told the boys in jest that whatever fresh air of Himalayas I had taken from the places before coming to Tosh all became futile after having so much passive smoking. They all laughed in amusement. Next morning was absolutely sunny and warm.
N.B. An appeal : A home stay owner of Parvati Valley expressed his deep regret about the spread and sell of illegal narcotics in this valley which is not only destroying the culture of the natives but also destroying the life of the youth of that area. They are becoming greedy as well as violent day by day and some of them are getting so much addicted to these that they are losing their mental balance. So I humbly request all Himalaya lovers not to promote or encourage this . Go to Parvati valley to enjoy its natural beauty and get addicted to it.