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 highway at Aut at 5 o’clock in the morning. It was drizzling. I found an ATM booth 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. I thought to sit there spreading it on the floor in front of the ATM booth. One of the dogs snatched it and two others started sniffing my bags. I felt scared. I entered into the booth to avoid them. Then suddenly the burglar alarm of the booth started ringing. I felt completely bewildered. I came out and became victim of the dogs again There were vehicles on the highway which passed by very fast.
After sometime I saw a car was coming down slowly along an unmetalled road. As soon as it slowed down to take a turn in front of the ATM booth I shouted desperately for help. If it was a big city I would have preferred 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. They knew it opened early.
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 which would go to Banjar. 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 in 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. I enjoyed the serenity because there was no tourist at that time. I roamed around, watched beautiful birds and blooming plum fruit trees and Tirthan river.
Next day I went to Banjar by local bus and from there I went to Sojha and Jalori pass by shared jeep. Sojha is also a beautiful small hamlet in Tithan Valley. I wanted to trek to Serolsar lake from there but locals dissuaded me because there was 5/6 feet high snow. Jalori pass was also blocked due to snow. I could not reach Jalori Mata temple. So I decided not to waste time in Sojha staying there another day. From Tirthan Valley I went to Bhuntar by bus to go to Parvati valley.
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. At Bharmor HPTDC hotel I met a congenial doctor couple who visited Bharmor thrice with the intention to go to Manimah by helicopter, but every time for some reason they missed it. They also accompanied us to Bharmoni mata temple. They are still in contact with me. 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 in 2019 March 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. Still I fell down thrice. The home stay was run by the owner and his family. As the owner’s wife was not at home then, his mother was also away to see his sister 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 in their living room. 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 of March 2019, 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 the 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. Then I realized why she had requested me to take lunch outside. 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, visited trout fishing farm, went to the small market and had lunch there. 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 is 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 crossing a bridge on the Uhl river at the extreme end of the village and had dinner. Next morning I left the valley by taking another bus from the highway near the main market and the dam.
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. There was no electricity too. 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.
I did not have any idea that the motorable road would end 2 km before Kugti village, so I was a bit disappointed. I was hungry and tired after coming down from Manimahesh. I had my lunch from the langar at the entrance of the path which led to Kugti village. There was a small school. They allowed me to use their toilet. I reached the forest rest house which was at the entrance of the village Kugti, walking 2 kilometers with my rucksack on my back.
When I reached I was absolutely exhausted. I found 3 people sitting on the yard eating apples that grew in the garden of the rest house. They offered me apples, they were juicy and sweet. I told them that I need a room desperately. One of the three persons was from HP police department who was there on duty for the occasion of Manimahesh Yatra and another was from the maintenance department of HP forest rest houses who came to repair the solar heater of that forest rest house. They had been staying in the two rooms of the rest house that were habitable. Rest of the rooms were in broken condition. The 3rd person was a local and an acquaintance of them.
They called the caretaker of the forest rest house from the village, whose house was half kilometer away from the rest house, making a whistling sound that echoed in the mountain. That is the communication only system there. There was no mobile tower. Both of them were ready to share one room and spared the other room for me on condition that in the morning I would allow them to take hot water from my bathroom because there was no hot water facility in the toilet of the other room. After negotiating with the care taker, I ultimately got the room. I was very happy. The caretaker provided me dinner with roti and rajma curry. Rajma of Kugti is famous for its taste. Kugti is an Eco-village where only organic fertilizers are used for cultivation.
Tosh is a small village in the interior of Parvati Valley in Himachal Pradesh. It was snowing, more like sleet actually, when I reached Tosh from Kasol taking a shared jeep from Manikaran. I got down from the taxi and opened my umbrella, put the rucksack on my back and walked forward in search of a shelter. The taxi stand is in front of a bridge on a small stream which is the gateway of Tosh. I entered carefully because of ice and slush. Just after crossing the bridge I found a hotel. I inquired whether accommodation was available. They informed that they didn’t have attached bathroom. The next hotel on the way was closed. Proceeding forward I found a hotel upward where there were guests taking selfies on the balcony. There was ice and the path was very slippery. I could not reach there. I shouted for help. A person came and helped me to reach the hotel. He was the manager of the hotel.
It was very cold and I was shivering, so the manager told me to sit by the fireplace in their dining hall, and take a cup of tea and then to see the hotel room and complete all other formalities. It was a nice cozy room. I sat there snugly beside the fireplace. There were few people around the fire. Some were guests, some were employees who from time to time came to get the warmth. I saw my room. It was work-ably good. I kept my luggage there, closed the room and sat again beside the fire. There was no electricity. It rained whole day. People kept on coming and going to have shelter or lunch. Food was tasty, and Israeli cuisine was also available there. In the evening it started snowing heavily. Electricity came back luckily. There was nothing much to do. Time to time I went to the top floor to get mobile network and to contact my son and watched the beauty of the snow covered village.
In the early morning when I woke up it seemed that the whole valley was shrouded with a thick white sheet of ice. I went out from the room to take a stroll in the village. There is a temple of Jamdagni ( the great sage and father of the warrior monk Parshuram) in the center of the village, but outsiders are not allowed to enter. With the rise of the temperature the snow on the roofs started melting and fell with thuds. I came back to my hotel with difficulty, on the way I broke my walking stick. After breakfast I left Tosh at 10-30 AM