My Experiences at Batal

Batal is a transit point on the way to Manali or Keylong from Kaza or vice versa. Here the road bifurcates for Chandratal also. There are very few halting places on this way for refreshment. So those who go through this road normally halt here and have morning tea or snacks and soft drinks or breakfast or lunch. Here the only Dhaba that exists is Chacha-Chachi’s Dhaba.

When I got down from the traveler bus at 9-30 AM, the driver told me that they would pick me up from the same place at the same time next day, Chachi welcomed me. I informed her that I wanted to go to Chandratal and I was alone. She assured me with a smile that I must get a lift from someone and it would not be a great problem as I was alone, but I have to keep patience till lunch because people come for Chandratal from Manali then. I sat at their Dhaba where Chacha and his daughter-in-law were attending their customers continuously with a smile on their face. I ordered a cup of black tea and watched tourists. The clock kept on moving forward.

At 12 noon I ordered my lunch, rice, aloo ki sabzi(Potato curry) and fried eggs. They also had daal(pulses) and rajma curry(Kidney beans). But I avoided it because I was worried about my next plan and also about getting proper toilet. There was a toilet at Chacha-Chachi’s Dhaba which was work-ably clean and water was available there. But many people don’t have a habit of thinking about other people, they are just satisfied after fulfilling their own requirements. So the toilet was smelly.

I became very impatient after 1PM, but Chachi again consoled me telling to have patience. After trying few groups, a generous couple agreed to give me a lift for Chandratal. Chachi gave me the card of Tenzin Camp and requested me to stay there. I kept my rucksack in the custody of Chachiji and took only my small backpack with necessary things. I reached Chandratal, enjoyed the heavenly beauty of Chandratal and again got lift from two good Mongolian women, who were friends and came to visit India, while coming back to Batal next morning.

When the two Mongolian friends dropped me at Batal it was 6 o’clock in the morning. They had breakfast there and then they left for Solang valley. I kept on waiting. In the mean time I asked for my rucksack which I had kept there previous day. Chachaji said with a serious face, “Someone has asked for it on behalf of you and I gave it, didn’t you send him? ” I became puzzled and said, “I told you that I am alone. why did you give my luggage to a stranger ?” But suddenly I watched that Chachaji’s eyes were twinkling with humour. I understood that he was joking with me as he did regularly with his customers. If someone had a bill of 500 rupees, he asked him to give 5 thousand and when someone challenged he said, zero had no value, so what if he added an extra zero !!! I enjoyed there watching their activities and had breakfast.

Chacha Chachi are famous in that region. They gave shelter and food to hundreds of people last year (2018 September) when tourists got stuck during a sudden natural calamity. They got several accolades from different organizations and famous people. There was an unceasing smile on the faces of this industrious couple. They called every customer “beta (child)”. Watching them I realized that inner beauty and complacency are the two invaluable possession which they own.

As usual the bus was late. But Chachaji said not to worry if they had taken money they would definitely pick me up sooner or later. At last the bus came and picked me up from Batal for Keylong. That is another part.

My itinerary for HP

Himachal Pradesh

( Tirthan, Parvati, Barot valley, Rewalsar and Mandi)

Sealdhah- Delhi- Aut- Banjar- Sairopa- Sojha- Jalori pass- Banjar- Bhuntar- Kasol- Tosh- Kalga- Manikaran- Mandi- Barot- Mandi- Rewalsar- Mandi- Prashar Lake Mandi- Chandigarh- Howrah.

Time – March 2nd half, 2019.

Tirthan River, Sairopa.

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. 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.

Parvati river, Kasol

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.

Jalori Pass

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 go there for Kheerganga trek. Parvati Valley is also famous for its Israeli food and narcotics. I tasted only Israeli food because I was already intoxicated with the natural beauty of these places.

Tosh , Parvati Valley

Manikaran is a sikh pilgrimage. There is a Gurdwara with hot spring attached with it. 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.

Barot Valley

From Barot Valley I went to Rewalsar via Mandi. It is a place full of Tibetans. There are few Tibetan Monasteries and a Gurdwara. There was a large lake in the middle of the small hill town which was 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 was 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.

Prashar lake

My itinerary for Sikkim

North Sikkim

Sealdah – New Jalpaiguri – Singtam- Mangan- Dzongu- Lachen- Gurudongmar Lake- Lachen- Singhik- Mangan- Shiliguri- Kolkata.

Time – October 2018.

Passingdand, Dzongu Valley, North Sikkim

Durga puja is a great festival for the Bengali. It is celebrated in the Bengali calendar month Ashwin (September/October). Every year my son would stay with me during puja and we both enjoyed puja, cooking and eating together. But in this puja ( October 2018) he was not with me as he was in abroad for his higher studies. So, I found staying in Kolkata alone during puja was absolutely purposeless for me. I suddenly thought that it would be the best way to spend the time in the interior of Himalayas. I searched for a place in North Sikkim which would be serene even in the time of Durga puja. Normally most of the people in Bengal get 3/4 days vacation during this period and schools and institutions remain close for at least ten days. So many people travel during this period. Sikkim being a nearby destination there remains a rush for Gangtok or popular places of Sikkim.

Mangan

I found out the name Dzongu after a few days home work. It is a Lapcha village. Lapchas are the original native residents of Sikkim. The valley is a protected area and one needs to get permit from the local DC office to go there. As I planned for Dzongu I also planned to visit Gurudongmar lake because during my last visit to Sikkim I could not manage to go the lake due to heavy rainfall.

On the way to Lachen

I boarded Tista -Torsha Express from Sealdah and reached New Jalpaiguri. Early in the morning when auto started plying to Shiliguri bus stand from the railway station I went to the bus stand and boarded a bus which was going to Gangtok. Buses ply regularly from Shiliguri to Gangtok every hour. I got down at Singtam and went to the taxi stand to get a shared jeep for Mangan. I reached Mangan Taxi stand at 1 pm. I found another shared jeep which would go to Dzongu. But there was no driver and no one could tell when the jeep would start. I also had to make permit for Dzongu and Lachen so I hired a taxi. The driver took me to the police station to make permit because DC office was closed then. The officer in charge inquired why I had been alone and then checked my documents. He gladly gave me the permit addressing me a brave lady. I reached Dzongu. As I did not have any previous booking and I did not know very well where to stay the driver took me to a home-stay at Paasingdang village.

Tholung Monastery

It was a pleasant stay at Dzongu . I stayed there for 3 days. The home-stay owner helped me to get a taxi to go to Lachen. I could go by shared jeep too but I had pain in legs due to 10 km down hill trek from Tholung monastery previous day. I went to Lachen. I stayed in another home-stay there. I went to Gurudongmar by a Scorpio arranged by my hostess. It was a beautiful experience watching autumn colours of the trees on the way with Lachen river by the side. Weather was quite clear this time and I watched the magnificent turquoise blue lake.

On the way to Gurudongmar from Lachen

From Lachen I got down to Mangan. I visited the Monastery of Mangan and Shinghik view point. Shinghik is a place on the way from Chungthang to Mangan. Then I came down to Shiliguri again by Sikkim Government bus and caught Kolkata -Shiliguri Volvo bus.

Gurudongmar Lake, West Sikkim

https://jhumka.in/2019/05/26/dzongu-a-quaint-lapcha-village-in-north-sikkim/

Dhanaulti, a place for relaxation.

Dhanaulti is a small hill station, at an altitude of 7500 ft, situated at the foothills of the Garhwal Himalaya located 24 km (15 mi) away from the very popular hill station Mussoorie . There are few hotels and GMVN tourist rest house for the tourists. There are few good restaurants too for the day travelers who come from Musoorie or Chamba.

I went to Dhanaulti from Chamba via Tehri Dam . As I could not manage to go to Nelang valley so I had two days extra which I decided to spend in Dhanaulti. There was Sarkanda Devi temple which I visited on the day I arrived. Sarkanada Devi is a Sati Pith where the scull of Sati fell. Next day I just idled away walking on the roads and visiting the two Eco parks watching people enjoying leisure time with their families. The weather was pleasant even in the end of May.

Dhanauti is full of deodar and ceder trees, orchards of apple and walnuts , fields full of green vegetables on the slope of the mountain. It is away from the hustle bustle of the crowd not being so popular as Mussoorie. It is a pleasant place for those who want to spend peaceful leisure time.

I enjoyed good food there. The hotel owner was a congenial person. He arranged a jeep for me to go to Sarkanda devi temple. He was quite worried and concerned about me because I was traveling alone. He asked me to go down to Mussoorie because public transport was uncertain from that place and advised me that I should not take risk to reach Haridwar from there on the day of my return journey to catch train. So after spending two relaxed night there I came down to Mussoorie by a shared jeep that was going to Dehradoon.

My Itinerary(Uttarakhand)

Garhwal

Howrah- Haridwar- Helang- Kalpeshwar- Gopeshwar- Chopta- Tunganath- Sari gaon- Deoria Tal- Ukhi Math- Rudraprayag- Kanakchauri ( Karthik Swami Temple )- Rudraprayag- Khirsu- Kaudiyala- Haridwar- Howrah

April 2018

On the way to Tungnath

I received a message in the early morning from IRCTC that Kumbh Express would start at 8 PM instead of 1PM. I felt a bit disturbed and anxious. Thank God! The train was not cancelled. As it started late it reached at 7-30 AM after two nights’ journey. I did not want to waste time in Haridwar though I had accommodation, booked previously in GMVN’s Rahi Motel. I got the last bus for Joshi Math from the bus stand and boarded immediately. I could not get a window seat but it did not matter much to me because it was not my first journey towards Joshi Math. When the bus dropped me at Helang the sun had already set down behind the hills. I lodged in a hotel on the highway.

On the way to Kalpeshwar

Next day I waited for shared jeep at Helang since 7 o’clock in the morning till 12 noon. When at last the jeep came I forcefully stuffed myself within the jeep in a desperate manner and reached Devgram. I trekked quite fast and reached Kalpeshwar temple, though construction work was going on, the workers helped me to cross the difficult parts. I came back at 3PM and then went for Gopeshwar.

Tungnath Temple gate

I spent the night at Gopeshwar GMVN. I went to Chopta from there at 12 noon by a bus that plied from Gopeshwar to Ukhimath. I spent the night at Chopta. Early morning I started for Tunganath. As it rained heavily at night so there was haze. I could not capture sunrise on the mountain range. There was plenty snow on the top. The weather in Himalayas is absolutely unpredictable. I did not expect so much haze everywhere in the month of April. After coming down from Tunganath I went to Sari village taking lift in Lakhpat Singji’s car who owned a hotel also and I was acquainted with his name through the travel vlog of Chinmay Nath in You Tube.

Karthik Swami Temple

After visiting Deoria Tal I went to Ukhimath. Luckily Kedarnathji and Madmahewarji had been staying in Omkareshwar Temple at that time. I felt myself blessed visiting them. Then I went to Kanakchauri via Rudrapyayag.

Chopta

After coming back to Rudraprayag I thought to go to Pauri and Khirshu. I spent one leisurely day at Khirshu and another day at Kaudiyala. The end was not very smooth and pleasant as the tour was. Kumbha Express left Haridwar at 7-30 in the morning instead of 11 pm at the previous night. The co-passengers were terrible. They were two students of Doon Valley school who had appeared for 12 class board examination. They were extremely smelly in every way and very much ill behaved. I came to know that one’s father was a politician of Mughal Sarai and other’s father had real estate business at Patna. They were the burning example that money can not buy culture. When they got down I felt a bit relieved but they left their smell till I came back home and washed all my clothes.

Deoria Tal

My itinerary (HP)

Himachal Pradesh

Manimahesh, Kugti(Kathikswami Temple) and Dhauladhar Circuit.

Howrah – Pathankot – Chamba – Bharmor – Hadsar – Manimahesh – Hadsar- Kugti – Chamba – Khajjiyar – Dalhausie ( chamara Lake -Dainkund etc )- Dharamsala ( Masroor Rock cut Temple – Kangra devi – Kangra fort -Jwalamukhi – Chamunda Devi ) – Macleodgung (Bhagsu Naag temple- Vaagsu falls- Daal Lake – St. John’s Church- Dalai Lama’s house etc)- Pathankot – Kolkata

On the way to Hadsar from Bharmor

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.

Khajjiyar

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.

Chamara lake

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. From Chamba I went to Khajjiyar. Kajjiyar looked mystic with clouds. Dalhausie is a typical Himalayan hill station established by British. In dalhausie I did local sight seeing in a car sharing with another tourist. Then I went to Dharamsala. Dharamsala is a large town. One has to hire car to go to Masroor rock cut temple, Kagra Devi temple, Kangra fort, Chamunda Devi temple, Jwala devi temple etc. McLeod-gunge is very near to Dharamsala and a very beautiful place to stay. There also I had to hire car sharing with another tourist for sight seeing and visited Dahl lake, Vagsu nag, Vagsu Nag falls, Dalailam’s house etc. The market of McLeod-gunge is alluring for those who love shopping.

Kangra fort

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.

Bhagsu Falls

Tirthan Valley adventure

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.

Magpie at Sairopa

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.

Jalori pass

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.

Sojha

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.

Banjar

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.