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.
Sivasagar, formerly known as Rangpur, was the capital of the Ahom Kingdom from 1699 to 1788. It is a city in the Sivasagar District of Assam, about 360 kilometres northeast of Guwahati. It is the headquarter of the Sivsagsar District. This city is surrounded by the Dehing rain-forest.
We went there from Jorhat by bus. There were several places of interest in Sivasagar. We went to see the paces hiring a car. First we went to Shibvdol, the temple of Lord Shiva. Within that temple premises there were few other temples. Behind the temple there was a large lake called Shivasagar.
Rang Ghar, built by Pramatta Singha in Ahom kingdom’s capital Rongpur, is one of the earliest pavilions of outdoor stadium in the Indian subcontinent.
Talatal Ghar is a royal palace built by Rudra Sinha.
The kings dug sweet water lakes for the benefit of the subjects. One of them is Rudrasagar in the name of Rudra Singha. There is also a temple beside Rudrasagar called Devidol.
Kareng Ghar is a seven-storied royal palace built by Rajeswar Singha.
The kingdom became weaker with the rise of the Moamoria Rebellion, and subsequently fell by repeated Burmese invasion of Assam. With the defeat of the Burmese after the First Anglo Barmese war and the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826, control of the kingdom passed into East India Company’s hands.
Karanprayag is a place on the confluence of Alakananda and Pindar rivers. It is on the way to Badrinath. Pindar river is also called Khuni ( Killer) Ganga because it flows with so much force all over the year and there are so many huge deadly stones in the stream that nobody remains alive if falls into it accidentally.
I was coming down from Joshimath in a shared jeep to Rudrapayag. I did get seat neither in the front nor in the middle row. The travel made me uncomfortable and dizzy for some reason. So when the jeep reached Karanprayag I decided not to proceed further on that day. There was a hotel in front of the jeep stand. I entered into that hotel and asked in the reception if there was any accommodation. I planned to stay there one day. The hotel’s position was good. At the rear side of the hotel there were large balconies on every floor from where the sangam ( confluence) of Alakanada and Pindar rivers could be seen.
I rested there after having lunch. In the afternoon I went out to buy some medicine. The owner of the hotel was sitting in the lobby. I asked him if it was going to rain and how distant the medicine shop was. It was very much cloudy and there had been frequent lightning. I could see that it was raining heavily in the distant hills. The owner assured me that it would not rain and I could go to see Ganga Aarti at sangam which was very near to the hotel. As soon as I reached sangam it started raining heavily. I took refuge at the lodging of the temple priest. There were two or three sadhus. I talked with them for a long time. When the rain stopped I went out to buy medicine. When I reached the hotel it was quite dark. I severely reproached the hotel owner for misleading me. He bore that with a patient smile.
While having my dinner the manager expressed his regret that due to the spread of the news of natural calamity at Badrinath Highway the rush of tourist decreased in such a way that previous day there had been eight boarders, but that day I was the only boarder. I became a bit scared and expressed my feelings. The hotel was large and three storied. The manager gave me assurance that there was nothing to be afraid of being alone as they were there for security. I found the people of Himalayas always simple, honest and sincere.
Next early morning I went to the temple of Karan, the son of Queen Kunti as depicted in Mahabharata. There were many mythical stories about the place. There was a place called the seat of Karan beside the river Alaknanda where he worshiped the Sun god. There was another temple of Uma Devi or Parvati which was also an ancient temple. After coming back I had my breakfast and left the hotel. An employee of the hotel put my luggage in a shared jeep for Rudraprayag. When I was waiting in the jeep I saw a political banner of a party where I saw the photo of our hotel owner whom I had scolded severely the previous evening. I asked the driver and came to know he was the MLA of that place.
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.
Majuli is a large river island in Assam. The island is formed by the Brahmaputra river in the south and the Kherkutia Xuti, an anabranch of the Brahmaputra, joined by the Subansiri river in the north. It is accessible by ferries from the city of Jorhat. Majuli is currently listed as the world’s largest river island.
We started early in the morning from Jorhat to reach the jetty by auto rickshaw. The journey by steamer was beautiful with Brahmaputra river on both sides. There were small islands in the river due to sedimentation where one could see different types of birds. Mostly fishermen lived there. After 2 hours we reached Majuli. The land was full of white sand. There were several Vaishnava Satras or Monastaries in the island. We visited few of them like Aunati, Kamalabari ,Dakhinpath etc. Satras are famous for their different cultural activities.
On the way we saw the indigenous hand looms of Assam and traditional tribal houses of the island made of canes and bamboos. The island is full of greenery.The main industry is agriculture, with paddy being the chief crop.
Majuli is famous for its migratory birds. Though I did not go there in the proper season still I saw lots of birds. The natural beauty of the island is unique. There are wet lands and ponds, with ducks and goose. The island is almost pollution free owing to the lack of polluting industries and factories.
Kumbh Express was 15 hours late. I reached Haridwar at 7-30 in the morning instead of 4-30 PM in the previous afternoon. I had booking at Rahi Motel for one night stay. I did not feel to waste another day staying there. I went to the bus stand directly from the station. The last bus of the day for Joshimath was standing there. The driver was calling out for passengers. I boarded the bus. In the evening when I reached Helang, which was 20 kilometer away from Joshimath, it was 5 oclock in the evening. The sun light at Helang was fading out. I took shelter in a hotel where the road bifurcated for Devgram.
The hotel owner informed that the shared jeeps would come from Joshimath at around 7-30 in the morning. It was 3rd week of April. Chardham Yatra season did not start yet. So there was no rush of pilgrims, except locals. Kalpeshwar is not a very popular pilgrimage like Kedarnath or Badrinath. I took my breakfast early and got ready before 7-30. I kept on waiting. I met a Swiss traveler who came back from Kalpeshwar staying 2/3 days there. He could speak very good Garhwali and Hindi. He informed that Uttarakhand was his favorite holiday destination. I talked to him for sometime. He was going to Anusuya Devi temple from there.
Devgram is 12 kilometers from Helang. Previously People would trek from Helang. After a long waiting till 12 noon the jeep came. It was full with passengers. I somehow forcefully managed some space for myself, there was no other option. I reached Devgram at 1 PM, Kalpeshwar was 3 kilometer walking from Devgram. I stared walking with a local woman. She lived in Devgram. She informed that she had three sons and two daughters. Sons and daughters were all married. She went to Joshimath to meet her daughters. Their husbands were Jeep drivers. She had some land in Devgram where she grew crops with the help of her daughter in laws. Her sons grazed cattle.
When I reached Kalpeshwar temple the bridge on Kalpganga had been broken due to natural calamity, instead repairing it, a motorable road and bridge construction was going on. I visited the temple going downward crossing a temporary wooden bridge. I came back in haste with the fear of missing the last shared jeep.
I boarded a shared jeep from Devgram with the intention to go to Gopeshwar. It had not been in my plan previously. But I understood, after staying one day at Helang, that it would not be easy for me to reach Chopta from there getting a seat in the bus or in a shared jeep in the middle of the way, for that I have to go either to Joshimath or to Gopeshwar. Gopeshwar was the better option for me being nearer to Chopta. So I told the driver of the jeep that I wanted to go to Gopeshwar. One fellow, who was in that jeep, heard our discussion and took initiative to stop a jeep on the way that plied between Joshimath to Chamoli so that I could reach Gopeshwar earlier. They transferred my luggage in that jeep. After reaching Chamoli I took another shared jeep for Gopeshwar, which was 25 kilometer away from there.
When I reached Gopeshwar it was almost dark. I asked the driver if it was the destination. He confirmed that it was the market and the taxi stand of Gopeshwar. The person who sat beside me in the jeep asked, ” Are you alone ?” I replied in affirmative. He became agitated and scolded me severely for coming alone and said that I had to come with a male guardian. When he knew that I did not have a male guardian to accompany me he himself took the responsibility and took me to the GMVN tourist rest house. He called the manager and told him to make an arrangement for my stay. After that he advised me to take shelter in the government rest houses always because that would be the safest place for a solo female traveler like me. I felt overwhelmed with his concern about me, as if he was a very close relative of mine. I shall remember him as long as I live.
Gopeshwar is famous for Gopinath temple. In the next morning I visited Gopinath Temple. The manager of the rest house informed me that the only bus for Chopta would start at 12 PM, if I wished to catch the bus I should book ticket from the ticket counter at 10 AM. After having early lunch I went to Chopta by the bus that went to Ukhimath.