Colourful Khirshu

I came across the name Khirshu while planning my Tungnath trip, so I decided if everything went smoothly according to my plan I would visit Khirshu. Khirshu is a small hamlet in Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. This serene place is for those travelers who prefer off beat destinations. I came to know that buses for Pauri ply from Srinagar in regular intervals. I reached Srinagar from Rudrapayag by morning bus and caught anther bus for Pauri. Pauri is the district town of Pauri Garhwal district. I took a shared Jeep from the jeep stand to reach Khirshu from Pauri.

There is a GMVN tourist rest house in Khirshu. It is hardly half a kilometer walk from the main road where the shared jeeps drop their passengers. It is a good and peaceful place. There is a forest behind the rest house where many types of birds can be found. One can say it is a bird watchers’ paradise.

The range of Himalayas and snow peaks can be seen from Pauri and Khirshu, but I was unlucky. There was forest fire all over the hills at that time. At night fire could be seen in the far away hills. In some parts there was natural fire, in some parts it was man made. Locals put fire in the forest to increase their grazing field or making land for cultivation. The whole atmosphere was full of smoke and haze. No peak was visible, but still Khirsu seemed very beautiful with it’s natural beauty and every garden was full of different types of roses. Chirping of birds woke up everyone in the morning. It is a good place for some days repose.

Adorable Kaudiyala.

Kaudiyala is a small village on Badrinath Road or National Highway 58. It is 40 kilometer away from Rishikesh. It is famous for adventure tourism like river rafting, rock climbing etc. On my first solo trip I came across this place when our shared jeep broke its leaf spring here for 3rd time and was impressed by its beauty. I had breakfast here and roamed around for sometimes while the driver had been busy for repairing.

I planned to spend here one night in April 2018 when I was coming down to Haridwar to catch the train. presently Haridwar and Rishikesh have become too much crowded. I came to Kaudiyala from Pauri. There is a GMVN luxury tourist rest house which is at the bank of the river. I wanted to do river rafting but could not because it was organized only in the weekends as they informed. I was not very much interested for it so I did not make further inquiry in other places. River Ganga is very clean here though wide and in full force. At some places it is quite deep. It takes a sharp turn here towards Rishikesh after Devprayag.

The colour of the water was greenish blue then. One can spend hours here watching the panoramic beauty of the place from the garden of the tourist rest house. I roamed along the river in the evening. It is a very suitable place to spend leisure time. There are few hotels, trekkers camps etc for stay. Since early morning the roadside restaurants remain opened till the late night for the travellers who take a break here on their journey to Chardham .

Pobitora, a lesser known abode of Rhinos.

Pobitora is mainly famous for its great Indian one horned rhinoceros. Pobitora has exceeded its rhino-bearing capacity and is overpopulated. Besides rhinoceros, the other animals are leopard, wild boar, barking deer, wild buffaloes etc. Assam’s Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary is also home to more than 2000 migratory birds and various reptiles. It is located 30 km east of Guwahati.

Lazy Rhino

We made a plan to go there a day before coming back to Kolkata in the end of our upper Assam trip. Pobitora Wild life Sanctuary is about one hour journey from Guwahati. So we started early in the morning.

There was a Ganapati temple on the way to Pabitora. We visited that place. We reached the sanctuary and had breakfast there. There were few hotels. In one of them we ordered our lunch, so that we could have it while coming back. They possessed their own ponds from which they took out live fish for their guests.

We hired a jeep for the jungle safari. There were many rhinos who were quite lazy even to look at us. Some were grazing in the field. There were many wild buffaloes also, with few types of migratory birds because it was not the proper season to visit Pobitora. I took some snaps there and came back.

We had our lunch with country chicken curry and fresh Ar ( a type of cat fish) curry and came back in the afternoon.

Heavenly Harsil.

Harsil is a quaint hamlet in Uttakashi district at an altitude of 7,860 ft on the way to Gangotri from Uttarkashi. Its beauty is still unspoiled. Spending some days here can rejuvenate mind as well as health of a nature lover. This village was established by a British named Mr Wilson who was a deserter from the British army after 1857. His cottage is still there.

I went to Harsil from Gangotri on the way back to Uttarkashi. I came down from Bhojobasa in the morning and caught a shared jeep at around 12 noon which was going to Uttarkashi from Gangotri jeep stand. It dropped me on the highway at the entrance of Harsil. There were few staircases and then crossing a bridge on the river Bhagirathi I reached Harsil.

GMVN tourist rest house is in the interior of the village. It is located at the bank of the river Bhagirathi. I kept my luggage in the room and went to the backyard of the rest house beside the bank of the river. I sat there for a long time. The beauty of the place was addictive. In the month of May the water was muddy due to the fast melting and breaking of huge ice blocks from Gangotri glacier at its source. There were woods on the both side of the river. Snow peaks could be seen from there.

I roamed around the village in the afternoon. It was month of May. There were many apple orchards with very tiny green apples on them. I found young shepherds with their flocks of sheep coming back home. Village dogs were following me, they looked handsome, as many tourists would feed them biscuits they were expecting some food from me too. I was scared, one local rescued me from them. As the manager came to know that I was from Kolkata , he offered me egg curry in the dinner, which I denied. I met a family from Gujrat, all of them looked gloomy including their children. It was an exception that even the children looked so lifeless in such a beautiful place. Only the man said “hello” to me when the manager introduced us at the time of dinner. I had to talk to him because the GMVN tourist lodge manager arranged a lift for me in the jeep they hired to reach Uttarkashi the next day . At that time no other boarder was there in the guest house.

Harsil is the gateway of several trek routes. One can reach there directly from Haridwar or from Uttarkashi. There are few hotels and road side restaurant at the market place. I wanted to visit Nelang from there but could not manage the permit.

Tranquil Tso Moriri

The month of April is not the proper season to go to Ladakh specially to Tso Moriri. Initially I planned to stay at Korzok village but our home stay owner at Leh dissuaded me to do so. We reached Chumathang at 4 PM after visiting Hemis Monastery. Chumathang is known for its hot springs. It was quite a bright afternoon. There was a government guest house but the caretaker probably could not expect guests in the month of April, so he was not available.

There was a motel but it was still closed for guests. I requested the owner to arrange a night shelter for us while having tea and snacks from his shop. He cleaned a room for us. There was a well equipped attached bathroom but the water pipe was blocked due to ice. Rooms were built on a land between the river Indus and the hot spring. The owner comforted us saying that they would supply water as much as we needed from the hot spring in buckets. They did so, but water was always too hot to use immediately. The room was cozy and the food, they served, was good.

In the early morning we started for Tso Moriri as our driver told us that there would be more slush and mud on the way back if we delayed. The road was empty and mostly covered with snow. No one was there. Neither tourists nor local people. We were spell bound to see the white snow all over and the clear blue sky.

Reaching Korzok we saw frozen Tso Moriri. I was feeling blessed. It seemed to me that all those beauty was only for me that nature had unfurled there. I felt mesmerized in such unexpected serenity and tranquility. There was no sound, it seemed that life has stopped in the midst of the frozen valley. My son, our driver and I were only there, no one else. Far away from the place there were few nomadic people on their horse back. could be seen.


Kalga, a place of seclusion.

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.

Shibsagar, the capital of Aham Kingdom.

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.

Karanprayg, an unusual stay.

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.

Seat of Karan

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.

Mahaveer Karan

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.

Uma devi or Parvati

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.

Concealed beauty of Barot

Barot is a place that apparently does not look glamorous like other hill stations. It is an off beat travel destination of Himachal Pradesh. 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 home stay. Then I realized why she had requested me to take lunch outside. Himalayan women are very hard working. They work inside and outside home.

Trout fishing farm

The village is small and spread on 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 a tasty dinner of local saag and sabji with two rotis. The hostess was a good cook. Next morning I left the valley by taking another bus from the highway near the main market and the dam. The owner of the home stay carried my ruck sack and escorted me up to the bus stop.

Marvellous Majuli

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.

Gayan Bayan at Uttar Kamalabari Satra

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.