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.

Amarnath and Vaishno Devi

I always wanted to visit Amarnath since my teenage years. When I got the opportunity in July 2014 then I crossed 50. I was hesitant to plan this trip alone. So I took help of a reputed travel agency of Kolkata. Vaishno Devi was also included in that package. I liked their plan because they had been starting from Chandanbari and ending at Baltal. I was happy that I could be able to travel both the routes.

That was the first year when medical checkup from fixed nominated government hospital and issuing of fit certificate was introduced and the yatra permit had to be taken from the assigned bank paying a nominal sum as fees for yatra. We reached Pehelgham. The manager of the tour arranged doli and pony for us. But they took Rs 7500 from us though they only paid 5000 to the pony owner, they made profit of Rs 2500 for each horse. Everything went fine otherwise. Reaching the cave at the height of 12,756 ft was a unique as well as spiritual experience. I was fortunate to witness not only the huge ice Shiva but also natural ice made Sri Ganapati and mother Parvati beside Him.

On the way back to Baltal I fell from the horse 4 times due to the negligence of my syce who did not tie the saddle on the horse back properly, it was really a terrible experience. I became very much scared and panic stricken. The last time I started shouting as soon as my saddle tilted from the horse back. Indian army, everywhere on the way to Amarnath, was very active and helpful. They rescued me in the forth time and threatened the syce to take care of me. Then he checked and tightened the saddle properly.

We rested two nights in Srinagar and enjoyed local sightseeing, boating on Shikara in the Dal Lake, and shopping as well. Then we went to Katra . Vaishno Devi trip was nice, though the day was quite rainy. After that we all came back to Jammu and caught our train.

Traveling through an agency gave me some good and bad experiences. I got few good friends from that package though they are not in contact now. It is beneficial for them who can not make a trip on their own, specially aged people. One doesn’t need to bother about hotel booking or arranging food when one is dead tired. There are few members who are always discontented and complaining even on trivial issues which is disturbing. There are always few people who are very curious and keep on asking personal questions which is annoying. These travel agencies normally provide trips to conventional places. For off beat places one has to take initiative on one’s own.

Karthikswami of Kanakchauri

Kartikeya is not very popular like his brother Lord Ganesha and not frequently worshiped by everyone. He is the Hindu god of war according to Indian mythology. There are very few temples of Kartikeya in India. One of them is in Uttarakhand. It is a 3 kilometer uphill trek from Kanakchauri village of Rudraprayag district.

I reached Kanakchauri from Rudraprayag by bus in the month of April 2018. There were very few hotels in Kanakchauri. I stayed in Mayadeep Holiday Home. There was no other tourist at Kanakchauri then. I talked to the attendant of the hotel. He arranged a local guide for me who was a boy of 18 years, and had just appeared in the State Board Higher Secondary exam then. For watching sunrise from Karthikswami temple we started at 4 o’clock in the morning.

The sky was starry. The Milky-way galaxy and innumerable known as well as unknown constellations of stars were clearly visible. I felt spellbound watching the sky. It was absolutely dark. We were going through the dense woods. Different types of eerie sounds could be hard. Unknown nocturnal birds were making strange sounds and insects were shrieking. I asked the boy if there was any chance of ferocious animals to come across on the way. He replied very casually that cheetahs and bears could come out. I asked with doubt if they were deadly, he informed occasionally they attacked. I got very much scared. I kept on talking with him and made sounds with my walking stick so that no animal did appear. I had heard that all animals were afraid of human.

My guide

Gradually the day light started coming out behind the mountain range of the eastern side. I could not reach the top on time due to my weak legs and heart. But I saw the first rays of sun from the staircases of the temple. There was haze but still the mountain range was visible all over. I felt very much grateful, I bowed Lord Kartikeya for appearing in front of me, took few snaps, then came down. Coming down was easier, and we met few local devotees and ponies carrying loads who were going upward then.

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 morose 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 which they hired to reach Uttarkashi the next day. I regretted later that I agreed to leave the place with them. 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.

Harsil was full of apple orchard. That was not the season of apple but there were small green raw apples on the trees. Though the place was full of cloud and mist still it looked like a heavenly place.

Tranquil Tso Moriri

Tsomoriri is a comparatively less popular destination of Ladhakh. 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 because toilets were not functional then due to cold. 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 cold. 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 local 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.