Monday, 10 March 2014

Exploring the unexplored : The heavenly Tirthan Valley

And finally it happened. My first trip as an organizer and group leader. I had always wanted people to get out of the traditional 'tourist' mindset and become travellers, leave behind the commercialized hill stations and experience the beauty of the untouched Himalayas. And, in the limited time span of 3-4 days, there was nothing better than the stunning Tirthan Valley that I could think of, and did live up to the expectations.

Tirthan Valley : Untouched by the outside world 
Tirthan Valley is one of the four valleys in the region, the other three being Sainj , Parvati and Jiwanal Valley.Out of these, Jiwanal valley is yet to be explored much (Possibly next on my list :) ) .  
Named after the Tirthan River, the Tirthan Valley has it's own unique ecosystem and biodiversity, a paradise for bird lovers and remains 3-4 degrees cooler than the surrounding valleys. The credit goes to the united local people who have put in a lot of effort to protect this nature's gift from the hydro-power projects and the business oriented people. 
Famous for the Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout Fish, fishing in the Tirthan River is a career dream for any fisherman, as climbing the Mount Everest would be for any mountaineer. 

Day 0  
We started at 7 pm, 36 of us from IIT Delhi. It took us two long hours to get out of the hustle and bustle of the Delhi city life, but it was all worth it.
The next three days had everything - mind relaxing scenery, soothing music, stars, birds, adventurous treks, snowfall, waterfalls, loving people, but first of all .. the mouth watering food of Ahuja Dhaba at Murthal. The paranthas with 'white Makhan', Kadhai Paneer, Dal Makhani, Kheer, hot Gulab Jamun, were a treat for the taste buds. 
After a hearty dinner, we continued with out journey to Aut. 

Dinner at Murthal

Day 1

It was raining when we reached Aut (around 7.30 am) . Cabs were waiting for us near the Aut Tunnel. The cabs took us through the extremely scenic route , it is a time when you realize what it is to live, your senses open up, the lungs can feel the oxygen. 

After a one and a half hour drive , we reached Sairopa where Mr.  Panki Sood (Panki bhaiya :) ) , our host, was waiting for us at the forest rest house for our welcome with the traditional Himachali band and the Kinnauri topis (caps) for each of us , which surely brought smiles on each one's faces. 
The next few days with Panki bhaiya were going to be awesome. He is a such a kind and loving person, even the sight of him can bring happiness to your faces. 
After freshing up and having tasty breakfast of paranthas, butter and tea, we left for a trek to the Chaini Kothi , which was led by Tara Chand ( a.k.a TC bhai) and swept by Panki bhai. The route had some amazing scenes to offer.The snow on the tree tops looked amazing. 
We finally reached Chaini Kothi after a trek of around 90 minutes.  
It feels great to mention that we were the largest ever group at Chaini Kothi. 

Chaini Kothi : Great piece of ancient Indian Architecture 

Chaini Kothi , the mysterious earthquake-proof structure of stones has been standing tall since a long time without any cement or joining material. Groups of researchers have tried and failed to understand the secret behind the strength of this building. 

A few of us left along an unnamed route further ahead. We finally stopped at a small flat area with really lots and lots of snow, and it was time for the wild snow fights. It was great fun, but what awaited us was divine. Yes, the first snowfall for most of us, it seemed that god had showered his blessings on us in the form pure white cotton-like flakes of snow. On the way back, the whole route was pure white.

As we came back to Chaini Kothi, the snowfall turned into rainfall and it was getting very cold. A warm-hearted local lighted up a small bonfire in his hut and provided us with the resources to cook Maggi. In the meantime, it started snowing again and everyone erupted in joy. Manisha and Shweta cooked the tastiest ever Maggi for all us, and it was a perfect combo of Bonfire, Maggi and Snowfall. 
After a wonderful day, we were back at the forest dorms, and everyone was fast asleep within minutes after the evening meal. 

In the night, we had an interaction session along with some Guitar and songs by Sahil bhai.

Day 2

Sairopa --- Bathad --- Shilli 

After a breakfast of Aloo Poori , we left for Bathad in the cabs. It was a lovely ride and offered towering views of snow covered mountains and the fresh valley, after the night's rain. After a short walk, we reached Bathad. 

At Bathad 

On the way to Shilli
After the fun at Bathad, some of us had bread omelette at a local shop and continued our trek to Shilli. Look for the Bathad Primary Goverment School along the way. Take the path behind the school.  It was quite a challenging trail, more due to the light showers and snowfall which had made the  path a bit slippery and slushy. It was all snow . A thrilling snow trek. On reaching the top, one finds a beautiful small hut and a temple. Two serene women lived in the hut at that time. 
The first ones to reach the top

After some time, the sun came up and the stunning Bashelo Pass, which is the starting of the GHNP range, showed up. Breathtaking view it was. Extremely lovely. 

Bashelo Pass

The return trek was an easy one as a lot of snow had melted and the path has cleared up. Back to the dorms by the evening, we had a healthy lunch of Khichdi, Maggi, Bananas, Juice and Chocolates.

While most people were having fun in their dorms , playing mafia, truth and dare , cards... 3-4 of us along with Panki bhaiya were stargazing which was led by Aman Jakhar, our 'AstroMan'. As we saw the beautiful Jupiter discs, we wanted more, and off we went,  in Panki bhaiya's Scorpio for the  pure offroad, most memorable ride of my life towards Sharchi. After driving for about 30-40 minutes, we looked for a dark spot with no lights around and halted at an appropriate point. As the headlights of the car went off , wow....the dark sky, no lights, countless stars, constellations, galaxies, planets, nebulae. Aman was literally jumping in joy. It is that moment when you realize the vastness of the universe. The milky way, Orion Nebula, Jupiter, the star clusters looked phenomenal. Sharchi is really a stargazers delight.

Sharchi ... A stargazer's paradise

After around an hour of stargazing, we started back and stopped the Scorpio at a location besides the Tirthan River and listened to the meditating music ' Om Namah Shivay ' . Personally, it was my moment of the trip. 
Back to the rest house, we had dinner , lighted up the bonfire and enjoyed the music and some experiences of Panki bhaiya's trekking life. The roaring Tirthan River acted as a filler. 

Bonfire and music 

Day 3

Waterfall -- Evening Volvo 

It was a leisurely and a lazy morning.Finally, it was a sunny day after two days of rain and snowfall.As it was the last day of our trip, many of the members preferred to spend the morning by the riverside and feel it's calmness.

After the well spent morning, we packed up our stuff and left for a walk to the Panki waterfall. You will see a milestone showing 2 km to Gushaini Village. At this point , take the climb up into the mountain. After quite a steep climb, we reached a plateau like area with a small hut around. 

On the way to the waterfall

We continued the trek to the waterfall. Around 500 metres away from the fall, one can start feeling the cool breeze. As we reached close to it, the air was chilly and windy. It was a huge waterfall, but not by it's own standards, since it gets 10 times bigger in the spring season.  The water was freezing cold. It took quite an effort to remove the shoes and feel the chill of the water. Some of us decided to go right under the waterfall , and there was no looking back. I closed my eyes rushed through the icy water. Right under the waterfall, it was a divine feeling. It was a moment of 'Mission Accomplished' . I could hear nothing, just the wild sound of the water, yet everything seemed so silent in that moment. It was a perfect end to the three day adventurous trip. 

At the waterfall

After the fun , we trekked back and bought some local things at the SHG shop and took the evening volvo. 

I want to thank everyone who were a part of this trip. I hope all had a great time. Keep in touch. We will continue travelling together and exploring new places. Love you all.   

Here is the photo journey of the trip. 

Finally, thanks to Sunshine Adventure and Panki bhaiya for being such a friendly and a wonderful host to the 'wild' and 'crazy' IITians. In case you are planning your trip, you can contact Panki ji at 09418204666.
Special thanks to Anshul for being a great support in organizing this trip. 

PS : We haven't got enough of the lovely Tirthan Valley. We 'll be back soon. 
You can visit these pages for more information about the Valley and Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) .
Tirthan Valley , GHNP