Tuesday, 30 May 2017

17 Days in Tirthan Valley : The landing (Day 0 - Part 1)

We reached Aut around 4:25am in the morning and it was raining. We found a small shade under  the shed of one of the local shops, none of which had opened yet. After just a few minutes of struggling to keep myself as well as my bag dry, I could see a person running across the road from a distance, and he stopped just opposite to us on the other side of the road. He started to pull the shed of a shop with the help of a lever.  And it was time for business. The tourist buses would slowly start coming and he had to start the preparations. 

It was warm inside the shop and we put our bags on side of the bench meant for sitting. The owner was pretty adamant of moving the bags and putting aside as he didn’t want to waste sitting space. After around half an hour when more people started coming, it made sense. None of the other shops had opened yet and there were many of them. There were 3 other people in the small homely restaurant apart from us, one of whom had gotten down from the same bus as us and the other two were boy and his grandfather, who were heading to Manali. All of us had chai and fan. . It was delicious, the fan dipped in the sweet tea.

We had left from Chandigarh for Aut the night before at 8:30pm. Aut is small town in Himachal Pradesh with lots a small dhabas and guesthouses. Buses to interior villages and valleys, deviating from the main Kullu and Manali route leave from Aut. The bus journey was a bit tiring and uncomfortable.
Soon, other shops started opening. By 6am, few tourists, travellers and locals were around. The first bus to Tirthan Valley was at 6:30am. We were having fresh paranthas at a dhaba when the bus arrived. By the time we reached the bus, it was overloaded and the last night’s journey hadn’t  left any room for more tiring. 

While we waited for the next bus at 7.15am, we met Puneet from Kullu who had an interesting story to share, his life story. After running an NGO, working with management students and living the past decade in Kullu, he has built a small hut which he names as Mysterious Kutla in the far reaches of Tosh Valley, where he plans to live and spend time exploring his numerous passions. 
He lives life his way and does what he loves.  We didn’t get to know all this in the bus itself. This was when we reached our homestay, the Bisht Guesthouse in Tirthan Valley and Puneet got down with us. He had gotten down there mistakenly following us thinking he would meet Panki there. I am glad he got down. We got to know much more about him, treks, life, yoga, MBAs and PhDs. Yes, he was a jack of all trades and seemed no less than a master. 
Since the last eight years of his life, he had been roaming in the hills, doing things he loved, helping people do the things they loved.

Panki is the wonderful person who manages trips in the Tirthan valley. Those who know him better say that he just adds happiness to the lives of people who visit this beautiful place.  He works to develop eco-tourism in the valley and empower the local community through it.

Harsh and I had planned this trip around a month back when we were thinking about the things we could do during the one month long break after the first year of the Teach For India Fellowship. Our common interest in education, love for nature and travel brought us here.  I had already been to Tirthan valley thrice, and each time the love for the valley, the Tirthan river and the people had grown. 

The first time I visited here was with my art teacher Gurpreet Sir, a person with talents and passions ranging from art, dance, poetry, literature to trekking, writing and managing events. A lot of kids in school who would be too bored to attend the classes would always find some excuse to spend time with him in the art room, for such a lively place it was. The other two times was in my second and fourth year in college when I organized college treks to Tirthan Valley. The trips were memorable and I can’t thank the people enough who were a part of them.

I will soon be writing the further story.

Jalori Pass Campsite : Coming up in part 2
For the time being, read here about my other experiences in Tirthan valley.
Exploring the unexplored : The heavenly Tirthan Valley
A heaven hidden in the Himalayas