20th March 2016
6:22am. It is raining outside. And that is quite unusual for March. Black clouds fill up the morning sky and the mountains far off seem to be wrapped around by a thick blanket of fog. I haven’t been to the mountains in the monsoon season but the greenery surrounding me and the flowing river tells me this is what it looks like then. Grass covers the landscape like a huge cover especially the steps made for farming. After three more hours in the bus we are in Mandi. We missed the bus to barot by a few minutes. So we take the bus to Ghatasni and reach there at 11:15am. We start walking inhaling the scenery and fresh air.
An old couple who had also been waiting for the bus joins us and starts talking about the river in barot and nimri Ganga and also the associated tale of Pandavas. As also about their post retirement India tour of 1 and a half months. We part as they reach their home and we continue with our walk. The bus finally finds us at 12:15pm. We reach barot around 2pm. It takes little while to find an abode in front of the river and settle down. At 3 the sun is still playing hide and seek with the clouds. After taking hot water bath we feed our hungry stomach with chowmein, omlette and hot tea with a cute puppy desiring our attention and food.
Now that we have regained our energies we roam around barot. While we were walking I try to get my hands on the beautiful flowers. We reach a little shop on the road from where we get a packet of chips and I ask the guy how to get those flowers. In return, he climbs the tree and we receive a lot of rhododendrons(called brass locally) and also learn that a chutney is made from them.
So we carry the flowers back to tell our host to make the chutney for us the next morning which turned out to be very yummy. We return at 7:30pm, have dinner and immediately get into the cave of our blankets.
21st March 2016
We catch the bus to Bara gaon crossing the river climbing on rocks, running and shouting for the bus to stop. We reach there in an hour at 10:30am and start walking towards Rajgundha. In Bara gaon we are offered accommodation by a number of villagers. The cow herders and women collecting firewood help us in sticking to the path. On the way we meet a group of local boys who were trekking from the opposite side of the route and were camping there that night.
It takes 3hrs to reach the forest rest house through the long route. We dare not take the shortcut for it was too slippery and a number of cows followed us. No sooner did we reach, we head out again. We went to the high rocks with Lairam bhaiya from where you get a beautiful view. We roamed around for hours especially waiting to get network on J’s phone for she was waiting for a call. As the sun set we ran across the field trying to catch the sunlight as it started getting cold. Then we finally came back to the rest house to find some walnuts scattered on the ground and we become early man to break them with rocks and help from a knife I always keep.(I can tell you the knife story some other time).
Then when our hands started freezing we go the kitchen to sit by the fire. We meet Shakti bhaiya, caretaker of the rest house, and I ask him to tell stories. He swiftly responds with a “you first!”. After some prodding he begins with the local diety Ajivapal’s story who protects the locals. So it’s my turn now. I can’t think of anything and so I spin a story about J’s love life which is quite interesting and they believe it happily. The stories begin to pour out slowly and gradually about various kanjoos jugaado visitors (“All IAS and tehsildars are chor!”. We had a good laugh at this one.). For dinner we have amazing rajma spiced up with secret alcohol and advice of not telling to anyone with logical explanations. And if this wasn’t enough, we watch a South Indian movie downloaded on free wifi by bhaiya to add to our memories. The dinner ends at 10pm and we walk outside to a moonlit night with snowclad peaks shinning under a starry sky. It was a sight to behold which could not be captured in our camera. Bhaiya shows us pictures of Thumsar pass in January. We start feeling cold and so have to come inside the room. J is missing her J. And she decides to have her honeymoon in the mountains for a month. So we fall asleep talking.
22nd March 2016
We are woken up by morning tea at 7am. Today is going to be a tiring day, I think out loud. We have our breakfast by 9am, say our goodbyes to bhaiya for the wonderful stay and head towards billing. Not much time had passed since we started walking when fatigue gets hold of us but we keep walking. Going back is not a option both of us agree. We pass through path covered with deep snow and others covered by flowers and leaves. The views at certain points during the trek are breathtaking.
The fear of bears makes me walk faster than usual. But none of us speaks about that. We enjoy the views and fortunately find water when our bottles got empty. The view of Bir and Baijnath from the top tells us that we are about to reach.We finally reach billing after trekking for 4hours at 1:30pm. The cab we had booked earlier drops us at Bir from where we take a bus to Mandi. We reach Mandi in the evening and do not find any bus to Parashar. So instead we head to Rewalsar. The highlight of this bus journey are the songs especially “fulori Bina chutney kaise bani”.
It’s Holi. We visit the monastery early in the morning, walk around the lake and then leave for Mandi again. Rewalsar did not appeal to me because the it’s crowded, congested and the lake is dirty. When we reach Mandi we are spotted by the conductor of the bus to Parashar which leaves at 8am. We reach at 11:30 with an assurance of getting a room in the rest house. The lake has more people than usual days because of the extended holiday. We keep our bags and head towards the lake. The whole day is spent in walking and climbing from one peak to another.
But the sunset view finally surprises us after a long wait of hours. We catch the hues while running to the top. In the same way the full moon surprises us too for we had figured the directions wrong. We return to the rest house to find tents set up for us. It was cold and I had to crawl myself into 2 sleeping bags to fall asleep.
The next day we start walking to another nearby lake the conductor had told us about the previous day. We collect purple and yellow flowers which lay all around and start floating them on the lake waters.
And then we just sit on the rocks and wait for the bus. We reach Mandi in the evening and then take another bus. The next morning we are back to Delhi but with loads of beautiful memories.