Sunday, March 3, 2013

Harsil Diaries 2

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Harsil Diaries 1
Harsil Diaries 2
Harsil Diaries 3
Harsil Diaries 4

Sukhi Top is a fertile area famous for its rajmah and apple orchards. In the apple season October and November, returning pilgrims make their purchase from this village. Now another crops is grown in Sukhi Top and surrounding areas and that is opium.
Well anyway, arriving at the Sukhi Top is a mesmerizing experience and from this top you can view this most beautiful area of the world. You can view the road descending down to Jhala village and then crosses the Ganges River and then disappearing at the bend of the valley.
Indeed views from Sukhi Top make me forgot about insects crawling over my face. As I take the shortcut trail to Jhala village, there cold air is not hitting my face anymore and these mysterious insects reappear on my face in all vengeance. I begin my run downwards on the steep 3 kilometers trail and hit the road before the straight street of Jhala that leads to Ganges Bridge.
Sukhi Top Area

I always spend some days at Jhala Village at Ratela hotel. Mr. Parkash Ratela is my close friend for many years. From here, almost each day I walk to Harsil and back, it is about 10 kilometers extremely scenic walk, 6 kilometers by trail through villages or 4 on the road. Some times I walk to as far as Mukhba village where Ganges deity is brought for winter stay with great fanfare accompanied by an army band. When temple opens, Deity is brought back to Gangotry temple again with great gala and pomp. Again, one day I may get luck to be a part of this parade too.
Well Sirjee, I make a run to the river. People may think some ghost is chasing me or they may thing some invisible dog is after me but who cares.
While running I hear my friend Parkash shouting, “Hey Praveen, what happened why are you running, where are you running.”
Parkash probably want to run after me but he is pouring tea for customers at his restaurant under his hotel.
I reach at Ganges and lie down and dunk my face in the freezing waters.
Wow! It works. Thanks God.
I have to survive two more days and then …..
A dream will come true.
I repeatedly dunk my face in the roaring river that is coming out of her leisurely pace but from here it is becoming like a cascade till Tehri lake.

View of Ganges from Sukhi Top
I find Parkash standing next me me.
“Kya hua?”
“Kuch nahi yaar.’
He mentions that my face looks red and I tell him that I am wrestling with my own face for the two days but this time I will win. He also affirms that there is no barber in Jhala.

We both walk to his hotel that just 50 yards from this scenic bridge. While I drink tea, I apply hot glass over my face. Parkash’s wife suggests me to apply homemade cow’s desi ghee and Parkashi rubs some over my face. It does not work but I pretend that it is working. They give me a road facing room with many beds. I always accommodate their other guests if anybody else needs cots. Either these hotels stay empty even during the season or whole stranded busloads appear at the gate.
Jhala is extremely severe place surrounded by huge massifs of snowy mountains. Over the mountains, meadows or bugyals are visible. If one has a binocular one can count sheep and goats on the mountains as a time pass? Last year I came here with my friend Bhullar and we had a binoculor, his mind is always busy so he passed his time counting sheep and goats on the distant slopes. Next day I taught him Sudoku and then he was seriously into Sudoku.
Harsil Area
At night Parkash arranges me 2 bottles of weak homemade liquor form Bagori village so to forget my itchy bitchy beard and it indeed works. I sleep like a baby but wake up like a cranky old man. Feeling is unbearable and I apply more desi ghee and homemade butter. I apply tea. I rub the leaves of Rhumex Crispus, spinach like plant that people apply when bicchu booty (Urtica dioica) touches them. It too works for a while.
I want to stay clear of the towns and established villages so not to be tempted to find a barber. I must restrain myself.
Well it is the end of June and onset of the monsoon and this area is heavenly at this time. Actually mountains are lush green because of pre monsoon rains. I have a cup of tea in Jhala and begin my walk next to the Ganges on its west bank. Trail ascends and then enters in an ancient village. One can see spectacularly built wooden homes in these villages. Unfortunately most of the homes are abandoned and considered unstable. Many are inclining or wood beams are bucking with the prolonged weight. All new homes are brick, stone and mud with tin roofs. After this village road descends.
Harsil Area
You may see bright colorful patches in the farms, these are illicit opium plantation. I always pluck some poppy fruits but it is not easy to separate these from the plant. They are fibrously and strongly attached with the plant. So I find some sharp rock to cut a couple of fruits as I am in Stone Age. I eat a poppy ball, it is bitter but who knows, it may work on my face but nothing happens.
Trail descends to a brook and there you may have to walk a long distance to find a makeshift bridge. I use “may” word because sometimes bridge is near and in next season after rains washes off the bridge and changes course, a new bridge is erected by village folks but may be at different place. This time bridge is far away so I take off my shoes and walk across the freezing water. It turns out a difficult task because feet give up. Fortunately river is split in many branches before it meets Ganges so I cross it in several stages.
Ganges near Bagori village
After passing this river, trail again climbs up a bit on the mountain and then Bagori village is visible. I find Bagori Village a most scenic and mysterious village in the world. It is so charming that you’ll probably feel that you’ve travelled back in time. A narrow lane runs through it and is bordered on both sides by wooden houses in typical Garhwali architectural style. This long straight village that was very prosperous during the Tibet trade days. The trade route would go along the Jadh ganga to Thagla or Tsangchok la and over to Tibet’s Poling, Tholing, Gyanimamandi or Gartok. It is occupied by Bhotias people. Most of these are sheepherders. After passing this village I cross several bridges with bubbling brooks underneath in the lush green meadow and wild apple trees. The streams branches out into narrow rivulets dividing the meadow into green islands covered with soft moss. The valley descends from a distant mountain in a massive cascade of rocks, logs and rivulets ending with a reunited rocky stream gushing to the Bhagirathi below.
At this point Ganga tulsi begins growing. You won’t find it before Harsil. Plants those do not die in freezing temperature are called Hardy plants.
Ganga Tulsi
It is an aromatic variety of Artemisia (Artemisia Montana). Since real Tulsi is not a hardy plant and it does not survive the freezing temperatures so in Gangotry temple, Ganga-Tulsi leaves are used. After the aarti it is distributed to the worshipers, there is no shortage of this and everybody gets it along with the Prasad. Ganga-tulsi grows between 7000 – 10,000 feet in some high valleys in India. Artemisia has not much use in India but in other countries has medicinal use to expel worms in the stomach, hence it is called wormwood or bitterwood or mugwort. It is bitter. It is also used in Chineese traditional therapy called Moxibustion.
Well, anyway I rub some ganga-tulsi on my face and it also works for some minutes. Again these invisible insects begin crawling over my face.

1 comment:

  1. The picture of Ganges near Bagori village reminded me of our recent visit to Harsil valley in May 2014. The river is called Jalandhari Gaad.

    Hope you might like to see the pics in the link below:


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