Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dharchula (Unknown Kumoun 8)

Unknown Kumon

Nanakmatta Sahib (Unknown Kumoun: 1)
Tanakpur (Unknown Kumoun: 2)
Chalthi and Champawat (Unknown Kumoun 3)
Lohaghat and Advaita Ashram (Unknown Kumoun 4)
Pithoragarh (Unknown Kumoun 5)
Jhulaghat on the India-Nepal border (Unknown Kumoun 6)
Baitadi Nepal (Unknown Kumoun 7)
Dharchula (Unknown Kumoun 8)
Ritha Sahib Gurudwara (Unknown Kumoun 9)
Basantpur village (Unknown Kumoun 10)
Last village on the mountains (Unknown Kumoun 11)
Most dangerous Nandour valley (Unknown Kumoun 12)
End of trail at Chorgalia (Unknown Kumoun 13)
I wake up in Baitadi (Nepal) at 5 AM along with the others. I have a cup of tea at a restaurant and then plan my further journey. A beaten up road in Nepal also goes to Dharchula from Baitadi but it takes at least 2 days of grueling ride on several jeep changes. Local people prefer going through India that only takes 7 hours. One hour to the Jhulaghat, 2 hours to Pithoragarh and then 4 hours to Dharchula. Then bus is ready for Mahendranagar that is near Tanakpur, it takes 24 hours to get to there whereas through India one can easily get to Mahendranagar in 10 hours.

After Dharchula

To me it is very tempting to go to Dharchula in Nepal side because I have no ID and I won’t get inner-line permit from Pithoragarh to visit Dharchula. Inner-line permit is required to visit within 40 kilometers of China border. Since town of Dharchula is situated at both sides of the river in India as well Nepal. But I won’t be allowed to enter in India from there due to lack of ID or inner-line permit. I ask a jeep driver and he tells that I can easily sneak into India from other places or I can wear Nepali cap and merge with other Nepalese to enter in India. It is too much a risk so I drop this plan and walk back to Jhulaghat on the same trail. Although jeeps are here but I like to walk and it is all descent now on. I have tea at two places on the trail and reach Jhulaghat in 3 hours. I hang around in the Nepal side and purchase China made sneakers and throw away my beaten shoes. Later on it turns out that these shoes were made in Agra, they begin breaking apart in the same day.
Near the bridge I witness a girl taken in India on the pretext of marriage. Groom is 50 years old and bride is 20. She is extremely beautiful. I can say that she is prettier than film star actresses.
At the border crossing they split up and cross it alone and again they join after some distance. Since I saw this man in the Baitadi so I blink to him, he smiles and asks, “Where is yours.”
“I didn’t like mine and sent her away.”
“You lost money then?”
“Well some times we rob and some times we get robbed. Part of life.”
“You should have gone yourself there; I walked 14 days to get her. There are more if you want to go back, I can give you the names of people and places.”
“It is a village near Athpali, Dhulikot District. No road for hundreds of kilometers.”
“You got the marriage certificate?”
“Yes, panchayat gave me one, in Nepal everything is taken care by panchayats.”
He walks away because his bride or make-believe bride is waiting for him at the other side – an innocence child of mountains thrown away to a treacherous life. He will play with the innocence girl for some months and then she will get very sick in the first heatwave of the North India; then he will sell her to someone to get rid of her on profit. Eventually she will end up in some brothel to rot away slowly. Once her beauty is gone, she will be a destitute with no home and several cruel diseases.
It is just like they do in Iran, they have no prostitution but call is an ad-hoc marriage. You get married for an hour or two then recite “talaq” word three times and be done; and all validated.

Leaving Pithoragarh
I buy a Nepali cap and walk to the suspension bridge and my friend officer is not there but cap helps me and I pass into India without a question asked. It is 11 Am and I have lunch at a restaurant and then take the bath at the river.
I return to the jeep stand and occupy a front seat in a jeep that is not yet in the line for Pithoragarh.
I am back in Pithoragarh at 1 PM and I am missing the peace and serenity of Nepal side.

Dharchula from high above
Next day I take my chance; I wear my Nepali cap and fetch a jeep going to Dharchula. More that half the passengers are Nepali anyway. After Pitthoragarh, terrain is all lush green with tallest ever deodar and spruce trees I have seen. Near Askote, jeep is stopped at the barrier and all people are asked Identifications or inner-line permits. Guard only bothers about people who are coming here first time, two have permits and Nepalese are sitting without producing any ID and I do the same. We are let go. Nepalese smile at me but they say I may be caught at the next check post and then turned away. Road makes a serious descent to again touch mighty Sharda (Mahakali) river.

Leaving Pithoragarh
Dharchula is situated in an extremely beautiful valley on the Kailash Mansarovar route. This is an ancient pilgrim town and ancient homes can be still seen in this serene place. Now a days road goes up to Tawaghat that is further 15 kilometers and from there walking trail begins for Tibet border to Kailash and Mansarover.
We are stopped at another check post and again all goes well. Now road touches the valley and goes several kilometers along the river. We arrive at Dharchula at 2PM. I find a hotel in the market. It is all very beautiful here. There are no specific points here to visit but it is all scenic. I walk to the India Nepal bridge and watch people going and coming without restriction. I have my Nepali cap on and I walk into Nepal and explore the improvised town at the other side. After a cup of tea and thuka noodle soup I return to India side and walk around and explore the place. Then I walk to the hill called Dharchula Kot, I keep going higher and higher and spend some time at the top. From here town of Dharchula looks like a shape of the heart.

Around Dharchula
Dharchula is so beautiful that I end up spending 3 days here. Unfortunately inner-line permit is required to get here and it deters most of the tourists.
Best thing I love about Nepal is that you can walk or trek anywhere in the road-less wilderness and you are guaranteed a bed and food anywhere you see a home. That’s why it has become a trekker’s heaven. Prices are established according to area and standard of the service and always very affordable. People will provide you whatever frugal rations they have for themselves for a small token of money. Many trekkers buy provisions in advance to give it to houses to cook it for them or for the whole household. India does not have this concept. Whenever people treks in the mountains in India they are always apprehensive about food and lodging that’s why it has not become a chosen destination for trekkers. Hundreds of thousands of miles of treks are available for walking in Indian Himalayas.

Dharchula India/Nepal
Dharchula is famous for smuggling. Since the border between Tibet and India is under serious vigil so most of the good from India pass to Nepal and then to China. Two things those are smuggled to China from India through Dharchula are Keeda-jadi and Red Sandalwood (rakta chandan). China has a vast appetite for all rare exotic things.

keeda jadi
Keeda Jadi, found in Himalayas is becoming very popular as an aphrodisiac. Villagers collect it from snow covered Himalaya. Collectors of the mummified caterpillar make a fortune. Process of formation of Keeda Jadi or mummified caterpillar is equally interesting as the story of its collection and its trading.
Although there are no restrictions to gather Keeda-jadi but Trading Keeda Jadi is not legally allowed in India.
Traders and smugglers go to local people for purchasing Keeda Jadi at high prices. Although price offered to villagers is comparatively low than international price. Due to high prices, fights erupt among villagers and sometimes they die due to diseases when they go at heights for its collection. They can not sell it openly as govt. has banned its sale. Keeda Jadi (Cordyceps sinensis) is basically a mummified caterpillar that has been infected and killed by a fungus. It is found in Himalayas and Tibet at high altitudes between 3,000 and 5,000 meters. Keeda Jadi is also known as Yartsa Gunbu in Tibetan language. Approximately 3000 pieces of herb weighs nearly one kilogram and market price of that quantity is more than rupees two lakhs. Keeda jadi is used as an aphrodisiac, also to treat a variety of ailments from such as fatigue and cancer and to cure impotency. Medicinal mushrooms are the result of a parasitic relationship between the fungus and the larva of the ghost moth genus Thitarodes. The caterpillars is found underground in alpine grass and shrub lands and lives there for 5 years before pupating and attacked by the fungus while feeding on roots. The caterpillar is killed and mummifying by the fungus. 5-15 cm columnar mushroom like shapes emerge from the ground (growing out of the forehead of the caterpillar). Keeda jadi is found in Darchula in Mahakali zone in the Napal and India.
Red sandalwood is a tree. The wood at the center of the trunk (heartwood) is used as medicine. Red sandalwood is used for treating digestive tract problems, fluid retention, and coughs; and for “blood purification.” In manufacturing, red sandalwood is used as a flavoring in alcoholic beverages.

Red Sandalwood
Don’t confuse red sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus) with white sandalwood (Santalum album).
Red sandalwood increases the loss of body water through the urine (diuretic effect). It also have drying effects that may help reduce diarrhea and break up mucus to make it easier to cough up.
It grows in Cuddapah regions of southern Andhra Pradesh and also in some of the adjoining areas of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.


  1. Dear Praveen,

    Thank you very much for bringing to light the not so known places in Kumaon. I enjoyed reading your posts and got mesmerized by the way you described your experiences. I have passed through these places many times but your mode of seeing and experiencing these places is really enchanting. I really admire your love for walking in the hills and more than that your efforts to share your memories with others. I have a page where you can find some more less known places in eastern Kumaon. This may be useful for your further wanderings. Please have a look :

    Wish you great many journeys ahead. Keep writing and sharing !

  2. Do u think u knew place in few days. Come SOSA i will tell u real story

  3. Our expedition to a peak near Sipu village (reached via Dharchula - Sobla - Dugtu) was foiled because of Keeda Jadi. None of the Kumaon porters agreed to carry our luggage as they get much easy money in Keeda Jadi business.
    More details are available in the book on Sepu Kangri by Chris Bonington.


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