Saturday, April 27, 2013

Jhulaghat on the India-Nepal border (Unknown Kumoun 6)

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)
Today morning I want to break the spell of many years. I am all set to visit Jhulaghat and then walk to Baitadi in Nepal that stands at the same height of Pithoragarh (7000 feet). Both cities look at each other across Sharda River that flows 3000 feet below. Too bad that whenever I visited here I never had any ID and let’s sees if it is still possible to visit Nepal and then return to India without any ID. May be or may not be. This time I will take my chance.

Pithoragarh to Jhulaghat

I cannot resist my temptation to walk the downhill beginning from Bharkatia village so I fetch a shared jeep to there. I have my breakfast and tea in a small dhaba and then begin my walk. After one kilometer when I arrive at place where road begin making its plunge to the Sharda Valley, I am stunned to watch the morning view of the peaks, Blue Mountains and azure sky in the Nepal side. Below is a silvery blue line of Sharda River. Roads arrived recently in this region of Nepal so environment is yet to be damaged. I begin my walk to Jhulaghat that is 35 kilometers from Pithoragarh and 28 from here where I am now.

Jhulaghat Bridge
I am in no rush and will walk as far as I enjoy walking. Road is descending and it will keep going down till at arrives at the river at the pedestrian bridge to Nepal. Whole mountain slope is filled with dotted villages and terraced farms. I keep walking effortlessly for 3 hours, but stop to chat with children and people and for tea etc. As I am getting lower, temperature is increasing and I repack my light jacket.
At noon I fetch a jeep and in one hour I arrive at Jhulaghat. I walk to the blue water river and take a bath. Water flow is very dangerous here and this river always carries lots of water in all seasons. After bathing I visit restaurants, all seem same. Food is basic and Nepal style. Most toor daal with rice but as per Nepalese custom in these parts, food is always accompanied with a great chutney.

On the way to Bharkatia village
All people have their own recipe so it is different at different places. Ingredients are added as the seasonal availability of the herbs. Mostly onions, chili, garlic, tomatoes, tamarind, Himalayan oxalis (when nothing else is available), spearmint etc. etc. This chutney alone creates strong temptation to eat more. People in Jhulaghat are mostly Nepali origin and wear Nepali caps.
Now is the time to find a hotel to sleep. All rooms are very cheap and very basic so I select the one with a view and facing the stepped farms and leave out to explore the village.
Jhulaghat is named after Jhula Bridge between both countries; it is still a suspension bridge. The Mahakali River flows from East to West along the Indo-Nepal Border creating an international boundary. There is a customs checkpoint for goods.

Jhulaghat Bridge
At the custom post, I ask the gentleman office that I have no ID but want to visit Nepal.
“Well, since you asked me and now I know you so you can visit there but if I am not here then what?”
“Sir, then what?’
“Then you are in a big trouble so make sure I am here and return before 6PM.”
I bid him hearty thanks and walk to the Nepal side to quench my curiosity but I find nothing special there. Julaghat of Nepal is a village of Dasharathchanda Nagar of Baitadi District of Nepal. I have a Nepali noodles and a cup of tea and walk around the river. Jhulaghat is famous for Musical Ramlila that is played during before the Dusshera for hundreds of years. Area in Nepal is along the wall like mountain and valley portion is in India. I return to India side and wave to the custom officer gentleman.

Owner of my hotel tells me to must visit Mahesani Mandir (temple) by the Kali River so I visit there and enjoy sitting by the river, I cannot resist my temptation to take another river bath. I leave the temple and walk in the valley till sunset and then return to my hotel.
Jhulaghat is good business centre for Indian and Nepalese people. Indians are attracted to foreign goods available in shops at Nepal side of Jhulaghat and Nepali people attracted to Indian goods. I hear that famous temple of Taleshwar Mahadev is about 4 kilometers away and Tripura Sundari temple in Baitadi District of Nepal is around 7-8 Kilometers away.
Enough accomplishment for today that I arrived in Jhulaghat. Tomorrow I will try to visit Baitadi but I have no ID to return to India.
Let’s see.

To Jhulaghat
At night dinner time I eat in a restaurant and same custom officer is eating there. He is posted at this godforsaken place and must finish his three years to get back to Delhi. We fall in the chat and then I ask him that I want to walk to Baitadi but as he already knows that I got no ID. He tells me to go ahead and return within his shift. I tell him that I may return tomorrow and he agrees. So that problem is also solved.
After night stroll under the moon in the valley where you can always hear the river I retreated to my room. Suddenly all rooms of Jhulaghat gets filled by Nepalis arriving late here after long walks from their places. They all brought bottles from Nepal side because it is a bit cheap and available at all kiryana and tea shops unlike in India. Atmosphere of Jhulaghat buzz up at each night.

Oxalis Latifolia: Chutney Plant. Chutney is made of this plant.
Nepalis are soothing their sadness by the liquor because their vacation is over and they are returning back to their jobs and may come back after at least one year to see their land and meet their folks. Life is difficult for them and they all have menial jobs in India.
At very early when even roosters are not crying, Nepalis wake up to begin their long journey to the various parts of India. Their noises wake me up and I also come out at 5AM to have a cup of tea. Sun is about to rise and roosters begin crying in this little village by the river and amid the terraced farmlands. Jeeps are already loaded to Pithoragarh.
I have a cup of tea and prepare myself for a long and hard climb to Baitadi in Nepal.

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