A Himalayan paradise.
By Tarang Sinha
Travelling rejuvenates you. It widens your horizon. Not much of a traveller, I have realised it when I travelled to Gangotri.
“I loved that place so much that I wanted to name our child after it. I knew I had to return home, but a part of my heart wanted to stay there…forever!”
This is what my husband had said when he returned from Harshil, a serene and unsullied place in Uttarkashi, also known as ‘the camper’s bay’ of Uttarakhand, just 18 kms before Gangotri.
Witnessing a place cosseted in the lap of nature is sheer bliss and a blessing. So, when I opted for my first road trip, Harshil was an obvious choice.
We started our journey from Delhi at 10 a.m. on a humid morning of June. It was a pleasant experience to see the change in the atmosphere. The sunshine turned mild as our car weaved through the woods of Poanta Saheb, situated at the border of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand).
We finished our journey for the day at Suwakholi, 17 kms before Harshil. Suwakholi is a beautiful place to visit but it was not the reason to stay there. It was because it turned dark when we reached there and it is not suggested to travel after it gets dark for obvious reasons. The journey could be dangerous. The roads in Uttarakhand, for the standard of mountains, are pretty good. It was a comfortable journey. The government is working on the roads in Uttarakhand as one could see labourers working on the roads through out this journey.
So, the point is, if you are travelling to the mountains, you should start your journey a little earlier, and then you would be able to cover a fair distance in a day, in a safe time frame.
One view that amazed me the moment was in the realm of mountains was houses sited on the mountains. One look at them and you think ‘How would I get there?’ as your car moves on. But you eventually find yourself there, at that very point which seemed unattainable to you, and you don’t even realise that. It’s the power of going slow.
We retired to our guest house after having the best peas-mushroom curry and chapattis (chapatti seemed straight out from the mom’s kitchen!). If you are visiting Uttarakhand, you won’t miss your home-made food. The food is tasty and familiar.
Rains are quite normal in the mountains. We tried to sleep as we heard a splattering of rains all through the night. The morning dawned hazy, shrouded in thick mist, so thick that we couldn’t see the wide expanse of valley and mountain that surrounded Suwakholi. It was a natural thought that we wouldn’t be able to travel that day, and that the day was wasted.
Lo and behold! The day and the view was crystal clear by 8 in the morning. Sunshine glinting all over. This is an interesting feature of the mountains. So, we began our journey without any trouble.
Travel to Uttarakhand, and you will see plenty of beautiful guest houses arrayed on the banks of the Bhagirathi. We stayed in one such guest house, Monal Tourist Home in Uttarkashi, sited amidst the range of mountains, on the bank of the Bhagirathi, so close that you can hear its roars.
The best thing about this tourist home was its plentiful library, which overlooked the wide expanse of natural beauty. It carried a variety of books. From travelogues, to Ruskin Bond to Durjoy Datta. One of the Ruskin Bond books had a message by the author himself for the visitors.
“You know, all these houses were washed off in the Kedarnath floods,” my husband, a frequent visitor of Uttarkashi, said. “Only that toilet was left.” He pointed at a tiny room as I watched the river flutter by from the terrace.
This is the zest of the place and people.
The next morning, witnessing the rising smoke on the mountains, we began our journey to Harshil.
On our way to Harshil, we didn’t forget to visit a small winter wear shop of Seemant Bandhu. They are not just any random winter wears. You will find modern jackets and long coats too. Wonderful, quality wise and price wise. We ordered four coats and a jacket. We already have several from that store, still we can’t get enough of them. You provide them your measurements, and they courier your coats or jackets at your doorstep.
While I was walking out of the shop, a brown-eyed girl, quite homely, came with a bag, packet with a stitched jacket. She handed the bag to the owner. Only then I realised that she worked for that shop. It was good to know that!