For people from the sun scorching plains of India , winter strikes to be the most magical time. A time when pleasant weather sweeps in the plain, and the snowfall changes the known landscapes into extraordinary sights. So today I am remembering my first winter in Himalayas back In 2014. Working as a trek leader for an adventure organisation , I was stationed in the region of Dalhousie , Himachal Pradesh, for two long months of peak winter season. While trekking in such environment has a lot of physical stress, but the memories made, are surely beyond what can be termed " beautiful ".
Walking through hard snowfall , leading batches after batches has a toll on your knees. Layers of skin burn due to the sub zero cold and dampness all around, with fingers and feet having the risk of blood clotting and eventually frost bite. But with such risk and hard work comes the ethereal views of landscapes , that I was lucky enough to capture with my basic digital camera. Check them out and the stories with it.
In the small wildlife sanctuary of Kalatop, nestled in Dhauladhar range above Dalhousie , I was stationed for a month. This was my little cottage. Built during the colonial times with Deodar trees ( Silver fir ) , it was warm inside for the nights. However continuous snowfall kept everything wet and damp, and the fire place could not be used. I could easily call this one of the best homes , I have had my fortune to stay in.
Walking out of the sanctuary , one could reach a tiny hamlet of temporary settlement. During the summer months when snow was no where , this is used by people of nearby region. A nearby Hindu temple which gets opened in summer , brings flocks of tourist , and makes this hamlet the perfect trade post. In the winter , the snow claims there empire , leaving the houses and giving a feel of haunted hamlet.
Even the most ordinary of landscapes turn magical , as snow spreads its wings around. A seating around the corner in the village which might be overlooked in any other times, becomes a perfect spot to romanticize and miss someone you love. How I wish , I had her beside me to sit, and sip in a hot cup of coffee.
Tell me who would you like to have with you , in such a magical place?
Khajjiar is a very crowded tourist spot throughout the year. Its rolling green meadows and velvet touched pine forest depicts a reflection of Swiss Alps according to Indian tourists. Hence it is always flocked by herds of tourist all the time except winter. Winter means roads are often closed due to the high snowfall , and only those like us who has a love for hiking can reach here. The green gives away to white , the famous lake freezes and people can walk over it easily but carefully. A fantasy world is created hence forth, with not much people to disturb you, you might just feel you have walked in Narnia. Such is the beauty of winters.
Heavy snowfall is a common occurance in the high Himalayas. At times with in four to five hours the snow can reach six to ten feet. In such a case, everything is stranded on the road for next few days untill the authorities come to open up. If you are a person who has no much obligations in life , like me , you will have a good time. Or else for people with a limited time in hand for vacation might get stuck and find themselves in knee deep problems , with knee deep snow!
However hard life may be , winter is just fabulous. Personally it is my favourite season. A season when you see the nature has let go of everything , embraced an ending , only to begin anew. Movies like Frozen and Narnia , has always stirred a beautiful picture of winter in mind, and being in India , it is easy to have a budget experience of such a fantastic season. If you are in love with winter , awaiting snowfall or planning to make a magical unforgettable memory like me , do use the next four months from December to March , to fulfill yourself. For any kind of advises or to plan a tour , you can always hit me up. Also write about your favorite memory from winter , I would be glad to know.
People tend to do something right , even though, they enjoy themselves in something else. And the best example of it is, the fact, that so many people I met love the countryside and village life for it's calm , simple and ordinary ambience. Yet they choose to build their life around bustling cities with their stressful ambience. Why we do it , is a deep resonance of the sub conscious mind and it's will to achieve a perfect life , even without knowing what actually " perfect " means for each of us individually. I won't go into that detail, for it's a detour of how our mind works but most of us do what we feel right, rather than what we actually enjoy. The total nuisance is in the Rights and Wrongs, inbuilt in us by years of conditioning in school , family and society.
Anyways , Everytime you visit small villages around the places you travel you get a slight conviction that it's not always peaceful to be trying to be right. And that is exactly this small village and it's residents taught me , while on my time there.
India throughout has picturesque landscapes. The India villages find their places in those extraordinary surroundings to a wanderer's eye. During my recent tour in South India, in the state of Tamil Nadu , I came to know about this village from a local wanderer and definitely made time to visit here with my ongoing traveler from England. It's an worthy effort to seek beyond the ordinary, and that for a Tour Guide means, better service and recognition from his traveler. I couldn't miss out on that opportunity. For a whole day we decided to live and explore around this well kept secret village.
Nestled among the hills of extended Eastern Ghats, close to the touristic town of Kodaikanal is the small village of Poombarai. The region of this village is quiet dramatic , as it lays in a bowl kind structure , walled by hills on every side. The village is agriculture based and all throughout the bowl, they have perfectly managed step cultivation with inch accuracy of perfection. The different terraces and steps add on to the colours of the village and surrounding, making it one of the prettiest sights I have ever seen.
The houses in the village are made of red soil tiles very ethnic to this land. It is the red soil with minerals that helps them grow such a rich harvest. The roofs shimmer in sunlight , and the walls are painted with bright colours, giving a beautiful eye catching contrast to every corner of this residential area.
My traveler and I , both enthusiastic about this bountiful surrounding we were in, decided to hike around the farmlands before heading in to the village . Eric , my traveler from England was a farmer himself and felt at ease and amazement both at the same time. He knew more about the crops that were growing than me. Probably because he is from the same kind of terrain, where as I am more local to the lofty high Himalayas and the agriculture there.
Prominently five crops were to be seen around. Majority was garlic. The whole area can be called a Garlic Haven, which reflects in the local food we tasted later. Second was the carrots. The sweet and tasty carrots. Other than this you find beans , peas and paddy. In a year they have three types of crops and do the crop rotation, which helps them keep the work on land going.
The farm lands are curated and organized in precise accuracy to use up the land as much as possible to most optimum ability. Tiny trails going through them were chosen by us to walk around, as we saw in far , the local men with strong bulls ploughing for the next set of vegetables. The people of Poombarai are as beautiful as their village from souls. The farmers in the field were so delighted to have us in their field, they offered their produces for us to taste. It was a first time for me to taste carrots straight out of souls and that was delicious. Peas were sweet as well , but I have had it in Himalayas too. Though the love involved in gifting them to us made it special on many ways. I am not a avid vegetable lover , but if I find this kind of it more, I have no complaints.
Lastly every part we went through, we were invited to eat food with them. We could only oblige a few, since of our already vegetable filled-up tummies.
What stuck me most, is though, people belonged to different sectors in financial conditions, that was evident yet all of them lived almost in same ways. Their houses looked the same , and the food eaten. It didn't matter how much they earned , it is their way of living that connected them.
Once we were passing by a house located distant from the main village, in the base of the farming fields. The farmer and his wife was having meal when we were passing by their farm. Without knowing our language, they just with gesture showed us, if we wanted to eat with them.
That was eye opening, to do it to strangers , in middle of your meal randomly. I can't imagine anyone doing that in the technology evolved more educated cities that we are from.
This people work hard to produce the food that we only eat as parasites , and just like me , I am sure a lot of you too, have no idea how to farm or actually create them. It is of no secret that we of all are the most dependant race. The ones that we live in the cities and have no idea of how to produce our own food. And it is such that why we have to keep living there and do things that seem right, just because it covers up our inability to live an independent life enough. Our dependency makes what seems right , and our dependency also does not let us enjoy the things we do. At the end , I am sure most of us would like to know , how to produce our own food, and live this content life that reflects in smiles of the people of Poombarai.
What is your take on this ? Have you ever felt useless because you can't produce your own food ? Let me know. Thoughts are personal and garnered while my tour guiding trip of South India in February last week.
As more and more , travel industry is driven by social media , most travelers choose their next destination from pictures of other travelers and friends over Instagram and such handles. While it is a good way to promote such places, this also does not keep the destinations elusive anymore. You are expected to have crowds of other people , while visiting such a place . Yet to the blessing of huge range of Himalayas , some hidden hamlets and villages still hold on to their exclusivity. They are yet not, too much famous, in their reputation, and I chose to list five of them , for those who seek to go beyond the known trails. Check out if you have been to any one of this.
TONGLU - WEST BENGAL
Falling on the border of India and Nepal , Tonglu is my personal favorite. With majestic Kanchenjunga , world's third highest mountain looming large on the background , this village has some mind blowing landscapes around. Its just four houses in this village and settled atop a hill , pretty isolated from the rest of the world. With the chilling cold temperature round the year , Tonglu is a respite for summer and heat always. In the winter , snowfall, makes it beautiful and cold in both ways.
Falling near Darjeeling , it can be reached by car or foot . For more information to plan a vacation here, ping me directly.
TSOKA - SIKKIM
The village is well kept secret of western Sikkim, and though the state continues to grow in its fame of tourism , Tsoka still holds on to its elusive characteristics of being unknown. Accessible only by foot , the nature is still raw and well kept here. For those of you , who do not want to hike , a similar village but accessible by road and transportation can be found in Yuksom , in the same region. It is of your choice where you want to venture. Addition to the beautiful nature, the culture here is Buddhism , and amazing food delicacies such as momos and Thukpa , adore the taste of locals. Also for travelers who might want to try Yak Meat and amazing pork dishes, this village can serve perfectly. To know more , of course, give a knock on me,
OSLA - UTTARAKHAND
Legend has it , that this village has a temple dedicated to Duryodhana , the leader of Kauravas , from the epic Mahabharata. And the residents of this village are some of his descendants. But as all legends are , there is no proof to it, and the temple in the village indeed beautiful and striking in looks, is said to be of Lord Shiva , by the local residents. The temple door only opens during the annual fair which takes place in monsoon here, and thus the controversy remains. Hidden in the North western frontier of Uttarakhand , beyond reach of any transportation, this village is also gateway to a lot of amazing hikes and treks. A little tricky and time consuming to reach here , yet the journey and destination , totally captivates the mind and heart of all travelers that dare to go here. To plan a trip here, let me know.
GRAHAN - HIMACHAL PRADESH
A lesser known village in otherwise very famous Parvati valley , Grahan , in my view, is the most beautiful village of the valley , yet very less frequented. May be due to its accessibility only on foot, and no transportation makes it elusive as it is. The village still holds true to its customs and traditions and houses constructions that are two hundred years or more old. Surrounded by green mountains with snow during winter , Grahan is perfect to spend week , just detached from the outside world. Lonliness can never crop in , as the locals are very friendly and mingling with them is very easy. Activities here would range from hiking around forest, finding amazing waterfalls to take a bath in on sunny day. Evenings to mingle with other travelers and smoke some of the best hash in world. Interested ? You know whom to connect for a plan.
ARU - KASHMIR
A very well kept secret of Kashmir, the Aru village has everything that defines the region of paradise on earth. An ever flowing Lidder river , flowing by its side and huge green meadows near by, to venture and walk barefeet , is magical experience. Respite to all those, who are not too keen, on hiking or walking, because this village has proper roads to reach by car and transportation. Hopefully , once the political turmoil in Kashmir cools down , you can plan your vacation here. The small wooden cottages , give a feel of times , and world of Lord of The Rings. Along with super helpful and fiendly locals , the village of Aru can surely win hearts in your visit.
There are many more such beautiful villages in every corner of regions of Himalayas. My list is here, on the basis that I have been to all this places , and have never seen, much Instagram post or a hash tag from this place.
If you know of such cool places or hidden villages, do leave the name in comment box, as I too , seek for more of such beauties.
Note from the Author,
" Travel made me rich and free. Magic and miracles are true , once you wander on the roads to places different and divine. I have collected so many thoughts and stories while being a Tour & Trek guide for last seven years. Sharing with you all, those memories and stories , and wishing you all , that someday you guys travel far and wide too. I am not a great writer , so ignore my grammar and spellings, read it with feelings, and you might just be affected with the wanderlust to hit the road"