Redefining Remoteness : Secret Places… Continued

I must first thank everyone for the resounding success of the idea of not naming the destination, in an earlier blog post.

The Dilemma of Responsible Travel : Secret Villages in the Himalayas

As I dreamily rubbed my eyes, first view of the morning from the ‘homestay’.

There is so much positivity in your heart and it was heartening to (a) read the comments, (b) be told in person, (c) sharing views on social media, (d) interested by the enigma. All of you are the reason for me to consider making this a series while keeping the settings intact.

Here it goes : Secret Place Number 2.

After having been on the road for almost 3 days, I wasn’t any closer to this obscure valley. I had first heard about it from a local 2 years ago, when I was spending a bitterly cold winter in a remote region. And I remember, as a well wisher he had refrained from giving me further detail about the same. He may have seen the glint in my eyes and realised about the adventurous streak of madness within me may well cause some damage.

Old homes in pristine surroundings.

Turns out he wasn’t wrong at all, there have been foreigners visiting this valley since as early as the 80s (If the locals are to be believed.) The fact file on treks here suggests that it is one of the most deadly regions to trek (Oops… Sorry, not allowed to give more details here.)

It was a wonderful walk, slow and with crisply changing views.

I am waiting at the bus stand. The bus that is supposed to come at 4 hasn’t come yet. It is already 5. There are only 2 other people waiting for the same bus. I contemplate ‘what if’?What if there is no bus? What if the bus comes but is so late that it reaches in utter darkness? I don’t break my solo travel rules often, but this time it seemed like I had no choice.

Cute kids that take your heart away! I gave her an alpenliebe, always carry extra to distribute to the kids and make friends with them 🙂

Ok, so the bus is finally here at 5:20 pm, filled to the brim. I squeeze inside and buy the ticket. It is excruciating, there is no space to breathe – let alone sit or stand. Also, the driver has gone for a rendezvous with a friend and the bus is stationary. In a moment of anger, I pass my ticket to the bus conductor demanding a return so that I can get off the bus and perhaps try my luck tomorrow.

Wild roses known as Sia.
I really want to type something here… but all I can do is sit and dream about this place!

He laughs and asks two women to make a tiny space for me to try and sit with my bulging backpack. There is little possibility of seeing any sort of landscapes from the elusive windows, but I widen my eyes and gaze endlessly at the beauty on offer. And suddenly my eyes notice that the road is just too small for a bus to really be even plying. Then I remember my decade long sojourns to everywhere in the high Himalayas and convince myself it is ok.

Undulating green fields, a pretty home, and the colossal snowy peaks : Could this be heaven itself?

A check post means I have to submit my details while the entire bus waits. The villagers and police guy eye me with suspicious yet loving eyes (?!). The policeman tells me to make sure I register my details when I come back, he says many people go missing in the mountains and then I may also come in that list, although I may be back safely.

For some time, it seemed as if time had stood still. There was an omnipresent aroma of fresh pine.

A raging nallah flows alongside the road. It is already dark. A school teacher screams the bus to a stop. There is no village, I see. Others tell me that the village lies on the other side of the river/nallah and he will cross it on a pulley. I shudder, the bus roars along. The average speed may not even have been more than 15 kms an hour.

After the clouds parted and the sun was out, the trees, plants and crops felt happy.
It was difficult to walk here, not because of tiredness… the beauty of nature was so incredible that I wanted to take it all in.

We are on the teetering edge of a road carved from the mountains. The bus steadily loses its passengers in small villages along the way as the cold winds seep in from small spaces in the windows. It is July, and yet it is so chilly that I wonder why I find myself in such crazy places time and again! By the time the bus reaches its stop, apart from the driver and conductor there are only 2 of us left in the bus.

When I thought it couldn’t get prettier, a little boy came and told me about a hidden ‘place of worship’.

Happily, they walk with me to this home… Within no time, I am playing host to an arak party. Liquor is on the house today, the locals are happy to see an Indian tourist. The driver joins me, apparently the conductor and him don’t get along well together. It is dark and furiously windy, yet a million stars for the welcome when I go out to pee.

A woman works in the gorgeous fields in this beautiful valley. Notice the snow hasn’t yet melted at the height of their summers.

There is a different freshness and energy in the air here. It was pin drop silence and I could still hear my heart thump happily. My arak drinking partners were amused when I stood outside for a long time, it was really quite cold! I briefly wondered if someday I could gather the mental strength to spend an entire winter here.

Then I left the road and followed the stream instead. Who cares when you are having a good time?

Bottle after bottle of locally made arak flew into everyone’s bellies. I had stopped after 2 glasses. Food was simple vegetables with chapati, dal and rice and tasted heavenly. The vegetables had all been grown in the villages and were very tasty. I really feasted on it and imaginatively thought of myself as a camel who is storing excess food for later!

How green is my valley? Walking, I think is the best idea of slow travel. You can go wherever your feet lead to, and random conversations can bring many surprises.

It was even more fun when I wandered in this secret paradise. Clouds had made it like a fairytale setting and I was happy to just watch it from the window of my room, doing nothing. There is a special joy in having these experiences where you are not particularly looking for anything, yet after a day or two – you invariably end up finding youself. 

After having had my fill of nature, it was time to go. To fulfil my wish of slow travel, I walked on the road and even though it was exhausting, had a great time. There was the small pleasure of taking a detour, walking on the green grass amongst trees and coming across an ancient place of worship (Thought to date to approx. 16th Century.)

That red roof may well be my dream home! Looks very fancy, eh. Located amidst such magical greenery!!

A small stream ran across the road, I left the road and joined the slender walking path : Not that there were any vehicles coming or going! This was as isolated as it could get, if I allow myself to think I can go as far as to say not more than 100 people visit this place every year. And the number of Indians could be counted on fingertips, as the locals said. Apparently, even the maps of the valley were initially made by some Spanish or Italian tourists!

Traffic jam in the mountains.
A frame in the village when traffic was a herd of sheep and goats, maybe it was a Gaddi shepherd.

I walked a lonely long road in bright sunshine and came across some wild roses, a small patch of yellow amongst the green, a snowy peak not enveloped by clouds – and decided to lie down. Alas, I was a solo traveller and there was nobody around to click a photograph for my Facebook profile picture or something.

Bed of flowers, literally. The stream passed right through here. The magic of nature.

I hope you won’t mind me not giving names of this one too. I know you want to find the valley exactly like this when you arrive here someday. Thank you.

Another one of those dream homes!

Update : This is Miyar Valley in Himachal Pradesh.

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15 thoughts on “Redefining Remoteness : Secret Places… Continued”

  1. Wow! If the pictures are so stunning, I can’t imagine how gorgeous the place it. Well, what can I say? I do envy you but at the same time I feel great that you are taking your readers on this virtual tour. Loved it!

  2. Thanks a ton for sharing the pictures of the beautiful valley you have been! Due to personal issues I have not travelled for more than a year. The virtual tour of your pics gives me so much happiness, probably cant be expressed in words. Keep posting. Do you have youtube channel?

  3. I respect your decision to not name the places. They look like dreams from heaven and true let every man find his dream for himself. Keep up the good work…We are enjoying your posts a hell lot !!

  4. This is something more than amazing..
    I loved it..
    Hoping to find such places in my near future.
    Thank you very much for sharing these awesome pics..
    Keep posting.

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