Normally the weather gets milder once you are in the region of 1500m to 2000m in the Himalayas, even if it is summer. That was not to be on that particular day, the morning that had began with a sharp drizzle in Pathankot progressed to a balmy day in Churah valley at Bhanjraru. When I switched buses on a road trip for Bairagarh in Bhanjraru, I could have been mistaken for thinking it was Rajasthan; considering the scorching heat.
When the bus finally wound one hairpin bend too many, a cool breeze began to blow. I could breathe easy now. The warm sunshine had given way to a flurry of clouds, that looked ominous (to say the least). It couldn’t have been so easy; after all this was supposed to be a dangerous journey across the Saach Pass. I was totally enjoying the show and when the bus came to a stop at around 4 in the evening, there was immense anticipation in the air.
In hindsight, I can count myself to be very lucky that the rain gods gave me a chance to bargain at the Mannat Homestay and watch the extravaganza from the safe confines of a window with a roof on top of it. No sooner had I put down my backpack in the room, a thundering sound signalled an end to the electric connection and also to take notice. A few of my clothes had gotten wet while standing in the drizzle in Pathankot and I spread them to dry and quickly rushed outside.
For a moment, I was stupefied that this was the beginning of the end. It was a torrential downpour with raindrops so big that it looked like ten of them could fill a bucket. The sound only accentuated the effect, the rain was non-stop and water flowed on the slopes in copious quantities. There was no soul on the road and none I could spot at the homestay either; prompting me to believe the whole plan of trying to cross the Saach Pass was a big mistake!
After all, I also had to find out my options of going from Bairagarh to Saach Pass, because the HRTC bus service from Chamba to Killar had not yet started. The rain kept coming down in droves and looked like it would never stop. I had put aside my troubles and began to enjoy the pitter patter without thinking about the consequences. At around 530 in the evening, it suddenly stopped. I had a chai first and then went on the roof to check if I was dreaming.
The roof was an entirely different world, it seemed. There were 3 plush rooms, which were newly built and the air had become mighty cold (so much for the warm sun during the day). I clutched my dslr and zipped the jacket tightly and let my eyes feast on the 270 degree views. The homestay (or rather Mannat Guest House) had a green mountain on one side, while the opposite side had a view of an endless valley.
A road clinging to the mountainside was faintly visible in the gorgeously green valley, and I was glad I had traversed on it when the proceedings were good. This region of Chamba was notorious for bus accidents and I had my heart in the mouth moments already.
Maybe it was a mixture of the cold and the excitement of the next leg of my journey that caused the goosebumps on my skin.
Always a sucker for aimless mountain walks, I promptly danced down the stairs in my flip-flops and headed out to explore the pretty hamlet of Bairagarh. All homes had stone tiles that created a lovely backdrop against the angry looking storm clouds. A few locals came and chatted with me and gave more information about crossing Saach Pass and reaching Killar in Pangi Valley. I was walking towards the PWD Rest House Bairagarh when some locals advised me that since it was going to be dark soon, it was better that I return to the guest house.
The next few weeks would turn out to be quite high on the adventure and exploration quotient, when I would explore Pangi Valley, Mrikula Devi temple in Udaipur and Triloknath temple of Lahaul. I was to later fulfil my desire of wandering around in Miyar Valley and then make my way across to Keylong, only to hitchhike in a truck and end up in the Changthang in Ladakh to live with the Changpas for a few days.
The quiet time spent in Bairagarh listening to the thundering rain and letting myself fully succumb to the magic of the clouds remains one of my favourite memories of this particular solo trip.
Here are some posts from the journey :