We make our first stop before reaching Gushaini in Tirthan Valley at a dhaba and have food. It is still raining continuously on the Gushaini-Bathad road and someone tells us at the dhaba that even worse weather has been forecast for the entire week. We are excited, snow is exactly what we have come for! And have carefully made sure to not venture into high altitude areas where there would be chances of getting stuck.
We reach Bathad at 3:30 pm, the atmosphere is gloomy and it is raining heavily here. Directly go to Thewa Ram Ji homestay where I had stayed earlier in Bathad. As soon as we agree on the rate etc, we put our bags inside the rooms of the homestay and Mahi and Thakur take the next step of taking the gypsy and going back on the road to Gushaini. Thakur has already identified a safe parking spot around 3 kms before reaching Bathad.
It is located a few turns away on a lower altitude and has least chances of the road getting snowed out and we getting stuck.They come back to Bathad by bus. It would later turn out to be a brilliant idea! The crazy weather means that snow is imminent and bad weather means that more snow can result in road closure.
Thewa Ram Ji is not there and has turned the homestay into even better rooms with beds and geysers in the bathrooms. Thewa Ram Ji’s wife agrees a price of 2200 Rupees for the 5 of us including food. We tell her we may stay for either 1 day or 2 days depending on the weather.
We have been allotted 2 rooms. The layout of the rooms has vastly changed from last time around and both the bedrooms have been converted into 4 bedded rooms. I find it a bit odd, since a double bed would have been just perfect. I wonder if small groups had started coming to Bathad prompting Thewa Ram ji to take this step of putting 4 beds in the rooms.
One of the rooms had become especially devoid of space with both the beds put together. The sheets and blankets are clean though, and the room looks spic and span! We have a quick round of ginger tea in this nice and cosy setting. It has snowed recently in Bathad and as it is raining right now, all the snow melt has created little streams on the road.
We are all very happy with how the day has progressed and how it has led us to see some surreal scenes with fresh snowfall! A round of pakoras is made to celebrate the evening at around 5 pm. There is a drinking den that also doubles up as a dhaba in the basement and I randomly meet an acquaintance from Tirthan Valley on the road when I step out to get the pakoras!
Thewa Ram Ji’s wife seems to be a little mean and refuses to make pakoras. Ajay bhai volunteers and makes the batter and masala and helps in frying the pakoras. I have already offered the homestay guys a little extra money for the pakoras if thats the matter. Anyhow, we enjoy another round of chai as it starts getting dark after the pakoras have settled in our stomachs.
The weather also starts getting quite cold as the wind picks up. I heave a sigh of relief when I see Thewa Ram Ji arrive at around 6 pm. He asks us about our well being, recognises me and exchanges pleasantries. Thewa Ram Ji is a jovial fellow and takes us to the top floor of the house; there has been a bukhari installed in the room.
He quickly lights up the tandoor and tells us to sit and chill here, and that dinner will be served in this warm room! The top floor setting is magnificent, there is also more space shaped like a loft with a mattress spread on the floor. It could be a fantastic place to sleep in the summer! Earlier this top floor space was made like a conference room and Thewa Ram Ji was quite pleased when I showed him a picture of the same from 2 years ago!
I have stayed at this homestay earlier and experienced Thewa Ram Ji’s exemplary hospitality and kindness. I remark that the recent refurbishments have made the homestay into a luxurious place to stay and he is very happy to hear this! The bathrooms are especially well done and the hot water courtesy of the geyser is nice in the bitter cold.
When I had come to Bathad (pronounced Batahad) earlier in the summer, we had walked along the road and pristine Falachan Nallah to Thewa Ram’s village Galincha some 4-5 kms away. Galingcha village is especially pretty as it is located on a sort of ridge in a flat valley with pretty golden fields and wooden homes. The locals invited us for tea in one of the homes here.
Back to the present in snowy Bathad in winter – Thewa Ram Ji offers us a drink and we also share some of the alcohol we have carried with us. After an hour or so, he asks his son to serve dinner in this cosy room itself. We protest saying it is too much work and that we can go down to eat but Thewa Ram Ji insists that it is better that food be brought here in casseroles and we eat it in the warmth of the room.
He tells us the reason it is this cold is that since the Falachan stream flows quite close to where we are and it is nearly frozen. As always, dinner is super tasty. It has been served in brass plates, with regal looking old brass glasses too. There is something inexplicable about mountain food, the simplicity and freshness always ensures a memorable dining experience.
Thewa Ram Ji is a kind soul. His smile and friendly demeanour is especially pleasing and makes everyone feel welcome. Mahi, Thakur, Ajay and Sharon all love the homestay and the way in which food is served on this top floor. We chit chat for a bit and decide to walk out on the road and see some stars as it is quite dark in Bathad. The night skies are absolutely fabulous as we walk to the other side where there is no light pollution.
We go back to our rooms at around 9-930 and decide to call it a night. It is blissfully silent in Bathad and the mellow sound of the stream flowing by feels like music to the ears. The blankets are nice and warm and we fall asleep in no time in the cozy setting. It is a whiteout when we wake up at 630 am in the morning. The snow seems to be coming down in droves.
A blanket of white is seen everywhere as we sit in the vantage sitting space and enjoy the framed views from the homestay. The snowfall is definitely more heavier than in Shangarh and we are ecstatic. When the flurries become a little slower, chai is served to us in big glasses! I have asked for the big glasses so that we have more chai to drink in this impeccable setting.
From the balcony window, it is a surreal sight to notice the snow flurries coming down and smoke from a nearby chimney rising up. I click this memorable frame hoping that it comes out well in this okay-ish light. We eat some biscuits with the chai so as to keep the hunger at bay. It is quite early in the morning and we don’t want to trouble Thewa Ram Ji’s wife with the cooking just now.
It stops snowing at around 9 am. Breakfast is discussed and decided to be a mix of aloo and pyaaz paranthas. We tell Thewa Ram Ji to keep the paranthas ready and start walking on fresh snow to the other side of Bathad village – in the direction of Galingcha and Mashiyar village. The snow here is much deeper than it was in Shangarh just today morning.
Mahi and Thakur have gone speeding ahead, running and sliding like little kids in the snow and disappear within no time. Me, Ajay and Sharon on the other hand have come out with the intention of truly enjoying a slow walk and enjoying the feet sinking in the snow! We carry on walking slowly enjoying the fresh sights and the crunch of snow beneath our feet.
Snow is hanging on bare branches of trees even as the sun starts showing up across the valley on the other side. The views on the other side of the Flachan stream are simply stunning, white landscape with a cute wooden hut visible with the stream flowing by. It is a dream come true for people like us from the plains; there is snow on stones making it feel like an otherworldly landscape.
Clouds come and go. Enjoyable sights. Delight walking in fresh snow, and it doesn’t get any fresher than this! We continue walking till 10 am and decide to turn back at that time. A few locals have started coming from the villages in the opposite direction and it is fun to wave to the kids and make happy conversations.
The snowfall means that our purpose of visiting Bathad is fulfilled and that we should be making plans of returning from here and going to a different place, different valley in Himachal Pradesh.
We are sure that Mahi and Thakur won’t take too long even if they decide to visit one of the far off villages like Galingcha or Mashiyar. We are back to the homestay before long and the weather is starting to clear completely.
The paranthas are kept ready for us in a casserole and are served with pickle. We have our fill as all of us are quite hungry after the walk in the snow. A local Himachali dance is happening in the street in Bathad and we see glimpses of it from the window of the homestay.
Mahi and Thakur also come back by the time we are getting done with our breakfast and packing. Even though we don’t have a plan for the day, since we have seen the landscape in fresh snow – it is decided to leave from Bathad today itself. After they are done eating, we haul our backpacks, pay Thewa Ram Ji and start walking from Bathad.
The traditional song and dance performance is still being held, we watch it for some time ; walk across the bridge of Bathad and see that the sun is fully out now. We are walking in bright sunshine on the other side of the bridge. Snow glistens on the roof of houses. It will all start melting soon and create streams and slush on the road.
We reach the bus stop at Bathad where a few locals are gathered, they say that the bus should come soon. Mahi and Thakur get a ride so they leave to take the gypsy. We start walking on the road too and sit in the gypsy when Mahi and Thakur come back. We have been invited by Thakur to stay at his orchard home in Raison. Mahi has some work at home so we drop him at Larji so that he can go back to Sainj.
It has also snowed in Gushaini but not much. Thakur takes us to 10-11th Century Bajaura temple on the way to Raison. There is lots of traffic on the highway near Kullu and we are there only by 5. Decide to eat dham at Sapna Sweets. We have a flexible plan to leave for Naggar-Jana village or Rumsu Village the next day.
Also check : A Snowy Sojourn : Shangarh in January