It has already been a successful trip in terms of experiencing fresh snow. First it was the white flurries in Shangarh and then a total surprise in Bathad village when we woke up to a whiteout! We enjoyed a nice hike in the fresh snow and then decided to leave for our friend’s Thakur’s home in Raison. I was also craving some Kullvi Dham and therefore we decided to have a few snacks and a dham thali at Sapna Sweets in Kullu. It turned out to be just ok; we were quite stuffed though since it was already around 3 pm by the time we ate!
We were overjoyed to be at Thakur’s home which felt nice and cosy even though the homestay in Bathad was quite comfortable. It is a fun time at his home as the kids of the extended family are visiting for the holidays and creating a nice ruckus! There is an excellent open space with an old chorten outside the spacious cottage. We take this opportunity to have a warm bath and freshen ourselves. Thakur’s mother asks us to sit in the living room with a warm bukhari and extends a plate filled with walnuts and dry fruits. Dinner is homemade; yummy and simple. There is no fixed plan for the next day and we decide to keep our options open!
In the morning, I make moka pot coffee for everyone. Even Thakur’s mom likes it. Thakur’s daughter Nilza and her cousin are playing a game tiger-prey in the kitchen! We have had a cozy night’s sleep in the cottage and even though it is cold, the heater has served its purpose. The home is called Yuthok Homestay and it is an old colonial-looking place where a Tibetan Yogi stayed. Yuthok House is also mentioned in a book and Thakur shows us a copy of the old book.
In the nearby orchard, I spot a persimmon tree! It is locally called Japani Fal. The weather seems to have cleared and we are in bright sunshine now! Breakfast is served at 915 am and is given in beautiful bronze plates and the paranthas are in a bamboo box! Freshly plucked nargis flowers (daffodils) are laid out on the table in a vase. There is homemade persimmon pickle to eat along-with the paranthas and we relish it with great delight. We have another round of tea sitting in the garden near the chorten, enjoying the sunshine!
We pack our backpacks; thank the family, and tell them we will be back in a day or two! Thakur suggests that we try and make it to Jana village; even though the road is surely closed with plenty of snow around. We take a shortcut from Raison to get to the other side of the road (Naggar side) across Beas river. Kais Monastery looks beautiful in the sunshine with chota lamas (novices) studying. Some of the lamas are from far off places. Prayer lamps are being lit up in a separate room and even after seeing the same setting in countless monasteries, I am excited! It feels pleasant in the sun and I take a chance to walk around and appreciate the lovely doors of Kais Monastery.
We thank the lamas and continue in the gypsy to Jana village. The road is full of snow and it is a very pretty scene with the dense jungle and 1-2 feet of snow on the road! Snow clearing work is on and we park the gypsy in a safe spot and start walking. It is an ascending road and as we near the cut to Sonaugi village, we realise that the path is very slippery. Lack of sunshine on the road means that the snow has frozen solid and repeated movement of locals has made it even more slippery now! It results in a few funny moments but no damage is done and we continue walking!
In a few minutes, we decide to give up the idea of staying in Jana village and start walking back to where the gypsy is parked. It is already past 1 pm and we figure that we should choose a more doable hike! The downward walk is spectacular with memorable views of the snowy apple fields and faraway mountain peaks. We decide to head to Naggar and possibly make our way to Rumsu. As soon as we cross Naggar, we spot snow on the pataal stone roofs of the homes. It is a pretty sight and the weather seems to be holding up for the moment.
We park the gypsy around 2-3 kms before Rumsu and notice that a lot of vehicles are also parked there itself. Thakur narrates to us why it is important to park in the right place because sometimes sudden heavy snowfall might mean that the car is stuck with no way out until the snow melts. We start our walk to Rumsu along the road; there are tyre marks on the road and some patches feel very slippery. After walking for about an hour or so; we start seeing the houses of Rumsu village and have views of the other side of the valley – villages of Halan I & Hallan II.
Thakur knows a local who also runs a travel company and a homestay. We therefore do not look around and directly walk to the homestay. Rumsu village is totally white and the snow glistens in the intermittent periods of sunshine. Clouds are also building up in the sky and we are glad to have made it well in daylight. It looks like a modern village with most of the buildings constructed in concrete. The area around Jamlu Devta Temple Complex is slippery because a lot of the villagers have walked from there.
We slip and slide on the snow and make it to the homestay. It is owned by a local by the name of Padam and he takes us to his home. Kids in Rumsu village are skating, sliding on slopes wooden equipments. There is only one feisty girl playing this game in the gang of boys! All the sliding has resulted in the path becoming incredibly difficult to navigate. We somehow make sure not to fall and Padam ushers us to a huge room in the basement of the house. It is a wooden traditional home (earlier the room was used as an animal shed!) and it feels a little claustrophobic because there is no fresh source of air.
The ceiling is very low and the wood panelling makes the room feel warm. It is quite cold in Rumsu once the sun disappears and a stiff breeze starts blowing. Padam also brings a blower-heater from somewhere but the room is nicely warm and we say we don’t need it. The open part outside the home has a fabulous valley view with snowed out slopes. The open courtyard also has views of traditional Himachali homes designed in the Kath Kuni style.
There is a bit of sunshine still visible on the nearby slopes. It is about 5 pm and we are very hungry. Padam bhai helps us with fresh pooris and home made pickle as a snack! We are also given chai with it and end up relishing the timely snack. Padam bhai has asked for 400 Rupees per person including food and we tell him we will only stay for a day.
We go roaming around for a bit and enjoy the timeless feel of Rumsu village. Some of us are understandably tired after the incessant walking throughout the day! We can feel the profound silence as darkness descends in Rumsu. Whenever we step out for filling water or using the bathroom, we are privy to a sky full of stars. Dinner is yummy vegetable curry, dall, chapati and we have our fill! We eat at 7 pm and decide to sleep early because all of us are very tired.
It is surreal sight when we wake up the next morning at about 7 am. Rumsu village is in a total white out and heavy snowfall seems to be continuing since early morning. The valley below cannot be seen because the snow flurries are in full force. I love looking at the railings that have a fresh helping of snow which slides off when the weight becomes too much! The snowflakes are sizeable in size and we ask for a second round of tea in big glasses. One might think that after having experienced fresh snowfall in Shangarh and Bathad, we might be bored of it. That doesn’t seem to be the case though as we love the white scenes in Rumsu.
Rumsu feels like a white wonderland with its traditional houses and the chimneys billowing out smoke from the fires of the tandoor bukhari that are invariably running in every home. The chairs left in the open are laden with snow, and even the water tanks and ladders are full of white snow! We take our chai glasses and go outside to stand under the roof and sip hot tea with the valley view. The snowfall stops for a while and thats when the clearest views of the morning are.
Breakfast is served at 9 am, and that seems to be the cue for the snowfall to resume again after a brief break! The kids had just begun to play games and skate but now they have to scurry back to their homes. We sit huddled in the room and tell each other that we have been really lucky to experience snowfall in 3 different villages on this trip. When we open the door of the room and look outside, it feels like a scene from Narnia. The clock strikes 11 am and ideally we would like to leave from Rumsu now and reach Thakur’s home for the next leg of our journey.
We are waiting for the snow to stop falling and have packed our bags to leave. We briefly wonder if the snowfall doesn’t stop we might have to live in Rumsu for another night! It finally stops snowing at 1230 and we start walking right away. Its good that we don’t wait for the perfect weather as it is dull and overcast and the clouds come into Rumsu as soon as we have crossed the temple area. Now we are on the main road and there are no chances of getting stuck.
Some of the locals are taking out their flock of sheep for grazing, it is a surreal sight in the snow. Kids continue playing and making the path slippery again! Snow hangs on apple trees, the branches are bare with no leaves. We cross the Jamlu Devta Temple area of Rumsu at about 1 pm and realise that it is much easier to walk on fresh snow as compared to melting or hard – frozen snow. There are massive pine and deodhar trees on the way and the whiteout feels even more majestic. The valley in front of us is covered in clouds and it is quite an unbelievable sight.
We also spot a few locals beginning their walk and realise that we are the first ones to step foot on the fresh snow once again. There are a few cute and furry dogs on the way. We are wary of the fact that it might start snowing again and that would cause our bags to get wet. On the road, there are a few tyre marks visible in the snow. Roofs of houses and windshields of cars are fully covered in white snow. I spot a Royal Enfield covered in snow; it looks gorgeous! The views of the other side of the valley become clear.
Some locals tell us that this was the heaviest snowfall in the last 4-5 days. I am excited when we encounter a lost sheep on the road; it looks very cute with the whiteness around. The landscape looks surreal and there is total peace and silence in the valley. Thakur is a little worried if the gypsy is stuck with the snowfall.
We still have a long way to go and are delighted to notice that the weather is clearing. Our only breaks are for photography and we continue walking. A jeep crosses us and after that we walk in the middle of the tyre marks. It is nice fun but becomes a little tiring sometimes. There is finally a glimpse of blue skies as we near the parking place. Thakur has parked at the right place. If the gypsy was parked any farther, there would have been chances of it getting stuck.
We directly head to Naggar Castle to celebrate our last week of epic wanderings! There is snow in the courtyard of Naggar Castle and on the roof too. The sun is out and the peaks on all other sides glisten brightly under the blue skies. The wood and stone building of Naggar Castle has great carvings and makes it worthy of a historical sight. The cast iron chairs and tables kept outside are covered in snow. Since it is winter, there is a discount scheme at Naggar Castle that is run by HPTDC as a heritage hotel. We briefly tinker with the idea of staying there since the cheapest rooms are priced at about 1200 Rs. but decide to just eat lunch with the epic views.
There are a number of day visitors and they are savouring the valley views from the open spaces. From the table in the restaurant there are framed views of the snowy mountains. Surely, Naggar Castle has one of the best views in entire Kullu Valley. The prices at the restaurant are on the higher side but thats ok for the epic sights. We are 4 of us and have a late lunch at about 3-30 pm. Anyway, we only have to go to Thakur’s home for the night so there is no rush. The food turns out to be excellent and that caps a fine exploration of Rumsu. We are all very pleased with how things turned out.
When the car stops in Naggar, my friends buy some handicrafts as gifts for Thakur’s family. When we reach Raison, the snow at Thakur’s home has already melted away and the weather is absolutely clear now. We sit in the garden adjacent to the orchard and enjoy our evening tea. Hellos with the family are exchanged and we tell them that we had a wonderful time.
Goodbye snowy Rumsu!