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Independence Day in Tirthan Valley

In all my travels through the years, I’ve often found myself running to catch that train or bus. With the long Independence Day weekend here, I booked the last minute bus to Manali to get to Tirthan Valley.

Gurgaon rains had already cast havoc on roads. The roads were a river, metro stations swarming with people like bees on a farm. After missing 2 metros, dashing on the road, breaking queues and getting yelled at by people, I boarded the Volvo Bus from Mandi House to Manali. By then, the bus driver had already waited for me for almost half an hour. Let’s not get into the stories I told him to stall him from leaving without me.

Day 1:

I got off the bus at Aut to board another Bus for Banjaar from where I would take a cab to get to Tirthan. I guess the spirit of adventure kept me on my toes and the Bus to Banjaar decided to break down mid-way. Finding no other means, I decided to hitch-hike on a goods carrier. With almost half the bus passengers in the back, the crisp morning wind brushed past me as I held on the rails. But that wasn’t enough to get me home yet! After getting off at a fork, I still had a few clicks to go. I decided to flag every vehicle for another ride, and lo and behold! another good Samaritan came by and gave me a lift for few kms until it also went its own way. In no mood to trouble myself, I flagged another good carrier (jeep) that soon came by and this time it was empty. The driver asked me to hop on in the back and it was a butt-cracking, hair-pin bend twister ride until it dropped me off.

And that’s how it came to pass today morning when I ran into a friend who runs a cottage in the area and I didn’t have to think twice before finalizing the place and kicking off my shoes. A sumptuous breakfast of aloo parathas and hot tea was just what I needed. After a quick shower and a nap, I decided to head out again in search of stories, faces and perhaps some drops of tranquility that are hard to come by in cities.

My first stop was at Yagya’s shop just down the road in Village, Moongla where time just flew in between cups of tea and maggi. Such is life when laughter and conversations often make time disappear. After taking his leave, I wandered over to Hamani Temple whose compound was devoid of any company, human and otherwise. The place echoed with silence and it pulled me in through the narrow iron gate. A rock in a corner beckoned me so I decided to sit and contemplate for a while. Perhaps it was the Independence Day, but the moment seemed apt to hum the song, “Bharat Humko Jaan Se Pyara Hai..” Gautam took out his Guitar and sang his salutation.

The rest of the evening was spent wandering alongside Tirthan river and letting the crashing of waves soak into my psyche. The sun had started to sink in the west somewhere behind the lush green hills and birds were singing their usual evening song. I walked back with no plan for tomorrow.

Day 2:

Weather gods remained favorable overnight and the morning was perfect for a run. I wanted to run uphill to test my endurance and stepped out around 6 am. From outskirts of Nagini village, I ran eastbound uphill toward Gushaini and back. After a 10 km run, I came back to do some stretching and Yoga before breakfast. I wanted to spend the last hour sitting by the river doing absolutely nothing. There were places where Tirthan was roaring like the thunder god, Zeus and patches where it was as calm as morning drizzle. One fine morning, it was.

Continuing my journey, I took leave of Panki Sood and his Sunshine Cottages, and caught another lift enroute to my net destination, Tirthan View Homestay in village, Bandal where Raju Negi’s hospitality is famous. It was time to check it out. After a short lift till the fork where the left road goes to Gushaini, I walked the rest of steep 1.5 Kms with my rucksack until I came to a set of stairs going up to the right. This would be the place, I thought and climbed the steep 60-80 odd stairs. Raju’s smiling face welcomed and whisked away all my tiredness.

The afternoon was spent chatting away with my host who was a bit too chatty at times. Just around lunch, the dark clouds loomed over the hills in front and it started to pour heavily, which continued till about 5 pm. Despite an active morning, I didn’t want to laze around and climbed back down to take a walk through clouds and mist. The road was devoid of any traffic and there was nothing but a few stray houses perched above the road and dogs with leopard collars on them that looked at me with suspicion reserved for strangers. The road twisted and turned and suddenly the clouds were all around me. The apple and pear trees lined up along the narrow road and at times it was irresistible to control the temptation to not pluck.

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