India is blessed with one of the finest havens for adventure lovers. And if you are one of those who always believe in pushing the limits, the Himalayas await with open arms to unfold its surprises. The mystical mountains of Uttarakhand have surprises for the adventurer every moment, as long as the seeker does not stop for less. Take the journey to the last village deep in the mountains in Uttarakhand where your surprises await..
A Secret Village in the Himalayas
Travelling through the zigzag routes in the mountains is an experience that is rare in itself. You are far away from the crowd and the only noise you hear is of silence. Nature seems alive here, with a golden sunshine, the gushing river streams, and occasional chirp of the birds while you walk though the tropical forests. Nothing seems to be in a hurry in the mountains. You suddenly get to slow down and breathe in, so you start living again.
High up in the Himalayas, in the mountains of Garhwal, lies the village of Niti, the last of them in Pauri Garhwal of Uttarakhand State. Nature has taken its time to chisel out every single corner of this countryside. In fact, it suddenly feels as you have teleported yourself to a different planet altogether. Located in the Nandadevi Biosphere, it is at a distance of 65 km from Joshimath town, the spearhead to travel to the Badrinath Shrine.
As the summers step in, the snow in the passes melt, and the roads to these villages open up for adventurers. People in the plains of Dehradun, Rishikesh and Haridwar, pack up and escape to these hills, to spend their time away from the scorching summer heat in the plains. They would spend the entire summer months in their ‘second houses’, as they call it, farming and merry-making in these unhindered villages, where time simply slows down.
While traveling to Niti from Joshimath, you will pass through several small villages on the way. One of them is Tapovan, where you can witness the natural hot-springs. Try taking a hot-shower or may be dip your cold feet to ease up your aching legs. Feel the rush of blood running up your veins, easing off all the tiredness of the journey.
Further ahead of Tapovan, is the spectacular view of the Dronagiri, the mountains which have a connection with the epics of Ramayana. When Laxman is wounded and needs to be healed, Hanuman flies up to these mountains in search of Sanjeevani Buti, a herb that is found only on the Dronagiri mountains and which will bring back Laxman to life. I thought they only existed in stories!
Enjoy the Goosebumps
The road only gets thinner and thinner as you climb up. Narrow passing places on the edges of the road make passing difficult for vehicles coming from the front. On some occasions, at U-bends, vehicles coming from both sides of the bend keep honking the horns, only to hear each other when they come face to face. Your vehicle sometimes gets pushed to the edge of the road, almost one side of the tires moving along the edge from where you can see the valley deep down.
The valleys are narrow and near 90 ° in elevation. I often mentioned my friends – if we fall, there will be no noise along the way until touchdown. As the climb increases, your ride will seem to push its limits, especially on the up slopes of the road. It really needs a tough nut to drive up those mountains, let alone walk or hike them.
The only way to conquer your fear is to forget about them, completely and surrender to the valleys. The mountains – when you befriend them without fear in your hearts, unfold the best of their secrets. The skies here are so clear, not a speck of pollution anywhere, the air breathes so fresh. The silence of nature so eerie, it sometimes scares you as if you are in a vacuum.
Reaching Niti Village
At a height of about 14500 feet, the splendid view of the mountains await, seen from between the narrow valleys ahead. The snow peaks peep through the pointed tree tops and you can hear the slow gush of the river streams flowing underneath. I think that is the only sound you listen here. Rest all, is a standstill.
Source: RKM Dehradun
A road further drives into a small village called Kurkuti, which is the entry point to the Niti passes. The last village with a motorable road, the vehicle can only drive a few kilometers after which it will be time to walk.
There is subtle warmth in the air, and the sun rays strike directly on the face. Far off, the villagers overlook the unexpected guests, but they seem inviting. Life here is so simple and down to earth. It feels like you have come to the land of Frodo, where there is greenery and beauty everywhere. It is a nice idea to take a break. I prefer asking you to walk down to the nearby river stream that comes right from the majestic snow peaks right behind the village. The water is so clear that it sparkles the sun’s rays falling on them. Take a sip of it and you will quench the thirst of the ages.
As you move further ahead, you pass through a metal bridge that gets you across the cold river stream below. From here, the Niti village is a walk of about another 15 kms up slope, where the exotic Himalayan Valleys await. The vast expanse of the Himalayas is so immense that it doesn’t easily fit the frame of the eye.
Source: RKM Dehradun
From here, all you see is the mountain ridges, calling you up for the challenge. The air is colder now, and a chill breeze blows, touching your cheeks and drying up your skin. For the record, you are now standing at a height of 15000 feet, and if you thought there cannot exist a civilization, be ready to be wronged.
The night gets even chillier here. The sun sets early here and it is time to spend a good evening with the villagers here. The day will rise again, with a glorious sunshine again, but it will be one you will never experience again.
As you make your way back from there, you will never be the same again. The journey would have changed you forever. For you would have lived through the biggest fears of your life- the heights and the depths, the ups and downs and the topsy turvys, the heats and chills. You have broken your shell and emerged new. Once you have lived the mountains you will never leave them again!