The travel addict in me is out twice or thrice a year in search of a new adventure across my country -- the Incredible India. But the writer in me has always longed for a place where both fun and my passion to pen can go hand-in-hand.
This summer I finally found once such place hidden amid dense forests of the Himalayas. It is extremely close to the very famous tourist destinations Dharamsala and McLeodganj in Himachal Pradesh. We visited these two places this year, but thanks to less crowd this year, we were done with these places in two days.
So what to do with the remaining time? The nearby 'Triund Trek' didn't seem feasible. So the locals suggested something beyond. And I am taking you there today! But mind it....it is an exclusive journey since this place is neither on the main tourism map nor for the the weak-hearted. Yes, you heard it right, this travelogue will be the first ever link on Google to reveal this place to the world.
But, first take a view from this point...a view of the majestic Dhauladhar Range at 2000 ft altitude. My husband and I are standing at the "Naddi-View Point". A small, yet very commercial hub of hotels, Naddi is the starting point for two major treks excluding the one I will take you to. But first enjoy this view....
While everyone around me was busy gazing at the cloud-laden hills with fresh snowfall....my eyes caught-hold of a rivulet gushing down deep into the valley. Silver-sparkling water was calling-out to me...to come and relax amid the enchanting greenery. My husband was initially reluctant since the climb-back seemed very tough, but when he saw my face droop...he gave in.
The locals informed us ---it was the Balh Valley - a small village with a rivulet and a camping site at the core. Voila! I was already jumping with joy. We were told it was a bit treacherous terrain in monsoons but before and after, it was pure fun some 3km down-trek! I could hear my heart thumping with joy, already imagining the fun there.
After a light brunch at the local tea-shop, we began hopping down to Balh. The initial one kilometer was lovely, clouds of dreams and rain of joy was chasing us...off and on. It is common in hills unlike our cities where clouds make an announcement before the rain. In just a matter of time we were walking amid the clouds, in the drizzle!
And my poetic heart penned this....
"I Won’t wait for the Sun,
Won’t ask the Rain to go,
I will be the girl,
Who owned a Rainbow!"
1000 or more, I really don't remember the camera clicks we did on this amazing trek! Making friends with the locals, chewing away the healthy snacks, we were almost dancing away down-trek when we met something we had only seen on TV! It seems like a small landslide...uprooting a tree that had fallen across our way! My heart skipped a beat.
A village woman passing by with her donkeys giggled seeing us staring at it. She informed, "Nothing serious, we preserve our jungles unlike you 'Shehri People'. Only in heavy rain such small slides happen and that too rarely. We had heavy rain last night."
We heaved a sigh of relief and began trotting away, carefully. Small streams of water rushing down the hills, no proper road ahead, very narrow trek....yet so much adventure...just kept us going!
Further one kilometer down we could spot vividly our destination. There it was! Down deep into the valley, the hidden gem--Balh Village. While the village is spread across the hills too, inhabited by some 15-20 families; but the valley deep down next to the rivulet is inhabited only by three families. One was to turn host to us.
Can you see that green patch left to that house? It is where the couple, who hosts tourists at their in-house lodge and cafe, allows them to camp. Either carry a camp at your end or rent-it-out from them. Isn't it exciting? Imagine the campfire!
At the end of the hour-long trek, we were damn hungry. But the view captivated us and we again went clicking away the glory of the water gushing beneath the bridge...the mighty hills surrounding the silvery water-fall.
It began drizzling and it was time for tea. The small cafe's owner had been observing us carefully, but we were unaware. He offered to serve home-cooked food. We jumped at the idea. He smiled at us...we were behaving likes kids, chuckling away. And hen he showed us something more--two chairs spread out at a rock with river flowing next to it. "Sit there, I will get the tea."
I had never sat that close to water to enjoy a meal, except on a beach. Ice-cold water, fresh air rushing up my nostrils and pristine greenery! I was in heaven!
Post tea, we were ushered into the cafe-owners' home-cum-tourist lodge for a hearty meal. A very warm host and a nominal cost for all the fun at a place which isn't even on main tourism map.
And my pen once again danced on paper writing the following amid the majesty of Nature.
"Swift and sloshing over the rocks,
River of Life flows like a song,
Some will see…only the hurdles,
But other few…just sing along."
So what are you waiting for? Head to this gem hidden in the Himalayas. Here are all the details you will need.
How to Reach: 15 minute car or auto-rickshaw drive from McLeodganj (Dharamsala) to Naddi. From Naddi you trek down on-foot to Balh Valley.
Best Season: Avoid July to September
At Naddi hotels provide you stay for Rs1000/- to 3000/- per night
At Balh there are two rivulet-side lodges. Rs1200/- to Rs 2000/- per night. You can carry a camp or hire it for just Rs. 1000/- to 1500/- per night.
So don't wait, just kindle the fire of adventure within and pack your bags to Balh. A camp-fire under a bright blue sky is calling out to you near gurgling fresh-water stream and captivating aura of an amazing green valley! Once here, I can bet, you would never want to go back!
© Mahima Sharma, Columnist TheIndia.com
Author is a former News-Editor with CNN-News18 & ANI (a collaboration with Reuters)