â€œChasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains.â€ -- Jeffrey Rasley
Whether you choose to call us angels or demons, the one thing that unites my husband and I to the core, is our craving for an un-explored adventure. It takes us to hidden gems of India each year.
This year we went to Dharamsala & Mcleodganj. No not a hidden gem; that we reveal a bit later. Dharamsala region nestling in the lush green hills of Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, is all about an enchanting aura of colourful Tibetan flags, rolling prayer wheels and the collective sound of prayer bells & chirping birds.
Dharamkot was our lodging place, which is 2km uphill McLeodganj. We had a panoramic view of the Dhauladhar Mountains from our cottage. Take a look at the beauty! It is 6am in the morning.
Previous day, I had already covered the "Dharamkot to Naddi Trek: A Perfect Nature Walk" which went further down to "Balh Valley, Kangra: A Rare Gem Hidden in the Himalayas".
Still I was craving for some more adventure. And to satiate this craving, a local restaurant owner suggested the 'Triund Trek.' Sigh, we didn't have that much time. It is to-and-fro 18KM trek up the steepest hill of the region, that requires you to stay at the hill-top overnight. Sounds fun, but not when you have to join-back work two days later! (Giggle)
Thus, we were advised to take up the Dharamkot-Bhagsu Falls Trek. I asked, "Is it a trek? I heard the road goes from McLeodganj to Bhagsu...and then you connect uphill to Triund?"
"Madam, we at Dharamkot do not reveal this trek to the tourists. Actual trek to Triund starts from here; Bhagsu is one of the stops. If we show this way to the tourists, they pollute the place with garbage, disturb the surroundings & birds with loud music and pluck commercial crops like fruits without permission. The trek goes through the village and hills. We preserve our environment."
I was glad he had judged us as a better-category human...and rightly so. Soon after a light breakfast we began our 3KM journey, uphill amid an enchanting aroma of fresh air. Yes, after having breathed only polluted air in your city, you will surely find fresh air aromatic!
The initial phases of trek were easy walking amid staircases-fields and fruit orchards. Apple flowers had begun to bloom. And walnuts would ripen in a month. We were really enjoying the surroundings and soon it began drizzling.
Dharamkot to Bhagsu Falls is a walk amid gliding clouds in the Dhauladhar hills....so near, yet so far. Voila! Look, it made even my shy husband pose for the camera!
Soon we were into the wilderness with never-seen-before flora and fauna welcoming us at every turn. Click, click, click...my camera went on. Take a look here. No it is not a snake; it is Amorphophallus konjac...a shrub found in the upper reaches of the hills.
With a sprint in our feet, soon we arrived midway this 3KM trek at this Goddess Durga temple. It rests on a single rock. Villagers inform that no cement has been used to retain the temple structure at the rock-top. Not even the lightest storms made it slip down or shake. Amazing, isn't it? Locals call it a miracle and thus have immense faith in this place of worship.
Admiring the glory of nature at this tiny, sleepy village we soon reached the 'Bahgsu Village' where the trek goes downhill before another sprint commences uphill to Bhagsu Falls. This is the place where the famous Bhagsunag Temple is located. We will come to it in our return journey shortly, since that silvery waterfall you see there is irresistible right now!
To reach Bhagsu Falls, you have to climb up a large number of mountain-slate stairs. The same slate-stone is also beautifully placed to block a landslide from the hills during Monsoons. Giving way to the Himalayan flora, it is too tempting to leave behind this place without a hearty photo-session. And my pen danced on paper...
Clouds of dreams chase me,
A hut of hope in the hills calls out.
Wings of ambitionâ€¦wide open,
Aim is to perch where I belong,
O Lifeâ€¦I fly to you without Slings,
As Winds Of Change propel my wings.
And with legs tired to drag us up, but heart full of joy from the adventurous journey, we reached the 20meter high, glorious-and-silvery waterfall. I wanted to jump into the ice-cold waters, just when my husband pointed out to a board.
But then we Indians perhaps have become habitual to defying warnings till a tragedy claims a few lives. I was worried for those few who were already happily flaunting away their half-naked bodies in flowing water. They justified it saying, "It is called a holy dip." Well, link illegal stuff to religion and you are done! How insane can humans get at times, I wondered.
You can visit Bhagsu Falls throughout the year, but the best time is April to December when it cascades in full glory. But remember, bathing here between July to September with Monsoons at their full might, is like inviting death!
A small, shack-cafe served us simmering masala-ginger tea. A a sense of refreshment ran down. The 'Triund Trek' goes beyond this point uphill, which is a treacherous sojourn and must be undertaken with able guidance of well-trained local guides. So after a dose of a very-differently cooked finger-licking Maggi, we decided to do some more photography before climbing downhill to Bhagsunag Temple.
Bhagsunag Village is named after two warring Kings of the region Bhagsu and Nag. Legend has it that demon King Bhagsu wanted to his land that was hit by drought. He stole water from the eternally full Nag Dal, now called the Dal Lake of Dharamsala. When Nag or Snake King found his lake empty, he had a lethal war with Bhagsu whose waterpot fell off the hills. Dying Bhagsu asked for a boon for his people, seeking the water to flow till eternity. And it is this falling water that you know as the Bhagsu Fall. Locals say the water has healing powers, as blessed by Nag King. Later King Dharamchand got a Shiva temple built here. It now has a shallow swimming pool on one side and a small, yet bustling market place on the other.
This is the same 'holy water' which you are not supposed to jump-in at the Bhagsu Falls. You can instead bathe here to your heart's content.
Bhagsu village was originally inhabited by the Gaddi tribe. But now many Israelis have made it their second home offering services like Spa, Music Classes, Dance Classes etc. In fact many local signs you will find written in Hebrew besides Hindi/English. A captivating amalgamation of two different cultures. In India as we say "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" meaning the world is one family.
So I bid you adieu here till we embark on a new journey to uncover another hidden gem of India.
But not before I offer you a slice of the famous "Bhagsu Cake"--A bread-milk-cake combination topped with dollops of chocolate. Afterall, I deserve all these calories post the six kilometre trek, don't I?
Do give me your feedback or shoot me your queries in the comment column or Tweet to us @The_India_Co_In, @MahimaSharmaS. I will personally answer each one of them.
Copyright: Mahima Sharma, Columnist, The India
Author is former News Editor CNN-News18 & ANI (a collaboration with Reuters)