Monday, May 9, 2016

Camping at Raj-Gundha, Chota Bhangal, Kangra (Part-3)


In last part of this four parts story we crossed the Uhl river in between Badagram and Rajgundha and hiked up to Rajgundha. Parshuram parted his way after we walked along the potato farms up to a one and half meters wide road trace. Later sh. Mangat Ram would tell us that it was traced few decades back, but still it had not turned into road. Though in its early years light vehicles could run on it. Parshuram shared his cell phone number with us so as to call if any help was needed by us. His home was on the left and we turned right to look for the forest rest house.
Clouds over the peaks and fields behind the private guest house, Rajgundha, Chota Bhangal.

Camping at Raj-Gundha
Sun still played the hide and seek, but it was not so cold to wear a jacket, after all it was April month.We crossed the private guest house, a home and a mountain brook to reach the forest rest house. We knocked the door several times, but got no response.One of the door was locked and another might be locked from inside. 
A board of wildlife wing, HP Forest Dept. near to Govt. Rest House, Rajgundha, Chota Bhangal, Kangra

Evening – Preparations for camping
We understood that door was locked from inside but the two rooms might be interconnected so that person came out from the locked door. We decided to sit there and eat the bread pieces with butter and milk. Few other fields and houses were visible further along the trail that went towards Palachak. I called Parshuram, and asked for another arrangements, preferably few numbers of blankets and a dinner meal.
Manure in wooden cone(known locally as Kirda)

We definitely wanted to camp there, after all that’s why we carried the tents and sleeping bags to spend time with nature. Finally we came back to the last house we had crossed earlier; a small shop was established inside this stone and wood house. We inquired the shopkeeper about the possible arrangements for the blankets and food. And finally it was all set up.
Waiting for the rest house keeper to come back, Rajgundha, Chota Bhangal, Kangra.

Just few meters back from this house was this another small two room house rented by a Nepali person to make a tea and meal shop. Also blankets were available, which they would provide for free. Even the stay was free if we wanted to, only meals were charged. It was good to know all this, but soon we went to the nearby grassy fields to look for the camping site.
Deepal and Anand - A click towards east, at Rajgundha, chota Bhangal - April 2016

Few non-ploughed fields in between the other ploughed fields which stretched along the slanted mountain face down these houses seemed to be the best site. We cleared the surface from any thorne and unevenness which would damage the tents or our backs. We stretched out the tents’ sticks, opened up the tents and pitched them with the support of the sticks and nails. Sun was about to set behind the same mountain face on which we were. 

Next morning it would rise up from the mountain on the other side of the Uhl. 

Evening at Rajgundha
After all was set up Sai and Deepak went to have some chit chat and cup of tea with the shopkeeper uncle. I felt my stomach asking for emptying. I picked up my cell phone and wallet and went up to mountain, near to the upstream of the brook (nallah), no other facility was available. At the downstream was the village and fields.
Although I didn't find raspberry fallgold(aakha), but a thorny plant Raisin Berberry, that we locally call "Kushmal" could be found almost everywhere on this wild face of the mountain. This two to four meters wide brook bed was filled with big boulders, and a in between and under them a small  water stream ran. This was the source of water for this village, for drinking and irrigation of the potato farms of these village. 

The diversion of the required water was done with a small concrete structure. It was wise to not go upstream of this structure, so as to not pollute the water. At few meters higher reaches, Deodar trees dominated the plantation. When I came back to join Sai and Deepak at shop, I noticed that wallet wasn’t in my pocket. My memory of putting it in my pocket was lucid, and so I didn’t care much.

Small introduction with Thamsar Pass
We drank tea, and talked with Vivek and an uncle - both new acquaintances.  Vivek was a mechanical engineering graduate, a young lad with apple like face, and belonged to this same village. He wore the Himachali cap, and talked with zeal. For the time being he had been working with some private firm at Baddi in Himachal Pradesh. 

A click from shop towards north west-the peaks of Thamsar pass (Rajgundha, Chota Bhangal, Kangra)

He talked about the Thamsar pass that was almost visible from the shop itself. Until then, four of us had assumed that Hanuman Tibba was the one that was visible to us, but this sharp peak was the one adjacent to the Thamsar pass. Thamsar pass connects Chota Bhangal region with the Bada Bhangal. Given to their higher elevations of almost 5000 meters above MSL, all these mountain peaks and their nearby valleys were white covered with snow. Palachak, the place from where Uhl river originates would be somewhere at the base of these peaks onto our sides of mountains.

Our plan for the next day was to walk on the Rajgundha to Billing trail, which originally was traced by government for construction of the road, but work still not completed, as was complained by Sh. Mangat Ram, whom we would meet at dinner.

Dinner at RajGundha
Soon it was dark, and we were guided by Vivek to the small dhaba run by two Nepali brothers. In evening it was cold and the fire that was burning inside kitchen  chulah(fireplace in kitchen) could be helpful. We were invited to sit around it, and tea was offered when we asked. Mangat Ram had been working at Potato farms since last approx. 35 years.

He also wore the Himachali cap, and seemed to be a little proud. Along with Pahari and Hindi, he spoke Nepali language with the two brothers. He was a funny person, and talked to us with all the gentleness that he could get out from him. 

While we ate the dinner of Chapati and potato(aloo sabzi), Anand and Sai were most entertained with his jokes. We all became like friends in just those few hours. He called the names of Nepali brothers with their names, but as the names were new and strange to me, I soon forgot them. The younger Nepali brother had joined the place only a month back, and soon he would go back to his family. While we talked about the recent earthquake, he told us about his younger girl child that was killed in the recent last year April 2015's Nepal earthquake.

Lost and Found
It might not be appropriate to share this personal experience in this blog, but it is unforgettable, and teaches a very common lesson, so I am including it here. After having dinner meal, when we walked in the dark towards the tent, the record of the whereabouts of my wallet became lucid in my memory. While trying to light the bonfire, I struggled with my memory and suddenly felt the urge to touch my wallet.
I searched for the wallet in the tent, but it was not there. Tents were pitched away from the shop and the house, and nobody was there since last two hours. 

Anybody could’ve come and checked our bags inside the tents. Given to the honest and lovely people of the place this last idea seemed absurd. I had no memory of carrying the wallet with me while I had walked away from the tent for the last time. It seemed illogical to carry along the wallet while going up to the mountain brook. But as no one would be there at tent to care for it, it was logical too.
What sounded more difficult to accept was- the idea of me losing the wallet, at the place where I emptied my stomach. I couldn’t be that much careless- I thought.
A morning click towards west - mountain brook valley and the house and shop in front, Rajgundha, Chota Bhangal, Kangra, April 2016.

 I feared for being wrong, therefore for a moment, I shut my mind to this latter possibility. Deepak and Anand tried to help me with the search inside my bag and other corners of the tent. But it was not found, though somehow they got success in lighting the fire in those partially wet wood sticks and pieces. If I was in good mood, I would have joined very much happily. Instead I slipped into my sleeping bag, and tried to concentrate on my memory.

My wallet carried less than one thousand rupees, but it carried my ATM card and few other Id proofs. Who knew I would be cursing my memory inside the tent, while I could’ve enjoyed sitting outside around the bonfire. Friends suggested that possibly I had lost it at the brook. I contemplated for about half an hour and somehow assured myself about the same idea. For 99% of chances, next morning I would find the wallet at the same place.

I felt relaxed, but still felt sleepless. I got up and after pissing at the corner, sat alongside them. Stars had come with bright lights and it definitely was a divine experience, but it was cold. A jacket would have been sufficient. I went back inside the tent. It was still half dark when I got up in the morning, and it was chilling. I asked Anand to close the tent from inside while I went to search for my wallet. I went from alternate path, but directly to the place where I had sat. 

I could not expect to have lost it at any other place.
A Fine morning view of Rajgundha, clicked eastward, April 2016
I found it in its pristine state, nothing was lost from it. I felt like flying with happiness. For the second and last time, I repeated the stomach emptying process, and came back. It was Deepak’s birthday too, and I could wish him happily now. All of them got up after 6:00 AM or later. Sun rose up from behind the front mountain face.

In next part :Trekking from RajGundha to Biling-Bir and Paragliding