23rd Feb 2015, Monday……..Day(7) Tuini-Hanol-Netwar-Mori-Purola-Barkot 126 km
Got up early and fresh after a nice sleep inside the car parked in Tiuni bazaar. It was still dark and tea shop nearby was already buzzing with activity. Two of cups of tea and I was ready for the day, from now onwards, the drive was going to be on unfamiliar territory.
Early morning drive through pine forest along the Tons river and fragrance of numerous flowers, plants and trees was like a dream. The road was narrow but butter smooth.
Stopped at Devladi Mata Temple for a while. There was a tea shop with a running water tap nearby. Freshened up. Took another cup of tea, visited the temple and moved on.
Soon reached Hanol, famous Mahasu Devta Temple was just half a kilometer diversion to the left. Not very well maintained GMVN rest house was right near the gate.
The temple is dedicated to Mahasu Devta, the chief deity of the area and who is worshiped by the people of Hanol and nearby villages. It was built in the 9th century and is included in the Archeological Survey of india list of ancient temples.
Parked the car near the market and walked down few steps to the main temple area. The temple premises was large and well maintained. The priest at the temple took me inside the temple and explained the importance of the temple and rituals related with it.
Pretty soon I was on the road again. I was now driving through the Jaunsar-Bawar region. The route all along the Tons River passed through beautiful villages and amazing landscape. The people looked very simple, friendly and helpful.
Just before Mori, in between Lunagad and Khooni Gad, the forest department has erected a memorial in the memory of the tallest pine tree in Asia, believed to be 220 years old, 60.65 metres tall and had a circumference of 2.7 metres.
The tree was recognised as Maha Vriksha, a giant tree in 1997 which was uprooted by a fierce storm in 2007.
I was feeling a little hungry and was looking for something to eat when the aroma of fried, veg and egg pakoda hit my tastebuds. The place looked nice too. The man behind the rehri was very friendly.
While enjoying pakodas with hot cup of tea, I asked the man, who was speaking clear hindi and did not look like a local, few questions.
He told me that he belonged to UP and used to come to the place to sell ladies suit. One fine day he met a beautiful local girl while selling dresses in the village and fell in love.
The next time he came with a different intent, rented a room in the village and sent a proposal to the family for marrying the girl. After few hiccups, the family agreed. He married the girl and ever since living at the place with her happily.
Contrary to my imagination, Mori was a bustling place. Bazaar was full with people, shops and fast food joints. Share taxis were hurrying through, overloaded with animals, goods and people. Most of the men were wearing traditional caps, a plant tucked into it. I was told that it was given to them by their devta. Most of the women were smoking bidis and were reluctant to get photographed while smoking.
People looked very rustic, alive and innocent. They were attracted to the red colour of my car and were very curious to see me travelling solo. Everyone wanted to know where I was from. When I told them that I was from Amritsar, Punjab, most of them were ignorant about where Punjab or Amritsar was.
This was in Jaunsar-Bawar heartland. The Jaunsari live on the lower areas while the Bawaris live on the high mountains.
While Jaunsari claim to be descendants of the Pandavas, the Bawaris are from the Kauravas clan. The two cultures usually do not mix, and it is a rare occurrence to see the two cultures mix in terms of marriage or social custom.
The people of the Jaunsar Bawar region used to practice polyandry/polygamy as the custom owes its origins to the Pandavas who shared Draupadi amongst the 5 brothers. Another unique custom which is followed here is the concept of bride price, which owes its origin to some strong logic.
The parents spend a substantial amount on raising, educating and making the life of the girl as good as they can make it. In return the girl is an asset to the family as she cooks, cleans, works on the farms etc. When a boy wants to marry the girl, he is taking away an asset of the family and must pay the fair price of the asset known as the bride price.
Divorce is not taboo in the culture and divorced women are not ostracized from society.
However, if the woman comes back to the parent’s home after a divorce, the family must pay back the bride price to the man’s family. If the woman divorces her husband to marry another man, the second man must pay (a higher) bride price to the first man’s family.
Besides being a Jaunsar-Bawar tribal area, this route is also famous for Har Ki Doon (Valley of Gods) trek.
Har Ki Doon lies in the valley of majestic Swargarohini Peak. It is believed that Yudhisthira went to heaven with a dog from this peak. Buses ply till Sankri and there is a jeepable road from Sankri to Taluka from where actual trek starts.
The valley falls within the Govind Pashu Vihar wildlife sanctuary and is very close to Himachal Pradesh. A trek route through Barasu Peak ends in chitkul (Baspa Valley).
Curious to see more of this route, drove further. The road was in very bad shape. Lot of damage to the road network was done in 2013 flash floods. The drive was becoming very lonely. I could barely drive till Netwar. Spent some time in the Netwar market.
Like Mori it was a very busy town. Lot of people, lot of shops, lot of Taxis. I could go no further. Har Ki Doon trek was not on as well. So there was no fun going any further.
Came back to Mori and drove towards Purola. Still not sure about my destination for the day. This road, to Purola, was in much better shape. The landscape was different as well. Instead of Tons, I was driving through a pine forest with a valley on the left, dotted with villages and snowclad mountains in the background.
I thought I would stay at Purola but there was some political rally going on and the bazaar was jampacked with people and vehicles, hardly any place for parking and breathing. Did not like the place, so drove on.
Soon I was in Naugaon, it became dark, came out the car, walked a little, liked the place and was thinking of spending the night there but a gentleman advised me to drive further to Barkot which was a better place for me.
Barkot had lot of hotels and dhabas. Its an important place on the route to Yamunotri and Gangotri. Lot of tourists break their journey at the place.
Spent the next two hours walking and chatting with people. Parked the car in front of police station, took few drinks and went into a dhaba and had nice food.
Walked back to the car, slipped in, pulled the cover over, locked the car from inside, pushed myself into the sleeping bag and was fast asleep.
By then, my body and mind was fully acclimatised and my lalpari was as good as home…………….!!!