5th March 2015 This has been a totally strange trip. Sleeping IN THE CAR at strange new place every day is becoming such an amazing habit. I felt like as if I always wanted to live like this. Getting up every day at new place, meeting new people everyday was an amazing experience.
I never experienced any kind of fear or anything close to it. Wherever I parked my car and slept INSIDE, it felt as if I was at my home.Getting up at Thal on that day even before the first ray of light fell on earth was wonderful. I had a very sound sleep IN THE CAR parked in Thal bazaar that night.
It did not take long when I hit the road again. Soon I was on the same v-junction where I was the previous day on the way to Munsiyari. This time, however, I turned right towards Didihat. The drive on this stretch in the early morning hours was just beautiful. The road passed through a dense forest with amazing views of snow clad Himalayan peaks to the left
Soon I reached Didihat. The small hilly town was full of pure natural beauty with lush green flora at an altitude of 1725 meter ASL. It has a bustling market and I stopped a while for breakfast. I felt very good walking through busy lanes of Didihat and meeting people of the area.
Few kilometers drive from Didihat I reached a beautiful clearing. It was a big grassy park with amazing views of snowy Himalayan range. I decided to stop here for a while and take rest. I spent about one hour here walking, getting fresh and basking in early morning sun. The feeling was amazing and shall stay with me forever.
Few kilometers later I was driving through a beautiful forest. I came to know later that it was Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary. Rich in flora and fauna, this sanctuary has been set up primarily with the object of conserving the musk deer. Other mammals found in this sanctuary include the leopard, jungle cat, civet cat, barking deer, and brown beer. Many species of high altitude birds are also found in this sanctuary.
The road from Askot to Jauljibi was pretty bad. Jauljibi was a small bazaar situated on the River Kali. The road from Jauljibi onwards till Darchula was along this river. It was nice driving on this road which runs parallel to Nepal. The villages on the other side of Kali River, in Nepal, were no different and looked absolutely similar to what we have inside India. The homes, the building and the agriculture farms all looked very similar.
Soon I was in Dharchula (India). Dharchula is a bustling town, situated on the River Kali, inhabited mainly by people of Bhotia origin, and is on the main pilgrimage route to Kailash Mansarovar (Tibet). There is a hanging bridge on the River Kali, which connects India with Nepal.
One can freely walk on the bridge and reach Nepal. The town on the other side is also called Dharchula (Nepal). The people of both towns have similar traditions, culture, and lifestyle and move across the border without hindrance and without passport or visa.
I was bit apprehensive because I wanted to walk across the bridge and inside Nepal. Indian side of the bridge was manned by BSF (Border Security Force) and I was not sure what things I could carry. One of the board mentioned that one cannot carry currency notes of denomination of Rs.500- or Rs.1000- and also that one can be checked for customs.
I asked a BSF jawan that I wanted to walk over the bridge, into Nepal just to have feel of it and that I was carrying few currency notes of Rs.500- and Rs.1000-, a camera and two cell phones. He politely advised me not to worry. He, however, advised me to be careful due to holi.
Thus assured I entered my name in the register meant for the purpose, and first time in my life, walked to a foreign land over that bridge on River Kali. It was a kind of strange feeling. I don’t know what was bothering me but there was hesitation in my walk. Nothing was different though. Many people from both the countries were walking freely along side me.
On the other side of the bridge, I saw Nepalese policemen wearing different dress, looking at me. I thought they might ask me some strange questions and check my bag. But to my surprise they welcomed me with a smile and instead they asking, I asked them for advice.
Most of the shops and market in Dharchula (Nepal) were closed. Young boys were playing holi. Women were looking down from roofs and windows. Few of them were throughing colors on passersbys. Some people were gathered at chowks and were playing cards and gossiping. Everything looked so similar to India. But walking those lanes of Nepal Dharchula I was feeling little out of place and strange.
Soon I was approached by a group of boys with intention of throwing color on me. Playing smart, I told them that I was a TV journalist from India and have come into Nepal to cover holi celebrations and that pictures I was taking will be shown on television. Hearing this, instead of putting color on me, everyone lined up to get photographed. Thus I got away from being defaced and instead made good friends.
After spending about an hour or so in Nepal I returned back to India. Dharchula (India) bazaar was also closed and people were celebrating holi. So I picked up my Lalpari and drove back to Jauljibi. From Jauljibi I turned right towards Madkot. Like the day before, I was again stopped a number of times by young men asking for money due to holi. Initially it was okay but later it became little irritating and I had to shoo few of them away.
The road till Madkot was just okay. Soon it became dark and lonely. This was my first time on this road and I was little apprehensive especially since I had a very scary experience the day before. Driving on pitch darkness was becoming little scary as there was hardly any traffic on the road. A little later
I saw some lights at a far distance and I knew I was approaching a good place. Soon the lights came nearer and I reached my destination for the day. I was now in Madkot. On the very first look it felt like a very charming place. To my surprise the town was quite big and had many guesthouse and restaurants. I found a nice place in the bazaar and parked the car at a safe place.
There was an attractive restaurant in the bazaar run by a couple. I asked them to cook egg curry for me. It was full moon night. The moon was out there in full glory. Few drinks under that milky sky was absolutely amazing. The stars looked like big florescent bulbs and walking under them, felt like I was in heaven. It was a moment of sheer joy…….bliss.
Thanks S Ali Mehndi Zander brother for suggesting this place to me!!!