It was a peaceful night in my Bluebolt solo tent on the rooftop of a small dhaba in the outskirts of Narayan Bagar above the Pindari river. Woke up by 7am, packed up my gears and went down to the dhaba for s cup of chai and a few cream rolls. Packed up one omelette burger for the day ahead.
Today s plan was a long ridgeline traverse across the Balam Khal and Benital lake to the Ata Gad river valley. A solid 1700m climb out of the Pindari river valley across 35km. I crossed the Pindari river and immediately got into a nice rock path above the town of Narayan Bagar. The path hair pins up through nice forest and several small settlements.
The path passes through the picturesque hamlet of Bhagwati and periodically cuts the hair pins of a parallel road. Higher up I pass through a school along the ridgeline and meet several groups of kids on their way to class. Further up I touch the hamlet of Chhaikura where a friendly elder man invites me for tea and breakfast. Yummy rottis with aloo palak sabji.
I continue my ascent along a nice pathway following the ridgeline. I pick up 5 oranges fallen on the path, a juicy refreshment. The path now contours right below the ridge before passing through yet another hamlet. From here it climbs across the ridge from lush green forest on the Northern slope to barren dry grass on the South slope.
We cross the road which hops across the ridge. The rock path now contours left along the South facing valley slope passing through several scenic hamlets. Few hamlets are made up of heritage look alike homes, a beautiful sight. Near the last settlement the rock path climbs up steeply to the ridge above and enters virgin forest.
Two paths go forward and I pick the one matching my Survey map. It s a less frequent trail which contours on the North facing slope and soon fades out into the dense forest. I decide to climb back up to the top of the ridgeline where I find a clearer trail. Still nothing compared to the luxury of a wide rock path leaving no ambiguity in the right track.
After a few kms I hit the Balam Khal pass at 2300m altitude. A clear rock path now appears and takes me to the Beni Tal lake which is a dry swamp completely burned and black, a sad appearance in winter. I continue Northwest along the ridgeline which gradually descends to the first village above the Ata Gad river valley. I grab a cup of black tea in a small shop.
With no dhaba around and the locals pointing me to Nauti on the opposite side of the valley for food I descend to the river and start a 600m ascent towards my dinner at 4pm. A frequented trail climbs up through serene forest cutting the hair pins of a parallel road not on my map. I notice a car passing by and hitch a ride to save time. The driver drops me at Benoli Gaon where I plan to walk towards Nauti.
As I pass through the hamlet I notice a small dhaba and happily settle down for the day. Chowmin, tea, cream rolls and the lost calories are compensated. The skies turn dark in the evening with thunder, heavy wind and finally rain after nearly a month of blue skies. A friendly local offers me a room to stay for the night which I happily accept.