Today’s target was to cross over from the Ata Gad river to the Nayar river valley across the Tikhani Khal, at 2700m a 1700m ascent from the river below. I had a peaceful sleep at the closed school at Benoli Gaon. The weather cleared out at night from thundering, wind and rain the previous evening. The skies lit up deep orange as the sun rose in the East.
I got up at 7am as usual, packed up my cosy warm Bluebolt quilt and was on my way. I started walking along the road contouring towards the stream flowing down from the pass. I was lucky to hitch a short ride in a packed share jeep till the stream. Had some tea and chowmin in a small dhaba before starting of along a deserted ghat road going up along the stream.
A bit higher the road started contouring and I got into a nice rock path leading up in the valley. Near the scenic village of Kirsal I took a left in a less frequented trail towards the Ginon Khal pass at 2200m. After seeing the beauty of the path beyond Kirsal in the main valley I got tempted to explore this longer valley leading up to the higher Tikhani Khal pass.
I U turned towards Kirsal where a gathering of locals invited me for tea. Curious as usual about where, what and how. After tea followed yummy home made small fluffy rottis with a juicy palak sabji. Tasted heavenly. I was now energized for the rest of the day. A beautiful rock path continued along the stream in the gradual ascending valley.
Periodic farming hamlets surrounded by terrace farms dotted the valley. Locals were turning heads spotting the foreign solo traveler, the first outsider to visit this lesser known corner of Uttarakhand. The path passes through the hamlets of Panga and Bisauna. The entire Hamlet is made up of uniform traditional rock homes with hay stacks on the roof.
A beautiful cobbled rock path leads all the way up to the Tikhani Khal at 2700m. Fresh snow is deposited near the pass during last night’s bad weather. After crossing the pass I come across locals escavating sand from within the mountain slope for home construction purposes. Similar to mining of river sand in valleys.
Fairly high up at 2400m altitude I touch the first village of Dobri connected by road. An ancient cave temple is situated on top of the village. A local villager invites me over for a cup of chai which I eagerly accept after burning calories climbing up thousand meters from my night halt. I take in the beautiful valley view from the terrace of the home.
After descending into the valley through the dirt road I cross the stream and hop onto another rock path that contours up on the left side taking me across a ridge to the larger settlement of Tila. The village has two different sections: the old heritage rock homes built from natural materials and the modern homes built with concrete walls and metal roofs.
I find a small shop and gobble up a few bananas and ladoos, feeling hungry mid day. A group of young boys from the village are excited to follow me as I continue my way along the contouring rock path that climbs across a second ridge and then steeply drops into the valley below near the hamlet of Khand Talla. This valley runs up to the second pass of Ginon Khal at 2200m.
The valley is really scenic with farm lands squeezed between the stream and the virgin forest higher up the valley slope. Small hamlets periodically dotted in between. A road runs up to the pass. I drop into the valley and follow the heritage trail to Khand Malla, a beautiful, larger settlement. As predicted in the forecast it starts raining lightly and – combined with the higher altitude – it feels cold.
I take shelter in s small road side dhaba where samosa’s are getting ready on the fire. I charge up my phone and indulge in the steaming hot samosa’s until the cold rain outside slightly reduces. It s 4pm and another 5K to the pass. I put on my rain jacket and proceed through s light drizzle along the road through the eye pleasing scenic valley.
Workers and JCB’s are frantically busy putting fiber in the ground to connect the newly installed JIO tower connecting this virgin valley to the world. It now starts snowing thick flakes as I reach the pass above the pristine jungle below. I continue my descend along the road into the same valley I climbed out in the morning.
Rain intensifies towards dusk as I drop into a steep trail that gets me 500m down into the valley to the village of Kirsal where I was treated on breakfast this morning. I push to make it before darkness falls hoping the locals will recognize me. I walk through the village and find the home of a friendly retired army man who is happy to see me back and invites me into his home.
Seeing me soaking wet and cold he gets me into a cosy room with warm blankets. Hot tea with tiger biscuits defrost the body soon followed by a yummy home cooked dinner after a 41km long day with 2000m elevation gain on a breakfast and two samosa’s… Fluffy rottis, dhal, veg sabji and sweet curd go in smoothly to replenish the lost calories…