There are some places you visit which become so familiar to you from the very beginning that you feel like you have never moved, you are still in the comfort of your safe place.
Tirthan gave these vibes the moment I reached there. You can opine that perhaps it’s because of all that lovely, fresh air or the lush green of the meadows or the sheer beauty of the mighty Himalayas... but I have rarely felt so connected to a place right away.
The people I met there are all etched in my mind. They never felt like strangers but were an extension of my family.
The homestay I’d checked into would call and ask about my whereabouts when I had not reached on time as promised. They packed me lunch before I started on my 12-hour-long bus ride back to Delhi. The travellers I met invited me to their homes and almost planned the next trips with me.
Reaching Tirthan Valley on a bright sunny September morning on my first solo trip ever, I could feel the excitement deep in my veins. After an almost 12-hour bus ride from Delhi to Aut, exhaustion and a sleep-deprived state kicked in. But when my eyes rested on the submontane Himachali range, stunning green hills - a brilliant stark contrast to clear blue skies, and a pristine mountain river, all my tiredness just vanished.
Before embracing my first ever solo trip, I had done my fair share of research. Years of getting familiar with Himachal’s villages and trusting myself on the road also helped me to effortlessly plan my solo trip.
I needed very little resources to book an overnight bus ticket from Delhi’s Majnu-ka-Tila to Himachal’s Aut.
Aut is the commercial bus stop to reach Tirthan where you can avail a private car or local bus to reach the (almost an hour away) HRTC bus stop of Banjar. Upon reaching Banjar, you can take Himachal’s local lifeline, HRTC buses, or cabs to reach your desired destination. Mine was a quaint, rustic-looking beautiful homestay in Deori village and it was a 30-minute drive from the Banjar bus stop.
The homestay host had already given a detailed itinerary to help me reach and plan my transit in a hassle-free way. Keeping the itinerary handy, I took a local HRTC bus from Banjar bus stop to Deori bus stop.
Once the bus dropped me off at Deori, I was comforted by nature’s particular playfulness. The birds chirping in the morning and the gushing waterfall of a mountain river were exactly the welcome I needed.
The Google map showed me that it was a 12-minute walk from there to my stay. So, I decided to soak in the majestic views of Himalayan ranges and some autumn sunshine. While wandering, I spotted a small, local eatery right there and decided to ask them for directions.
They directed me to the two most helpful and sweet women who were coming my way, telling me that they worked in that same place and that I could just follow them.
They already knew about my arrival, and gave me the warmest smile and took me with them to the most beautiful and dreamy homestay I had ever been in.
Upon reaching my stay, I was welcomed with a scrumptious and filling breakfast spread out lavishly in front of me in my cottage. Breakfast, a nap, and some refreshment of caffeine later, I was on my way out to Jalori Pass.
Jalori Pass is a high-altitude, motorable point settled way above Jibhi and Banjar for which you can hire a taxi/ car to drive you up there. My homestay host was so thoughtful that she had already arranged a known and reliable guy with a cab to drive me up there.
The drive from Deori to Jalori Pass took roughly around one-and-a-half hours. In the entire drive, I longingly stared at the breathtaking views of the pine and cedar forests, mist-engulfed, snow-covered mountains while passing by rustic and wooded traditional Himachali homes and small villages, just enough to peek into the daily lives of Pahari people, wondering if life can be this simple yet so fulfilling ever in cities.
I had paired up the Jalori Pass walk with some freshly-served Maggi and piping hot tea available in one of the many small eating points. The entire valley from above looked lush green and magical. There was a soft breeze in the air, and, it was pleasantly quiet. I let my mind wander to Sylvia Plath’s words: I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery, air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, this is what it is to be happy.
Later, I was in a lazy mood, wanting to sip some good quality hot chocolate, read a book, and spend the evening cosying up in the cottage. I decided to follow the Google Map and check for the closest café for a quick visit.
Once I reached a nearby quaint wooden riverside cafe, my lazy intentions went right out of the window as I met some wonderful, sweet and most fun group of travellers. My initial plan of ‘just a hot chocolate evening’ turned out to be a starry, sleepover night with strangers-becoming-friends, listening to cool travel stories, great food, and a lifetime of memories.
The next day, after saying goodbye to everyone, I made my way back to Delhi, with an extremely happy, teeny-bit-heavy heart only to know that nestled in mountains, lies two homes where I can go without a second thought.
If you are craving a quaint, calm, and very non-commercial hilly place to visit, head out straight to Tirthan Valley. A riverside quiet retreat nestled on Himalayan mountains, Tirthan offers a soulful escape and a promise of connection to mother nature (dire need post lockdown). Located in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, the offbeat place welcomes everyone with a plethora of activities to indulge in, starting from trekking, fishing, exploring waterfalls, and wandering in the small hilly villages.
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