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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Khirsu -the nature lover's delight

Visiting Khirsu
Khirsu village
We started for Khirsu in the morning, albeit late as we had a refreshing nights sleep and having had a filling B’fast of piping hot Puri & Subzi, we started at around 10.30 A.M. We first made our way down to the junction, from where the road bifurcates towards Pauri & Kotdwar and embarked on our journey towards Pauri. The road, through well maintained & carpeted, was narrow and very winding, which elevated the nauseating feeling of my daughter & wife and we had to drive at a slow speed and also stop at places. This road continues the downhill ride upto Satpuli village, which is situated by the side of Nayar River. This place was earlier located on the other side of the river and being a midpoint between Kotdwar (54 Kms.) & Pauri (52 Kms.), it was the ideal midway break point and was known as ‘Maachi Bhaat’ (meaning Fish curry) because of the staple food that used to served here during lunch by the road side eatery. However, due to devastating floods in 1952 the entire village was badly damaged with huge loss of life & property, the village shifted to its present location. This urbanized village boasts of Banks, ATMs, Hospital & Petrol pump, facilities that a tourist may like to use.
(1)Ghumkhal (2) Satpuli (3) Nayar River valley

Due to heavy flooding in 2010, a entire portion of the Highway was damaged near Satpuli, which has now been repaired partly. After going past Satpuli, the road runs along the Nayar River with a very gradual ascent. Traversing a distance of 18 kms., brings you to the temple village of ‘Jwalpa Devi’ that houses a shrine dedicated to Goddess Durga, it is every well known & revered by the locals, who come to visit it from far & wide, thus making it a highly active locality. Thereafter, the road starts to ascend at steeper gradient heading towards Pauri, but in between we found a road marking showing Pauri (38 Kms.) we got onto this side road, but found it quite narrow and winding.On enquiring from the local residents/laborers working at the road site, we were informed that the road was shorter by about 6 Kms. but narrower & much more winding than the main road, the driver decided that it would be best that we made it through the main highway and accordingly, with great difficulty, reversed the vehicle back to the main road and commenced with our journey.On this route you pass by many nondescript little villages like Gumkhal etc., till you reachBubakhal, wherefrom the road bifurcates, one going towards Pauri and the other turning away towards Khirsu.
(1)Jwalpa Devi temple; (2) Pauri town

Having negotiated past Bubakhal, we looked at our watches, which showed 2.15 P.M., since we have had practically no solid food from the time we had left Lansdowne at 10.30 A.M. we were feeling a bit famished. We had failed to spot any decent eatery either at Satpuli (road side) or Jwalpa Devi or even at Bubakhal. We had no other alternative but to push ahead towards Khirsu. It is a lonely road and very traffic could be seen and the road was winding through some verdant forests of Oaks. All of a sudden we chanced upon a small village and as we were negotiating past an oncoming Jeep, we saw a small tea shop displaying Magi noodles and we decided to stop and enquire. The shopkeeper readily agreed to prepare some Magi noodles and tea for us, but as we were really famished I started rummaging around his little shop and found that he had prepared a pot full of boiled eggs and instantly asked as to whether they were for sale too, which he replied to in affirmative. We ordered three eggs, as my children declined the offer, since the boiled eggs in Delhi come out really dry, but we took one bite of these boiled eggs and found them to be smooth & divine, eggs being of local origin and not from poultry. We immediately ordered him to prepare the Maggi noodles with eggs in them to enhance the taste. It takes time to boil water in the colder & higher altitudes and we had to wait for some time, which seemed like eons, but as soon it was served we all devoured our plates in matter of minutes, fully satiated. During the course of discussion, while the shopkeeper was busy preparing our meal, it was revealed that we had stopped by at the village of Gwarh and it was known for the ‘Ghandiyal Devta’ temple on the hill top, the temple is known as Jai Shri Ghantakarna Swami temple. He further informed that the peculiarity of this temple that no red coloured object, be it cloth or vermilion etc. is allowed as offering in the temple, thus the locals offer turmeric or other yellow coloured cloth etc. as offering to the deity of the temple is Lord Shiva. Thereafter, passing through Chaudatakhal village we reached Khirsu at about quarter to four in the evening.
(1)Khirsu village - Panoramic view; (2) Khirsu valley by night; (3) Birds galore - (i)Great Tit; (ii) Red beaked blue Magpie; (iii) Oriental white eye; (iv) Could not identify; (v) Himalayan Bulbul & (v) Blue whistling thrush








Road towards Khirsu deviates from the main road which leads towards Srinagar and is a steep downhill incline and only wide enough to accommodate one vehicle at a time. The Guest House run by GMVN (Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam) in Khirsu is situated below the Primary Health Centre and about 300 meters away from the main village centre. The view of the valley is magnificent from this spot and with a big lawn in front, it is an ideal location for spending a few idyllic days in the lap of nature. Khirsu is surrounded by protected forest reserves and conservation is strictly enforced, this has not only helped the forests grow, but also forced the local villagers to plant trees (mainly Oaks – locally known as Banjh) on their own soil so that they can use the same for cattle fodder & firewood, thus increasing the tree cover considerably. Being in the lap of nature, without much of manmade environment pollutants, the place was intensely cold and by the time we entered the premises it had started to drizzle. The setting was perfect and we ordered some Pakoras (fried snacks) & Coffee and enjoyed the same sitting in the open verandah, imbuing the vistas. As it was drizzling, we had no other choice but to confine ourselves into our rooms. As it was getting windy & colder by the hour, we had early dinner at around 8.15 P.M. having ordered local chicken, which we devoured like possessed souls and retired for the night.
(1) Majestic Kedarnath peaks at sunrise; (2) Chaukhamba peaks peeping from behind the clouds; (3) Kedarnath peaks again & (4) Snowcapped hills

I got up early next morning to catch a glimpse of the Himalayan ranges and found a thin layer of white snow covering the entire valley including the lawns of the Guest House, but it could be ground frost also but in copious amount. I got a few shots of the Kedarnath ranges with sunrise setting in, but gradually the cloud cover started increasing and the entire ranges were subsequently covered by it. We had been informed by Sh. U.S Rawat, Manager of GMVN at Khirsu that just before reachingFurkandakhal, on the road leading to Dabrukhal, there was a hairpin bend wherefrom a jungle road led to a forest department viewing gallery and from there the entire Himalayan ranges could be viewed. After having B’fast we headed for this destination, but overshot the bend as there was no placard or direction board and reached the junction from where the main road led to Dabrukhal and side road to Shukre, we enquired from a local villager and he informed us that it was the last bend before reaching the junction, wherefrom we retraced our way back and then found the obscure jungle path leading to the viewing gallery/watchtower. The approach to the watchtower was through the forest path, which appeared not to be frequently used, to get to the top of the watchtower one has to go through two flights of stairs, albeit a bit precarious and all except me backed out of the proposition to climb to the top, though eventually the Driver too gathered strength to climb up, but had a harrowing experience climbing down. The views of the valley below as well as Khirsu village were breathtaking from this spot, but due to the dense cloud cover I could not catch a glimpse of theHimalayas. But I would like the viewers to enjoy the scenic beauty that unfolds here and accordingly I am providing a link of a photograph from blogs of Astroaditya for the readers -http://www.ghumakkar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/P1010119.jpg. Although I was a bit disappointed but the walk back through the Oak & Rhododendron forests, with little trees of Rhododendrons type putting forth clusters of small white flowers & other flora elevated my spirits.Thereafter, we headed for Chaudatakhal so that we could visit ‘Ulkha Giri’ temple, but found that the uphill road passing through dense forest was glistening with ground frost and we decided not to embark on the trek as slipping on this slithery surface was quite possible, resulting in some kind of injury in this desolate place. It was almost about 1.15 P.M. when we reached back the Guest House and we all had a working lunch of Rajama (Kidney beans) & Rice, as per our order placed in the morning itself.
(1) Sign Post; (2) Furkandakhal forest viewing gallery - jutting out of the forest canopy;(3) Ghandiyal Devta temple; (4) A huge fungi on a tree trunk; (5) Oranges growing on a tree in the village; (6) A typical village from Gharwal; (7) Chaudatta Khal Village; (8) Road leading to Ulkha Giri temple - check out the ground frost; (9) Ulkha Giri temple gate & (10) Khirsu valley panoramic view












After lazing around in the Sun in the lawns of the GMVN, Khirsu we decided to walk down to the villages below to have a better look at the houses & village life there. We walked down the steep sloping road and the children were excited to see the local Roosters & Hen of varied colours, unlike the white poultry chickens they see in Delhi and found it particularly interesting that ladies in sarees were aptly climbing trees. The return back was quite tiresome, as we are not used to climb steep slopes and straightaway went to Khirsu village market and had some tea and Namkeens (Indian snacks). Thereafter, we headed into the nature park created by the forest department and we were enthralled to find a plethora of birds frolicking all around and I quickly took out my camera and started shooting as many as I could. I was headed towards the periphery in search of more birds, when a sudden grunting sound stopped me in my tracks and I decided not to explore any further into the jungle area. There is a nature camp run by Rachna NGO - www.homeinthehimalayas.org – contact person Mr. Sampat (Tel.Nos.09917179799/09997810436) where one can stay for night in tented accommodation, with all amenities provided, for Rs.1000/- per night. The complex is fenced all around, we found patches of land ploughed up outside the camp perimeter by wild hogs. It would definitely be a place for nature lovers, to enjoy a few nights, amongst the pristine environs of a forest.There are birds galore in Khirsu and even while sitting in the lawns of the GMVN, Khirsu one can sight many a species of birds, it is nature lovers paradise and a must visit for every such enthusiast.
(1) Snowfall over the treeline over Khirsu - on the day we were leaving; (2) Another view of Pauri town - during return trip; (3) Deoprayag; (4) Kaudilya water adventure camps; (5) Passing by Rishikesh & (6) Passing by Haridwar

The next morning we got up and found that the weather by then had started deteriorating quickly and we decided that it would be wiser to move through Pauri to Devprayag and head back to Delhi via Rishikesh & Haridwar rather than risk the route through Lansdowne & Kotdwar, as the roads from Pauri-Devprayag side are wider & less winding as compared to the other route, in the hill section. We calculated that the time it would take, for us to reach Kotdwar, would be much more than what it would take us to reach Rishikesh and thereafter, we could make up for the distance by traveling faster in the plains. However, our plans were put paid to, because of the intense traffic between Haridwar to Muzzafarnagar and then from Ghaziabad to Delhi, we traveled for 12 hours, with usual short breaks for Lunch & tea and having started from Khirsu at 9.15 A.M. in the morning reached Delhi at 9.10 P.M in the night. But all the difficulties were worth bearing for the memorable trip we had.
© S Roy Biswas - all rights reserved.
To a watch the video for the destination -

© S. Roy Biswas – All rights reserved

5 comments:

  1. Dear S.Roy Biswas,
    What a wonderful blog! Just loved it! I can see the love and effort you have put into creating this blog.. mentioning each minute detail, so nicely & very interestingly..
    At first we were very indecisive as to where to go for a nice, peaceful vacation but your words cleared our dilemma and helped us decide that Khirsu it is! :)
    The pictures you have clicked are just amazing, so beautiful..

    We all spend a lovely vacation in an exotic place, are super excited before going there, even more super duper excited reaching there, promise to write a review on that place so that it could help others and in turn promote & bring that place in notice of others.. but as the days pass we often feel lazy doing so..

    But the effort you have put into it shows the love & dedication you have for our Mother Nature & our lovely India.. Really! Sharing is Caring, Indeed! You shared your journey with us which shows you cared enough to share your happiness so that the magic of that happiness spreads everywhere.. & see that magic caught us & here I am writing you & feeling so Happy :D

    Keep up the good work!
    Will always look forward for your blog when in need & also without need just to travel with you through your words & beautiful pictures ..

    Take care..
    keep smiling.. :)
    God Bless..
    s h a z i a . . :)

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  2. good blog; would have been better,if final recommendation on route,departure time,stay,eataries would have been there. I know the obvious reply would be- Wanderers only find it and what is the fun if u r not exploring anything on yr own.
    Anyway loved it

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  3. While returning from Khirsu, you can come to Kotdwar via Satpuli and dont have to go to Lansdowne again. This save about 100 Kms than Via Rishikesh route.

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