PART I

Quietly tucked away in the blanket of fog and enrapturing beauty deep within the Himalayas, way beyond the Banjar valley in Himachal Pradesh, I happened upon a place; a place that gave me long lost peace and satisfaction, that I failed to find in the city life of Delhi; a place that seemed like to be coming out of a fairytale or childhood dreams; a place that I came to call my second home. It’s a small village called BIJJAL in SAINJ VALLEY, where I was accompanied by a passionate bike-rider friend Mubarak Khan, who is also a full time traveler and I will be following him around places he would take me to. Clear enough as it must be, I was a pillion rider here and to be honest- my first long pillion ride and trust me when I say this, long bike rides are not as fun as they may seem. Although, it was definitely adventurous.

With two huge backpacks on the carrier of our bike, we started our journey early in the morning from Noida and with a pit stop in Bilaspur, we reached ROPA, Sainj the next day in the noon. The journey was extremely tiring and painful, but the monsoon rains made it all worthwhile. Our host Raj ji, who was waiting for us in Ropa, had been calling us continuously to know about our whereabouts. After reaching Ropa, Mubarak parked his bike in front of the PWD guesthouse, Great Himalayan National Park, and said the bike can’t go any further as the road ahead is very risky for bikes with all the luggage, especially during the rains. This 3 kms distance in the taxi that I took with Raj ji, felt more thrilling and adventurous than the 450 kms distance from Delhi to Ropa. The road was so treacherous and narrow that at every turn I peeked outside the window to ensure the tires are still on the road. After around 40-45 minutes, we reached Bijjal. It was evening by now and Raj ji’s wife Tanu ji has prepared a delicious meal for us already. The entire family gathered for the meal and we enjoyed our Dal, roti, bhindi (okra) with extra desi ghee over a long chitchat session. It felt like I was having dinner with my own family. Besides, how can I forget Raj ji’s exquisite sense of humor that would make something that might be offensive to certain people seem so funny and adorable. He spoke with such innocence and is a very curious man. We were all sitting and talking about our journey’s and people we’ve met when suddenly Raj ji’s curiosity about people of color filled the room with laughter.

The next morning, I woke up early to see sunrise, but quite contrary to my expectation it was very cloudy that day, and the sun didn’t rise until late. But the calmness in the surroundings with the chirping of the birds and the sweet flowy aroma of the hemp nearby bewitched me.

We got our hiking daypacks ready and left for yet another isolated and untouched place where a local fair is going to be held. In the process, we walked, talked, hitchhiked a mini-truck, ate walnuts fresh from the tree that was even slightly ripe but toothsome, clicked pictures of butterflies & flowers and many beautiful landscapes and did many more things about which I can keep going on if I want to, but let’s just leave it here…

After about three and a half hours of hiking, we reached our destination MAJHAAN, which was as Raj ji said could have taken around 5 hours for non-pahaadi’s like me and Mubarak, but we, according to him outdid ourselves. A little praise here and there is always motivating…Hahaha

The village was surrounded by beautiful corn vegetation and the infamous cannabis sativa plants were growing everywhere. A lot of people from the nearby villages has come for the fair and the atmosphere was very festive. Seeing the camera in our hands, the kids surrounded us giggling. A hubbub of laughter and shouting was created. We clicked many pictures while watching the preparations for the festival. The ladies were getting ready for their cultural performances, the aromas from the freshly made snacks; jalebis and pakodas and whatnot! We treated ourselves with fresh pakodas and jalebis and waited for the festival to get started, enjoying ourselves in this beautiful village amidst Himalayas where everyone was inquisitive and welcoming to see us unlike the most destinations in Himalayas that are overcrowded with tourists.

I’ve seen tens of blogs and articles about unexplored and hidden places in the Himalayas, but it’s disappointing to see that not one of them mentions of these beautiful places. As the two of us were the only travelers in the region at that time, it felt so much different and extraordinary.

To read more about the continued journey of village Majhaan and the festivities and cultural performances, look out for the Part II of the blogpost Home Away from Home…

Fun Fact: Did you know Bijjal is one such place that doesn’t even show up on GOOGLE?

For homestays and travelling itineraries in Bijjal, Majhaan and the surrounding areas in Sainj valley; you can check out Offline Musafir or you can also contact me or leave me a comment below.

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