A pristine valley called Darma (1/2) | Pithoragarh

As I look through the vast expanse of land split by this gigantic and fierce river gushing down the mountain, I question how the life would differ on the 2 sides, the left one, where I stand, falling in India and the one on the right in Nepal. A flock of birds suddenly cross overhead, indifferent to the borders, proudly gliding from one side to the other without the fear or need to produce any passport of sorts.  They rather have freedom to navigate the world on their own with no questions asked. Mountains piercing through the blue sky embellished with some scattered clouds (not the ones that create any trouble) and a gentle warm breeze greets us as we stop somewhere close to Jauljibi , an ancient town on the Pithoragarh – Dharchula highway. A long (but interesting) journey lay ahead.

I welcome my readers to this post as I take you through an exciting trip to a pristine (high-altitude) valley called Darma. The trip starts at Pithoragarh (a remote district in Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region) and concludes at Dantu Village in Darma valley.

The entire journey is divided into 2 parts.

Part1 of 2 Explores the journey from Pithoragarh until Sobla (the gateway to Darma valley). We shall cover part1 in this post.

Part2 of 2Presents the journey through the Darma valley eventually concluding at a tiny idyllic village called Dantu

Pithoragarh (earlier known as Saur Patti) has historically been a centre of commercial activity in this region. It is a remote district (geographically) located in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand bordering Nepal. Over the years, the town has grown beyond recognition and is huge by any standards of a hill station.

We started early from Pithoragarh, onwards to Dharchula, covering approx. 100 kilometres. The road is excellent for majority of the stretch, while work on road-expansion can be seen beyond Jauljibi.

Enroute, we crossed Askote, also famous for its wildlife sanctuary and for being the capital of an erstwhile Kingdom in and around the 13th century. The weather here is excellent throughout the day, thanks to the thriving green forests. It is a paradise for wild animals and some interesting high-altitude birds.

We snaked down the circuitous road from Askote and arrived at the ancient town of Jauljibi. The Gori River (coming from the Munsyari region) meets the mightier Kali River here. Jauljibi is famous for its grand fair (happens in the month of November each year). The fair has been taking place here from times immemorial.

From here and until the diversion (for Darma valley) at Tawaghat, Kali River continued its journey alongside the highway, mesmerizing us with its beauty and might. Kali forms the international border between India and Nepal.

Dharchula is the remotest block of Pithoragarh district and is a major commercial hub in this region. It is a vibrant town and is also frequented by people from the Nepal side (the town just across the Kali River in Nepal is Darchula , without the letter h).

One can stop at Dharchula for a while and scramble down the bridge that divides the 2 countries and take a short walk on the other side of the border. The border is guarded by BSF on our side. You need to show any Govt. approved ID card to cross the bridge (Passports are not mandatory for Indian citizens).

The journey beyond Dharchula was adventurous and up-hill and the roads were certainly not in a great condition (although the road expansion work was in full swing).

We took a detour at Tawaghat and drove along the Dhauli Ganga river that comes all the way from Darma valley. The other road at Tawaghat can lead one to Chaudas Valley and/or the Byans Valley. This is the traditional route to Kailash Mansarovar.

The road condition was bad and after a few kilometres of driving and with hints of pain in the back, we crossed Chirkila Dam, a small hydro-power project over the Dhauli Ganga river. Another 10 kilometres lead us to Kanchyoti Waterfall. It was huge and despite being so far away from the fall, we found ourselves drenched.  

Further ahead lead us to Sobla, the gateway to Darma Valley. As we approached this tiny village, we sensed a different vibe all-together. The weather suddenly changed, the wind got intense, it started to feel cold, the tree-line receded and somewhere in the distance the snow peaks made an appearance. Just the way I had pictured Darma in the pastures of my mind.

I would pause here and let you soak in the experience of Part1. My next blog will present the entire journey through the Darma Valley.  

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