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

As we navigated our way through the higher reaches of the Kumaon Himalayas (close to the border with Tibet), our minds got puzzled with 2 thoughts  – a drive that was surely adventurous but combined with traces of anxiety (we drove along a narrow unkept road that didn’t allow any margin for error, down below the ravine was an unknown and dark world, too deep and steep to measure) and other, the grandeur of the surroundings that was slowly and slowly unleashing before us and pulling us closer like a magnet. The pull of this invisible force was strong enough to keep us moving through this mystical land.

I welcome the readers to the 2nd part of the Darma valley experience. We start this journey at Sobla village (gateway to Darma). In case you missed the 1st part, you may refer to this link (click here).

Route followed through Darma Valley

It was a steep incline beyond Sobla. Often, our Jeep squeaked as the tyres rolled over (with jerks) the water-logged potholes that had sprouted everywhere on the road. And at places, the road didn’t exist , and we found our vehicle gliding in the streams (sometimes they were turbulent too). But the unfolding landscape (and the mist playing mischief over the mountain slopes) had smitten us badly enough to pay any notice to the road condition. And so, we continued.

The circuitous road continued, and we found the elevation rising with every puff of smoke released by our vehicle. Sometimes the rainfall would be heavy and then suddenly it would stop, allowing us a window to thrust our necks out to absorb the vividness of the milieu.

Sobla, Dar, Vongling and Urthing villages form part of the lower Darma valley region. Once we arrived at Urthing, the landscape had transformed itself. Tall rocky cliffs with patches of snow on the upper reaches. The air was cold and moving, and in the process, it created a rumbling sound.

There was a small restaurant at Urthing village, and we broke our journey to have a meal. The owner of the restaurant (Mal Devi Selal) prepared a simple meal of dal and rice for us. She had a disarming smile and happily shared the everyday life of people in the region. Behind the walls of the restaurant, Darma Ganga River tumbled at a steep angle over the boulders and the noise produced in the process melded with the sound of the air. Occasionally a vehicle passed-by on the road, otherwise Urthing gave an impression of a complete forlorn place.

The next village (2 kms ahead) was Sela, and this marked our entry into the upper Darma valley region. The main village is nestled across the river on another mountain but from the roadhead we got a good glimpse of it.

We continued our journey and crossed a few other villages until Baling. If you observe any village here, they all have almost the same appearance. Houses with slate roofs, white plaster on the walls adorned by green or blue doors, all huddled together.

Beyond Baling, we observed that the valley was becoming broader. The river was now not visible to the naked eyes, and you could only guess its likely location. Another 6 kilometres of drive led us closer to our destination for the day. As we approached Dugtu village, our eyes scanned the entire landscape, and we observed numerous villages dotting the valley.  The villages of Dugtu – Son – Dantu – Goe – Bon are in vicinity of each other.

We got our first view of Dantu village (our end destination) at the turn that led us to the outskirts of Dugtu Village. Dantu and Dugtu villages (perched on hills facing each other) are divided by a small rivulet (Lesser Yankti) that originates from the glacier at the base of the Panchachuli massif.

Dantu is a large village by the local standards and our arrival coincided with a local festival (of the Rung community) that takes place once in 8 years (locally known as ‘Athwaan’). We were truly lucky and honoured to have witnessed the local culture and tradition of this region.

There are numerous homestays in the villages here and it will not be difficult to find one for yourself. We stayed overnight at a homestay named ‘The Himalayan Bluesheep’ run by Bhupesh Datal. For INR 1,000/- per person/day you get accommodation and all meals, which is quite reasonable in my opinion.

Our visit took place just before the onset of the monsoon, however, in these areas, rains are a regular affair, and they arrive at their own free will. After a heavy downpour, the weather cleared (to an extent) and the daylight gave way to the approaching darkness. Strings of clouds were visible across the Panchachuli peaks, that were trying to make an appearance from a distance.

It was celebration time for the people of Dantu village and the events continued through the night. And for us, it was a conclusion of a perfect day in Darma.

I conclude the post with a saying in the local rung dialect of Darma valley – ‘Gegu Jainu Lilo’ – which translates as best wishes.

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