I am not a stickler for village walks. For one, the outskirts are too alluring; seldom have I trawled the rural surrounds (looking for birds or avoiding turds) without sighing longingly at that peak on the horizon, the ridgelines piously winding their way up and across the stony shoulders. On the other hand, the image of that jungle fowl just racing across your unaware path juxtaposed into the evening melee of a campfire (if you get the hint), and who wouldn’t want to camp right there and then.
But adrenaline is not the poison one partakes on marital backdrops, and it is only fair that one relents to the leisurely demands of the better half, which are not deemed so on almost every incline, but rarely does one not acclimatized to the pedestrian ways balk in horror at the monotony of a descent.
Badagaon, or ‘gran’ as the locals would have it, is one those ‘getting away from the fringe’ villages of the Himalayas, where the roads are slowly seeping in, drawing away the working class to the urban pastures below, as their parent wistfully stare into that snow top, the expanse of Bada Bhangal but an excruciating ‘jot’ (mountain pass) away. The village is a part of the Chota Bhangal region as the Uhl descends down frivolously to meet Beas at Mandi.
The hemp trade is long gone, and so is the age of royalty… the ‘gharat’ (water-mill) still runs strong though, right at the entrance of the village. I am a staunch believer in the fact that any village which has an operational ‘gharat’ still has a lot of its soul intact, and as a rule of thumb one will observe more traces of traditional architecture and farming as well as a more rustic social fabric in these precincts.
The Barot Valley in general is very rich in its agrarian produce, the potato variety of Badagon very coveted locally, as is the kidney beans of Rajgundha. An hour of tramping through the fields led us to a small bridge atop Uhl river, rising near Thamsar Jot not very far ahead. Another hour of a gentle incline lands one at Rajgundha village, the older royal seat, now a patch of brown fields left fallow for the winters, most of the locals already having descended to Bir or Barot for the winters.
The Bada Bhangal trail, and from a broader viewpoint, this part of Himachal, still has a lot of ‘gaddi’ (shepherd nomads) population, and we found a lot of retreating traffic. The trail from Rajgundha village widens up to a jeepabale road that goes upto Billing, which makes the hike rather mundane if not for the canopy, the typical subalpine conifer vegetation with its invisible twitters and chirps – a grey hooded warbler at measly shutter speeds was all I could manage.
‘Chana’ is the last settlement on the hike before Billing, and it is literally a cakewalk from hereon. The unique thermals around this region imply an almost year round mist in the area every afternoon. Billing is hyperactive with the preparation of the paragliding world cup, the apathy and corruption of polity in all of its resplendent display.
Looking at the winter-line as the valleys prep up on the neon below, one can safely surmise this is a much better way to the paragliding hub rather than the mundane drive up from Bir (although it does involve the two hourm drive from Bir to Badagaon in the morning).—Parth Joshi0