The little pup came running, rather tumbling behind us in the apple orchard blooming in the spring. We stepped towards our tent, and he wanted to come in. We decided to play with him right at the doorstep.
This was day 1 of our long weekend in Jibhi. On the eve of Good Friday, Bala and I boarded the bus to Manali. This usual event became an adventure when Bala came late, and had to literally run to catch the bus that had already left from Kashmere Gate. The rickety bus dropped us at Aut(junction between Kullu and Mandi) the next morning. What followed was an hour-long wait for our friend Ashish to arrive during which we ate Parathas at a roadside joint on the highway. Ashish came to a lot later, and I made a pact with three other travellers who were also going to Jibhi. The six of us got into an SUV that charged us 1400 bucks to drop us till Jibhi.
The Road to Jibhi
Travelling by the road beside Tirthan river took us about 1.5 hrs to reach Jibhi. Tirthan river originates near Gushaini, and beyond Banjar, the road takes a southward turn towards Jibhi and runs parallel along the blue stream that flows throughout Jibhi. The exciting part is that Google maps do not recognise this stream which is wide and fierce enough during the summers to scare men.
As we reached Jibhi, we quickly climbed down to the river bank to find ourselves a stay. This was a tent large enough for three people just beside the gushing stream, It was past mid-day already, and even though we wanted to explore the place, we had other tasks at hand that needed to be dealt with first. We got fresh and ordered our food at the restaurant of our stay. Meanwhile, Ashish had rolled a joint, and we smoked up lying on a boulder next to the stream. The sun shone bright, but the cool breeze brought the temperature to a perfect 21 degrees.
We had quite a heavy meal of local chicken curry, chapatis and more. Ashish went to rest after the meal, while Bala and I decided to take a walk around on the green mountains. A short walk, some chats with locals and a lot many photographs later, we came back to our tent and passed out of exhaustion. We woke up only when the staff came to us to take our order for dinner. It was 8.30pm already. We had no idea how hungry were we, and we ordered a lot of stuff.
It was pretty cold outside, and we were quite under-prepared for it. Bala and I had been to Himachal just a week before, and it was quite sunny. So, we were not expecting the temperature to go down to 5 degrees. I had carried no jacket and relied on layering a shirt over a tee. However, I soon realised that I had a lot more tolerance to cold than the guys from the South. It was an enjoyable cold for me whereas Ashish was freezing.
We could not even finish the starters that we had ordered. But food kept arriving at the table, and we battled against it. It was already 11.30 pm by now; we smoked up and went off to sleep.
The next morning, we wake up again to the call of the staff who had come there to take our order. He also had brought the special dish that he had promised. Though not Malana, the stuff was quite nice, and he charged 1500 bucks for a tola.
The Unplanned Day
We checked out after breakfast and started walking towards the market at Jibhi. Unclear of any plans, we inquired if we could get rental bikes. But there were only two scooties to avail, and it didn’t sound like a great idea to ride to Jalori pass on scooties. A bus turned up at the stop, but we could not catch it, as we could not run behind it. At this moment Ashish decided to part ways as he had to go back to Delhi for some work the same day itself, and he could not travel further.
Bala and I slowly moved around Jibhi looking at the beautiful peaks and the snow caps far away, close to Jalori Pass. We saw some lovely cottages and wooden homestays, but they were all already booked. Eventually, we found a place close to Jibhi waterfall called Om Shanti Guest House.
Local Festival in Jibhi
At this time, the locals had all decked up and were marching towards the Seshnaag temple on a hill-top. Local men were carrying chariots and palanquins of their village deities towards the temple, in a musical procession abuzz with drums and trumpets. The men wore a flower or brooch on their Himachali caps, and the women carried bunches of bright red rhododendron flowers in their hands. We joined the procession and reached Seshnaag temple. There was a large gathering here with priests and men taking charge of the festivities while women sat watching the rituals. A mela was scheduled after the procession for which the local vendors had found the right market. There were stalls selling edibles like Jalebi, pakoda, noodles, chat and ice-cream, along with toys and cosmetics.
Within an hour the deities from far off villages had arrived in for the annual congregation. On loud beats of drums and a synchronised tune of the trumpets, the village deities were given a round of the temple. Eventually, their palanquins were rested at the central platform of the temple.
The Unpredictable Mountain Rains
At this time, the rain gods too made their entry into the picture. It started pouring heavily, and everyone ran for shelter. Bala was wearing a raincoat and was fine, but I had to run around and find a roof on top of myself. It was a pretty sight though; the entire valley had turned greener after rains. We enjoyed the views from under the roof of the government school munching on Jalebis and Pakodas.
As soon as the rain turned into a drizzle, we ran towards our hotel which was just around the bend of the road. Soon enough, we were at Om Shanti cafe, having dried ourselves. By the time we ordered our lunch, it had started raining again, and not just water but ice-pellets too in the form of a hail-storm. Lucky that we hadn’t ventured too far from the place.
Ashish got to know that we were still in Jibhi and he joined us for another smoking session before he took his cab back to Aut. And like every other time, we passed out yet again, only to be woken up for dinner. After a light dinner, I took the blanket from the hotel, wrapped it around me, and walked outside. It was a pretty sight with the brightest moon of the year reflecting in the Jibhi stream. Our own place had lit up bonfires at different places where younger folks were singing romantic pahadi songs. I asked Bala to join, but he was too cold to venture out. We called it a day.
Next morning, I was too lazy to go far off, but Bala was all kicked up. He wanted to see the waterfalls, the hidden village, the frozen lake and Jalori Pass. I just wanted to dry my stinking socks. After breakfast, he launched himself for the waterfalls. I joined him later.
Jibhi waterfalls is a pretty little waterfall tucked away in narrow hills. The sunlight filters through the overgrown shrubs at the mouth of the waterfall, and reaches down below in fragments, resulting into beautiful rainbows. Pools have been constructed on the edges of the waterfall from where the water overflows forming rapids. Pretty, little wooden bridges have been placed throughout the channel making it look very pretty. From certain angles, I could see three rainbows simultaneously in front of the waterfall.
We were soon joined by a lot more people who decided to take a shower in the cold water. We were not impressed by the overpopulation there and moved out. We checked out from the hotel, and Bala and I had a small argument about going to Jalori. Eventually, we decided to travel solo. Bala found a bus going to Rampur which would drop him at Jalori Pass; I decided to take a photo walk of Jibhi.
Rambling in the Woods
I had a small lunch at Jungle House Resort in the market, and then I started walking towards Banjar. Jibhi town disappeared in just a few minutes, and I was walking on the highway amidst lush greenery occasionally interrupted by the bright red rhododendron flowers. It was a fun walk downhill on the serpentine, smooth road running between Jibhi to Banjar. I walked with a leisurely pace clicking pictures all around, sometimes getting down on the hills to click a flower or a butterfly.
A Narrow Escape
In two hours, I reached the Banjar bus stop. Bala had completed his return journey from Jalori, and he joined me in ten minutes. We boarded a bus towards Aut that ran on a road parallel to Tirthan river. At Aut Tirthan and Sainj rivers joined Beas flowing from Kullu. A huge reservoir stood here. Police officers stopped our bus for checking, and after a shallow check, they let the bus go.
Ending the Trip at Mandi
We changed the bus at Aut to get into another one going towards Mandi. The bus ran parallel to Beas river and a vertical cliff next to it. The cliff had the most exciting vegetation. At the lower ranges, there were date palm trees, quite alien to the Himalayan region; the next layer consisted of full blooming purplish Kachnar trees. The next one with shrubs and occasional rhododendrons; and the top of the cliff with alpine silver fir and cedar; all on the 300-metre cliffs of the I-shaped valley that Beas flows through between Aut and Pandoh. There were some gorgeous waterfalls also here and there, plunging from the top of the cliffs into the river. Unfortunately, I could not manage to take pictures from a moving bus.
Having reached Mandi, we walked down to sit on the boulders that lay on the bank of the less fierce Beas that has been tamed by the dam at Pandoh. The water flowed gently on the flat grounds of the valley in Mandi. We spent our evening at the bank and later visited the Gurudwara close to the bus stand at Mandi. We went for dinner to Shera restaurant where they were playing the IPL match between CSK and RCB. By 9.30 pm, we boarded a Volvo bus back to Delhi, as the long weekend came to an end.