THERE are several passes through the watershed that separates the Ravi valley from that of the Chenab—the Kugti, the Kalicho, the Chobia—the latter being least used due to its technical difficulties as well as the superstition that prevails in the area.

My plan was to complete the circuit of Pathankot, Chamba, Brahmaur— (Chobia Pass) —Triloknath, Kirting, Tandi, Manali, Pathankot, using the bus for most of the part and trekking from Brahmaur to Kirting.

At Brahmaur I appointed Chaturam and Karamchand as two porters and for a trial as well as a training spin I decided to spend a few days up the Mani Mahesh nala to the lake at the head of the glacier which is guarded by the famous Chamba Kailas (18,556 ft.).

Starting around 8-30 a.m. on 9 October, we reached Ala village at about 10 a.m. Ala is about a thousand feet above the Budhil nala (on which Brahmaur stands), surrounded by forests. Harser was reached by noon, and Ghoi by early afternoon—here we stayed in a farm house for the night.

10 October: We were off to an early start (by 5.00 a.m.) still through jungle till we came to the grassy uplands of Dhancho. From the Dhancho Rest House we crossed the Mani Mahesh nala on to its right bank and traversed a steep slope to Gaurikund which was reached at about 10-30 a.m. After a brief rest we proceeded to Mani Mahesh by the side of the lake where a Rest House for pilgrims has been built. After a short break for lunch we descended to Dhancho and finally at about 4-30 p.m. we were back in Ghoi.

11 October: started off at 6 a.m. and breakfasted at Harser. We crossed the Budhil nala over a log bridge and almost immediately started ascending—Valmin village is a mere 500 ft. above the river. We obtained some valuable advice from the headman of the village, who also showed us the correct path upto and through the jungle that lay beyond. One could notice clearly the fresh signs of bear and other wild animals. After the dense forest the path opened up somewhat and from where one could stare at the peaks of Bara Kanda. That night we slept in the open under an overhanging rock—the sound of the Chobia naia serenaded the tired bodies to sleep.

Photo Plates 30 and 31.

12 October: Luckily no rain fell during the night—we were off by 9.35 a.m. after a largish breakfast. We crossed over to the right bank of the nala—and after a short trek through a jungle during which time we observed several signs of leopard, we reached the temple of Kathuria Devi (Goddess of the woodcutters) —a brief visit was made and the porters "took permission to cross the Chobia Pass"—apparently the wish was granted and we pushed on through juniper bushes, and finally camped under a big boulder, along with some Chobia men who had been collecting medicinal herbs for a pharmaceutical company.

13 October: An early start at 5 a.m. Soon we were on the glacier where the crevasses could be easily seen and avoided or crossed by snow bridges. After the hard snow there was a straight rock climb to the pass. We reached Chobia Pass at 11-30 a.m. The descent on the other side also was a rock wall for some 200 ft. followed by much soft snow where we sank upto our waists. The snout of the glacier was reached by 2-30 p.m. when we rested and had some food.

As we descended, the two porters showed signs of considerable anxiety. Apparently the superstition goes that if anyone crosses the Chobia Pass from the Brahmaur side, the Triloknath area suffers from heavy snowfalls as a result of which crops would fail and starvation would stalk the land. Those who have caused this misfortunate are said to have been beaten to death by the villagers of the area! We met a few villagers—I did all the talking and explaining and somehow managed to avert the question as to our antecedants. That night we were so tired that we merely laid down underneath a tree and fell asleep.

October: Next morning we reached Triloknath—the Post Master entertained us to a really hospitable meal. I paid off the two porters who returned to Brahmaur. I reached Kirting that same evening at 7-00 p.m. The bus next morning saw me in Tandi from where a bus from Keylang saw me to Manali by 5 p.m. On 16 October I took the first bus to Pathankot in time for me to catch the Frontier Mail.


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