Hope you have enjoyed the journey of first two days with us so far. If you haven't gotten a chance, we recommend to check out Part-1 & Part-2 of the journey and then come back here to enjoy the third day trek to Dhanachuli Village around Kumaun hills. Let's start this Photo Journey to the beautiful Dhanachuli Village.
It was bright sunny morning at Dhanachuli and some of us were up at 6:30am. Unpredictable weather during last two days had created so much curiosity that everyone was excited to see bright morning on third day. It opened the gates for the trek to the abandoned village of Dhanachuli. We started from Te Aroha at around 7:00 am. We drove from Te Aroha to the market of Dhanachuli village. We stopped near Bank of Baroda and started our trek downwards through green farms facing snow covered peaks. Mr. Sumant Batra personally led the entire trek and kept us informed about various trees, crops, plants, architecture & people.
For initial 20 minutes, we were walking through the habitat area which is comparatively close to the main road which connects Dhanachuli village to other parts of Kumaun. Most of the villagers have pets and mainly cows & goats. Corn crops were all over the farms and some of the farms also had seasonal vegetables - peas, cabbage, bringle, tomatoas, green chillies, kidney-beans (Rajmah) etc. Dhanchuli village is deep in the valley surrounded by snow capped hills on one side and steep green mountains on other side. Dhanachuli hills are probably some of the highest hills in Kumaun region.
At the end of the trek were some dilapidated houses of the old Dhanachuli village. Most of the old village is abandoned with only a couple of houses still occupied. The villagers, it seems, have moved to houses closer to the road.
The houses were adorned with some interesting carvings and designs. Sumant pointed out some samples of carvings from as far as Rajasthan. He expressed his amazement at finding such designs up here in Uttarakhand. One possible explanation, he thinks, is that these people migrated from the plains over a hundred years ago to escape forced conversions. And with them they carried a part of their memories, tradition, and culture, always wanting to cling on to what they had to leave behind.
The houses, though abandoned, still tell a story with their strong foundations, quality material used for building. If you look at the picture above, you will see stones stacked on top of each other. This material is native to the hills and has stood against the test of time.
This was one of the houses that was still occupied.
A cat was sunning itself on the stairs, while the occupants went about their daily chores. The villagers keep busy most of the times as they need to do almost everything themselves. It is a life full of hardwork and peace.
These freshly plucked red chillies and corns have been spread out to dry so that they don't get spoilt when they are stored. The villagers keep some portion of the crops they produce for their personal use, while they sell of the rest.
This particular house was so isolated from the rest that we were wondering if the occupants feel afraid at night. We were also asking ourselves what they do to keep themselves entertained. And then we noticed the dish antennae installed outside...but of course...
While looking at the exteriors of the abandoned houses, we were curious about the insides. We found an interesting looking house and some of us dared to climb inside. A few of us were worried whether we would chance upon a sleeping leopard inside the house. But Sumant assured us that it wasn't a possibility because if there was a leopard inside, we would be able to smell it before we saw it. Our fear may sound funny to you, but in reality a leopard sighting isn't as rare in these parts. If a cattle is killed or a dog vanishes, the crime is mostly blamed on leopards.
The last point of the trek was a temple.
We sat in the premises and had tea and cookies made by Te Aroha's chef. It was very considerate of Sumant to have thought of this because after the long trek, all of us were dying for a cup of tea. We sat there for about half-an-hour listening to the birds sing and watching the clouds drifting into the valley.
We had some interesting conversations while sitting here. We spoke about how inconsiderate it is to build a huge concrete structure on the top of a hill in the mountains. Such things can be very risky for the villagers living below. We discussed how essential it is for development to happen in a responsible way. And during the course of this discussion we discovered that Te Aroha, even though they have taken a water connection from the government's water supply and pay for it, they never use the water. Simply because if the resort starts using the water, hardly anything will be left for the villagers. Instead, Te Aroha has made elaborate arrangements for rainwater harvesting and uses the water they collect from this along with the water from the borer they have installed themselves.
After the tea, it was time to head back and this time we chose a different route. Instead of the slippery rocky route, we chose to walk a trail through the fields. En route we stopped and tasted some very sweet peas, and met some local children who were more than happy to oblige us with generous smiles.
The morning was a tiring one and yet gratifying. And we felt exercised and yet relaxed at the end of it. More than anything else the trek provided a lot of food for thought and we dwelled on it for quite some time.