Indian Himalayas Offbeat Trails

A trek through Darma valley

In north-eastern Kumaon on the border of India, Nepal and Tibet there lies the 3 valleys of Byans, Darma and Chaudas. It takes 6 days to reach the last village from Delhi by rail, road and on foot. Through these valleys pass the way which leads to the Kailash mountain and Mansarovar in Tibet. The local beliefs here are a blend of Hinduism (Kailash is Shiv's home), Budhism (they call their priests Lamaji), Jainism (they believe Mahavir passed through Chaudas on his way to Kailash) and Pantheism (they worship nature in the form of stones and trees). They take their dead to Kailash (Adi Kailash if not the Kailash), have ritualistic festivals where they offer sacrifice to the mountains (Pancha Chuli peaks)

ill the war in 1962, the border existed just for the sake of it as there was free movement to and from Tibet to these valleys. The trade used to go on all summer and during winter there would be a mass migration to the lower heights. This trade was what made the people prosperous over the centuries. The war changed it all though. With severe restrictions on what was pretty much their main source of income (agriculture is at best for sustenance), the people of these valleys had to start looking for alternatives. In most cases that meant leaving their home and coming to the plains for jobs. And this they did with gusto. They went to school, worked hard and got good education, well enough to be in top posts of various streams all over the country. Today these enterprising people are proud of this shift and a 95% literacy rate bears testimony to that. Next time you meet a Kutiyal, a selal, a Namgyal or any of their counterparts, tell them they have done well.

Till as recently as 2002-03, the area was out of bounds for most of the visitors as it fell under the inner line (an imaginary line running parallel to the Indo-China border, drawn after the war). With the restrictions now relaxed trekkers can now get a glimpse (dont expect anything more than that in 6 days) of this remote land with all its peculiarities. Trekkers go to Byans valley for the Adi Kailash and Om Parvat parikrama, Chaudas valley for cultural festivities and Darma valley for the experience of camping at the base of the formidable Pancha chuli glacier. And thats where we went.

Other Trails are ::--->

Malarie Gamsali Trail

Niti Pass Trail