Harshil to Mukhba: A Leisure Hike

Though at first I thought of walking from Harshil to Mukhba village – the winter abode of Ganga ji from the shrine at Gangotri, I didn’t. The tiny village of Mukhba is about 3ish km from Harshil – the charming Himalayan valley by the banks of Bhagirathi.

The winters are bitterly cold with heavy snowfall in Gangotri and the shrine closes for a few months. People migrate to lower altitudes and the temple goddess joins them, too.

I had landed at Harshil at the crack of dawn, after completing the Gaumukh-Tapovan trek. I hitched a ride on a bus heading towards Uttarkashi, and got down near the only tea shop, on the main road. It was a chilly morning. As I had had a mishap with my trekking shoes on the trek (the soles had come off beyond fixing, had somehow completed the trek in bandaged shoes and in chappals on the last day) my toes were numb in the chappals. Gulping down 2 (tiny) cups of black tea, was the next obvious thing to do.

After searching for a place to stay and keep my luggage and shopping for new shoes (from the only shop in the village) and strolling around Bhagirathi while waiting for the shop to open, and of course trying some photography, I started to get the feel of the place.

On my travels, especially when traveling to some remote/less-frequented Himalayan villages, I like to carry a basic phone. One main reason is that this phone has a long battery life (obvious reason), and also that just a few places have internet and most places have flaky connection. But to tell you the truth – I love this phone on such travels. I usually get very distracted when using the smartphones, there’s so much in there! There is not doubt that it’s a very very useful and must have gadget on travel, especially when you are travelling solo. But, even when there’s no reception, I usually just scroll through the pictures or listen to music, missing out on taking in the sights and sounds from around – the things that I love the most about such tranquil places. So of course, while I carry it, I try my best to limit the use. In fact many times I just switch it off and bury it deep inside my bag.

So anyway, after hours of leisurely walking around and exploring the quaint village, chatting up with some local ladies, clicking more pictures, sipping black tea at every opportunity, relishing on simple but good food and a quick afternoon siesta, I decided to hike up to the Mukhba village. I wasn’t sure if I would make it to Mukhba and be back in time because I had started around 4.30 pm and it gets dark pretty soon in those places, plus that particular road was very isolated, with occasional vehicle and absolutely no one walking.

The road was pretty neat for a walk, with a very scenic landscape on my right side – as you can see in the pix. I kept stopping at the many spots just to take nice long looks, try and capture it in camera. I feel a camera, no matter how advanced, can ever do justice to the beauty of such places, it can never truly capture it. On the other hand, thanks to the technology for letting us freeze the moment forever.

I walked on, with no one, nothing around, but a soul soothing silence, melodious chirping of birds, a soft rhythmic hum of the river flowing beneath and stunning views as my constant companions. I must have hiked halfway and as the light was fading, I decided not to go to Mukhba village and instead enjoy the moment, sometimes the best plan is no plan. So here, at this spot, on the route somewhere between Harshil and Mukhba, I sat with my book till around dusk, listening to the soulful sounds of icy Bhagirathi, sweet chirps and wind whooshing through the valley. After a while I kept the book away too, and just stared out at everything around, trying to take in as much possible. Later, I started back for Harshil as the light on the verdant mountains started to fade slowly and their snowy tops began to glow softly.

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