“I learn something every time I go into the mountains”
As the most famous quote by Michael Kennedy goes I learned lifetime lessons after visiting this small village by the side of Himalayas.
Located in the Himalayan bed of the Garhwal region and Chamoli district of Uttarakhand state, the Wan village is a pure photographer’s delight. Surrounded by mighty mountains that turn white during winters and green during summers offers nothing but great picturesque views. Wan is settled at a rise of 8000 feet from Sea level. The nearest popular place is Loharjung which is also a small village and a base camp to most of the popular treks.
It is said that the route to heaven begins from here, the reason being that it’s a base camp for many heavenly beautiful treks like Rupkund, Bedini Bugyal, Homkund, and Kokina top. It’s also the last village for bikers to enjoy bike rides in Chamoli after which only trekking is an option.
I happen to pass-through this village when I was trekking towards Kokina top while I was on the very familiar trek, Brahmatal, organized by Indiahikes Trekking Organisation. Kokina top is usually not a part of Brahmatal trek but in 2019, the winter across Himalaya was extended even till April so the route to Brahmatal was totally blocked because of heavy snowfall. We were lucky enough to witness the snowfall even in the month of March, all thanks to the extended winter. Apart from thick fresh snow, huge mountains, long deodar & rhododendrons trees, the most alluring part at Kokina top (11,400 ft) is witnessing the very famous peaks Nanda Gunti (20,699 ft), Trisul (23,360 ft), Nanda Devi (25,643 ft), etc. Nanda Devi mountain is located in Chamoli district and it is the highest among all the mountains in India located entirely within Indian territory. Nanda Devi is regarded as the patron-goddess of the Uttarakhand Himalaya and attracts huge religious sentiments.
Coming back to Wan, of course, there is so much of positivity around, all sounds good ha? Everything is mind-blowing for tourists who dare to visit the village only in summers but having no imagination of what could be the situation there in winters. High altitude places like Wan are no easy options to survive in winter. People staying here put their lives in jeopardy. Living through 4 to 5 feet heights of snow for months would not be surprising to them. In such a situation, imagine the state of a medical emergency, ad-hoc communication, basic needs.
Villagers are living through such conditions for years and they are acclimatized to face cold winds and negative temperatures. They are almost self-reliant about their food. Cultivating grains, vegetables as per their own needs and they make sure that they pile-up enough to survive through tough times.
Now you can imagine about the education in such hilly areas. Only the government school in the village is an option for everyone. Kids are enthusiastic to trek miles to reach there. If you dream of higher education you should be ready to travel for 8 hours to Dehradun.
The Indian government is pushing so much to eradicate illiteracy that these kids are given free clothes, food, bags, and books and yet after a certain age they are not interested in studies, the reason could be transportation, financial problems or family dependency.
The best part of these kids is that as soon they see us, with a grinning face, they joined hands to say “NAMASTE”. I felt happy after distributing toffees to each one that I carried.
The mountains are filled with rich natural resources, pure air, fresh vegetables and more importantly beautiful souls. We all can do a bit of us to support these souls. And how can we support them? The wide Himalayan ranges offer multiple trekking places. Many people work part time as local trek guides, cooks, campsite organizers. The Himalayas are bliss to watch. Interested people can plan to travel to witness the beauty of mighty Himalayas. Another way how we can support mountains is by maintaining cleanliness. The waste management in mountains is a tedious job. No corporation people go there to collect the garbage. We should strictly stop littering and carry all the garbage along with us to main cities.
The following video covers the parts of the Brahmatal trek. The main attraction in this video is Bekaltal (Bekal lake). The lake gets completely frozen in winters and offers a beautiful place to skate.