The place where the bus stops and the traveller finds a chai stop is not Dharali. It is the market for Dharali. The village is some 100 mts higher up, nestled in wild apricot trees and apple orchards.
It is a pretty place with lovely houses, each of which has a little stone courtyard looking over the valley and a vegetable garden growing brassicas and greens. The village is dotted with huge boulders that have been carried down in some old avalanche and cotoneaster and fruit trees. I mention the trees because in late October, they are all in glorious shades of yellow and red.
If you turn left from the Sadhu's house (more about him later) instead of continuing along to Sat Tal, the path opens out to a lovely meadow with a stream running through it down from a dome-shaped peak that crowns the watershed. It was here that I had a Maya Memsaab moment. When we got there, the stream was still frozen where it had overflowed in the night- despite the fact that the sun was blazing hot. And so, I got to sit in the sun and eat ice that I had broken off a stream. Good times.
Continue up, by the stream and then through the forest (pine, fir, and finally Bhoj), and eventually you reach the base of the dome. come down soon, because it gets dark early. Take some photographs of the hills now that you are up there.
We didn't come down soon enough, and at a point were hurrying down the path through the forest in the dark. We were all mildly scared, but I am glad we were late. The forest is beautiful and spooky at dusk.
The interesting thing about the forest of dharali, is that it is topsy turvy. A difference in the rock strata has led to the deodar forest growing at a lower altitude than the pine. It is surprising when you climb out of the deodar and come across pine trees looking smugly down their noses at the deodar.
After all the climbing around, in the deodar-scented evening it is good to walk down to the river.
To stand on the bridge and watch the colours change
To see how the wind does actually collect the prayers from flags and scatter them across the land leaving behind a bare skeleton.
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