03 July 2016

Khirsu: A Picturesque Hill Station in Pauri Garhwal

~one of those few days when the towering snow-capped mountains are visible~
(This isn't the best Himalayan range one can capture during these days. The Horticulture is where a wide range of the Himalayas can be photographed. The Chaukamba will be mighty up there.)

 Khirsu is a hill station located at around 1700 meters above sea level and about 19 kilometers from the capital district, Pauri. From Delhi, the routes to Khirsu are Delhi-Kordwar-Pauri or Delhi-Rishikesh-Pauri. The latter is longer.

Khirsu is a community development block headquarters in the hills where villagers practice terrace farming and animal agriculture (cows, sheep, and goats for milk and meat). The market, though small, has three to four vegetable shops, a few grocery shops, small tea stalls and hotels, stationery stores, computer service, among others. Because it is a block headquarter, all government offices which cater the need of the Khirsu block are located here including India Post office, State Bank of India (with ATM), BSNL (broadband is available), police station, government hospital, veterinary office, Forest Department and rest house, GMVN Hotel and Restaurant, Inter-College, etc.

Khirsu is known for the Himalayan range view in winter (November to February )  and the Forest Department's Botanical Park in winter and summer.

Because of the two features mentioned above, many tourists from nearby states of India come here to unwind and keep themselves from the hustle bustle of the cities even just for a few days. (Well, some are so detached with nature that even at this serene place they play loud music without realizing that their stupidity disturbs the forest and the animals in it and the neighbors, the nearest happens to be a hospital which is supposed to be a silent zone?).

Summer seems to be the season when tourists flock in great number to this place to escape the heat and deadly pollution of industrial cities. They generally stay at GMVN where accommodation can be arranged by phone or in person. Inquiry reveals a whopping Rs. 1600 per room for a night stay in season and Rs. 200 less during offseason. 
Quite costly huh? 
Well, that's what tourism does (one of)!
(I'm not sure though if it's the same price this year).
There are also cheaper accommodations available in and around Khirsu. The Hotel Taj Himalaya which is located along the national highway, a few meters from the entrance to Khirsu is one. Another one is Shri Badri Vishal guest house located just a few meters from The Hotel Taj Himalaya and just along the highway. I am not familiar with their charges, but they are cheaper than GMVN.

~a home away from home, GMVN, Khirsu~
People in the vicinity come on weekends with their families, too, to enjoy a day of tranquility and greenery of the Forest Department Park.
~one side of the park~
It's pleasant, quite big, and with open spaces and huts where one can lay their picnic baskets and simply savor the pleasant sight of the forested surroundings, the bees and other insects that are busy doing their day's work and the mellifluous songs that birds sing.
Or, one need not bring their own food supply. A few local hotels serve tea, pakoras (gram-coated onions or potatoes), and chow mien (noodle snack) and other cold drinks.

Where there are people, hotels are always in operation! It's always is.

~another part of Khirsu Botanical Park where kids' playground is situated~
(It's upsetting and maddening to witness how a beautiful place is being turned into a dustbin where people leave and throw thoughtlessly litter: plastic bags, paper plates, bottles, cans, etc. Please, be always reminded that doing such -not disposing of unusable things properly -reflects who we are. Also, since we love and are happy to be in this kind of places, we have the responsibility to maintain its beauty, protect it, and keep it clean. Let us do our part!)

~bloom time @ Khirsu Botanical Park~

So, let's move on!

In and Around Khirsu
The nearest, walkable market in Khirsu is Chaubatta. It is the stop point towards various villages. It has a bigger market so people generally get their goods and other items from here, if not from Srinagar or Pauri.

Khirsu Horticulture
The first place (longest trek) we visited a few days after we arrived (June) in Khirsu was the Horticulture, which is located in Raikal, around 3 km. from Khirsu, about an hour walk through the shortcut via Khirsu market with an 800 meters trek climb among Deodar, Oak,  Rhododendron, Kafal, and among other trees and bushes.

The climb starts from the first bore well found along the road a few meters from this intersection. You have to take the road towards Khirsu-Khakra-Rudraprayag route.

~The boards that tell you which way to go. Raikal is forward ahead.~
(This is connecting road: one forward goes to Rudraprayag where Rahaikal road is, to the right goes to Khirsu and Pauri, then the back section goes to Srinagar)

After around 20 minutes of climbing with a few stops for photographs, we reached the area and welcomed by the area-in-charge, Mr. Bisht. (This year -2016-, it is Mr. Premsingh). We told him we will take whatever fruits or vegetables he has. He then told us to roam around and pluck whichever fruit that is ready as much as we can eat. That, indeed, we did! I got to climb their trees, too, which I haven't done in a long time.
The feeling that you are eating fruits right from the tree was simply delightful. Plus you get to eat pesticide-free produce.
~aadu or peach (maroon variety) which was not ready at that time~

In 2015), we were not able to taste this peach. It seems like we were late and Balu or bears have also claimed our share. Anyway, it's good to know they got something to eat. So it doesn't matter if we didn't.

This year, 2016, they were diseased...must be the weather. Though there were a few which seem okay enough to eat, Balu, again, knocked down the trees before they are ready. So, yeah, guess we just need to wait for next year?
~fresh, half-eaten apricot (bigger variety) which is so juicy~
This variety was nothing like in the market, or at least, I haven't found this variety myself. Generally, what's available is the smaller variety. Earlier this year though they didn't yield much because of climate change. We were only able to take home about 3 kilos. And the department itself was not able to harvest for the local market.

~The view of the community health center (CHC) Khirsu (tallest building) and 
GMVN  (white building, right) from one of the house roof-tops at Khirsu market area~ 

My husband worked at PHC Khirsu, now CHC, as a resident doctor and wherever he works comes the adventure of exploring the place and its neighbors, documenting everything our camera can capture from cycling, trekking, to hiring a taxi to take us to places far enough for our feet could bear, let alone the bird watching and naming, leopard spotting, and barking deer bark-tailing.

The next photo was taken after it rained the whole night:

~view from the hospital~

The three-pointed snow-clad mountain is Gangotri range. The towns and villages which are normally visible from afar on brighter days are fully covered in fog. What's visible is the helipad hill. It's non-operational, never was, I guess. Only the H sign is still there.

To be continued........
Some more pictures to be uploaded once broadband is back. Right now, I am on a data card. Keep visiting!