Nestled in the lap of Nag Devta

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By Nivedita Singh

Nestled in the lap of Garhwal Himalayas, Nag-Tibba literally translating to “snake hill” is the highest peak (9,915 ft) in this range. This serene abode is believed to be the home of ‘Nag Devta’ or God of Snakes from which it borrows the first part of its name.

If trekking happens to be an important part of your life just like mine, then Nag-Tibba will add a new perspective to your journey as it isn’t commercialised as compared to other ones like Chhalal, Tosh, Malana, Jalori and Triund.

I was extremely curious about the culture of this terrain so I booked a trip through a company named, Aquilla Hikes as I wanted to connect with a group going in the same direction. Connecting with travellers turned out to be a wise decision as this vacation turned out to be one full of experiences and adventures.

Starting on Friday from New Delhi in a group of 16 people, we reached Pantwari, a small village in Uttarakhand which happens to be the last point where vehicles can go. It took us almost 8-9 hours to reach Pantwari and after a small breakfast, began walking towards our base-camp around 5.5 kilometres from Pantwari, almost 4hours walking through the wild mountainous path.

picture courtesy: Nivedita Singh

We were accompanied by two trek guides, Akash, a Delhiite and Rahul, a local from Pantwari. They instructed us to carry large water bottles due to water scarcity in the area.

We started our adventure, on our way I asked Akash about the best months to visit this place, Akash said “This is the best time, the month of April- May to visit this peak as the temperature is soothing and of course the view, it is captivating”, from very beginning I was captivated by the raw wilderness and serpentine mountain roads on my way.

After hiking for around 3-4 hours we finally reached our base camp around 3 pm, all tired and starving, but it was worth all the hassle as our camp-site was an epitome of tranquillity and beauty. It was on the sun-facing edge of the mountain and the image of every sunset and sunrise I witnessed there has imprinted itself in my memory. Being the first one to reach our base camp I felt a sense of achievement and thereafter, I chose my camp and took some rest.

The hospitality of people living at our base camp was better than that of a 7-star hotel and even the simplest of the food tasted heavenly. We were served with some tea and snacks post-lunch which was complemented by a brilliant red and orange sunset. The group indulged in star-gazing; a rare privilege for us city dwellers with some snacks, Maggi and bonfire to keep us warm for the night.

After the fog cleared and night sky with its abundance of stars descended on our camp-site, we experienced the magnificence of constellations which took us away from the pollution ridden skies of Delhi. Then we had our dinner along with some good conversations and we ended our day and slept early to start our hiking early morning to our summit.

The next morning awaited us with a challenging four-hour run beginning at 7 am on steeper mountains towards Nag-Tibba. I can say for sure that this time was one of the best hours of my life as on my way I encountered some of the rarest species of flowers, trees and beautiful birds with colourful plumage.

This peak also happens to be a paradise for bird-watchers and I understood why; rare ones like Himalayan Woodpecker, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Pink-browed Rosefinch were to be found in abundance on my way to the summit.

Half-way along we witnessed snow-covered paths lined with snow-blossoms and seeing snow was almost magical. We finally made it to the top and saw one of the most tranquil places ever, its stillness spoke volumes and we could see mountains all around us.

It was a moment to cherish and all of us captured it through our cameras. We then played with snow like kids and headed back to our base-camp. Post a quick lunch; we half-heartedly prepared ourselves for the journey back home.

On the way back during sunset, I saw some villagers carrying light blue coloured flowers from the top of the mountains and I asked them the reason behind their fast gait and smiles, to which they replied, “Our Nag Devta and Lord Shiva are fond of these flowers and this is our daily offering to them. We offer these ‘Dhatura’ flowers every day, and these plants are only found on the top of mountains, so we climb up and down every day for these flowers to offer our Lord and he blesses us with prosperity and good health of the villagers”.

The simplicity and firmness of their beliefs made me think about the complex lives we live in fast-paced cities and this retreat to the mountains has been one of the most memorable ones in my life as it has made me more confident about my own self. Until next time, Nag-Tibba.

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