Nelong Valley: The Best Kept Secret of Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand
India’s geographical diversity makes it a popular destination for many amateurs and professionals, who want to probe unchartered territories for experiences that the known places, frequently visited valleys—mostly overcrowded—do not offer any more.
One of those untouched places is Nelong Valley, situated near the Indo-China border in the Uttarakhand Himalayas, which provides a view of Tibetan Plateau. It is a new addition to the bucket lists of the explorers, as it opens for tourists for the first time since the 1962 Indo-China war. It was once a popular Indo-Tibet trade route; however, as a result of the war, the valley came under restricted area where movements, even for the locals, were regulated for 53 years.
This disassociation has left valley with little to no infrastructure to support the conventional tourism. However, that is what its USP is; many professional trekkers who have skimmed other unregulated valleys are now swamping it in droves.
The valley, a cold desert like area, looks unlike anything else because of its segregation. Since there had been no external interference, the wild life has thrived—Himalayan blue sheep, snow leopards and musk deer—and nature have taken over the treacherous hand-built wooden bridge, known as Gartang Galion, which once was a route to China, an artery for trade.
Location : Under the Gangotri National Park, Uttarkashi district, Uttarakhand, the valley is located at an altitude of 11,000 feet (3352.8 meters) above the sea level, and it is around 315km away from Dehradun. You can reach the valley through Bhaironghati, which is just an 8km trek from Gangotri shrine—an easily accessible place, given its religious importance.
History and people of the region: The Bhotiya tribe was the original inhabitants of the valley, trading carpets, blankets and woolen clothes weaved by women as well as food items such as tobacco, tea, coffee, barley, and rice. There are evidences of trade of agricultural equipment and copper products, and medicines, as well. All this was traded at Bada Haat, a big market, based on the barter system; it was the mainstay of the local economy. The Bhotiya traders followed the old trade route, which involved the wooden bridge, still reported to be intact, and the Lal Devta temple, where they offered prayers before embarking on their ancient trading route to Tibet.
However, the 1962 war ended the trade, and all the locals who resided in the valley were moved to Bagori and Dunda villages that lie in Uttarkashi district. The news of re-opening has brought joy to the community; however, it is highly unlikely the authorities will allow the trade, given the control of Tibet is under the Chinese regime.
Best time to visit : The Ladakh like terrain, as many travelers have described the region due to its arid environment, remains open from May to November. However, the government has put a limit on the number of vehicles that can enter the valley each day. Only a maximum of six vehicles with four occupants in each can enter the valley daily. However, administration is mulling over the regulations in place and is trying to come up with solutions to tap the tourism potential of the valley. Soon more relaxed regulations are expected, which will give explorers a free hand to scout the valley.
Though, until then, a permit letter is required to visit the valley from a sub-divisional magistrate. But these logistical barriers are unlikely to stop explorers from visiting the place.
Do not consider camping in the region as overnight stay is not permitted, nor expect a restaurant, as only ITBP (Indo Tibetan Border Police) personnel are allowed to camp in the region. The forest department facilitates the tourist activities; and to visit the valley, which is well above 3,000 meters, also requires a fitness certificate.
However, the first glimpse of the valley will make you forget all these botherations Get your gear ready and explore the valley—a vestige of an ancient trade route.
This is contributed by one of our beloved readers and admirers, Page Saunders. Page is a professional copywriter with a journalism degree from Adelaide, South Australia. Visit his website here