Django Unchained in Billing
I was looking for some easy winter snow hiking spot out side of my area. Then got the reference to a place of worship near Chinna Pass (motor-able road but now the road is blocked with slides and fallen trees, the reason they had cut out the road from hillsides and left the roots of the big trees exposed and come monsoon those trees could not hold on and result in landslides).
Chhinna Pass, I had done solo hiking somewhat close to RajaGhundha and even had crossed this so-called road mountain pass (Chinna Pass) but had not realized that I actually crossed a mountain pass until I read about Chinna Pass on the internet. Now it is more like a road crossing then a mountain pass but again a reminder that this road is now closed with multiple landslides.
Billing is the highest take-off site for Paragliding in India and Asia, beside Tendem Flights, you can also enjoy Day hikes, multiple day hikes and camping. Even in Billing there is suitable allocated spot for camping.
From Bir it takes two hours hasty run up to Billing and from Billing it takes around two hours “hasty record making a fast walk or run” up to the so-called Chinna Pass.
But from Bir an enjoyable hike or walk up to Billing, takes around 2.5 hours of, rest in Billing for about 20-30 minutes then another 1-2 hours walk up to Chinna Pass, so total 4-5 hours of hiking up to Chinna Pass.
I was looking for trail partner for this short hike up to Chinna Pass and further ahead. Trail partner is needed because this range is home of Black Bears and you can clearly see footprints all along the trail.
So I asked my trail partner Mayank Jaryal of Chamba, whom I’d, met on Facebook and then we did for our first hike or mountaineering up to Gaj Pass and then cold camping.
Come Tuesday, we scheduled our meeting point in Baijnath ISBT. From the bus stand and left for Bir at 09:45 AM. By 10:30 AM or like that we were at Bir, collected minor stuff like for breakfast, lunch, and dinner but forgot to buy salt and spices for the same.
We were in no hurry or record making mode so took full 3 and a half an hour to reach Billing, ate packed lunch and climbed upward for trail/road to Chinna Pass. As we were walking slowly, a four-legged creature passed by us!
It was a big dog with cream-colored fur. We thought he would go to some distance and will come back. But as we covered some distance, I was surprised to see a huge landslide on trail/road. It had a gully-type of made to cross over.
We decided to stop there for a while but the dog crossed over and went ahead. After 5 minutes of rest, we climbed that gully and found the dog lying on the road and waiting for us to show up and as he saw us he stood up and started walking again.
It was already past 12 pm and we were not in any hurry. Our last point of the day’s hike was Hanuman Garh. As we walked on the road and crossed 3-4 landslides, we came across two tourists, most probably were from Punjab region of India.
I loved the footprints of the black bear that were clearly visible on the dusty trail and soon we touched traces of snow by the side of the trail/road and some on the road. The dog was thirsty and he ate two three scoops of cold snow.
We came across two-three villagers, who on the previous day had camped at Hanuman Garh and now were returning. We asked for the distance to be covered and the shortcut. We were told it would take another 1 hour’s walk up to the shortcut point and then another 2-3 hour climb to the campsite. I heard one of the elderly members of the group saying “Will they be able to make it today?”
As we walked more, we met another villager coming from Rajaghundha and he told us that it will take the next 30 minutes for the shortcut point.
After two-three turns, we were able to locate the peak that was our camping point for the day and it was already 2:45 PM. On my first solo hike up close to RajaGundha, I had noticed some prayer flags high uphill and at that time had felt. “I will have to come back”!!
Further, we met another group and one of them was carrying an old vintage class rifle probably of British age…they were also returning from Hanuman Garh. The rifle probably was for illegal hunting or for safety!
From 3:30 to 4:00 PM, we reached the (most probable) shortcut point. Looking up in the sky, we noticed the sun was about to touch the horizon and dark orange colors of the sun painting nearby hills with a shade of darkness where it was getting difficult for the sun rays to reach.
The uphill climb from the most probable shortcut was not easy and also we were not sure, where we will exit from that shortcut. So I climbed a few meters and then asked for the suggestion of Mayank, he was also not certain and that made me climb down and make a decision.
By next an hour, Mr. Sun would have said “Good night” and we still will be on that shortcut and climbing the dried out path of the stream.
So we decided to walk up to Chinna Pass and camp nearby. So uphill climb for the shortcut was skipped and we walked further for Chinna Pass. As we stopped to rest, the dog also sat beside us.
I brought out some “sweet boondis” to munch on. My partner declined to eat so I offered some sweet boondis to the “dog” and he happily ate them . I have not much liking for the dogs but that doesn’t mean I despise them and would kick them.
It was a good decision, to not climb the shortcut, because by the time we reached Chinna Pass it was already past 5 PM.
There we met a local villager, who runs a temporary tea stall.
Though, We were carrying 5 liters of water-can all along from Bir village, the availability of running water tap was new for me. Because on my first hike, I had not seen any water tap at so-called Chinna Pass. Anyhow we walked a little farther and found a good spot for camping, yes the dog was still with us.
By the time we pitched our tent, Mr. Sun was already touching the horizon, bathing Dhauladhar Mountains with his orange colors. The shaded part of the nearby hills side was covered with snow.
We took some photographs and started the fire for the dinner. Pitched our tent. It was almost dark and in some distance of 250 meters, I noticed a small black bear. Since it had seen us a lot earlier and was climbing up for the deep dark forest side.
Mayank Jaryal was inside the tent and adjusting things inside.
I called out Mayank Jaryal to see the bear but by then it was difficult to see the bear because it was already in the dark area.
For me, it was the first ever sighting of Black Bear in its real home, though have seen many in Gopalpur zoo. In the zoo, it appears if they are given LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) to eat and they remain dull sitting or sleeping in one spot.
I was a little excited and more concerned because it was getting difficult to start the fire and the strong cold winds were making it hard to start the fire. Usually, we carry camphor with us, but this time, none of had picked up camphor. After some struggle, we managed to light up a campfire and quickly cooked soup.
The dog was still with us and he appeared more alert and kept an eye toward the forest area, where the bear had disappeared.
As we were sipping soup, some dark figure lurked near our tent. My partner was bit concerned but the way it was moving, to me it appeared known gestures. Good to watch Wild Discovery and National Geographic Channels…it was moving here and there like some Wolf/Fox does. But since there are no wolves and no fox would come that close to the tent…so it could be just another dog!! It turned out to be the “black” dog that most probably lived in the makeshift tea stall and it appeared less courageous than the one that was accompanying us.
We offered some Makki ke roti (cornmeal bread brought from home) to both the dogs.
Despite having climbed all along from Bir to Billing and then walked up to Chinna Pass, we had lost our appetite and hunger upon seeing the black bear.
We kept the campfire going on by some woods found nearby. It was full moon night or somewhat fading but still full moon with snow-covered Dhauladhar Mountains close by. That meant a cold night with freezing dew.
We skipped cooking food for dinner and ate two Makki ki rotis and some bread with soup. At 9:30 PM we slipped inside the sleeping bag.
I kind of felt embarrassed for the dog had to stay out all in cold freezing night. Our tent was missing the extra part that is usually meant for keeping shoes; else the dog could have slept in that part. But it was not in there so the cream colored dog stayed out all night. It was really freezing and cold.
By midnight around 12 AM or 1 AM, I was awake and heard the dog growling and then it went silent, with the silence I was able to hear the loud growling of the bear nearby, may be within the range of 100 meters or so.
After that, the dog started barking louder and stronger. He kept barking for almost 1 hour or more. I could not sleep well but sleep somehow. Come morning by 6.30 AM, I got out of the sleeping bag and tent and took my camera out with.
The dog was still out there with constant stare towards the nearby forest, the black shop dog was nowhere to be seen, he probably had slipped inside the shop to escape cold freezing night. Our dog could have also joined the other dog, but he stood on “Guard” all cold freezing night.
I clicked some shots of the rising Jupiter and then the blue dawn hues over the snowy Dhauladhar Mountains.
As Mr. Sun showed up clicked more shots and with that, I saw the dog vomiting ;/, probably the cold freezing night had some effect on his tummy.
As I ran around some distance within the campsite and the dog happily joined in, they love running.
I reignited the night fire to do away with morning chill and warm up the tea that I’d brought in the thermos. With the sunrise, the black dog reappeared.
We ate some pieces of bread and offered some pieces but just sniffed and did not eat them. As we started our walk for the days remaining hike….the cream color dog kept lying in the sun and noticed us going farther.
We had walked some 100 meters of the distance and the dog came running towards us and joined our hike.
The trail is easy to follow but you need some experience in trail tracing if you are coming solo. At one point the trail was going all sides and we stood there to guess but then there the dog took the lead and showed us the right trail.
It is really a kind of mystery, “why some random dog would join you for your hiking or trekking”.
As we were walking and climbing, a huge Himalayan Vulture took off from a nearby tree and for me it could have been a good shot, but I had my camera inside, but by the time it flew past, I managed some shots of it.
Every turn displayed wonderful views of the Nature. The dog being thirsty scooped snow where ever he could find. At one resting point, we offered him bottled water in paper cup and he just took one or two sips.
There was not much snow on the trail. As we approached the base of the hill climb, we unloaded our bags and kept them inside the enclosed boulders and carried with us water bottle only and camera(Canon).
The dog was enjoying lying under the sunshine and the views were awesome with traces of human trash.
The climb was with some 6 inches of snow and it was not that difficult to climb. By midway we heard some growling deep down in the forest, anyhow we climbed up with the dog and the views from the top are just great.
From here we had the view of Triund Hill, Dhauladhar Matter horn / Gauri Jhundha, hill on which new temple of Hiamni Chamunda Devi is being constructed, Killar Pass, Waru Jot, Jalsu Pass, Thamsar Pass(that leads to Bara Bhanghal) and many un-named passes and peaks and beside these we can also see Chota Bhanghal, Multhan and Barot Valley.
After prayers at Hanuman Garh and photo session, we started our climb down.
The dog was sitting on the snow and was staring high Dhauladhar Mountains in distance; I wonder what he had in his mind. While climbing down, I had to call him to join in.
At the base after retrieving our backpacks, we started on the same trail and this time the dog was leading us. The dog went some 50-70 meters ahead.
But we had something different on our mind and we started to trace the gully of the dried out rivulet, which on the previous day we had planned to climb on. Upon noticing that we were not following him, the dog sat down on the trail and started observing our gestures and the way we were about to take on.
That part was in fact trek tracing. We climbed down some distance and then the dog realized that “we will not be going back from the same trek.” It was then he again joined in us, but since that part of the trail was also new for him, so kept himself in between us. We traced the trail that was short and was touching the road/trail below.
I made some genuine gap and went ahead, found a huge boulder with ripened grass over….my partner was still up but within my sight, so I decided to remove my backpack, untie my shoes and take a quick nap under the sunshine. The dog also sat on a boulder up behind.
I thought the same point where I was napping, probably that patch was also a good choice for some bear to sit and observe.
After some time my partner joined and we took more of 10 minutes of break and discussed roads being constructed all across the hills!
I gave my harsh opinion and termed any more road construction in deep forests and hills will be a large-scale ecological disaster. But then I also added that the consequences will be faced by us and largely by the generations to come. We all bring our generation, which is natural, but what we are giving them is quite insane and a result of irresponsible acts.
The discussion could have become hotter, but we skipped it and decided to move on.
Upon seeing the road/trail the dog went ahead and sat down on the road again waiting for us to join. We walked easy for another 2-3 hours and were in Billing by 4.00 PM.
Hereupon noticing the dog, the other dogs in Billing were kind of like concerned and some came running and barking towards our dog. But our dog was confident; He is the Alfa dog of that area. Upon approaching our dog, the other dogs recognized him and stopped barking. We moved on towards the shops but our dog moved towards other side and sat under the sunshine. But the other pack of dogs followed us constantly and some even tried and asked us to play with them.
We had our evening lunch at the shop and it was there we learned that the name of our dog is “Django”, same Django seen in the blockbuster Hollywood not a copycat and cheap modern Bollywood. The Django has D silent.
Now I realized how our dog took the brunt of the cold freezing night and yet he kept away the black bears in our campsite and on next morning despite vomiting 2-3 times he remained with us. He is Django the Alfa dog of Billing.
This is how Django was unchained in our campsite and on the trails and how Django was unchained in Billing. Django Unchained in Billing.
He was not in good shape and as we boarded the cab for Bir, he again came to see us off. We had ordered food for him too but since he was not in good health, he just sniffed it.
We arrived in Baijnath and then took our directions for home.
After one day’s rest I was again in Bir. This time to meet someone, but the meeting was postponed, so decided to hike up to Billing again. It was fun and I covered the trek early.
There I took photographs of the tourists flying with the pilot and some para-gliders flying solo. I also shot some photographs of the nearby High Dhauladhar Mountain Passes and some that we were not able to trace trail for.
And while returning, I met Django again; the shopkeeper from Jharkhand told me that, Django was recovering slowly. I don’t like patting dogs but I don’t hate them. I patted Django and he too recognized me.
I believe he had cold that last night, which made his tummy go mad and probably because he was eating snow instead of drinking water.
Lesson learned; carry an extra sheet of tarp and a spare plastic bowl with you, just in case some other Django joins you in your hike. You can make night cover for him/her and give him/her water to drink and food to eat.