Once up on a time, there lived a kid. And it happened to be that he had a friend called Shanti, his best friend forever. But this story is not about their growing up. The kids grew up anyway and Shanti was always beside him. They were inseparable. So when the day came for him, to move out of his little kingdom in search of wisdom, Shanti followed him. She stayed with him for years and with time, their friendship grew stronger. Or so she thought!
Days became years as shanti watched the kid slowly morphing in to a detached and aloof man. Nowadays they lived no longer together. But he would pay occasional visit to her. She never disallowed. One fine day the kid – or the man, as he preferred to think about him by the time – planned to visit the mountain of the mountains, Himalayas, heaven on earth, as Shanti would have called it! But there he fell in love! Now that he gave his heart to the mountains, Shanti, heartbroken, told him that she could have perhaps stayed without him, but not without his heart. So she decided to settle in the mountains where his heart remained, forever, and he came back to his worldly duties without his heart and his beloved friend, Shanti!
Since that day, he has been on and off to the mountains frequently, just to behold his love and for some quiet moment with his friend. Wherever he went, mysteriously, he found Shanti already waiting there for him. Now it has been months that he met either Shanti or the mountains. Probably his longings were so pure that the universe conspired for a grand reunion. He had very less options but to arrange a journey to the mountains, which, by that time, perhaps out of love, were dressed up in dazzling white snow!
It was Friday night when he along with some of his friends, boarded a bus from Chandigarh. They were headed to the beautiful Parvati valley where flowed the river by the same name with beauty and ferocity so extreme that it could only be compared to the Goddess by whose name it flowed! His excitation knew no bounds. For the entire night, as he tried to sleep inside the bus, the power and the purity of their love made the sky pouring tear drops as rain.
He thought, when he would get down from the bus, he would see Shanti waiting for him there, as she always did. But this time she nowhere to be seen! He thought she would be waiting for him in Chalal, a village in the valley where they had decided to settle for the next night. Shanti somehow always knew where he is headed!
It was still dark when they reached Kasol but he could not wait longer and started walking towards Chalal. In the translucent darkness of the early dawn, they crossed the bridge carefully while Parvati gushed below. He thought he would meet Shanti and behold the majestic Himalayas together. They would have the whole day for themselves. Gradually the sky lightened up, birds started chirping, azure water plummeted down the slope with blissful and melodious murmur, the distant misty mountains started to unfold unparalleled awe-inspiring beauty, and the chillness in the breeze paved the path for a silent dawn. But still somehow he could not find Shanti.
His stay in the village was nice though. The warm sunlight on a late-winter noon provided a cozy cocoon and the snowy peaks tried their best to please him and so was he. Nonetheless, often his mind waded around the many slopes of the gigantic mountains covered with thickest of clouds, looking for his beloved friend, but all in vein, as she was nowhere to be seen. He didn’t lose hope though! Next morning, they came to Kasol, had breakfast and headed towards Grahan, another pristine village nestled in the valley. Somewhere in his mind, the kid knew he would find Shanti in Grahan.
So they kept walking on the trail they found after asking around for it. But a few hundred meters in to the trail, they encountered a bifurcation. One trail went up the mountain and the other; the more prominent one went down to the river that is coming from Grahan. There was no one to ask about the trail so they kept walking on the left and the most prominent one which brought them over a beautiful makeshift wooden bridge. After crossing that, they encountered an arrow pointing towards some place. Reckoning that they were on the right direction, they kept climbing. The trail went up, with reasonable steepness and some more arrows drawn on rocks giving them directions. The river with all its enthusiasm gushed below.
But soon they came across a second bifurcation and this time they could not say which one was more prominent one. After examining the right trail, they became sure that this time also they were to follow the left trail which brought them to a fairy-land. Trees grew from rocks and canopied the trail and rhododendron bloomed all over. They all had some few moments of rest contemplating the beauty of the place.
But the climbing did not seem to have any end. They climbed one mountain after another, thinking to be able to see Grahan from the other side. But already three hours in to the trek, except for grander mountain views, they got no signs of Grahan. And so was Shanti. But he was not complaining as the higher they hiked, the mountains became more and more grand and gigantic. The white washed ramparts with a background of impeccably blue sky stood in contrast with the dark green forest carrying the bouncy brook in its lap.
Soon they found themselves walking over a narrow trail which runs over a rocky apex of a hill. On both sides there were deep cliffs. Crossing that, they landed on a place with another small brook hurtling down a thick forest of pines and rhododendrons with its murmurous symphony. The place had a blissful silence all around it which was cut only by the splashing water. Suddenly he felt as if it has started raining. But the clear sky gave no such false signals. Before they realized that it actually was snow that was melting and dropping down, they spotted snow covered patches on the ground. At one place, even the flowing water formed ice cones hanging from rocks. And through all these, they crossed another mountain and beheld grander beauty of not-so-far snow-capped peaks, but Grahan remained eclipsed by the mountains.
They climbed and climbed. Snow had increased considerably by that time making the trail extremely slippery, sometimes with solid ice and sometimes with sticky slippery mud. But still they continued. After crossing another ridge, they could suddenly see the village, finally! It was fully covered with snow and completely enclosed by high and white mountains. What a sight to behold it was. They have already hiked for six hours. Tired and cold and hungry they rushed towards the village neglecting the thick cover of snow. The excitement and enthusiasm was illimitable. Just before entering the village, they met a villager who informed them that, unfortunately this village was not Grahan but Thunja. Grahan is another one hour from there!
In fact from Thunja they could see Grahan far down. Tiny blocks of village huts covered in snow. But it was almost dark and they had no strength in their knees to undertake the snowy slippery steep descent to a stream and then again climbing up to Grahan. So they requested some villagers if they could arrange some place for them to spend the night. But Thunja is an extremely small village with only a mere dozen houses. They had no guest houses or cafes or hotels or anything that one can normally find in most of the known villages in the valley. In fact, the villagers told them that the trail to Grahan is a different one which is not as tough as this one. But it was too late for them to realize that. After some more time of requesting and asking people, Ganesh – an angelic person, as they thought at that time – agreed to give them a room for the night in his own house. Happily and readily they moved in. It was a small but completely wooden hut with two floors. Ganesh asked them to leave their bags in one of the room in upper floor and to move to a second room which had a tandoor inside it to keep it warm. We all sat around the fireplace, enjoying the heat while darkness covered the white snow outside.
Ganesh was a kind host. He got them water to drink and sat with them to chat. The kid asked him about their lives in the village. He asked what they did to earn their living. To which, Ganesh replied: by selling some medicinal plants. Most of the people in the village do nothing of that sort even. They all had their share of land, where they cultivate crops not for selling but for themselves primarily. Nowadays, younger people have also started seeking livelihood in the towns. There is a small school in Thunja too which has up till class 5. He also told them about the hardship that they must go through if some elderly person or kid is sick and need to be carried to the nearest hospital which is in Kasol, through that same trail. No matter how dark it is, or how much snow is there on the trail! And they were pretty much taken aback that people actually trek for hours just to behold snow!!
As food, they were carrying some biscuit packs and cakes which they had sitting around the fire while Ganesh and his brothers wend down for some work. The kid and his friends were about to call it a day and retire to the other room for sleeping when Ganesh appeared on the door asking them to come out and have dinner. This was completely surprising! Overwhelmed with the kindness and with emotions never felt before, they had dinner. Plain Daal Chawal never tasted so good, they all thought. And they ate like they never had food before.
Happiness truly lies in the simplest of the things. Content with the hot food and more so by the warmness of the host, the kid decided to go out to experience the chilliness outside. As he came out of the house, bemused, he saw Shanti right there sitting in front of the hut staring at the moonlight soaked mountains. He sat beside her. They did not spoke a single word but just gazed the high peaks and the snow covered mountains flooded with moonlight. Those were some moments of pure happiness. Absolute silence prevailed over the mountains, the muddy ground started to freeze as the cold creeps in to the moonlight and hugged whatever it fell on to.
And that night the kid slept with peace!
In the morning they asked Ganesh to take some money after thanking him with all their hearts. After a few minutes of not wanting to ask for it, all he asked for four people’s food and stay for a night was only 400 rupees!
In the morning, walking was a bit easy as the muddy ground was frozen. So it was no more slippery. They decided to go to Grahan and then take the trail that goes to Kasol from Grahan, the trail which they were supposed to take while coming. There was no water as all water has been frozen during the chilly night. So without spending more time in Thunja, they gradually started towards Grahan. Shanti decided not to abandon her friend and walked down with the kid. On the way they saw the small school also. The trail went right beside it.
Compared to Thunja, Grahan was much bigger and felt more commercialized. They had guest houses and fancy food menus. While they had breakfast, they came to know that aunty – the lady who was running the place – lived there alone. Her husband is a school teacher in Kasol and two of her sons are studying in a school in Jari. When asked, whether she felt lonely by living all by herself, she replied with a laugh that no one in the village would feel lonely as all of them stayed as a family. Neighbours had morning tea together. If someone is building a house, everybody lends a helping hand in cutting woods or building. The kid wondered how strong was their community feeling and how weak it was for people in the cities!
After the breakfast, they started walking down the trail that they were supposed to take the day before. This trail seemed a lot easier than the previous one. After a steep descent, the trail came closer to the Grahan nullah, the water stream coming from above Grahan. They surely did not miss the chance to take a dip in the freezing cold water.
The trail afterwards was mostly plane with some ascending and some descending at some places. But at all places it was a straight trail leading to Kasol. But compared to the other trail to Thunja, this one was littered with plastic wraps and empty food packs at places. In a way they were happy about choosing the wrong trail!
After crossing another two bridges, ascending some more, and mostly descending, they came in front of the shepherd’s hut that they crossed the day before. Then they realized the mistake. Nobody told them to take this tiny trail which left the main trail and went up. Anyways they were not complaining about it. The kid was more than happy about the unfolding of the previous day’s events. The night, that could have really gone bad, had they not got any place to stay, turned out to be an impeccably perfect one. He beheld the great mountains, met Shanti, met some beautiful souls living with peace deep within the mountains and fell in love with everything around that place…What more could he have asked for! And all these built up a strong faith in him about the reciprocity of the love.
In the journey return, content with the past few days, the kid closed his eyes for sleeping as he leaned on Shanti’s shoulder. Waking up, he found Shanti and the mountains gone again until they meet again.
Details of the trek
- Elevations: Bhunter-1089m. kasol and Chalal-1600m, Grahan-2300m, Thunja-2500m.
Day one (leisure day): Chandigarh to Bhuntar (10 hours by bus) to Kasol (1 hour by a cab or bus)Stay in Kasol or Chalal, or roam around nearby places. this day can be omitted in case of need or adjusted as one more day at Grahan.
Day two: Kasol to thunja (4-5 hours). One can go to Grahan via Thunja on the same day also.
Day three: Grahan (or Thunja to Grahan, 1 hour) to Kasol and back to Kullu (Kasol to Kullu cab 1400 Rs. kasol to Bhuntar cab 900 Rs. Last bus at around 6 pm).
- The trail to Grahan:
From the main square of Kasol, standing in front of Moon Dance Cafe, take the road that goes right. You will soon encounter a bridge. Do not cross that, and instead, continue on the trail that goes along with the stream flowing on its left. Alternatively, from the market, there are two road-heads in front of the Taxi drivers union office. The left one goes towards Manikaran. Do not take that. Take the right one, cross the same bridge and take the trail now on your left. After a few hundred meters, on your right side, you will see a Shepherd’s hut and a small trail going right beside it. That is the trail to Grahan. In case you want to take the trail less traveled, keep left, always.
- The trek is possible to undertake through out the year. although, the trail would remain under thick cover of snow during late December to March.
- For the return journey, buses can be booked from Kasol, Bhunter or Kullu.
- There is only one mostly nonfunctional ATM in Kasol. So it is always advisable to carry enough money. In case of emergency, the shopkeeper opposite to the ATM offers a helping hand with a 10% charge for himself.
- Other short and easy treks around kasol: Kheerganga, Tosh, Kutla, Malana, Rasol, Kalga and Pulga to name a few.
“Contest entry for The Adventurer Blog Contest November 2017 by Bikat Adventures“