Enter The Grahan…a little different trek to Grahan village from Kasol

Once up on a time, there lived a kid. He had a friend called Shanti, his best friend forever. But this story is not about their growing up.

The kid grew up 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 knowledge, Shanti followed him. She stayed with him for eight long years and with time, their friendship grew stronger. Or so he thought.
One fine day the kid (or the man, as he preferred to think about him by the time) planned a trip with his friends to the 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 stay in the mountains where lies his heart, forever, and he came back to his “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. So when he saw the extended weekend coming, he readily arranged a journey to the mountains, which, by that time, perhaps out of love, were all dressed up in dazzling white snow!
It was Friday night when he along with some of his friends, boarded a bus from Chandigarh. 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 at Bhunter, he would see Shanti waiting for him there, as she always did. But this time she was not there. He thought she would be waiting for him in Chalal. Shanti somehoe always knew where is he headed! So instead of waiting at Bhunter for the morning bus, they booked a cab which drove them to Kasol. It was still dark when they reached Kasol but he could not wait longer and started walking towards Chalal. The bridge that runs over Parvati, joining the trail to Chalal to Kasol was under construction and a shaky makeshift bridge was placed instead. In the darkness of the night, they crossed the bridge carefully while Parvati gushed below. It took almost 30-40 minutes for them to reach Kasol. The plan was to stay the whole day at Chalal. He thought he would meet Shanti and behold the majestic Himalayas together. They would have the whole day for them. 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, the chillness in the breeze paved the path for a silent dawn, but still somehow he could not spot Shanti.

His stay at Fusion Cafe was nice though. The surrounding was beautiful, the food was good and the winter breeze and the snowy peaks tried their best to please him and so was he. Even though 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.
Next day morning, they decided to trek to Grahan. The trek starts from Kasol. So they came to Kasol, had breakfast and started the trek. Somewhere in his mind, the kid knew he would find Shanti in Grahan.

Parvati river near the bridge crossing

Everybody told them the trek would be an easy one and the four to five hours trail goes straight to Grahan. So they kept walking. After a while, they came across a shepherds’ hut on their right and a dog, whom they wold soon name as “Tensoon”, started to accompany them. 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 someplace. knowing 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 thinking to be able to see Grahan from the other side. But already three hours in to the trek, they got no signs of Grahan. Though the arrows made sure that they were on the right trail. But in his mind, the trail seemed a lot more tricky than what he had imagined. They crossed one more mountains in search for the motivational sight of the village. But except for grander mountain views, Grahan was nowhere to be seen. 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 cliffs with a background of impeccably blue sky stood in contrast with the dark green forest carrying the murmurous brook in its lap.

Soon they found themselves walking over a narrow trail which run over a rocky top of a mountain. On the both side there were deep cliffs. The cold had also increased significantly by that time. To drive their minds away from the struggling climb, they put on some music which rhymed with the nature. Then came 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 again. But the clear sky gave no such false signals. Then why would water drop from the trees? Before they realized that, it actually was snow that was melting, they spotted snow covered patches on the ground. At one place even flowing water formed ice cones hanging from rocks. And through all these, they crossed another mountain and behold 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 was it. They have already trekked for six hours. Tired and cold and hungry they rushed towards the village neglecting the thick cover of snow. the excitement and enthusiasm was boundless. Just before entering the village, they met a villager who informed them that, unfortunately this village was not Grahan but Thunja. Grahan is another hour from there!

In fact from Thunja they could see Grahan far away. 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 can arrange some place for them to spend the night. But Thunja is an extremely small village with only 10-12 houses. They had no guest houses or cafes or hotels or anything that one can normally find in a tourist place. 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 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 backpacks 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 village. He asked what do they do to earn money? To which, Ganesh replied selling some medicinal plants. Most of the people in the village does nothing of that sort even. They all has their share of land, where they cultivate crops not for selling but for themselves primarily. 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 go to the other room when Ganesh appeared again and asked them to come out to have dinner. This was completely surprising to them.  Overwhelmed with kindness and emotions towards these simple and angelic human beings, 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, shocked, 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 stared at the high peaks and the snow covered mountains flooded with moonlight. Those were some moments of pure happiness. Absolute silence prevailed the mountains, the muddy ground started to freeze as the cold creeps in to the moonlight and hugged whatever it fell on to. Tensoon slept like a coccoon.

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 500 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. For freshening up, when they went to the washroom, 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. On the way they saw the small school also. The trail went right beside it.

Compared to Thunja, Grahan was bigger and felt more commercialized. They had guest houses and fancy food menus. The name of the village perhaps came from its eclipsed position amidst all the high mountains all around it. Grahan is famous as the first campsite for the popular Sar-pass trek. They went to a guest house run by a lady whom they called aunty. While they had breakfast, they came to know that aunty lived there alone. Her husband is a school teacher in Kasol and two of her sons are studying in a school in Jari, a place 9 km from Kasol. 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. Neighbors 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! Such hardship they all have to go through everyday, but still at the end of the day they would laugh and smile. And with all the luxury in the world, city people still rant about their frustrating lives!!

After 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 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 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 days events. What could have really gone bad (had they not got any place to stay at night), turned out to be an impeccably perfect trekking experience for him. He saw great mountains, met Shanti, met some beautiful souls living with peace deep within the mountains and fell in love witeverything around that place.. What more could he have asked for!

They came back to Kasol and after a fulfilling Israeli meal to they drove to Kullu to get the bus back to the plains . Shanti accompanied him the whole way. Now was to say goodbye  until next time.

40 kullu bus stand (1 of 1)

 

Details of the trek

  1. Elevations: Bhunter-1089m. kasol and Chalal-1600m, Grahan-2300m, Thunja-2500m.
  2. Itinerary:
    Day one (leisure day): Bhuntar to Kasol (1 hour. cab 200 Rs per head, or bus)Stay in Kasol or Chalal, or roam around nearby places. this day can be omitted in case of need or adjusted in between if you want to chill at Grahan for one day.
    Day two: Kasol to thunja (4-5 hours). One can go to Grahan via Thunja.
    Day three: Grahan to Kasol and back to Kullu (Kasol to Kullu cab 1400 Rs. kasol to Bhuntar cab 900 Rs.).
  3. 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, instead, continue on the trail that goes along with the stream 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. This will take you to Thunja.
  4. While coming back, buses can be boarded from Bhunter although for online booking, they can not be booked from there. One can call HRTC Manali office and arrange for the bus to stop at Bhuntar in case of need.
  5. Other short and easy treks around kasol: Kheerganga, Tosh, Malana, Rasol.

Of Making Fun, Friends and Fire…Tales from Kedarkantha Trek in December

The possibility of this trek was hovering around for months as I discussed this trek with one of my oldest buddies from school. It just had to happen and the excitement was boundless for many a reason. This was my first trek in Uttarakhand Himalayas and that too with school friends. To top it up, nothing is cooler than any Himalayan trek in December! Literally!

Not having an option to trek independently, we booked our seats in a guided trek organization (about which I wish to write a separate blog discussing the pros and cons of guided trek organizers).

Day 1: Dehradun to Sankri

After reaching Dehradun on 15th December at 10 pm, we hurriedly took shelter in a Hotel near to the railway station as this was our pick up point next day. We started at around 8am in the morning and thus begun the journey with making new friends. We stopped at Kempty falls to break our fast with an amazing balcony view.

view from the balcony of breakfast point near kempty falls
view from the balcony of breakfast point near kempty falls

Sankri is almost 200km and the sleepiness and the beautiful mountains kept on playing a tug of war in side our minds. We did not really realize when we left the Yamuna valley and were moving along the beautiful Tons river.

Tons river on the way
Tons river on the way

Once again we stopped for lunch at Purola and reached Sankri just before sunset. Sankri is a small village on the outskirts of Govind Pashu Vihar National park and Wildlife Sanctuary. We could spot only two prominent hotels and some more dhabas and shops selling basic necessities. No mobile networks operate here except for BSNL. We were given accommodation in one of the hotels and soon were served tea and snacks followed by briefing on the trek by our trek leaders. Soon we were served delicious food, most unlikely of the kind that one supposed to get in a trek. By the taste of the food, we could not say whether we were on a trek or a luxurious vacation. And this continued till the end of our trek.

While we were savoring the delicious food, a very disturbing forest fire distant in the mountains was continuously spreading its hot breath. and just like this day, every next day while we enjoyed our exceptionally good food, or walked beneath dense forest, or tried hard to summit, somewhere there were always some horrible forest fire spreading its wings.

sunset at sankri
sunset at sankri
moonlit night at Sankri
moonlit night at Sankri
a distant forest fire seen from Sankri
a distant forest fire seen from Sankri

Day 2: Sankri (6400ft) to juda ka Talab (9100ft) – 4km

Next day, after tea-snacks and a multi-course breakfast (this makes eating in less quantity really difficult, but somehow we managed not to eat more as it would not be good for the steep climb), we started our trek by entering to the Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Sanctuary. After a few meters walk over a paved path, we started climbing the mountains. Soon we came across a small bridge. Right after crossing this, the trail bifurcates. The left one leads to Juda ka Talab while the right one was coming from Hargaon. So we kept left. That time we did not have any idea that this steep climbing will have no end till we summit.

Inside Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Sanctuary
Inside Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Sanctuary
setting off for the trek at Sankri
setting off for the trek at Sankri
bifurcation on the road
bifurcation on the road

Gradually we all adjusted ourselves with the initial steepness. The trail offers breathtaking vies of Swargarohini group of peaks. After taking rests in two of the places, we reached Juda ka talab camp site before lunch. This was not at all a tough trek and we were not tired also. This made me wonder whether we can reach the base-camp, which is the next camp site at a place called Lahusu, on the same day. Along with us there was a group of exuberant engineering students from Gujarat. They were sort of the life line of the whole group. As soon as we reached the semi frozen lake, they started exploring the possibility of walking over it and so they mannaged in no time. I was still a bit dubious about the safety. But, now I know that I should not have been. The most unbelievable sight to witness was the night sky at Juda ka Talab. After Dinner it was time for some fun and everyone were playing some games inside our dining tents. When we came out of the tent, we were chilled to our bones not only by the cool breeze but more so by the innumerable stars, shooting stars and the milky way right above our head.

pine trees along the trail
pine trees along the trail
one of the resting places: we had maggi and tea
one of the resting places: we had maggi and tea
smoke coming out of a forest fire as seen from the trail
smoke coming out of a forest fire as seen from the trail
swargarohini massif as seen from the trail
swargarohini massif as seen from the trail
swargarohini peaks as seen from the trail to Juda ka talab
swargarohini peaks as seen from the trail to Juda ka talab
trail to Juda ka Talab
trail to Juda ka Talab
Semi frozen Juda ka talab
Semi frozen Juda ka talab
Juda ka talab camp site at night
Juda ka talab camp site at night
night sky at Juda ka talaab
night sky at Juda ka talaab

Day 3: Juda ka Talab (9100 ft) to Base camp at Lahusu (11250 ft) – 4 km

After reaching Juda ka Talab, we were told that the next days trek would be much more light and it was rightly so. Reaching base camp was merely two hours of trek and I was fully convinced that this place can very well be reached in a single day from Sankri. In fact, there is another base known as Base camp II, almost in a kilometer’s distance which can also be reached in a single day. The problem with the base camp II is scarcity of water. There is no water source nearby and only one dhaba was operating there with 60 lt of water only. Base camp location was truly magnificent. But the disturbing smokes coming out of many forest fires were constantly there.

this was a day of relaxing. Everyone was Sun-bathing after having lunch and we went for a short acclimatization walk. We could see the Kedarkantha peak from base camp and it did not seemed to be an easy hike. The purpose of the walk was to getting us acclimatize for the long hike to the summit.

Swargarohini peak from the trail to base camp
Swargarohini peak from the trail to base camp
kedarkantha peak from base camp
kedarkantha peak from base camp
approaching base camp
approaching base camp
panoramic view of the mountains from Base camp
panoramic view of the mountains from Base camp
smoke coming from forest fire
smoke coming from forest fire
view from base camp
view from base camp

Day 4: Base camp (11250 ft) to Kedarkantha summit (12500 ft) to Basecamp to Hargaon camp (8900 ft)-6km (but it seemed more than that)

This was the most important day of all and we were to start the trek sharp at 3 am. We got up at around 2-2.30 am but the morning rituals were the toughest in sub zero temperature. Some how we all managed and started the hike to the summit in a single file formation. The leaders and the guide were great in constantly encouraging us. Without their help this day could have very well resulted in utter disaster. We took 15 min break once we reached the base camp II but resting was even more impossible than to walk constantly over the steep slopes as the sub zero temperature was cutting down to our bones. We kept on walking or doing some kind of exercise to keep ourselves warm. We were again horrified by forest fires but the soothing dawn sky stole our minds from that. With a great team work and constant unimaginable support from the leaders and guide, we finally climbed to the summit.

Forest fire as seen from the trail to the summit
Forest fire as seen from the trail to the summit
Swargarohini peaks
Swargarohini peaks
Swargarohini peaks while the trek to summit
Swargarohini peaks while the trek to summit
silhouette against the beautiful morning sky
silhouette against the beautiful morning sky
silhouette against the beautiful morning sky
silhouette against the beautiful morning sky
near to the summit
near to the summit
panoramic view surrounding the summit
panoramic view surrounding the summit
cairns on the summit
cairns on the summit

The view from the summit was breathtaking. We were introduced to the major peaks seen from the summit by the trek leaders and were given 30 mins of time to roam around. There was a shrine on the summit. Surprisingly we got BSNL network up there!!! We clicked photos, Sat silently, ate some refreshments which we took while starting the hikes, sat silently again to appreciate the Almighty Himalayas and finally started the trek back to basecamp. By the time we reached base camp, next batch was already there and after the lunch we all took a quick nap inside the dining tent before setting off for the Hargaon camp, which again took only two hours or so.

Finally we reached the summit
Finally we reached the summit
bandarpunch as seen from summit
bandarpunch as seen from summit
Swargarohini as seen from summit
Swargarohini as seen from summit
Swargarohini peaks
Swargarohini peaks
the shrine on the summit
the shrine on the summit
layers of misty mountains as seen from the summit
layers of misty mountains as seen from the summit

After reaching Hargaon camp, we were informed of our complete independence. No acclimatization walk today, no rules and regulations, no nothing. So three of us decided to visit Juda ka Talab once more. From Hargaon camp site, Juda ka talab, according to our guide would take 30 mins or so for us. But we covered that in just about 15 mins. That time it was around 3 pm and the lake was again frozen. One of us being one of the perky college students, gave us courage to explore the frozen lake, and this time we did so. we walked over the frozen lake, sat on it, danced on it and cracked the ice a bit too. It was so much fun that i would have definitely regretted had i not done it. All thanks to the younger people for reminding us of our younger days. That moment was of wisdom and I learnt that I am never too old for stupid and innocent childishness.

Hargaon camp
Hargaon camp
Camp site location at Hargaon
Camp site location at Hargaon

The return journey from Juda ka talab to hargaon took only 7-8 mins. After reaching the camp site, we had delicious food as usual, and that night everyone started sharing some stories of their lives, had many giggles, made great fun and finally everybody slept in the dining tent only.

Day 5: Hargaon (8900 ft) to Sankri (6400 ft) – 6km

This was a steep descent and a tiring one, not for the lungs, but for our legs. We reached Sankri through some agricultural fields, villages overlooking “gorge-ous” valleys. While coming down, we posed for a final group photo with a backdrop of a cute village house.

on the way to Sankri from Hargaon
on the way to Sankri from Hargaon

all the team members
all the team members
view from the trail to Sankri
view from the trail to Sankri

The trail finally converged with the trail that we took 4 days ago right before the bridge. Finally we reached Sankri before lunch time. We were given accommodation in the same hotel but except for three of us, rest all left for rafting in Rishikesh.

Since we had lot of free times to explore, we decided to visit the village of Taluka which is also the starting point of Har ki Dun trek. We walked over the trail beside the river for 10 mins and decided up on our next trek. While coming back we witnessed the most horrible of all forest fires that we came across in these 5 days. The mere site of it was disturbing and horrifying to the core.

Through out the trek, we had no snow but all the places we camped had sub zero temperature!!! Soon we came from the trek, we had news of the season’s first snowfall on the mountains.

at taluka village
at taluka village
a horrible forest fire
a horrible forest fire

Day 6: Sankri to Dehradun (a 10 hours drive completed in 6 hours.)

My opinions about the trek:
1. One should not attempt this trek without a guide. Although there is proper trail in most of the times, having a guide serves good only specially when you are exploring the route for the first time.
2. The distance to base camp II can be covered in a single day, and Juda ka talab can be explored while coming down from Hargaon. but keeping in mind the steepness of the ascent, reaching the basecamp II in a single day could be tough if you are not properly acclimatized.
3. Base camp II has scarce water. So one has to be careful while choosing a campsite.
4. the trail seemed a lot cleaner than any other treks I have done. So please let us maintain it that way.

The Bewitching Beas Kund…finally the complete story

the Utopian fairy-land of Bhakar Thatch
the Utopian fairy-land of Bhakar Thatch

Its been quite a few days since we came back from this trek (I did not put any adjective for this trek as I am sure none would convey what I am feeling) and ever since I have been thinking what exactly can I write about this trek. While in a trek, I have felt speechless before, but not this hopelessly, I have felt exhausted before, but not this painstakingly, I have loved reaching the summits, but not this purely, I have cried after witnessing great beauties, but not this joyfully!

Well, yes, that was Beas Kund trek for me in a nut-shell. I am still in a trance of whatever we went through during the three days of pure magic. And it is frustrating that there are so much to say, rather so much I want to say, but the best I can do is tearing up my eyes every time I try to overcome my speechlessness and get goosebumps!

I thought the images would convey what I am trying to say. But, alas! As if The mighty Himalayas are conquerable through a pair of lenses. So no help from that side either. And out of this frustrating hopelessness I am still having butterflies in my stomach as I write.

Day One: Manali to Solang valley (13 km) to Dhundi(7-8km) to Bakar Thatch (7km)

It’s been one year since we attempted this trek in may 2015 (for the other story, please refer to https://esotericperceptions.wordpress.com/2015/06/24/going-up-the-course-of-bustling-beas/) and now we were unable to suppress the excitation plummeting inside our heart as we were determined to complete it by any means. After reaching Manali bus stand, we quickly freshened up in the pay and use toilets just beside the bus stand and decided to head for Old Manali. Old manali is always alluring compared to the overcrowded new Manali and one of the main reason being amazing food in the cafes. Unfortunately, so early in the morning, none of the cafes were open and we decided to try a small dhaba right on the bank of raging Beas. We had coffee, egg-toast, paranthas sitting on the river rocks and dipping our feet in the icy chilly water. We could not comprehend if the starting of the day was so blissful, what else were we awaited for. After the breakfast, we shopped for food that we would need in next three days. We got plenty of chocolates, three packs of bread, cheese-spreads and some glucose tablets. And we thought that would be enough for four people and two days. Well, this story will continue further.

Meanwhile we came back to Manali to get a cab to Solang valley. We got one for 800 rupees which dropped us in front of a shortcut leading to the valley and the long awaited trek started. We were not allowed past the security check in Solang but were told to follow the jungle trail instead of the road and so did we willingly. This trail starts right behind the security in-charge’s cabin and gets elevated from the road quickly. Sometimes you can sea the road down below running parallel to the trail. Compared to the tar road, this trail provided with the immense joy of walking over a trail surrounded by pine trees and wild flowers and fruits, above all avoiding the sunlight.

1-solang-to-dhundi-shortcut

2-view-from-solang-to-dhundi-shortcut

4-the-road-to-dhundi-as-seen-from-the-shortcut

5-view-from-the-shortcut

The shortcut, at one point came down to the tar road again. Walking over the road also seemed peaceful as there was almost no honking of cars and one gets to behold the distant villages and gigantic mountains cut by the gurgling Beas.

beautiful view from the road to Dhundi
beautiful view from the road to Dhundi
the shortcut ends
the shortcut ends
At this point the initial stretch of the shortcut ends
At this point the initial stretch of the shortcut ends
The Beas river as seen from the road to Dhundi
The Beas river as seen from the road to Dhundi

After a few more kilometers of walk through an avalanche effected area and another shortcut, and then some more walk over the tar road, we came in front of a Tunnel recently made near Dhundi. Crossing that you will approach the construction area. We saw a bridge which was not there previous year dominating the landscape. the trail started beyond the bridge. We had our little lunch there sitting on the right bank of the river. We did not cross the bridge but started walking on the trail going upward from the bridge. Soon we had to cross a wooden makeshift bridge over the river to get to the other side. The gurgling water raging beneath and the swinging bridge surely would give you some chills down your spine!

avalanche affected area near Dhundi
avalanche affected area near Dhundi
the tunnel before Dhundi
the tunnel before Dhundi
After crossing the Tunnel
After crossing the Tunnel
At Dhundi, after crossing the wooden bridge
At Dhundi, after crossing the wooden bridge

The initial stretch of this trail was right out of some fantasy books. Velvety green grassy slopes bedecked with various flowers, numerous small water streams running playfully down and distant gigantic mountains made the whole place look like Tolkien’s Shire. After a short walk along the river, the trail suddenly took a right turn and we were in front of another large waterfall which we had to cross. This was the one which had a broken ice bridge last time. But now, we had to cross this just by hopping over boulders. But surprisingly this seemed easier than last time. after crossing the stream, the trail suddenly goes upward, but only shortly as it again came down to the river bed. The most fun part of this trek was its wavy pattern. It goes up only to come down and then goes up even higher!

The valley was absolutely stunning, with the river cutting it right in the middle and the giant slopes of Dhauladhar and pirpanjal right next to it. After another river crossing, the trail goes straight up to the meadows of Bakar thatch. From the river bed, you can notice a small bulging hill full of pine trees right in the middle of the landscape with Dhauladhars on one side and on the other, the Pir Panjals. bakar thatch lies just behind that hill which again looked like Lothlorien from Tolkien’s world.

after the first river crossing, Bakar thatch lies beyond the small bulging hill in the middle
after the first river crossing, Bakar thatch lies beyond the small bulging hill in the middle
the valley brfore the first river crossing
the valley brfore the first river crossing

Bakar thatch was out-of-this-worldly stunning with various flowers as if colors were plummeting from the high slopes of the seven sisters hills. Bright orange, red, yellow and white flowers decorated the pebbled trail like a fairy land. Cool breeze kept on playing with the swinging flowers welcoming you to this Utopia created by the elixir that flows down the numerous streams.

the trail to bakar thatch
the trail to bakar thatch
Bakar thatch camping ground
Bakar thatch camping ground
Hanuman tibba towering over other peaks of Dhaoladhar as seen from Bakar Thatch
Hanuman tibba towering over other peaks of Dhaoladhar as seen from Bakar Thatch
Looking down from Bakar thatch
Looking down from Bakar thatch
while crossing one of the numerous streams filled with glorious flowers
while crossing one of the numerous streams filled with glorious flowers
crossing another stream before reaching Bakar thatch
crossing another stream before reaching Bakar thatch

Except for us and an Israeli group, 10-15 tents were put for a trekking agency coming from Delhi. Due to lack of space, we pitched our tent a little far from the main camping ground. The night was one of the nights that will remain etched in mind forever. We sat with the Israelis and talked and sung and jumped as the music from the Ukulele and the flute created a sublime rhythm with the gurgling sound coming from a nearby waterfall. The lullaby mesmerized everyone as we kept looking at one of the clearest skies we had ever seen.

Day two: Bakar thatch to Beas Kund and back to Bakar thatch

Next day, after a light breakfast, we started for the long-awaited Beas Kund trek. We left all our extra belongings inside the tent only and took only camera, water and ponchos. The trail looked challenging but we all were supremely high on adrenaline and set of for the kund with high spirit. The initial bubbling energy soon proved not to be sufficient as the slopes got steeper and we almost started fighting for a good breath. The slope was almost 60-70 degree at places and full of boulders, small and large. On top of that, various bushes and thorns made it harder to reach the top of the ridge. But as we kept climbing, the view got more and more stunning.

We thought, if we cross the ridge, we will get to see the kund, but what we got to see actually made us hopelessly frustrated. After almost 30 min of hopping through boulders and cutting through thorny bush, we came just to the starting of an unending boulder sea. And when I say boulders, I mean only boulders, and nothing else. Some small, some bigger that any human, some stable, others loose, falling and sliding. It was a terrifying site and we were to cross that. But we must keep going. The Kund was calling. As we were about to enter the boulders, we saw some huge boulders some distance away sliding down which produced a scary sound as if some bones were being crushed. We climbed up and down in that boulder field lacking any proper trail. We just could see a waterfall beyond and thought that to be the source of Beas Kund and kept going that side. Yes, it was crazy, it might have been stupid as well, as I see it now but it was thrilling, and extra-ordinary and utterly exhausting. Our legs as well as hands soon started to give up but we kept them pushing. At one point I was almost on the verge of quitting, and thought of telling others to go on and i would wait for them there. But then the more I stay in this boulder field, more is the probability of being crushed by plummeting boulders. So I pushed myself for the final stretch and then came that moment. After crossing the final ridge of boulders, we came to a trail which went down to a vast and absolutely plain piece of land cut by many water streams and surrounded by great great mountains all around. This was something beyond my apprehensive mind. Not understanding how I got in to this pure heaven, I broke down.

The colorful Bakar Thatch as we climbed up from it
The colorful Bakar Thatch as we climbed up from it
starting of the boulder field
starting of the boulder field
start of the Boulder sea
start of the Boulder sea
end of the boulder sea and the first glimpse of the amazing plain
end of the boulder sea and the first glimpse of the amazing plain
the trail after crossing the boulder field
the trail after crossing the boulder field
the plain land surrounded by high mountains
the plain land surrounded by high mountains
in front of Beas Kund
in front of Beas Kund

But still no sign of the Beas Kund. we saw two shepherds shaving wool from there sheep and asked for direction. The big water fall, unfortunately was not the source of the Kund, neither were the other prominent waterfalls around it. In middle of all this grand structures, the smallest waterfall down a rocky surface was IT. We crossed multiple small streams and started climbing up a gentle slope. As we approached the Kund, our joy knew no limits. Completely physically broken, exhausted, out of breath and hungry I just sat there for a moment gazing into the weird green water. It was sort of a trance that we might have went in until the activity of others, the cheers, the laughter brought us back. To describe the landscape opposite to the kund is beyond my ability and I would not even dare to give it a try. Most hopeless is that even the images are not sufficient to describe even a quarter of what we witnessed. What was that? A dream? I would like to believe that as nothing real can be so bizarrely surreal.

water coming from the big waterfall
water coming from the big waterfall
the big waterfalls
the big waterfalls
Dhauladhar range in front of Beas Kund
Dhauladhar range in front of Beas Kund
The Utopian land opposite to Beas Kund
The Utopian land opposite to Beas Kund
Beas Kund....finally after one year and a shrine in front of it
Beas Kund….finally after one year and a shrine in front of it
Beas Kund
Beas Kund

After spending some quality time sitting in front of the kund, we had some food and started the return journey. This time, we got to know that there is a safer trail through the boulder field and so tried to follow it. But suddenly it became too much cloudy and we got lost inside the boulder field. We kept on crawling and sliding up and down the boulders but finally reached a place which gave us a chilliest chill down our spine. It was one of the places where we saw boulder sliding while going up. We screamed for help. The thick cloud made it impossible to navigate the right direction and luckily we heard the other group answering. We followed there voices for almost two ours in that sea of boulders and finally found a trail which made the whole journey down to Bakar thatch comparatively easier. By the time we reached Bakar thatch, It started drizzling. By that time the cloud had dispersed.

end of boulder field
end of boulder field

Day three: Back to Manali

next day, around 9 am, we started for Dhundi. While coming down, we got to know that “The Hell Race” was organizing a 30 km and 60 km marathon up to Bakar thatch!!! Crazy, right. and men and women across the globe including Indian Army were participating. By the time we came almost half way down, we saw one woman going up and by the time we came to Dhundi, she went up and came down to Dhundi. Wow and how!!??

We also hitch-hiked on the back of one of the open gypsy cars plying on the road for this same reason and the ride was most welcome and amazing.

From Solang we got another cab to Manali for 500/-. We again came to Old Manali and visited the Cafe 1947. It was an amazing cafe with amazing food. A sip of beed and and a spoonful of trout: that was exactly what we needed at that moment. After cherishing the food sitting on the bank of Beas, we looked back to the past days events and raised a toast in the name of the Beas which flowed beside us, in its own playful mind.

Kasol-Kheerganga Trek in Parvati Valley

15 after nakthan 5

The Parvati river valley is an ethereally beautiful treasure trove hidden between steep-sided mountains which runs eastwards from the town of Bhuntar, the place where Parvati pours into Beas. The valley is well reputed for its natural and cultivated growth of Cannabis which plays a major part in attracting travelers from all around the globe.  With beauties unparalleled to any other river valleys, this place is a host to some of the most welcoming and trippy villages in Himachal.

Day One: Kasol to Barshini (17km by car, via Manikaran)  to Kheerganga (14km trek)
Our journey started from Kasol, one of such villages. The plan was to do the Kheerganga trek. I was planning it for the last 3 years and never end up doing it. So, this time when we were talking about Kasol, I just could not hide my excitation as I knew we were going to the Hot spring of Kheerganga. We left Chandigarh in the evening and by dawn next day, we were in Kasol. Reaching Kasol so early in the morning did not seem to be a good idea as after the night-long parties every single person clearly seemed to be deep in sleep and least bothered about providing rooms.We could not spot even a single sober person who seemed interested in providing us accommodation. Luckily we got a room in one of the hostels and quickly retired to bed. Accommodation was pretty cheap compared to other hill stations keeping in mind the rush of tourists in this peak season. After a short nap followed by some “hash-tagged” breakfast, we started for Barshaini, the last road head. The construction of the Parvati river dam dominates the view there. Also the beautiful confluence of Parvati and Tosh can be seen.

Barshaini

construction site near Pulga

confluence of Parvati and Tosh near Barshini

The trek starts with a bridge crossing the Parvati river and follows a moderate steep trail through local wheat fields, villages cafes up to the spiritual place of Rudra-Nag. The initial steepness is a bit breath-taking but offers spectacular views of the Valley.

confluence of Parvati and Tosh near Barshini

firstst cafe after crossing the firsh bridge

first few steps on the trail

a distant waterfall seen from the trail

view from the trail going up

after some time, we came across a bifurcation on the trail. One went a little downhill and the other was a steep uphill. A small kid from some nearby local shop told us to take the lower trail but by seeing others taking the steep one, we followed. This trail took us to the village of Nakthan through some beautiful wheat-fields. Nakthan is a popular resting place for trekkers and offers good refreshments at various cafes.

bifurcation: take the upper trail

through the wheat fields

after the wheat fields

towards Nakthan

before nakthan

Nakthan cafes

Nakthan village

Nakthan

after nakthan

The month being June, the trail was extraordinarily green as it was raining almost everyday and the combination of blue sky, green mountains and distant white peaks was nothing but completely unearthly. There are many cafes along the way where one can sit and enjoy this majestic beauty. The trail is also decorated with many small springs. We did not know whether the water was drinkable but we did not care. We could not resist the taste of the cold crisp water and drank it to our fullest. All along the way, the river Parvati flows down the trail with a dangerously beautiful gurgling sound that seemed like a mountain lullaby. it was scary at times and yet so soothing.

cafe after nakthan

parvati river after nakthan 2

before rudrana

After a while, we reached the holy and spiritual place of Rudranag. A gorgeous water spring was coming through rocks with an apparent serpentine looks and hence the name. This place has a little bit clearing around it and some level ground to take a few moments rest before entering the deep pine forest after another river crossing.

 before rudranag

Rudranag

view from Rudranag

after a few steps, we came across a wooden bridge (while coming down the work of converting this wooden bridge into an iron one had already started), that took us on the other side of a raging Parvati cutting a deep gorge through ages old rocks. This place sure looked so ancient as if any time some prehistoric animal would come out of the forest. Lush green growth, big ferns, the muddy waterfall, the shaky bridge…ahh! a sight I would relish forever.

from the wooden bridge

the wooden bridge before rudranag

Crossing the wooden bridge was a thrilling experience. To cross a tremendousflow of raging white water all you have is a shaky bridge made up of wooden planks. Once we crossed the wooden bridge, the surroundings changed immediately. It was no longer going through wheat fields and villages, rather it was a thick pine forest and the trail followed a steep upwardly path. Through a couple of more water stream crossing and cafes, some tricky part on the trail, we finally got to the meadow of Kheerganga. The trail was so long and we all were so tired because of sleeplessness, that we literally felt each moments of this trek. And it seemed unending. Finally when we reached Kheerganga and get to behold the majestic huge mountains, our joy knew no bounds.

tricky trail

kheerganga

It was a tiring day, a really long trekking and that too a pretty steep one, but reaching there as usual we forgot the pain. the view was one of its kind. Huge mountains, waterfalls so high, as if coming from sky, the welcoming cafes and the river singing the mountain lullaby…never before I had witnessed such a place. to be very frank, it was a bit crowded at this time of the year and that is why I could not stop imagining how pristine this would look in off season times! Worth a try. And to add to all these, one of the cafes had hammocks hanging from a wooden beam, out in the open and just in front that huge mountain was standing like a sentinel guarding the sacred meadow.

cafes at kheerganga

a baba's hut at kheerganga

kheer ganga

kheerganga view

kheerganga view

kheerganga view

waterfalls from mountains kheerganga

view from kheerganga

We stayed there in a temporary wooden makeshift dorm for 150 per head per night. Tents were also available. Compared to the accommodation, the food although was not so cheap and that is quite understandable. But we ate like we never had food.

Day two: Back to Kasol via same route
Next morning, surprisingly all our body aches were gone and we decided to go to the hot-spring. That was yet another refreshing experience. The water was really really hot but once you give time some time, it is surprisingly bearable. And after a certain point, It is really fun! We stayed there for quite some time, came down, had breakfast and set off for the descending. While coming down, it rained heavily. Half wet, we took shelter in a cafe at Nakthan and again ate like mad people. We started coming down only after it stopped raining.

towards barshaini

trail ends, coming down

end trail, coming back

It was almost dark when we came to Barshaini. we took a cab for 1000 Rs from the drivers’ association office. We were told by the locals that they charge reasonably although that seemed a bit over the top. The cab dropped us down to Kasol in 45 mins to 1 hr. Quickly we visited the market and did some shopping. After another round of crazy dinner, we set off for the planes only to come back here again.