Ever thought of escaping from the city life and running into the arms of nature? Recently, a few friends of mine and I decided to venture out of the bustling metropolitan life and visit Himachal Pradesh and its Great Himalayan range. We planned our trip to Parvati Valley and the little towns and villages located on its banks, namely, Kasol, Challal, Tosh, and Khirganga. I am not going to delve into the details of where we stayed and what we ate, but for the nature lover inside you, I am going to elaborate on how pristine these places are and how we had an eco-friendly trip to the Himalayas!
1. Do not leave a bonfire unattended: Let me start with Kasol, which is a small village and a big hub for backpackers, who are attracted to the picturesque valley, untouched hills, low population, and excellent climate throughout the year. Kasol has located in the foothills of the Himalayas, i.e., The Shivalik range. It is a base for major Himalayan trekking like Sar Pass, Yanker Pass, Pin Parvati Pass and Khirganga. Kasol is divided into two parts on either side of a bridge – Old Kasol and New Kasol. It has motorable roads lined with apple and pine trees on both sides. Kasol’s crowning glory is its pine forest A.K.A the deodar forest, the ever audible Parvati river wetting Kasol’s feet and the omnipresent cannabis plants all over the town. Foreigners, mostly Israelis, come here to rejoice in the drug capital of India, which is why Kasol is also known as Mini Israel. Kasol has nature’s wonder and affluence in many forms. Throughout the day, we clicked pictures of the prettiness all around us. As the day came to a close, we sat on a riverside rock and finished a flask of warm coffee and enjoyed the scenic beauty of the place at the banks of the Parvati river. Some locals were fishing for trout at the end of the fishing season was approaching. The mountains surrounding the valley were mostly adorned with beautiful, white snow. We saw many others sitting on the banks and lighting a bonfire and or having bar-be-cue sessions.
2. Do not waste electricity: Challal is one of the main places to visit near Kasol. It was a 20-minute walk to Challal from Kasol.A rickety bridge between the two villages needs to be crossed. Being city dwellers, seeing herds of cows and sheep, guarded by dogs and one little shepherd boy was an unseen sight for us. But the simplicity in his smile and the stunning eyes of the cows and human-like sheep calls was mesmerizing for us. Challal is less commercialized than Kasol. It is quieter and greener, with lesser number of cafes and even lesser people as compared to Kasol. With a majestic and miraculous view of the valley scattered with pine trees accompanied by the Parvati river, we just kept soaking in its exquisiteness. Everywhere we looked, we saw the majestic mountains of the Himalayan Range, which awoke the spirit of adventure inside all of us. Night sneaked upon us suddenly as the sun dipped behind the humungous mountains. As darkness rose, the moonlight became our guide in this electricity- less night. We counted stars and viewed the constellations as clear as the lines on our palms. As the sky was pollution- less, we wished upon the tens of shooting stars.
3. Learn about the flora and fauna of the place: Next day we went to Tosh, which is a 3km but 1.5 hours trek on the left fork road from Barshaini. Barshaini is 12 KMs by road from Kasol. It is another small village. To reach Tosh, we had to cross a little bridge. The room that we rented was facing east, and when we woke up in the morning, we could see the sun creep out slowly from behind the mountains in front of us. We witnessed light rainfall there which gave Tosh and, even more, deep and verdant green color. We could smell the fresh and distinct aroma of the cannabis plants, literally growing like weed everywhere! As we tried to take in the glorious and unobstructed views of the Valley, we were, even more, awestruck when we saw the mountains across us turning white from the top! The mountains were bejeweled by snow caps right in front of our eyes! We took endless photographs of the low hanging clouds, kissing the necks of the mountains across from us. The clouds slowly drifted towards Tosh, and we could almost touch them. The temperature fell in Tosh too, and the rain went on until the night. At night, we stood outside, shivering in the cold, just to catch a glance of the lightning which lit up the sky and the mountains in the most magical way. We could see River Parvati shimmering in the moonlight. Tosh was serene and heavenly.
4. Do not litter: The next day we trekked to Khirganga, which is a 12 KM trek from Tosh. We passed a couple of villages. A walk through the village was a pleasant trail through apple fields and green pastures. We saw breathtaking waterfalls and drank water from numerous streams. Sometimes, the trek got tough for us since we neither had any trekking gear or sticks or a guide. But our spirits led us on until finally after 5 hours, we reached our destination. It is very rightly said, “Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you about the destination.” But nothing could have prepared us for the hypnotizing splendor of Khirganga! I can hardly even describe it in words. Starting from the great expanse of greenery to the mystical massif of mountains right in front of us, the hot spring and only about a 100 people in all of Khirganga, we fell in love with this place. What could be better than the chilliness in the wind and the warm hot spring to the rescue? Vast jungles surrounded the tiny habitation of humans. Cattle were grazing the grass, and ‘Pahadi’ dogs walked around royally. We sat out on the hills and bathed in the glory of nature. As evening fell, we went inside our guesthouse tent and warmed ourselves in the heat of the Bukhara. The moonlit valley looked, even more, seductive than in the evening. We stepped out of our tent at night and walked around a bit, drawing constellations and breathing out mist from our mouths. The grass was wet with moisture, and the air was too cold for us to stay out too long, so we retreated inside and dreamt of all the wonders we witnessed in these last few days.
Who could have imagined that such clean, unspoiled and untouched places existed in our country? A country where the cities have so much smog that, forget the stars, the visibility reduces to only a few meters ahead of us. A country where cities stink of carbon gasses and the mountains smell of freshness; A country where there is a stark contrast between what we see being limited to buildings and skyscrapers in the cities and the greenery and magnificence that we see up there. In cities, we can only hear cars honking and people chattering away endlessly, but in the mountains, the soothing and ubiquitous sound of the rivers becomes the delight of our ears. Being back in the city makes me feel incomplete somehow. Wish our cities were more like our mountains – green, serene and pollution-free!