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Thursday, September 29 2022
Health & Lifestyle

Himachal Pradesh – A gateway to Nirvana

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“Unforgettable Himachal”, says the Himachal tourism tagline. Well, I must agree, it truly is unforgettable. My two buddies and I truly experienced the grandeur of this magnificent state and its immaculate beauty. The colossal snowcapped mountains and valleys, the milky white river gushing in between in full splendour, is truly a sight to behold. It was my long cherished dream to visit this “heaven on earth” and had planned numerous times only to be met with disappointment. I had just given my CS exams and was looking for an adventure to revivify myself and I decided to make my dream a grand reality come what may. With absolutely no planning I just told my buddies that I’m going to Himachal within a week and the two were ready to join me in this adventure. One of the buddies even gave up his job just to be a part of this journey. So after watching a few videos about Himachal, reading a shitload of articles and packing a ton of sweaters and thermal wear we were all geared to go to our dreamland.

We left Mangaluru on January 23, 2018 and reached Delhi the next evening through a circuitous route. January-February usually isn’t the best time to visit Himachal due to heavy snowfall and the extreme cold but we knew we wouldn’t get another opportunity to do so. After reaching Delhi, we were quite confused as to whether to go by bus or hire a taxi to reach Kasol in Himachal Pradesh. Since we didn’t want to take any risks we decided to hire a taxi straight to ‘Kasol’ located in the Kullu Valley. Kasol is also called ‘The mini Israel of India’. The journey to Kasol proved to be an exciting one even though it was in the dead of the night. Our first driver was quite the fun-loving guy. We were already in an adventurous mood joining our tunes to the playing songs like woofer gaddi and few other Punjabi ones at full blast. We stopped at a Punjabi ‘dhaba’ for some grub. The food here was so scrumptious we ended up eating 2 day’s worth at one go.

We reached Himachal border early morning at around 5 am. The moment we entered the state our eyes just felt at ease. Holy guacamole, words can’t describe the beauty, the serenity, the calmness this place had on us. The tiredness of the journey melted away as our bodies began to feel the chill in the air. After clicking a few pictures and drinking a nice glass of hot tea we were on our way to Kasol. We never stopped clicking pictures along the way since it was so much more picturesque than what we had seen in the video and photographs. The final stretch of the road to Kasol was quite a narrow one and quite steep too. It reminded me of the road to Leh-Ladakh. After 2 days of travelling without a break, we had finally reached Kasol. Needless to say, we were awestruck by the pristine beauty of the snowcapped mountains and the crystal clear waters of the river flowing right behind our hotel. We rested for some time before exploring the breathtaking beauty of this small town.

Kasol – An idyllic abode

Kasol is a hamlet in the district of Kulu, Himachal Pradesh. It is situated on the banks of River Parvati and it can be certainly described as the idyllic abode to escape from the rigours of daily life.

The fresh air provided by the huge pine trees here just breathes fresh life into the lungs. The eyes certainly enjoy feasting on the greenery all around. We explored this small hamlet enjoying its tranquil environs apart from indulging in roadside shopping buying a few chains, hemp wallets and some other accessories. On the third day, we took off to the small hidden village called ‘malana’ about which we knew much even before landing in Kulu.

Malana – The oldest republic of the world

Malana is an ancient Indian village in the state of Himachal Pradesh. This solitary village in the Malana Nala, a side valley of the Parvati Valley to the north-east of Kulu Valley, is isolated from the rest of the world. Malana has its own unique social structure and people religiously follow the customs and traditions which they have been following since ancient times. After an hour’s drive, and trekking a steep slope for over an hour we finally reached the entrance to Malana village.

We spotted local women with their pink cheeks (sunburn) and rosy red lips carrying large baskets filled with wood, vegetables and dried grass. The locals of this village believe they have pure Aryan genes in them and it is said that they are the descendants of Alexander the Great. There’s a good reason to believe they are different because they do not look like Indians. The language they speak has no resemblance to any of the Indian languages. Outsiders are forbidden from touching the people of the village and their houses here and if we break any rules, fine is imposed which goes up to thousands of rupees. The houses are built only with wood that too in a unique way, largely to protect from the cold. The men of the village do nothing but smoke charas and knit some clothes. We had a snowball fight with some kids here and then we moved on to the end point of the village. A stunning view of the Chandrakani and Deotibba peaks and a dam in between them made our day. We rested for an hour and headed back down the hill to Kasol.

Manikaran – The hot water spring

The next day we made our way to ‘Manikkaran’ located at a walkable distance Kasol, famous for its natural hot water springs and its stunning scenic beauty. This place is sacred for both the Hindus and the Sikhs. We found a nice open pool to take a hot water bath. The water was super-hot, close to boiling temperature but after dipping in once or twice, our bodies got used to it. The water felt heavy and was full of minerals. Needless to say, we felt completely relaxed and rejuvenated. After drying ourselves we had a nice meal at the Gurudwara. The food is cooked using the hot water springs and tasted heavenly. We enjoyed this trip to Manikkaran and were back to Kasol to pack our bags for our next destination – Tosh.

A 2-hour drive to this village was quite challenging but worth it because it is very picturesque. This hamlet is surrounded by snowcapped peaks with 365 degree view. We checked in a place called Sky Café. The day was quite warm but the night was terribly cold with temperatures dropping below -8 degrees Celsius. The next day we were off to trek this place called Kheerganga. This 14 km one-way trek was one of the most arduous treks and also the best trek I have ever done in my life. I must say the e trek tested our endurance level and we were glad we passed the test in flying colours.

Kheerganga – To the world of instant Nirvana

We walked down the hills of Tosh and stood at the entrance of the trek to Kheerganga. Quite a few people warned us not to go forward due to heavy snow. They also warned us that it wouldn’t be possible to make the return trip within a day. Unfazed by these warnings, my buddies and I just went ahead thinking ‘let’s go with the flow’. One among us was not able to keep pace with us and had to return to Tosh. The two of us continued to make our way up the hill. We were accompanied by 2 dogs that joined us halfway and were there with us till the end. The dogs here are so fluffy with their thick fur we just could not help playing with them. Finally, after trekking for more than 4 hours we made it to the top. A hot water spring on top of a snow-covered mountain was waiting for us. We just immersed ourselves and relaxed, the surrounding hills making us feel like we are in 7th heaven. Soon, all the fatigue and exhaustion disappeared taking us to the world of instant Nirvana in that sulphur heated water.

After resting for an hour we made our way back. The trek was quite difficult with many complicated and dangerous spots but we somehow made it before the sun was down and were back in Tosh. The café owner there was surprised to know that we had trekked almost 30 km in 11 hours. He also told us that we were the first ones that year to complete the trek in a day in such icy conditions. That was a great morale booster for us.

We rested in Tosh for 2 more days enjoying the serenity and the calmness. We enjoyed sipping the local brew made from jaggery thought the night, playing with a St Bernard Band that had followed some tourists. Come next morning, it was time to bid adieu to Tosh and we caught a taxi straight to Old Manali.

Manali – A heady mix of fun and adventure

A beautiful city with huge parks and gigantic trees and we just enjoyed sitting in silence without speaking a word in one of the parks here. We hired a taxi for a bit of sightseeing around Manali and then made our way to a place called Solang valley. This place is famous for adventure sports like skiing, paragliding etc. We hired 3 ponies all the way to the top of the valley. Quite a lot of people were there already and many of them were singing ‘Kullumanali’ and this phrase stuck with us too. We played around in the snow for some time and then made our way back to our hotel. We then caught a bus to a small relatively unknown village called ‘Haripura’ which is in between Manali and Kulu. Another hour’s uphill trek led us to some beautiful greenery and after taking a small nap we took a taxi back to Manali, to catch our bus back to Delhi.

Our escapade far away from the humdrum of regular lives was about to come to end. With a heavy hear,t we packed our luggage and made our way to the bus station. The next morning we reached Delhi and the day after we were back in Mangaluru. The memories created there are fresh in my mind and I relive those memories of the 15 days I spent there, wherever and whenever possible. Every risk and every challenge we faced was worth it. Given a chance, I would go back to Himachal in a heartbeat’s moment.

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Clafton Siddharth

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