Kheerganga Winter Trek- Part I

23rd Dec 2017
Photo of Kheerganga Winter Trek- Part I by Megha Sharma

It was mid of December 2017. I was waiting for the metro to go to my office, opened my Weather App out of a perpetual habit and checked the weather of Manali and other parts of Himachal. It was showing -2 to -4 degrees during some parts of the day and more low during few along with chances of snowfall.

I closed the app and immediately called my friend.

I said "Sun, Manali me baraf padne waali hai yaar" to which she responded "Yaar kitni baar Manali jayegi, kahin aur chalte hain". I mean this is the kind of support one should have from friends. I didn't ask for any trip or anything yet she understood the context of me saying those words. Okay conversation continued............

Meanwhile 1 metro gets skipped.

Me- Toh fir trek pe chalte hain kahin

She- Kahan?

Me- Kheerganga karlete hain iss baar, uske bad fir Manali chale jayenge

She- Tu fir agai na Manali pe!

Me- Arey , paas me hi hai Manali vaha se

2nd Metro skipped

She- Theek hai, dekh lenge Manali ka baad me.

Me- Theek hai, Christmas wale weekend ka rakh lete hain. Saumya se bhi puch le

She- Done. Puch lungi.

Aur Phir Saumya se conf call pe pucha jaata hai. She also agreed.

3th, 4th Metro skipped.

Boarded metro and reached office. Plan was finalised for 22nd Dec. I booked camps at Kasol and bus tickets but due to long weekend all the AC buses were booked so I had to book a Non AC Normal roadways HRTC Bus. YES! a non ac/non sleeper :( , that too during such cold weather.

Boarded our bus on 22nd Dec late evening. Three of us, super excited. Adjusted our luggage and seats (not so comfortable, not much leg room).Bus stopped at a Dhaba at midnight and we had our food. Came to our bus. Now we started feeling cold as after few hours the temperature started to drop and the window was a bit broken, so all the chilly winds were welcoming us through that space.

We kept on switching our seats with each other as it became way too difficult to sit with that wind continuously touching you on such a cold night. Then a friend took out a warm scarf and three of us shared that scarf to save us from those super chilly winds and we slept but just for few hours.

Day 1

Bus reached Bhuntar and we deboarded there. Bhuntar is a small town in Kullu district, one has to take another bus/private taxi from Bhuntar to reach Kasol. We sat at a tea shop and had tea there. The tea was fantastic as it was the first tea in the morning on a freezing day. The Private taxi was asking for 1000/- Rs so we preferred to take a bus instead and waited for 15-20 minutes for the bus. Till the time we kept waiting, we had one more tea and had conversation going on with the shop owner regarding my frequent visits to Himachal and local shops and market of Kasol etc. Took a local bus from there to reach Kasol. The bus charged 15 or 20 Rs. per person. That means we saved around 950/- Rs.

Early morning weather

Photo of Bhuntar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Megha Sharma

Now, the task was to find the place where our camps were located. Were able to locate the place, but much to our surprise the camps were located down the road near the river in the jungle. We had our luggage and tried to walk down the steep jungle very cautiously as it had just rained there & it was very slippery.

We reached our camp but there were no arrangements for a proper washroom where one could take a bath. We had tea and parathas at camp and decided to go to Manikaran Gurudwara and have a bath there (There is a spring of natural hot water where people take spiritual bath). We took a bus from Kasol to reach Manikaran which is 4 kms away from Kasol. The road which leads to Manikaran is very narrow and dangerous, I could easily see one tyre of the bus hanging in the air whenever the driver used to take any turn. I was just wishing to reach there soon.

Wild dense forest where our camp was located

Photo of Kasol, Himachal Pradesh, India by Megha Sharma
Photo of Kasol, Himachal Pradesh, India by Megha Sharma
Photo of Kasol, Himachal Pradesh, India by Megha Sharma

Aloo ka parathaa aur chai

Photo of Kasol, Himachal Pradesh, India by Megha Sharma
Photo of Kasol, Himachal Pradesh, India by Megha Sharma
Photo of Kasol, Himachal Pradesh, India by Megha Sharma

Reached Kasol

Reached gurudwara, there are two ponds, one is outside and the other one for ladies is inside. As soon as we kept one foot inside the water it was burning like hell. Then an elderly lady asked us to take God's name and then step inside the pond and nothing will happen. It worked. We took lots of dip inside it and all our journey stress vanished. I felt like washing my hair outside the pond and these idiots made me wash my hair with a face wash. Decided to have langar which is made with the help of hot water only. Here people put rice in small packets and put it inside the hot water. After 25-30 minutes, it comes out in the form of boiled rice and people take it as 'Prasad'. This is the beauty of this place and this country. We know how to use and value each and every aspect of anything.

This place is of utmost beliefs for Hindus and Sikhs. There is a Shiv Temple & Shri Ram temple there. Lord Shiva's statue is always seen being surrounded by the vapours of hot water. The best part about the temple is it's architecture. There was an earthquake in the early 20th Century due to which it has been tilted since then. Himachal is rightly called as 'Dev Bhoomi'. It truly is and is equally magical.

Had langar of Kadhi Rice at gurudwara, people have to take their respective plates after eating and wash them, if they desire so. Sat for few minutes in the hall and headed towards Kasol.

Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara

Photo of Kheerganga Winter Trek- Part I by Megha Sharma

Surreal Parvati River

Photo of Kheerganga Winter Trek- Part I by Megha Sharma

We were walking towards Kasol market and roaming around all the shops. Suddenly I felt the urge to inquire about the 'most talked about stuff' of Kasol, so we went to few shops to ask for it but none of the shop owners co-operated. Finally found a shop owner who helped us and gave it to us. It was late afternoon, we decided to have a short trek to Chalaal instead of going back to our camp. Chalaal is a small village and one has to walk for around a km through forest. We started our walk alongside the parvati river. The sound of the river, silence amidst the forest, chirping birds and three of us walking and enjoying the never fading beauty. We saw people coming back from the village whereas we were heading towards it. At first we thought of not going there because it would have been so dark by the time we'd be back. But we continued our walk.

Met these cuties on our way to Chalaal.

Photo of Kheerganga Winter Trek- Part I by Megha Sharma

We reached Chalaal , the way to Chalaal Village is so calm that one could keep on walking without thinking of the destination. On your left is Parvati River flowing and settling all your chaos, the healing sound of rushing water, wide dense forest, locals sitting and doing their chores. All of this was so pure to experience. Reached Chalaal, sat at a local shop, clicked few pictures, had few cold drinks and started walking towards our camp. By the time we started, we could see it getting dark. Our camp was not in the main Kasol but before Kasol (When coming towards Kasol from Bhuntar), we started walking at a fast pace so that we could reach there at least before complete dark.

But all in vain! We reached Kasol and it got dark enough to scare us and regret us for going to Chalaal so late, we still had to walk more to reach our camp, it was way too dark and no lights were there. It was around 7:00 P.M. We got bit scared as there was nobody we could ask help from, we switched on the torches in our phones and started to walk on the main Kasol Manikaran Road towards our camp talking and pretending as if we were not scared of the dark and unaccounted risk of any mishap or any wild animal or anything else. Took few stones in our hands too for our own safety. Meanwhile I played few songs on a low volume so that I could avoid the situation getting more tensed.

There were few cars passing by that stopped at far looking at us, that scared us even more. Some weird sounds of animals, and the worst part was that we couldn't locate the place where we had our camps. GPS was also not working. It was just a rough idea on which we were walking. After walking for 20-25 mins, I heard the sound of few Kishor Kumar songs and got a sigh of relief because I realized that our camps were nearby and started humming the songs. Finally we located our camp and had to again walk down through jungle to reach our camp, it became too difficult because it was dark now. Formed a human chain to go downwards from road towards the jungle and finally we reached our camp. God! that was hell of a daunting experience indeed.

Our camp area was well decorated with lights,chairs and tables, music, bonfire everything was there. It was -3 or -4 degree and we all were sitting around bonfire, there were 25-30 people more there. We sat and talked. Bonfire, chicken, old monk and friends. I mean what else could anyone ask for on such a cold night. We started to dance and danced for hours with all of them who were unknown to us but still felt like we've known them for so long.

'Yeh shaam mastaani' playing in the background.

Photo of Kheerganga Winter Trek- Part I by Megha Sharma

I never expected such a warm and lively evening. There were very nice people, all of us sitting together dancing, sharing our stories, experiences. We slept at around 2.30 a.m because we had to go for our trek the next morning. Sleeping in the tent was quite a difficult task for us because it was a two person tent in which we 3 adjusted ourselves, moreover it was drizzling and I could hear the sound of droplets falling on our tent like rocks. But we slept after a day full of excitement and experiences. The next day was waiting for us to experience some more adventures...................

TO BE CONTINUED.................