It was the third day of our trip and we were getting ready for the Khirganga trek packing our rucksacks. Since we were waiting for this trek from last two days, we were filled with wonder and excitement. Khirganga trek is 14-16 km approximately crossing two huge mountains from Barshani. It takes around 5-6 hours to reach the top of Khirganga on foot. The trek has steep climbs, waterfalls, rough pathways and many equivalent hurdles. Initially, we inquired our host for a guide, but they were charging high rates(4000 INR for a guide) but our host confirmed that there are only 5% chances to go astray and mostly people reach there very easily. It gave us great confidence and we set out for the trek all on our own. We reached Barshani Dam at around 7:30 am which is where the trek started. The climate was favorable and the time was perfect to start the climb.
The stairs of Barshani dam led us down to Parvathy River and we crossed the hanging bridge to reach the foot of the first mountain, this where the steep climb started. We were going breathless after completing the first 15 minutes of the trek and embarrassingly took the first halt. Resting there, restraining our breaths in rhythm, I was thinking of my lazy lifestyle I have been following all these years. We resumed on the alternative paths of the cliff and on the other side we could see a breathtaking view of the mighty and milky white Parvathy River flowing between the two giant mountains. Apple farmers were passing by very easily with a big bucket of apples on their back which confirms that it was their daily exercise. I asked one of them about the distance left to reach Khirganga, he replied 3-4 km. We were pretty sure that he misunderstood the unit in which we asked. We reached the main apple plantations and red apples were all around us. Farmers don't allow travelers to pluck apples from their plantation and if they catch anyone plucking, they will charge them with a hefty amount. Hence, Red Bull and Snickers were the only eats we had.
We decided to load some apples in our rucksacks and started plucking apples restlessly. As soon as we heard some noise we stopped and continued to walk. We reached the first village where we relaxed for some time. One Dada started asking us randomly about Delhi and the political happenings there while we relaxed. We resumed the trek and encountered some really cool mountain dogs on the way. They were very burly and extremely friendly to humans. As we trekked, they followed us and when we took breaks they waited till we resumed.They gave us company switching between themselves till the top. We then reached a place where there was another high waterfall crossing which led to a bridge which was the entrance to next mountain. We entered the next mountain and the surroundings started to change. The whole environs started getting more wilder with dense forest and tall trees. The ascent was getting much steeper and rocks started becoming slippery. The paths were getting messy and confusing, but travelers had already marked the way to Khirganga in small rocks, these so-called sign rocks helped us stay on the right path. We were exhausted and the rucksacks started feeling heavier than ever. After 6 hours of trekking, we reached the entrance of Khirganga where a poster of Lord Shiva welcomed us. We were bang on destination. With almost no energy left, we all rushed to the top of the valley craving for a dip in the sulfur heated water.
There was a small temple of Lord Shiva and a pool of hot water springs attached to it. This is the main attraction of Khirganga. Hippies mainly come here to have a bath in this pool along with a seventh heaven puff(Malana cream). The water is sulfur heated and villagers believe it has intense medicinal benefits. The Pandit always keeps an eye on the pool as he won't allow anyone to pollute it. In huffs and puffs, we were climbing the last stretch of the steep ascent which ends at that hot pool. Pandit ordered us to have a bath outside and then come to pool for preserving the religious purity. That first dip in the pool filled us with a rejuvenating feel eliminating the fatigue and tiredness of the whole trek. Huge snow capped mountains graced us far away.
The Pandit told us about Kailasa and the whole story of the valley which differs from person to person. The crests of the snow capped mountains were hiding in the clouds. The crests were occasionally visible due to the movement of the clouds. There was no flat ground, but only unevenly spread green lands all around the pool. The sheep and cows there reminded me of the Swiss countryside. Panoramic blue skies, green grasslands, dense pine trees and giant snow capped mountains trapped us in an obsessive love which pushed us to stay there that night as all of us were supposed to report the next day.
Life is too short to come here twice, so we decided to spend a night in this eccentric place. The decision of staying back was way more rewarding than the trek as that night at Khirganga is the most beautiful night I have ever witnessed. The whole valley was filled with the hauling sound of the wind, the buzz of insects and the roar of Parvathy River which altogether gave it its spine-chilling ambiance. The twinkling stars brightened the dark blue sky and white snow caps seemed more bluish in moonlight. Those moments were making us more human and life seemed better than ever. We would regret not staying there that night if we really didn't. The stay was surprisingly cheap as it was only 100 INR per head for a room(dormitory) including food.
The wooden walls kept us warm and room was well equipped for having a good sleep. There are many tented restaurants in the valley as well. The delicious meal in the restaurant was backed with ambient backdrops and trance music that cut us loose from all complicated problems in mind. Honey-ginger-lemon-tea is the best drink one can have in that chilled atmosphere. After enjoying that beautiful night, we had the local dinner(Roti,Rice, Papad and Dal) at the place we stayed. The place has no network or power which is literally what makes it a hideout. We were completely detached from the concrete jungle and materialism. After having a filling diet, we all went back to sleep.
The next day morning I woke up at 6 in the morning and as I came out I could feel the soothing sunlight. With much stronger breeze and ice cold weather, the morning seemed fantastic. All of us set out to have our bath in pool to soothe our body muscles before trekking down. After having a good swim in sulphur heated water, we went to the restaurant and savored a hefty continental breakfast with a honey-ginger-lemon tea. Finally, it was time for us to get down. There was slight rain when we started, but after some time, the intensity decreased as the drops were not reaching us dodging all those leaves of tall trees shading us. Our body and muscles got used to those unpaved paths and steep descents and that is when I then realized how pragmatic human bodies are, as our stamina got increased by a great extend. We were trekking down pretty fast as we reached Barshani in 4 hours of rushing down with necessary breaks. We relaxed in front of the dam for fifteen minutes assimilating the joy of conquering the heights of freedom and peace.
Now I am as addictive to trekking as to bike rides, there are two things which both of them have in common, the more you engaged with them, the more your soul gets connected to nature. I have decided to trek more often specifically to the Himalayas. Khirganga is a refreshing trek and I strongly recommend it for beginners. Khirganga is a place which you can visit infinite times and you won't get bored. The absence of the tourism and the ignorance of civilized crowd makes this place a refreshing paradise. Well, amid the hustle and bustle of commercialized cities who would not like a visit to a heavenly hide out in this mystic woods.
This trip was originally published on Life Improvised.