It is that season again. When the snow melts enough to let the green grass sprout but still glistens in the distant peaks. And Parvati Valley springs to spring with long stretches of apple blossoms. In short, the best time to do that trek to Khirganga. A slightly steep, slightly slushy but much mushy 7-8 hours of up hill through some stunning valley views and a few thunderous waterfalls.
Start your trip in Kasol. A deviation from the Bhuntar airport, near Kullu, Kasol takes around 12 hours from Delhi by road. Spend the day doing the Manikaran Gurdwara, the many little shops, and of course the eclectic cafes. This used to be a haunt by many Israeli tourists at one time, but with the crowd discovering this over the last decade or so, they seemed to have moved up to smaller villages called Chalal, or Tosh. Still they have left some good food behind. Do the Jim Morrison cafe for some taste of the Bohemia that they left behind.
If you do not wish to stay in the many hotels in Kasol before the trek, then a good place to camp is in the village of Barshiani. Just near the river, from the base of where the climb to the trek starts.
Starting from Barshiani, the trek is around 9 to 10 kilometers. The last village you will come across on this trek is Sagar Nakthan. Ask the locals around. There is a slightly off track path for about a kilometer or so, just before this village. It has some stunning apple blossoms this time of the year. I caught it by chance as I followed a shepherd with his bleating force, on my way down. And I kicked myself for missing this on my way up.
Till Rudra Nag, which is almost half way up, the trek is fairly easy. Strenuous only because you are still climbing up, but it is not really steep. One comes across a temple, a gorgeous waterfall, and a food stall. Make sure to catch your breath, snatch a snack or Maggi and some solitude at this point, because the next lot of climb is going to get very steep. And if it has rained, as it did during my climb, be sure to get some skids and slush on your way up.
[View of the steep climb from a tent in Rudra Nag, as we waited for the rain to stop]
After this point, there will be around 3 to 4 food and tea halts, till you reach Khirganga. There are times when the path suddenly gives way to a very narrow ledge. At such points, the best way to cross is to continue looking forward. Because looking sideways or down is only going to make you stop. Having said that, I did see a couple, in slippers, with a 5 year old girl, carry on, without a worry.
Once on the top, there are a few food shops and places to stay or plonk your sleeping bag in. With some beyond -grand views and the famous hot springs. While many choose to stay at the shops, a great alternative is camping. You can pitch it away from whatever crowd has decide to stay back for the night, pick up on some easily available driftwood, make a small fire outside, and drop all baggage.
[My little big tent at Khirganga and me]
And then, carry your little swim wear to the hot springs, and get yourself an evening to remember.To be able to go and soak up the sulphur springs after this long walk, while you stare at the snow clad peaks surrounding you, is an experience that no blog would be able to do justice. In one word, it is priceless.I was too busy splashing around, to remember to click. While the men's section has open sides, the women's section is nicely covered, just enough for privacy. But not as much to block the view. Just remember to carry spare clothes and a handy towel.
[Hot springs, Khirganga. Image courtesy- Google.]
Start early the next day, if you want to get back by early afternoon. Or spend the morning grabbing some more of the sights. We had rain predicted, so we grabbed a hearty breakfast and started quite early. Even with post rain slush, way down is way easier. Find your pace, and stop by some views and some humor.
[Many shades of spring. On way to Khirganga]
And last of all, do not forget to take a bright selfie in the tent, as the wind freezes your little fire outside.