Being the beach bum that I am, I had been planning trips to beach destinations all these years but off late I had been dreaming of visiting the mountains. I felt that the mountains were calling out to me and I had to visit them but every time I began planning a mountain getaway the first thought that struck me was if my better half, Gary, would be comfortable with it. There are so many folks who suffer from bad motion sickness while travelling on hilly roads and I really feel for them. So when Gary finalized her dates to visit her family for a week, I made up my mind to visit the mountains to escape from my thankless job, find some peace of mind and do some soul searching.
Out of all the destinations, I had really wanted to visit Himachal. A close friend suggested that we explore Spiti but after researching extensively on the net and calling up several tour operators, none of them had dates of my preference and all of them would have required more than a week of travel from Mumbai. I came across a website called the Great Next where I inquired about trips in Himachal that would include hiking and camping. They gave me few options out of which I was completely sold for the Parvati Valley tour as it included both camping & hiking and it was recommended for first timers because the treks were easy. It was a short 5 days & 4 night’s trip and Parvati Valley was on my radar ever since my college days. This trip would also give me an opportunity to travel like a college boy (I wanted to feel young..lol) and visit other destinations in Himachal as I was taking a week long leave. So, I booked the trip for just Rs.9,600 which included bus ticket (semi sleeper and air-conditioned) from Delhi to Bhuntar (I opted out of the return bus journey which would have costed Rs.900 more), all internal transfers, all accommodations, breakfast & dinner and tour guides. This turned out to be cheaper than my Mumbai-Delhi return air tickets. The tour would cover 4 locations which were Kasol, Kheerganga, Tosh and Malana. It was going to be a group tour and accommodation was on triple or quadruple sharing basis. After making the booking I realized that the Great Next are an aggregator for adventure tours and the actual trip operator was WanderOn (I would recommend them).
I was really looking forward to my first solo trip though I had reached out to some of my close friend asking them to join me but none of them were available which in many ways proved to be a good thing. As I had never been on a trek before, I had to buy all the trekking essentials that included a rucksack which I bought from amazon for just Rs.850. Later I realized that tons of people had bought the exact same rucksack and a few of them were part of my trek group too. I almost picked up someone else’s bag at Delhi airport as I was pretty sure the same new rucksack on the conveyor belt had to be mine but thankfully I checked before making the blunder. Do remember to carry a rain coat that can be worn over a rucksack (during monsoons) or carry a water proof rucksack cover in addition to a normal raincoat, torch, Swiss-knife, sports (has to have a good grip) or trekking shoes and a power bank to charge your gadgets. I also carried a small water proof bag (I highly advise the same) for overnight trips as we had the provision of leaving behind the big rucksacks at the Kasol hotel where we were put up. I would also want to highlight that packing a rucksack requires a different skillset than packing a suitcase so I struggled to fit everything after completing work the previous night at 12:30 AM.
Now let me give you all a brief overview of the group I traveled with so you have an idea about the kind of people you may encounter if you take a similar trip. First people I interacted with were a young girl and boy from Mumbai. Then there was a group of 4 doctors from Rajasthan who had just completed their MS degree. Two chaps from Nagpur who had recently graduated and were planning to pursue their MBA. All these folks were part of the original group for the Parvati valley tour. Now the others were part of the Bir Billing tour (just one destination was different between the 2 tours) but their itinerary were clubbed with ours because the tour operator didn’t get enough bookings to lead 2 separate groups. The Bir Billing (a famous paragliding spot) group consisted of a girls group (3 of them) from Gujarat, another group of 3 girls from Kolkata and two female solo travelers from Mumbai (yeah, city of the free spirited people) all of them being working professionals. Guess girls are more inclined to do paragliding than boys after joining the corporate life. I was obviously the oldest bloke out of the lot and apart from another traveler, the rest of them were under the age of 30. The group was led by this nice guy from WanderOn who some of us nicknamed as Mr. Monotone as he spoke in just one tone all the time. We couldn’t really make out when he was being nice, mean, happy or whatever else.