We woke up in the morning, two days prior to Holi, amidst the beautiful music of Parvati and magnificent pine trees. Kasol looked pristine as ever. Being a long weekend, the place was starting to buzz with tourists. But we intended to leave all the hustle behind and trek to the village of Grahan. This trip was all about this beautiful village, it's lovely inhabitants, colorful huts and lots and lots of Snow.
The trail from Kasol to Grahan is straightforward, but not completely without tricks. The trek starts with entrance to the Kanawar Wild Life Sanctuary. There is a single route for the first two segments and an alternative in the last segment. You could either go for a tougher short cut or chose a longer route basis your preference. It's a 4 hour trek to Grahan (8 kms via the short route), including the pit stops which are absolute necessary, for the trail is as beautiful as the village itself.
For the first hour, the trail is relatively flat. This part of the trek is completely green with the shades of red and brown in the fauna. The forest was blooming with Rhododendrons (Burans k Phool). The state flower of Himachal Pradesh, Rhododendrons normally announce the arrival of Spring. But of late, they have been blooming earlier in the year. But who would complaint of an early spring?
This was where we met Bholu, who was accompanying two trekkers who were making their way back to Kasol. They told us that Bholu has been with them since Grahan, almost inseparable. Later on, we found out that it's his daily routine. Going to Kasol and coming back in the evening, with his human friends. He was our guardian angel, trek lead and a sweetheart friend.
The first milestone is a wooden bridge, which will mark the end of this first segment. This bridge is followed by a downhill trail for almost 300m (you will feel this stretch only once you are coming back from Grahan). You will see the markings on the rocks reading "No wine. No drinking". This is because Alcohol is banned in Grahan. Stories say that once the village's deity appeared before the villagers and demanded that all of them forsake consumption of Alcohol from the very same day and also forbade the existence of alcohol in village. Please do not carry alcohol to Grahan, at least out of courtesy to your hosts if not for the hefty fine you would have to pay if caught.
Around 15 minutes post the downhill, and you will come across this magical place. Halting here is a must.
This part of the trek is green and blue. You will be trekking along the Grahan Naala. Stick with it and you will be on track for this segment. Also, you might have Bholu to your aid, which will make decision making that simpler. The entire trail is marked with green, blue and red arrows. It's the red arrows that you need to follow to reach Grahan. These markings were originally made to help trekkers on their way to Sar Pass.
2 hours into the trek and you will come across another bridge. You can safely mark this place as the half way to Grahan. As we moved along the mountains, looking down at the rushing river and the beautiful valley, we saw a herd of sheep. The shepherd was enjoying his Bidi, as he gestured towards us to take a seat. He offered us Bidi and asked where we were headed to. It turned out that he was a resident of Grahan. He pointed to another person who was coming in our direction. "That's my son. Go with him. He is also going to the village. He will help you".
That was the point where we met Gangaram, the villager's son. He looked to be around 27 years of age. We went straight into the conversation mode, eager to learn about this village we were travelling to.
"Why is your village named Grahan?
Our ancestor used to live near Malana in a village with the same name. Malana was dominated by a Rakshasha at that time. Scared of the Rakshasha, our ancestor decided to move to this place in the Parvati Valley. Most of us are direct descendants of him. Grahan is home to around 600 people. We are a big family."
The snow capped peaks were drawing near. Gangaram was telling us all the stories of his village. The sky was slowly turning gloomier. The blue was washed away and dark gray was set into place.
"The weather doesn't look very friendly. We should be moving faster."
Around 3 hours into the trek, and we came across this point. Go straight for the longer route and add another 2 hours to the trek, or take a left on to the shorter route, and reach Grahan in an hour.
We took the road more traveled, the shorter route. It's a steep ascent for the next 1 hour. The view is beautiful, the climb tiresome. 5 minutes into the climb, and I saw a flake of snow heading aimlessly into the valley. It was being closely followed by another bunch. And before we knew, every possible thing in sight was covered in a blanket of white. This was the most beautiful snowfall I have seen in my life till date.
As the snowfall got stronger, the sky darker, we reached Grahan - And was it not beautiful. This place was crafted right out of the children's fairy tales. The green hut, carefully lined with red windows, with rooftop white with snow as the chimney let the white smoke out. It was no more dark. Lord Shiva had changed the setting and set the brightness level to the fullest.
It's only when you complete the climb, you will get the first look of the village. There was a lady who was waiting for us at the top.
"Hello. Welcome to our village. Gangaram told me that you would be coming. How come you are here in such a heavy snow? Let me show you the way.", the lady said.
Gangaram had left us midway as he had to rush back to village, while we were busy soaking our mind and body in the white. He told us that his sister had a guesthouse in the village and he will come back to make sure we reach the village.
For the last half an hour, we could not find any trail, courtesy snow. Had it not been for Bholu, we would have really struggled to find the way.
We were finally in Grahan. Time had come to a standstill. I could not tell how excited I was to see so many colors in a landscape which was changing every moment. I could not stop myself from clicking as many pictures as I can.
"Let's go inside before you get wet. And trust me, you don't want to get wet", she said.
We laughed and made our way to "The Mount View" guest house.
We were served the staple food of Himalayas - Omlette, Maggie and Tea. The place turned white as the twilight led way to the night. A night with a clear sky and a splendid moon. Who says that magic does not exist. It does. You just need to understand it's real meaning.
Our dear Lord had meticulously planned everything for us. We woke up next morning to the soothing rays of Sun. Snow shone brightly like little pieces of diamonds. It melted away as we made our way back. And yes, Bholu accompanied us again, back to Kasol.
There are a few stories which I have intentionally skipped from the post. Please DM me if you have any "queries" regarding those creamy stories ;)