Day 4 - Parvati Valley
We are awakened by a bird that bangs in the window of our door that opens onto the balcony. It sounds like someone is hitting. We get up quietly around 7:30. We get ready and we check out. We have a nice breakfast with hot milk and coffee on the terrace. While we are having breakfast outside, we meet a group of Israelis who have been staying here for 1 month. They leave for Rishikesh. The owner's wife advises us to visit Manikaran and Chalal in the area. We leave for Manikaran, a small village in the heart of Parvati Valley 4 km from Kasol.
The road is nice and we go through natural hot water baths. Then we pass a Sikh temple. The streets are very narrow and full of shops. We walk a little and then we land in a small dhaba to eat. The meal is really delicious! We go out, and then we cross another bridge to get out of the city. We continue on a narrow road and
then we land near the river.
We go back to Manikaran. There must be a party, a wedding surely because there are music and a small procession. We return quietly to Kasol. We arrive at 1 pm at the hotel. We leave the hotel and decided to go to Chalal, 20 minutes walk from Kasol. It's a bit of a hassle to be shown the right route but with a little trouble and back and forth, we get there.
We walk along the river, it is very pretty. It is a small haven of peace wedged between the mountains and the Parvati River. Beyond and around us, we can see the eternal snows. We are invited to drink local alcohol. In any case, we can tell you that it smelled strong (a little like brandy) but that it was not strong in taste.
We finish our drink and then we make the way back quietly, getting lost a bit, hearing music on the other side of the river and discovering bones. We cross the small bridge. We set course for Tosh. Then, from Barshani, we pile up in a jeep that drop us directly at Tosh. It is one of the last villages overlooking the valley. The view is beautiful, and despite the capabilities of my Canon, the photos do not show anything compared to what my eyes see.
At the village a handful of wooden houses and a few guesthousers await us, wrapped in the sweet smell of charas, the powerful Indian hashish. Upstream, there are the Kutla, the hemp fields from which the best quality of smoke of the planet has been obtained for centuries, perhaps millennia. Discovered in the sixties by the hippies, the real ones, the valley is now a pilgrimage destination for western hedonists in search of lysergic pleasures and others guided by purely commercial purposes.
Night has fallen, and it is very cold. Likewise, at night, the sky is filled with stars. Welcomed by the master of the place, a young hippie in his twenties, we enter a room that offers us immediately the hippie atmosphere that is the particularity of this valley. The storm ceases and allows us to appreciate the places and to enjoy beautiful views of the snowy peaks lit by the full moon.
Returning to the hotel, we ordered to eat in the room, with a good soup and pizza and then we go to bed around 11:30. We soon fall into a deep sleep despite the hardness of our mattresses.
Day 5 - Manikaran
In the early morning, we awake in a good mood. From their balcony, we discovered the great plain filled with apple trees, walnut trees and giant shots of wild Marijuana. Only a few houses were dotted here and there in the greenery. We decided to make our way to Kheer Ganga (a plateau with sacred hot springs). We swallow our breakfast, cereals or porridge, and we start hoping to reach a ridge above the village to enjoy a beautiful view of the snowy peaks.
With the bags firmly on the roof, the little car sped against the wind, towards the Parvati dam, near which a small path led to the Kalga village. After only 800 meters, we found ourselves stuck that would last two good hours. In front was two tourist buses, face to face, each refusing to move. We quickly reach Kalga in the pouring rain. We take refuge in a pink guesthouse and we warm up with a stove and a good cellar!
It was a magnificent two-storey traditional wooden building, whose rooms were served by narrow balconies, and even smaller stairs. We then enjoy great views of the surrounding mountains, still snowy, in a surprising sound when you're in the mountains (music as in full concert).
The goal of the day is the kheerganga trek. So we go to Nagthan and take a break to get off and eat a little. I order a bowl of noodles. We deposit one of our bags at a guesthouse where we intend to spend the night to lighten and we continue our way. On our way, we meet as in the rest of the valley many grandmothers.
We pass a sacred waterfall then cross a rudimentary bridge to cross the river and start a long walk in the forest. The path is well traced but we cross a number of ravines and passages made a little tricky. On the edge of the paths and in the ravines, we have to our surprise some discreet inscriptions painted on the rocks asking not to pollute, not to throw plastic and to respect the nature.
Cliffs, waterfalls, and forests had to be traversed, climbed, and traversed, and we made an effort to overcome the many obstacles. We finally arrive at the exit of the forest, in a more snowy and snowy area, with some huts and houses. Then we reach the village of Khir Ganga after 6 hours of walking. We suddenly hear a deafening noise, turning around, we see a large avalanche of snow and water at a waterfall on the slope opposite.
There are clusters of restaurants and devotees pompously call them ashram where the community life is summed up to the sharing of the omnipresent charas. The source of the men, cradled in an outdoor pool, gave a splendid view of the peaks of the surrounding mountains. While that of the women offered a superb panorama of the large dead wood fences which framed it.
The only real interest of this camp lies, apart from the magnificent sight on the mountains, in its slightly sulphurous hot springs and relaxing after a day of walking. The long-awaited plateau turned out to be a mountainside on which artificial terraces sheltered a few tiled huts. Upstream, a small temple sheltered a source of hot water whose deities had donated to mortals.
Most groups only go to Khir Ganga. For us, this trek takes place normally, the landscapes are magnificent and we discover the joys of trekking. Not far from there, a camp with multicolored tents and a happy and hygienic life, was occupied by some members of the Rainbow family. The guide of the day tell us that these were the incarnation of an Aztec prediction, and that they were the prophets who would save humanity from the apocalypse by the force of love and sharing.
In the midst of the two neighboring communities, between the tents, between the huts, between the cafes and restaurants, love was also felt among the bovids with rites and incessant warriors. Later, it turned out that it was actually a flock of fertile bulls. In the twilit twilight, we decided to drink a snack with who appeared to be the opium smoker of the house.
It was actually a small shack separated from the main building, which housed six long coffee tables, and the double of benches lined with fluffy bolsters. In all, a double dozen people could sit there. The intimate candlelight atmosphere offered absolute comfort.
During the descent, after a lemon tea in a hut of a grandmother, I go to see what a guest house looks like a little on the heights before the village of Nakthan. The path is indicated by inscriptions of directions and other more original and philosophical. There are also inscriptions asking not to pollute or not to steal the apples in the trees!
We return to the guest house. It starts a little raining. We watch the TV we have in the room. We go out to eat. We spend a nice evening around the stove, discovering the stories and legends of the valley with two Nepali men. In the evening, we have a typical Indian meal of dal, rice, chapatis that rewards us for our efforts, before falling asleep in our big duvets, because the nights are still fresh at 3200 m. The meal is super good. It ends with techno music super loud in the background. We return to the room to finally fall asleep around 1 am.
Day 6 - Kheerganga
We order sandwiches delivered to the room. After a lot of preparation and a hearty breakfast we thank our guests. They show us before our departure different stones and remarkable crystals that can be found in the surrounding mountains. We go back together to explore the mystery of fairy magic. We advance on a very steep path, where the rocks slipped, and the clumps of land collapsed at the slightest step. We went down to what appeared to be an abandoned quarry, separated at its center by a river reaching further the Parvati.
Below, four old men carried pebbles and sand on their backs, while behind the bushes, old rusty panels still showed the inscription "Blasting Zone" adorned with skulls. At the bottom of the crevasse, a little rusty and twisted bridge, which seemed to hold only a thread over the rapids, was not reassuring.
After that, a path of earth and rocks still skirted the mountain, crisscrossing, climbing, descending, to the next dwellings. The threatening sky hinted at the rumbling Indian deities, and heavy clouds clung to the mountain ridges. It was under a fine rain, but gradually thickening, that we increase pace. When we arrived at Pulga, we already rejoice at the idea of a welcoming refuge.
Only a few steps away, the first houses were waiting for the travelers to pass. We rushed into the narrow streets, darkened by the weather. Under a porch on their right, the back of a squatting man was slowly drawing. As one approached, his deformed face revealed a jaw hanging from which dripped a stream of drool. His eyes were of abnormal size, one big and light, the other small and dark and were separated by a tiny nose, depressed at its center.
After the rapid acceleration, a growing unhealthy feeling seized us under the raindrops, now heavy and close together. The site visit turned into a quick search for a welcoming place that would protect us from the elements and the horror. Everything was becoming strange when a high manor appeared in the shadows. A sign indicated a cafe on the terrace of the building.
No matter how cold it was in this place, we took refuge there for a few hours. At the end of the fall of the waterspouts, we decided to leave without return. After sinking, barefooted, into a deep, new-born pool of mud, we saw a sign pointing to a strange cabin. Intrigued by the legend of a fairy forest, we decided to follow the little path, and found ourselves on a green plateau, where other travelers invited us to a big party the next day.
The forest of the fairies was so named, because in the darkness of the night, trees with phosphorescent leaves, saturated with sunshine during the day, illuminated and danced in the breeze of the winds. The end of the day was sunny. Preferring the sweet sound of ice cubes to unbridled wetness, we then gathered in the warmth of a room.
With beers and chai served as a coolant, with the tandoori to warm us up we ordered a feast, which lasted and lasted. Nighttime temperatures varied above and below 0 degrees. I've never felt such a cold for so many hours. I had no more sensibility in some parts of the body despite being covered with heavy clothes. At one o'clock, we went to bed in the Himalayan sheets. One of the best things that the hotel had were the beds with blankets in heaps.
Day 7 - Malana
In the morning when I wake up I find myself out of the world, in the purest of nature. And then I plunge into the hot tubs of natural baths of Gauri Kund, under a sun very close and with a unmatched view. The day before I would have never imagined to find myself there, in that corner of paradise on earth. I forget the fatigue and the unexpected of the trip, and I let myself be lulled by the boiling water, naked, on the roof of the world.
We will not be able to go to Bhojtunda, second camp before the pass. The path leading to it is too dangerous and still snowy in some places. So we go back to Khir Ganga. Not being able to go further, we return towards Kasol, after 4 hours of sporting descent.
We take a local bus to Jari, a village presented in the guides as a base for treks to Malana. Malana is the most famous town in the Malana Valley and was an important destination for travelers in the past years due to the excellent reputation of its Charas, the Malana Cream.
But we do not find any accommodation. Although not recommended by locals we decided to camp in a field in Waichin at 3200 meters above sea level above Malana. The risks are the frostbite, the snow leopard, the tiger, and the bears. But smoking a cycloom of Charas matured a year together with the inhabitants of Malana with the Milky Way to brighten the field by day is an almost mystical experience.
I do not know how many times I thanked these people for continuing to carry on the Charas tradition! The only tourists flaw with their trance music almost all night. But then if one is not able to grasp the poetry of the flow of the waters of the Malana river at the bottom of the valley, it is not a fault but a deficiency.
Day 8 - Bhuntar
We resume our trip to Bhuntar, finally abandoning the Parvati Valley and its treks. The stop in Bhuntar allows us to cut a bit this long and difficult journey that we share with a kid. We took a car to Manali. The curves were becoming steeper and the slope steeper and steeper. That was another story.