While enjoying the crisp air of Kasol on my solo trip last summer, I came across this poster about a missing Polish national, Bruno Muschalik, at a corner, and then again and again at every other corner. I could not help but research on why people like Muschalik and others were disappearing in the valley.
They say the valley eats up people, they vanish into thin air, with no traces found.
So who is Bruno Muschalik and where did he go?
Bruno a 24 y/o Polish national, working at Ernst & Young in Poland, was trekking solo in the Parvati Valley. He was last seen in Manali on August 8, 2015. According to his Facebook page, he was to go trekking in the Parvati Valley from August 9. He has been missing ever since. It has been three years now and I still see the posters stuck on the walls of Kasol, reverberating equal parts of hope and terror.
It sent a chill down my spine when I heard my cabbie talk about so many travellers (mostly solo trekkers from Europe and the US) who go missing and are not found, even after years.
Another very prominent case is of Justin Alexander Shetler, an experienced American trekker who went missing in September 2016.
The External Affairs Minister, Ms. Sushma Swaraj probed into the matter, she had also sought reports from the CM of Himachal Pradesh. Shetler’s mother, terrified, flew down to India with Shetler’s London-based friend. They took a chopper over Parvati Valley and the Kheerganga trail looking for Justin, but all these efforts were rendered futile.
The most terrifying part of this story is that I had met him that summer, and his friend later in 2017. Justin came off as an easy going, lovable person who appreciated life. He had inspiring stories to tell and so much to give back to the world. I had immediately followed him on Instagram, and his posts regularly fed my eyes and my wanderlust. One day while scrolling through the app, I realised I had not seen any post from him in a long while. That's when I looked his profile up and saw the last post was this stunning picture taken at Mama Cafe in Kasol, on August 2016.
It shook me to the core when I came across a particular GoFundMe campaign that his mother had started.
Justin, a thrill seeker, travel writer and an avid adventurer who loved traveling in India and Nepal, vanished into thin air. Adventuresofjustin – Shetler's hauntingly beautiful memoir of travels in India, that will leave you spellbound and heartbroken at the same time.
Other recent cases
In the previous year, two French trekkers, Francois Xavier Camille, 21 and Valentin Gorges, 20 disappeared somewhere in the Dhauladhar ranges, and the authorities have now suspended their search operations.
These are only to name a few, locals say it is slowly becoming an insurmountable problem when people go missing and no luggage is found. Unanswered questions continue to haunt locals, the government, and the families of the ones assumed to be deceased.
Reports of missing trekkers have now become a routine affair, and the authorities have been issuing warnings not to trek with fake godmen who somehow manage to lure travellers into illegitimate drug purchase. They urge travellers not to travel solo in the woods where any step could easily prove to be your last, and where your fate is at nature’s disposal.
Who is to be blamed?
The valley, that mysteriously eats away people, drug abuse, the officials who couldn't find these missing travellers, or the thrill seekers themselves?
One thing is known for sure, that the Himalayas are huge, magnificent, and man is only miniature when compared to the powers of nature. It is only foolish to even begin to challenge the course of nature, and get swayed in the moment by rushing adrenaline, by hashish and by the urge to explore the deadliest of paths.
It is exhilirating to be adventurous and to be curious, but it is not okay to be foolish. It is not okay to be destined to a death where you leave fear and unsettled questions behind you.
Travel responsibly, the life of Alexander Supertramp is awe-insipiring, his adventures are phenomenal, but his death was as shattering as it could possibly have been.
“Happiness [is] only real when shared.” – Into The Wild
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