Kalga, a place of seclusion.

Kalga is a small village in Parvati valley. It is not a very popular tourist destination. To reach Kalga one has to trek 2 km uphill from the main road crossing the barrage on Parvati river near Barsiani. When I went to Kalga in 2019 March I heard that the local authority was planning to make a motorable road to reach the village. I went to Kalga from Tosh. I took a porter from the barrage because the road was slippery due to ice, and it was risky for me to walk alone on the steep hilly path with a heavy luggage on my back.

Reaching Kalga the porter took me to a hotel which was closed. In the month of March hotels remain mostly closed because tourists’ season starts from April. There was a home-stay near that hotel, it was quite cheap but not suitable for me, young trekkers were there who came for Kheerganga trek. Their leader was an experienced man who asked my budget and called another home stay owner on mobile who took me to his home stay which was half a kilometer away from that place inside the village. No path could be seen, the whole area was covered with thick layer of snow, the man took me to his home-stay holding my hand. Still I fell down thrice. The home stay was run by the owner and his family. As the owner’s wife was not at home then, his mother was also away to see his sister and I was feeling hungry, he allowed me to cook my lunch using their kitchen.

It was an extraordinary experience to sit in their balcony. As far as I could see all around there was snow. The village was surrounded by snow covered mountain ranges. I wished to walk around but did not get the courage to move in the ice. So I kept on watching the nature sitting on the balcony till dusk. It became very cold as soon as the sun set. I felt comfortable to sit by the fireplace in their living room. The wife of the home-stay owner made roti sabzi at night. The taste of the sabzi was different from other places of Himachal and delicious also. The beauty of Kalga is still very pristine because of it’s remoteness. If the road is made that will bring economic development for the locals, but may not prove beneficial for the travelers like us who seek solitude and natural beauty.

Concealed beauty of Barot

Barot is a place that apparently does not look glamorous like other hill stations. It is an off beat travel destination of Himachal Pradesh. Buses ply directly from Mandi to Barot. I reached Barot Valley in a Sunday afternoon of March 2019, when it was raining heavily. While we were proceeding towards Barot from Ghatasni our bus stopped frequently to be allowed to pass because there was quite a rush of private cars and the road was too narrow. I came to know from the girl, who was a local and happened to be my co-passenger, that Barot was becoming a popular weekend destination for the people of Chandigarh. There is a dam on Uhl river and the river is famous for trouts. There is also a government run trout farm.

As it was raining cats and dogs, I asked the girl if the hotels or home-stays were distant from the bus stand. She informed me that just beside their house there were two home-stays. She offered me to stay in their home also. I got down from the bus, they gave me lift in their car which came to receive them from the bus stand. Her brother was with her who was an army jawan posted at Kargil. I lodged in a home-stay beside their house. The room was clean with basic amenities like geyser and the rent was considerably cheap because it was neither season nor even weekend. Food was simple but tasty. I went to the girl’s house later. They were very friendly people. They were seven sisters and a brother. Their parents were not at home. They had an aged aunt and her deaf and dumb husband with them. I took a cup of tea in their house sitting beside the fire place.

Next morning was sunny, I took a stroll in the village after having breakfast. At the time of breakfast the lady of the home-stay requested me to take lunch outside. While walking along the village path I found her working in the field on the mountain quite away from the home stay. Then I realized why she had requested me to take lunch outside. Himalayan women are very hard working. They work inside and outside home.

Trout fishing farm

The village is small and spread on the both side of the river. In the morning I covered one side, visited trout fishing farm, went to the small market and had lunch there. In the afternoon I went to the other side crossing a wooden bridge made only for pedestrians. The natural beauty of the village uncovers itself if someone stays there and moves around in the nature. Its beauty is addictive. There was a small water falls in the village. A person gave me lift up to the falls in his car while taking back his children from the school. I came back in the evening crossing a bridge on the Uhl river at the extreme end of the village and had a tasty dinner of local saag and sabji with two rotis. The hostess was a good cook. Next morning I left the valley by taking another bus from the highway near the main market and the dam. The owner of the home stay carried my ruck sack and escorted me up to the bus stop.

My experiences of Tosh

Himachal Pradesh

Tosh is a village in Parvati Valley. It is famous for its natural beauty. I reached Parvati Valley from Kasol via Manikaran. In this trip the weather was mostly cloudy or drizzling. It had been raining since previous afternoon when I reached Kasol. In the morning I was a bit hestatnt whether I should leave the hotel. I thought it would be better not to waste a day in Kasol but keep on proceeding. So after breakfast I boarded a bus for Manikaran from the front of the hotel. When I reached Manikaran there was only one jeep at jeep stand. I asked him whether he would go. he agreed to go up to Barsiani. But when we started we got few other people for Barsiani and two of then had some work at Tosh. So the jeep driver agreed to go up to Tosh on sharing basis.

When I reached Tosh it was raining with small particles of ice. I managed a room in a hotel very near to the taxi stand for the night halt. The room was good as per my expectation in such a remote place. I kept my luggage there. I could not stay in the room as there was nothing to do except lying on the bed and I did not want to sleep during daytime. There was no electricity too. I was offered by the hotel manager to sit beside the fireplace of the dining hall as I was partly drenched and was shivering with cold.

A man was sitting there, he did look neither elegant nor rich anyway, but I came to know that he owned the hotel and few other hotels also at very strategic points like this one. He and his manager were taking marijuana from a hush pipe ( chillum ) from time to time. Initially I could not realize what they were smoking, but later on I found whoever was coming taking a puff or two from the pipe in turn. I thought that it was too cold and probably it was necessary to take something for stimulation to bear such cold. Few boys came back after trekking and asked for a browny which looked like a small chocolate pastry. I became quite surprised when I knew each costs 500 rupees.

As it was raining continuously and there was no electricity so I could neither go outside for a walk nor lie in my room for rest. The whole day I sat idle beside the fire watching people having hush or marijuana in different forms or ways. All the boys, came there, were mostly from 20 to 35 years old. They were from Delhi or Chadigarh or Kerala. All of them were sober and very well behaved. I talked with them the whole day. During lunch a group of people came trekking from Barsaini. But they did not stay at Tosh, they had their lunch, and went back again wearing rain coats. Everyone considered it unnatural to come in the rain taking so much risk and hassle and not enjoying the surreal beauty of Tosh staying one night there.

It started snowing heavily at around 6 o’clock. It was a magical experience. In the evening electricity was restored. I ordered my dinner. After dinner, while bidding good night to all, I told the boys in jest that whatever fresh air of Himalayas I had taken from the places before coming to Tosh all became futile after having so much passive smoking. They all laughed in amusement. Next morning was absolutely sunny and warm.

N.B. An appeal : A home stay owner of Parvati Valley expressed his deep regret about the spread and sell of illegal narcotics in this valley which is not only destroying the culture of the natives but also destroying the life of the youth of that area. They are becoming greedy as well as violent day by day and some of them are getting so much addicted to these that they are losing their mental balance. So I humbly request all Himalaya lovers not to promote or encourage this . Go to Parvati valley to enjoy its natural beauty and get addicted to it.

My experiences of Kugti, KarthikSwami temple.

( Himachal Pradesh.)

Kugti is not a very famous or popular tourist destination. Kugti means Karthikeya in local language, the son of Shiv and Parvati. Karthikeya is not as popular deity as his brother Ganapati. There are very few temples of Kathikeya in India. One of them is in the Himachal Pradesh, near the famous pilgrimage Manimahesh. It is 12/14 km from Hadsar. Shared jeeps are available to reach Kugti, but one has to walk 2km to reach the village from the end of the motorable road.

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I did not have any idea that the motorable road would end 2 km before Kugti village, so I was a bit disappointed. I was hungry and tired after coming down from Manimahesh. I had my lunch from the langar( where food was offered to devotees free of cost) at the entrance of the path which led to Kugti village. There was a small school. They allowed me to use their toilet. I reached the forest rest house which was at the entrance of the village Kugti, walking 2 kilometers with my rucksack on my back.

When I reached I was absolutely exhausted. I found 3 people sitting on the yard eating apples that grew in the garden of the rest house. They offered me apples, they were juicy and sweet. I told them that I desperately need a room there. One of the three persons was from HP police department who was there on duty for the occasion of Manimahesh Yatra and another was from the maintenance department of HP forest rest houses who came to repair the solar heater of that forest rest house. They had been staying in the two rooms of the rest house that were habitable. Rest of the rooms were in broken condition. The 3rd person was a local and an acquaintance of them.They called the caretaker of the forest rest house from the village, whose house was half kilometer away from the rest house, making a whistling sound that echoed in the mountain. That is the communication only system there. There was no mobile tower. Both of them were ready to share one room and spared the other room for me on condition that in the morning I would allow them to take hot water from my bathroom because there was no hot water facility in the toilet of the other room. After negotiating with the care taker, I ultimately got the room. I was very happy. The caretaker provided me dinner with roti and rajma curry. Rajma of Kugti is famous for its taste. Kugti is an Eco-village where only organic fertilizers are used for cultivation.

Sri Karthik Swami ji

The next day early morning I started for Karthik Swami temple after breakfast. The way was beautiful and scenic, it was a pristine land full of flowers, butterflies and other small creatures. It was 7 kilometer uphill trek. The last part was pretty difficult for me. People were hardly seen on the way, whenever I met anyone I asked how much distant the temple was, everyone said that it was just behind the next corner of the hill and after every corner there was another corner. Thus I ultimately saw the temple though it was a steep 2 kilometer walk from that place.

I reached there walking seven hours. I was too happy to witness Karthik Swamiji and felt myself blessed. There was a langar where I had my lunch, rice, daal and aloo ki sabji, they offered me two very tasty mung daal ka ladoo also, made of clarified butter, sugar and mung daal . After a sumptuous lunch I went down, coming down was not as difficult as going up. It took 3 hours to reach the village. I was dead tired but very satisfied. Next day after breakfast I reached the jeep stand and caught jeep for Hudsar, that same jeep took me to Bharmour taking few bucks more.

Karthik Swami Temple

Intoxicating Tosh

Tosh is a small village in the interior of Parvati Valley in Himachal Pradesh. It was snowing, more like sleet actually, when I reached Tosh from Kasol taking a shared jeep from Manikaran. I got down from the taxi and tried to open my umbrella in a hurry as I was preventing myself from icy cold rain and in this process a spike of the umbrella broke. I put the rucksack on my back and walked forward in search of a shelter. The taxi stand is in front of a bridge on a small stream which is the gateway of Tosh.

I entered carefully because of ice and slush. Just after crossing the bridge I found a hotel. I inquired whether accommodation was available. They informed that they didn’t have attached bathroom. The next hotel on the way was closed. Proceeding forward I found a hotel upward where there were guests taking selfies on the balcony. There was ice and the path was very slippery. I could not reach there. I shouted for help. A person came and helped me to reach the hotel. He was the manager of the hotel.

It was very cold and I was shivering, so the manager told me to sit by the fireplace in their dining hall, and take a cup of tea and then to see the hotel room and complete all other formalities. It was a nice cozy room. I sat there snugly beside the fireplace. There were few people around the fire. Some were guests, some were employees who from time to time came to get the warmth. I saw my room. It was work-ably good. I kept my luggage there, closed the room and sat again beside the fire. There was no electricity.

It rained whole day. People kept on coming and going to have shelter or lunch. Food was tasty, and Israeli cuisine was also available there. I had lunch, afternoon coffee and a tasty early dinner sitting all day there. In the evening it started snowing heavily. Electricity came back luckily. There was nothing much to do. Time to time I went to the top floor to get mobile network and to contact my son and watched the beauty of the snow covered village.

Temple of Jamdagni

In the early morning when I woke up it seemed that the whole valley was shrouded with a thick white sheet of ice. I went out from the room to take a stroll in the village. I tried to roam around. I broke my folding stick in this effort. There was a temple of Jamdagni ( the great sage and father of the warrior monk Parshuram) in the center of the village, I went there, but outsiders are not allowed to enter. With the rise of the temperature the snow on the roofs started melting and fell with thuds. I came back to my hotel with difficulty. After breakfast I left Tosh at 10-30 AM.


Manimahesh, a unique pilgrimage.

In the year 1982 I heard about Valley of Flowers and Manimahesh. We came across a middle aged woman on our Kedarnath trip, who had been traveling alone for years, which was considered an exceptional event then. She said, “No one is alone in Himalayas.” She had many experiences which she shared with us. My mother asked her, “Which is the most beautiful and which is the most difficult destination according to your opinion?” She replied that Valley of flowers and Manimahesh. So after completing my Valley of Flowers trip I was trying to get information about Manimahesh. One of my travel freak Facebook friends advised me to go there during the time of mela which takes place in August or September every year between Janmastami and Radhastami. I managed to fulfill my wish in 2017.

Gourikund

From Pathankot I reached Chamba. From Chamba buses ply to Bharmor. There were special buses for pilgrims till late night during mela period. I stayed one night at Chamba and one night at Bharmor and visited Bharmani Devi temple. Next early morning I started for Manimahesh. I reached Hadsar which was the starting point of the trek for Manimahesh. Ponies are also available but the route is very steep in some places, so one has to get down and walk from time to time in different places according to the instruction of the syce . I started walking from the gate, there were few stair cases, and after that there was the trekking trail. After walking one and half kilometer I took a pony. Those who trek till the end take breaks at two points, one is Dhancho and another is Sundarasi.

I reached Gaurikund at 4 pm, many people halted there for night stay, but I decided to go up to Shivkund and visit Gaurikund on my way back. Reaching Shivkund I hired a tent sharing with another person. There was full of mist, I felt very disappointed. After dinner I felt it difficult to sleep not only for cold weather but also for a discomfort to stay at an altitude of 4,080 meters ( 13,390 ft ). After a long time when had I fallen asleep I did not know, there was an uproar of “Jai Bhole” which awoke me up. I opened the tent flap and saw the Mani ( the jewel ) on the top of the peak of Manimahesh. It was a unique phenomenon. The crescent moon appeared on the peak in such a way that it seemed like a diamond. The sky was absolutely clear. Gradually the crescent moon rose up, innumerable stars and constellations were clearly visible. It was a surreal feeling to be there. Suddenly I saw a shooting star. Tears came in my eyes and I thought there was nothing that I could ask God to gift me. I never thought my long wish for visiting Manimahesh would be fulfilled in such a way.

Shivkund

N.B. To reach Manimahesh one has to reach Chamba( Himachal Pradesh ). Buses ply from Chamba to Bharmor and Hudsar. From Hudsar it is almost 18 kilometer steep uphill trekking. Ponies are available during mela which takes place from Janmastami to Radhastami ( August/ September). Langars are set up during this period.