It was a sizzling Friday afternoon when I landed in Delhi for the first time, after a two-hour journey. I was looking forward to a pleasant weekend far away from the mundane city life. My destination was Kasol, a small mountain village in Himachal Pradesh, nestled in the sylvan valley carved by river Parvati, slowly over centuries.
Kasol, which is transforming itself into a bustling hub for bag packers from all around the world, was an easy choice. Owing to the long weekend then, there was a sea of travellers at the Kashmiri Gate bus stop, the one stop destination for buses to all the northern states from Delhi. There were separate counters for each state such as Haryana, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, and the longest queue was for Himachal. After continuous failed attempts at reservation and current ticket counters, I finally gave up. A ticket agent noticed me and offered me a ticket for Rs 1,600 till Bhuntar and I had no choice but to opt for a private bus which was twice as expensive as government transport. After a 16-hour journey, we reached Bhuntar around 1 pm the next day. There began my actual voyage to the charming valley. Bhuntar is a small town in Kullu district which is a confluence of rivers Beas and Parvati. Follow trails of river Beas and you will reach Manali, while if you follow river Parvati you will reach Kasol, Manikaran and so on. From Bhuntar, both government and private buses are quite frequent to Kasol and it takes a bumpy ride of an hour to reach the destination. One should be prepared as one might experience altitude sickness as one goes further up the hill. We took a private bus which was almost full. But no complains, because Kasol was worth all that and more.
(Left) Abhishek Suresh and more vignettes of Kasol
After a treacherous bus ride, witnessing the changing landscapes, we got down at Khatagla in front of a small temple, 3 km from Kasol. We were instructed by a friend to walk towards the bridge of Jainala.
As we kept walking down the hill, the gurgling of river Parvati kept getting louder. There it was, a wooden bridge at the foot of the great valley cutting the fierce Parvati and ready to take us to Jainala, and then a mysterious cafe where we would spend the next two nights. We had no idea what lay ahead, which I believe is the most fascinating part of traveling!
As we climbed a little uphill from the other end of the bridge walking over slippery water streams which were crystal clear, and a soft bed of white sand, few sign boards made of wood, and paintings on stones, directed us towards this amazing space called Music café. Surrounded by hills on all four sides one could enjoy the soothing sound of river Parvati, while relaxing on a hammock sipping on a fine glass of their famous banana shake with a special ingredient that helps you relax. You could find various musical instruments lying in open with woollen threads, canvas, paints and many more to awaken your creative side. The place is run by Gaurav, and few foreign tourists loved the place so much that they decided to stay back longer. A comfortable stay in this wooden house is as cheap as Rs 500 per night with some amazing home-cooked food custom made according to your taste and preference.
On my first night in Kasol, I was blown away by its astounding beauty. In the night, I convinced my friend to walk down the bridge of Jainala with camera in one hand and mobile phone torch in another. Initially, we were a bit scared by the noise of water below. But the thrill of capturing stars in crystal clear skies kept me going. After wandering in the dark for a while we headed back to the cafe excited to explore more of Kasol in daylight the next day.
The following day, our adventures included a visit to the divine land of Manikaran, famous for its Gurudwara which attracts devotees from the Sikh Community all around the year. We had an early lunch in the form of scrumptious momos and yummy Thukpas from a Tibetan restaurant at Manikaran and headed to the serene village of Pulga, 15 km from Manikaran. From the foot of Barshaini, one has to trek for an approximate one hour to reach this small hamlet. Enjoying tranquil weather and the soothing beauty of gigantic pine forest and waterfalls, we clambered through narrow ways to reach Pulga. In Pulga one would find a lot of comfort home stays at very cheap price. Once we headed back to Kasol, the mission was to buy some souvenirs walking through the bustling market in Kasol. We came across several alluring dream catchers, hand-made paper diaries, traditional ornaments, and many more accessories. But I had to wait till I got back to Bhuntar to catch my return bus to buy my favourite souvenir which I had in mind since I landed in this magical land. I found my perfect piece of Kullu hat at a shop in Bhuntar. If you are in Himachal and you had only one option to buy something for yourself, this should be the ultimate choice. Wearing my favourite souvenir, I headed back to Delhi watching the sublime mountains and carrying memories of a lifetime.
The writer is a city-based PR executive