This post is written by Janmejay Shukla, in which he described his experience of trekking to Kheerganga and beyond; with a person whom he described as ‘maniac for adventure’.
After having spent two months at the university, which is located in Patiala, it was very pleasant to know that there will be a holiday of 3 days. I have had never been to a hill station or seen any mountain. I came to know that Alok will go somewhere in Himachal. He is my batch-mate cum friend. He is a kind of maniac for ‘Adventure’.
I asked him where will he go. But he hasn’t decided yet. He just knew that he will be in Himachal during holidays. He guaranteed me ‘adventure’ and offered to come along. We left the RGNUL campus at around 18:00 Hrs and reached Chandigarh bus station by 20:30 Hrs. Even then I had no idea where I am heading to? I just knew that I am going to see some mountains in Himachal.
After querying few minutes from few bus conductors Alok asked me: “where you want to go? Kinnaur or Kullu?” It was the very first time I heard the name “Kinnaur”. As I knew nothing about Himachal, I told him to decide by himself. He flipped a coin in the air, literally, and told: “we are going to Kullu”. Later I knew that by Kullu he was referring to the district Kullu, not the town of Kullu. We took the bus for Manikaran, which is a few kilometer ahead of Kasol. The bus came from Haridwar and was full of local people from Himachal.
We reached Manikaran at around 08:00 Hrs, after a ten hours ride in the ‘luxurious’ bus. At around 10:00 Hrs we left Manikaran for Barshaini, which is around 15 km from Manikaran. We have purchased a lot of Snickers and other food items. At Barshaini there was a liquor shop, just at the place from where the trek begins. Alok purchased a bottle of Royal Stag after a little of introspection.
We were heading towards Kheerganga. Which is a trek of 10-11 km from Barshaini. There was a group of four from the Czech Republic, going towards Kheerganga. They were very well equipped and we had nothing. Even our shoes were not made for trekking. After a “Hii” Alok told or asked something from a Czech man and he replied “No English”. Until that time, I thought only we people are struggling with English. But no, even people from Europe have a problem with it. We passed them and went ahead.
We found several boys carrying boxes of apples from above. At a stage, we found few apple trees full of apple. But they were at a little height. Alok tried to get some but couldn’t reach there due to lots of wild grass with thorn. Later we found a tree nearby and plucked 7-8 apples. First time in my life, I ate an apple just after plucking it from a tree. We reached Nakthal. The last village where you will encounter human dwelling.
At a place I found a board written “Danger” with an arrow. I thought the other way is dangerous and we carried on the real dangerous track. We even called a Canadian family telling them “this is the right way”. But they returned just after taking a look at the way. But we realized a few minutes later that this just can’t be the right way.
We met the family ahead and told sorry to them. The family had a son, daughter, and parents. They were twins, born where? Guess? Shimla! From thereon we trekked together. They had food for five days and they were going ahead of Kheerganga. But we will not go beyond Kheerganga, this is what I thought.
There were a lot of people in the way. 60-70 percent of them were foreigners. A lot from Israel. “This is not as adventurous as I had heard about it, it’s an easy trek,” said Alok. But for me, it was difficult and much more than adventures. Maybe because this was my first trek.
We reached Kheerganga at around 1400 Hrs after a 4.5 or 5 Hour trek. We took a long bath in the natural hot water pool, which was full of algae but said to have spiritual and healing powers. We ate some Parathas and went to sleep. At night the temperature fell drastically. We started a bone-fire, enjoyed it and went to sleep again.
Trek Beyond Kheerganga
In the morning we wake up early. Took some pictures of Kheerganga. I was with spending a few hours more at Kheerganga and moving back in the afternoon. But Alok asked to carry forward in search of “real adventure”. I asked him to flip a coin again. “Every decision can’t be taken by flipping up the coin”, he said. We queried how far Parvati Valley is and get showered with varying answers ranging from 8 to 15 days. We have had only one day. So, we decided to go ahead until 1400 Hrs and then moving back. We started to trek at 0800.
We encountered some Babaji (Hindu Monks) while we purchased water bottles at INR 50 per liter. They asked “aage ja raje ho kya?” and Alok replied shifting himself in his Bihari tone “haa, aate hai thora bhagwan dhyan karke”. One replied, “khane-peene ka pura saman le lijiye. Aage bhagwan kaam nahi aayega”. I think it was a harsh line by a Monk.
Until 1100 Hrs we didn’t encounter any human being. But suddenly I saw few trekkers ahead of us, coincidentally, they were the same Canadian family. We have met them again. The father described us as “mountain boys”. Leaving the mother at the track, we went near the river to see some abandoned mines. We came back and resumed our trek.
The group from Czech Republic also came after us. I was very tired. It was the very first trek of my life. I was trekking at the last in the group of ten. Distance went increasing and the eight of them became invisible from my eyes. I insisted on going back but Alok insisted to carry the trek half an hour more. After 20 minutes, we saw them again, sitting by the side of the river. We decided, from here we will go back. It was around 13:20 Hrs.
The Canadian family started to cook something and Czechs went ahead. We filled our empty water bottles from the river, washed our face and feet and went to sit where the family was cooking something.
We were very firm in not to take any food items from them. We laid down on the grass and after 15-20 minutes their Potato-Chicken soup was ready. They insisted us to share a cup of Soup and eventually Alok took it and I suffered the pain of being a vegetarian. Maya gave me some peanuts.
We collected our bags, took a photo with all of them, shared contacts. They started to go ahead and we moved back.
While moving back, the rain came uninvited and we also encountered a lot of monkeys. We were frightened, but they didn’t come to us and minded their own business. Alok said, “don’t get afraid of monkeys, I have read that even bears can be encountered in this forest”.
We were exhausted. I kept sitting in the forest even when Kheerganga became visible. Alok went down to eat Snickers. It was 5 pm when we reached Kheerganga. I was all with staying the night in Kheerganga and go down tomorrow. But Alok was firm in going down. I thought I have came with the wrong person. It is dangerous to trek in the day and he will go at night. After having a lunch in Kheerganga, we started to trek downwards.
Trekking from Kheerganga to Barshaini at Night
The forest was dark at six, but Alok had carried a flash and we had three mobile phones, without network and a fully charged power bank. We met several foreign and local people in the way who were going up. Almost everyone asked, “how far Kheerganga is?” We played prank with some by telling them two hours instead of half an hour and many of them replied in shock. But later we realized that it was not a good prank to do.
While we were moving down, an old local man surpassed us and we boys of 20-21 fell behind. The first thing which came to my mind after leaving Kheerganga was to call home. After all, it was the first time I came somewhere without informing my parents and my cell was without network coverage for more than 30 Hours.
As the sun went down things started to turn frightening. It was very difficult, things turned bad to worse. There was rain in the afternoon and because of that whole trek became slippery and this was not the only difficulty we had. Due to the dense forest, the visibility was almost zero. Forget about trekking equipment, we didn’t even have proper shoes. While the thundering noise of river Parvati continued to echo from the bottom of the valley.
As we completed the dense forest and came to the other side of the river we took a sigh of relief. Now the trek is no more slippery. After trekking for almost 90 minutes we sighted the first café cosied on the verge of dense forest.
Few minutes later our cells came under network coverage. The first thing I did was to call home and got scolded by Mom. While Alok called his brother and got appreciation for trekking so far. Then he called home and got his fair share of scolding for “switching off his mobile for so long”.
As the sun disappeared, stars started to scintillating the night sky; and it was for the first time too, I had seen such a huge numbers of stars in the sky. The whole milky way was in front of me. We reached Nakthan and rested for ten minutes while eating bananas at a shop. Now we were out of danger.
While arriving Pulga, it felt like I have been robbed of all my strength and energy. Even Alok’s speed became slow. In Pulga, while taking shortcut, we lost our way and ended at a sign of danger at the bank of the river. It was fun for Alok but irritating for me. Even Alok concluded at last by saying “you are not my kind of person.” We took a u-turn and came by the main road. It was exactly 2025 Hrs when we reached Barshaini.
We stayed for the night at Barshaini and went to Jari next day, where our few batch-mate joined us. They had came to Kasol. We all went to Malana about which Alok has written here – A dark spot on the beautiful face of Himachal. After spending few hours in the village, we came down and took a bus for Patiala.