An Overview of Parvati Valley, Himachal Pradesh
I had a vision, a serene about mountains, snow-covered on the peak, lush green pine trees and a river flowing thru the valley making the human mind experience the euphoria of nature’s music. Well, all these can only be experienced in a parallel universe and not a dream. Parvati Valley in Himachal Pradesh is a parallel universe.
The concept of the parallel universe popularized from Danny Boyle’s 2000 film, The Beach. The film has a pretty simple storyline; a young adult is on a holiday in Bangkok and finds a map to a mythical island. This little island is addressed as a Parallel Universe. A place where everything is joyful; detaching the entire world so you can rejoice in the company of pure isolation.
Well, I found my parallel universe in the Shivalik ranges of the Himalayas, Parvati Valley, a small valley which hoards some of the most beautiful places in the country. The vale has numerous villages on the banks of the Parvati River, hence the name, Parvati Valley. The river has a long route, originating from Mantalai Glacier; it flows all the way to the town of Bhuntar in Kullu district merging into Beas River.
Parvati Valley is famous for its quirky mountain paths which offer some of the most difficult treks in the world. The trek I signed up for was a basic one consisting a 14 KM mountain route from Kalga to Kheerganga. The route sounds long, but, it is done in less than 3 hours with the weather playing an important role. Note: The best weather for trekking is overcast, where the sunlight doesn’t tire the human muscles.
For accommodation in Kalga, there are several cafes offering lodging and boarding, however, my personal favourite is Holy Cow Café. Located on the top of a hill, the café provides a serene view of the valley.
To be honest, the photos do not serve justice to this place. The pure essence of the valley breeze, the soothing music of the river flowing beside, the snow-covered mountains in the distance and the lush green pines on the surrounding slopes are emotions that can only be felt.
After staying at Kalga and sleeping on the sides of the vale, the next stop was more memorable and even more joyous to reach, Kheerganga. The meadows are located at almost 3500m above sea level, having an average temperature of 11 degrees during the month of May and drops to as low as 0 degrees at the night.
The place gets its name from the natural hot water spring which flows through the Himalayas and carries sulphur compounds from the rocks. These sulphur compounds ensure that the water remains warm and pleasant throughout the year. I didn’t check the temperature, but, roughly, the temperature might be around 40-45o C.
Well, the way I look at this beautiful phenomenon, nature has its own ways of releasing human stress; both body and mind. After trekking for almost 3 hours through the mountains; the body is tired and releasing the tension ensures smooth functioning for the rest of the day. And the hot water spring exactly fulfills this purpose. The feeling of hot water touching the skin and entering all the pores detoxing the body from all sorts of exhaustion caused due to the 14 km long Kheerganga trek.
The hot water spring is an accompaniment to a Lord Shiva temple. The walls of the temple recite the story featuring from the Bhagwat Gita:
“During the Satyug (the golden age) Lord Shiva gave this world all the requirements for a man to sustain. But then, Lord Parshuram knew that when the Kalyug (the modern age) was dawn upon the earth, people will kill each other for milk. So, he asked Lord Shiva to give this world “Kheer”, so Lord Shiva blessed the world Kheerganga.”
Kheer is an Indian sweet dish prepared from milk, rice and sugar. So, the spring carries too much sulphur compounds that appeared to be white-coloured balls. However nowadays, the balls have broken down into threads, still, the functioning is the same. Due to the presence of sulphur in such high quantity, the spring water has numerous medical benefits.
On the lush meadows of Kheerganga, the locals have set up individual hospitality businesses offering lodging and boarding services to the tourists. As descending on the same day is quite tiring and the nights in Kheerganga have a serene which is not to be missed.
Although I did not experience the Milky Way sky, the twinkling and the cool moonlight were pure magic. If I was even a little less Satan, I swear I could have heard the prophecies.
Born fire, food and games are the usual camping activities at the night in Kheerganga with music and highly courteous staff at the Rock View.
Tosh & Kutla
5 KMs from Barsheni lies the village of Tosh which is the start to Kutla trek. Tosh itself is a hike. The village is located on the slope of one of the foothills of the Shivalik range. Small houses, a couple of shops, and guesthouses with cafes are to be experienced in this beautiful village.
Tosh is not a part of the parallel universe. The village has too many real elements. Kids running in the narrow lanes and locals are protective about their deity (outsiders are not allowed to touch the temple’s elements). Without a doubt, Tosh is an excellent place, at the same time; it’s real with reality playing an important role. If I could quote, “Tosh is earth in paradise.”
The steep slope and twisted turns make Tosh one of the most tiring hike. The only good thing is that it’s a short one. From bottom to top, it hardly takes 30 minutes for beginners/first-time trekkers (I was one of them), for regular trekkers, it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes.
The trek to Kutla begins after crossing Tosh. The trek is only an hour and a half long, but, it is gruesomely tiring. Steep slopes, 30o+ inclination and rocky mountains make the climbing really difficult.
There is one thing about trekking, after spending all the energy and tiring yourself to reach to some unexplored place. The exhaustion and frustration of pushing the physical abilities seem all the more worth after reaching the final destination and breathing a sigh of relief in the fresh air. There is always a dilemma about reality and illusion. Choose whatever you want because at the end of the day; only you sleep with it. So, opt what you want, but, choose wisely.
Kutla has a different serene than Kheerganga. The altitude is not much, but, the location is mystical. Covered by dense forests on three sides while facing the vale on the fourth; the camping site in the meadows of Kutla is a treat to the human eyes. I don’t know was it the intoxication or the chemical imbalance from physical exhaustion after the long trek, but, I guess I had a glimpse of paradise.
Descending from Kutla was quite easy with overcast weather. Anyway, there were chances of the rain, hence a race with time to Tosh was necessary. Nonetheless, the rain did catch up, luckily, I had a poncho on me, and so it did not make much of a difference. After descending for about one hour without any break, Tosh was in the sight.
Another 5 minutes of walk through the lanes of Tosh and the perfect place to relax with a quality meal was in the footsteps. There was no extraordinary thing about the café apart from the name, Pink Floyd Café.
My first question the manager was, “Does this café have a story like The Beatles Ashram in Haridwar?” And his immediate response was, “No! It’s just that we play only Pink Floyd songs at this café!” Nevertheless, the place was amazing, pink walls, typical Indian floor seating, ashtrays on every table and “Wish You Were Here” playing in the background.
After hanging out at Pink Floyd café for a couple of hours, the downhill tramp was underway. Another 20 minutes of lazy walk on the wet streets of Tosh under a cloudy sky was calling me to bed.
After an hour’s drive from Tosh, Kasol market was the next stop and final destination in Parvati Valley before boarding the bus to Delhi.
Kasol market offers a lot of stuff for all the age groups and genders. However, most of the woollens are unisex, but, some are really quirky. Turns out that people in Parvati Valley are believers in I Ching, a spiritual book holding traditional values in Chinese culture and mythology. One such example is that everyone in the Parvati Valley truly believes in the Dreamcatcher.
This is where my tour ended. However, this article only features an overview of the entire tour. A glimpse of what you can expect in the Parvati Valley. For more information, kindly read the following articles. Or there is a better option, you can pack your bags and visit it for yourself. There are many other treks in Himachal Pradesh.