The Un-touched Himachal
Himachal Pradesh has always been very close to my heart. I have always had the eagerness to explore hidden, unexplored, offbeat and untouched places between the mountains and away from crowd. And so I decided to start my journey with Tirthan Valley & Parvati Valley. There was not much planning involved. I just had a few places in mind and started exploring them!
This valley has gained tourist attention since the last couple of years. Although many places and villages here have remained untouched. I flew down from Bombay to Chandigarh and reached my first destination Banjar by an 8 hour cab journey. Banjar is a town in Tirthan, where I had decided to stay at a homestay (recently turned into a hostel) called The Bluesheep Tirthan. This homestay offers you with the best of everything you would want to have – hosts, people, food, accommodation, warmth, family, affordability, hospitality and the list goes on. It will indeed turn out to be just like another one of your homes.
I had 3 entire days to wander around Tirthan Valley. So the first day my host Sheena accompanied me to this beautiful trek to Chhoie Falls. We started our trek climbing one mountain, crossed the tall trees shedding their yellow leaves and welcoming autumn, hopped through the rivers and stones, meditated amidst the falls, went through some pretty looking quaint villages and finally descended through a completely different mountain. This whole experience was magical. To add on to this, while returning back home, we decided to walk till our stay rather than boarding a bus/cab. And we walked alongside the Tirthan river as the cool evening breeze brushed through our hair. On the way back, we stopped at a local eatery to have some hot momos & thukpa, collected some pine cones and a local uncle offered us freshly plucked persimmons with a huge smile. All together it was a very exhilarating and rewarding day.
The next day was even more exciting. The trek to Serolsar lake from Jalori pass is something which one should not skip while being in Tirthan. The drive to Jalori itself is very mesmerizing. We started our trek to Serolsar lake walking in the two-day old melting snow, surrounded with huge trees and rocks covered with snow. Every rock and a tree seemed to have a story carved on it. It was the most peaceful and meaningful walk of my life. It took us around 2-2.5 hours to reach the lake which is one of the most beautiful lakes across Tirthan Valley. There is a small temple situated beside the lake and it is believed that the lake is protected by its deites. There is a cute café just before entering the lake where we had maggi and some snacks as we started our trek back to the start point. In the evening, upon reaching Jalori pass, the view which we witnessed was breathtaking. The sun was setting down and the horses were grazing in between the left over snow with a few shepherds sipping chai.
Now the third day, this is undoubtedly an unforgettable day of my life. We went to explore this tiny little village called Sarchi which is a 1 hour drive from Banjar. The village has a large meadow at the entrance with lush green grass surrounded by mud and wood houses. We were fortunate enough to reach Sarchi that day as they had some huge celebration going on. As soon as we entered, we were invited for lunch by the ex-sarpanch of the village who we met for the first time and weren’t able to turn down his polite invitation. Before heading there, we went inside the village and fell in love with the people and their warmth with which they greeted us. We wandered around with the kids, played some sport, cuddled their cattle and clicked many pictures with all of them.
Two girls named Isha & Gayatri had already become our hosts, who showed us around the entire village, even got us plates from their home for lunch. We sat on the grass with other villagers waiting to get served. The meal consisted of rice, soup and dal and turned out to be the most satisfying meal I’ve ever had. Those girls did not allow us to wash the dishes after eating considering it would be disrespectful of them to let their guests do so. Post lunch they insisted us to go on a small hike to an uphill village called Jamala with them. So we started hiking while listening to their endless local stories which was fulfilling. Jamala village is very remotely located with hardly 6-7 houses surrounded with apple orchards but truly it was very peaceful and quiet up there. The warmth and love these villagers of Sarchi and Jamala share without any expectations surely made our eyes moist as we returned to Banjar at sundown.
The next day, we had to leave Blue Sheep with a heavy heart and move forward to Parvati valley chasing new mountains. And so we left the place with a bag full of memories and some genuine friends for life. For Parvati Valley, we were in search of some calm place to stay away from the hustle bustle of towns like Kasol, Tosh etc. After a good amount of online research, we had finalised our stay at THE FOREST PARK which lies in a village called Kalga and is considered to be one of the best homestays in Kalga.
The cab dropped us till Barshaini and from there it was a steep hike to enter Kalga and further a 15 min walk through the village to reach The Forest Park. This homestay gives you a very raw vibe throughout your stay. This is run by really hardworking and dedicated couple and their two adorable daughters. The food you get here is very simple, tasty and organic. Do not forget to taste the apple wine and apple salad here!
It generally becomes difficult to travel after 5:30 pm since there are no lights and the trails are difficult to track. So we spent the evenings in Kalga in our homestay enjoying the bonfire and hearing tales from different travelers while sharing ours with them ☺
The next day we went for a trek to Kutla. Kutla is a quick getaway from Kalga. The trek started just from our backyard and it was a tricky one. However, the fellow travelers like sheep, shepherds and goats we met on our way kept our journey entertaining. Some short breaks were obvious to take while capturing some charming views from the mountains. We finally reached to a café called Pine House Café which indeed served the best food and some rest which we needed the most. The view from this café was incredible. Snow caped mountains, yellow leafed trees amongst which some green ones hidden and the majestic vision of the river flowing between all of these just made us stare at it forever. It was silent. It was magical. It was healing. We spent almost 3 hours in that café and finally started descending. The sun was going down with us and so were all the locals who had climbed up in search of wood. It was surely a very pleasurable day.
The following day, the weather was dramatic. The clouds touched our heads. A cold breeze passing through the valley. Soft drizzle. And I decided to take a solo hike to Tosh Waterfall wishing to see some snow on my way. I got down from Kalgha and started my journey to Tosh. I lost my way and landed up in some absolutely isolated area surrounded by mountains and a flowing river. The only sound I could hear and wanted to follow was that of the flowing water and birds. I would have not been able to experience this otherwise. I was thankful for every moment of my life. It was surreal. I had the desire stay there forever. But finally had to move further. With some help from locals I reached Tosh. Tosh seemed pretty much developed and organized. The people are helpful and friendly. It is basically layered with a lot of hostels and cafes. So this is the perfect place for someone who is looking for easy access to all the resources with some pretty views. However, I crossed the entire village and moved forward in search of the waterfall. The entire trail after crossing the village was empty. I was first followed and then guarded by two fellow companions; one dog walking in front and one behind, both being extremely supportive and protective. I could hear the sound of the wind and my own footsteps. Finally after passing through some muddy and slippery rocks and trails I could spot the waterfall. There was a small cozy café up there and as soon as I reached the café it started snowing. Snow, mountains, trees, waterfall, maggi, and dogs. It felt complete. I spent around an hour there and decided to descend before the trails get lost due to snow. It is this day which I will never be able to forget for eternity.
The next morning was something we all were waiting to witness. There was no colour that we could spot except white. And amidst the pure white snow there were two black dogs playing. We decided not to wander around anywhere and soak up the view with some fresh and hot Aloo paranthas. For lunch, we went to a café called Holy Cow which was a 15 min trail from our homestay. The food we got there was extremely delicious and the view again was gorgeous. We spent the rest of our day chilling and chatting with our hosts.
The next day was an end to our beautiful journey in Kalgha and Himachal overall. On our way back to Chandigarh, we shopped a few things from Kasol market and had our lunch at the Evergreen café where you get the best Israeli platter.
This expedition has come up to me with a lot of new learnings, overcoming my fears, opening up to the unexpected, understanding and respecting different perspectives, recognizing and realizing hardships, trusting your balance, staying in the present and appreciating life overall. I feel it is sometimes very important to step out from your comfort zone and start walking. Your life will turn out to be prettier than ever!