A narrow brown trail meandered its way through the white snow just to disappear behind a morose looking apple orchid bereft of its greenery. The footmarks on the trodden path offered the only glimpse of any human existence. The dark clouds had started to wreath the snowcapped peaks and the wind was getting cold. I and my friend Vishank stood at the base of the hill juggling between taking the risk to trek the deserted path in the face of a possible downpour or to head to Kasol where the life was definitely more comfortable than these inhospitable hills. Trekking up with a heavy rucksack pulling us down and an additional bag taking turns on each shoulder – Will it be worth the ordeal? Last 2 days we had been in Tosh, an offbeat hamlet overlooking the Parvati River. It was beautiful and serene; will Kalga be any different? If not why not try Malana or head for Pulga. For once Manali too crossed our minds but then we swiftly discarded that thought; let’s leave that place for the honeymoon couples and the package tourists. We missed the snowfall at Tosh and if it’s about to rain maybe we will get lucky this time and if it does not, we would still be content; we get to stay in the laps of the enchanting Parvati valley for one more night before we return to the madness.
I dug my hills on the slippery snow for grip and pushed myself up. Few steps later, it was clear that reaching to the top with the heavy baggage would be exhausting as hell. But there was no turning back –we pushed ourselves, slipped, rose back to climb further and slip again. There were 2 guys little ahead of us on a steeper curve. We joined them and together, we motivated, helped each other on that steep, slippery track as we gradually moved towards the fabled Kalga village. After about 30-40 minutes of acute struggle, we reached the Kalga village. We dropped our bags, and all of us were on the hunches, panting heavily.
Kalga was very different from Tosh. It’s not connected by road and every Tom, Dick and Harry can’t reach here. Kalga was pristine, shrouded with snow and unlike the multi stored hotels of Tosh, had only a few wooden cottages. While the apple orchards in the lower mountains near Kasol had already started to blossom, here in the upper regions, the trees still bore a sepulchral disposition, bereft of leaves and flowers. Unlike Tosh, at Kalga, life seemed confined inside the wooden cottages. The only ones that seemed active were the dogs and the black-feathered little birds that hopped on the empty branches. Fewer visitors meant less wandering photographers, empty cafes and cheap prices of accommodation, but it also meant fewer houses with rooms to rent and fewer places to eat. The few houses in Kalga were already booked and we had a tough time finding a place to stay. Finally, a person who was the caretaker/cook/cleaner of a 2 storied wooden house came to our rescue. He had a room which was booked but the guests had failed to turn up. It was a small room with a wooden cot, 2 cozy blankets and a small window that opened to an enchanting view of the snow-clad peaks; all at a cheap price of Rs.400 per night. The trek to Kalga and the house hunting later had jaded us and called for a short nap under the warm, cozy blankets.
We woke up later to descend the narrow, wooden stairs of the house to reach a hippie café maintained by a Jew who spoke perfect English and surprisingly good Hindi. Such places are always treasures of experiences and anecdotes – stories of globetrotters amalgamate with the legends of the locals, experiences of seasoned travelers mix with the struggles of the newbies; a pint of wine, a drag of the hash only adds to the mehefil, for the lack of a better English word. I met a guy from Mexico in the café. He was at Kalga to give that place an artistic touch. He dug into the gallery of his phone to show us pictures of Goa, Spain, Russia and many such places where he had created wonderful murals and artistic models. In a similar café at Tosh, I met a local guy with long hairs and beards who shared many tales of tourists, local customs and life in the mountains, all the while sipping wine and smoking what he called miracle herbs. Time flies at such places but who cares, no one is here to book a cab and go sightseeing, these places are about the cold nights, the gatherings, sharing your stories as you sit wrapped in blanket warming your hands in the chimney box sipping tea and wine.
Though I tend to write more about Kalga simply because I liked it more, Tosh in no way is less beautiful, though a little more crowded (I will restrain from using the word commercialized; it is still a few years to go until we make this heaven another Shimla, Manali or Darjeeling). The houses in Tosh were colourful and set against the white landscape looked like gems sprinkled on white ice cream. There is a wooden temple at the Tosh village and on the day we were there, the village celebrated some local festival, which involved and the menfolk marching to a spot higher up the hill where a sheep was sacrificed. At Tosh, there are narrow mud roads through which you can explore the village but remain mindful of your accommodation or at least know the name of the house or the house owner. If it gets dark, you would need them or else good luck wandering about. The quality of accommodations is better in Tosh with more options to stay as well as wider food options.
While I discuss Tosh and Kalga, I would be doing a great disservice not to mention the beauty of the Parvati valley itself. The enigmatic mountains, the gentle roar of the Parvati River, the chillness in the air, the little patches of greenery within the snow-clad slopes, the occasional sight of the flight of the little birds and the lifestyle of the denizens of the valley – Parvati valley is heaven and why to wait to experience heaven after you die. If you want to go on a trip to enjoy solitude in the laps of Mother Nature, this is the place. After spending 3 delightful days in this beautiful valley we traveled back to Delhi – back to plains, the crowd, and the city.
I hope you liked this post. Looking for your feedback in the comments section and do visit the Parvati Valley.