To the mountains and back
Himachal Pradesh is mesmerising, adventurous and offers you experiences that last for a lifetime
After years of unsuccessful planning and travel announcements, I finally made it to Himachal Pradesh, thanks to a few of my friends getting together and planning this trip. With a week’s time in hand and some places on our mind we took off for the mountains.
Our first stop was Prashar Lake which is around 64 kilometres from Kullu and 49 kilometres north of Mandi. It is here that we witnessed the best sunrise of our lives. With the temperature hovering around 13 degrees, the golden light which filled the sky and sharpened the gorgeous silhouette of the mountains will be memorable.
The lake is located at an elevation of 2730 m above sea level. Prashar Lake is famous for its three-storeyed pagoda-like temple which is dedicated to a sage called Prashar. In the midst of the Dhauladhar ranges in Kullu Valley, this place has a peaceful charm of its own.
Next to the temple lies the lake which has a floating island. Interacting with the locals, we came to know that the actual depth of the lake is still unknown. There have been efforts to find the depth but nobody has been successful till date.
Those interested can visit the place during any time of the year except for the rainy season (July-September) when trekking/ travel might get risky because of the terrain.
Our next stop was the ever buzzing Kasol which once was a hamlet but now has grown and is filled with tourists from across the world, especially from Israel. Situated in the Parvati Valley, Kasol is the destination many youngsters prefer when travelling to Himachal Pradesh. The Israeli influence can be easily seen as shops also display their sign boards in Israeli language. The language has made its way to the menu cards of hotels here as well.
Kasol is abuzz at any point of the day, be it people shopping, boarding buses at the small junction or people chilling out at the hotels.
With a lot of options for accommodation, be it budget hotels, luxury hotels, hostels, tents and so on, Kasol has it all. Many people prefer to use Kasol as their base to stay and travel from there. One can use public transport (local buses that belong to private contractors or Himachal Pradesh Tourism buses) or bikes that can be hired on a daily basis. Cabs are also available.
On the second day, we hired bikes and headed to the famous Malana village which is a famous 21 kilometre ride from Kasol. After driving for an hour with an uphill climb, we finally made it to Malana village which is famous for ‘Malana Cream’ which is known as the world’s best hashish (cannabis). Isolated from the rest of the world, Malana is said to have its own lifestyle and social structure. The villagers here believe that they have Aryan genes and are the descendants of the soldiers of Alexander The Great.
After reaching the end of the motorable road, the village can be accessed only through a trek which can be completed in two hours (climbing downhill, crossing a river and climbing up again). Upon entering the village, we were informed that visitors aren’t supposed to make any physical contact with the villagers or touch their belongings. Even in the shops, money/goods are supposed to be placed on the counter and taken without any physical contact. In case any physical contact is made, the villagers take a bath.
Also, the village has its own set of rules which they strictly follow. After spending a few hours here and relishing some piping hot chai, parathas and Maggi we decided to return to Kasol before it got dark. On our way back, it rained (it can rain any time in this region) due to which we had to drive slowly.
The next day we made our way to Manikaran, which is 4 kilometres from Kasol. Famous for its hot springs, temples and a gurudwara, Manikaran attracts a lot of pilgrims throughout the year. After the hustle and bustle, it was time to head for the serenity of Tosh village. An hour’s journey by bus from Kasol to Barshani and then a 4 kilometre trek to Tosh, we were eager to reach our destination.
A small trek through the village crossing mountains brought us to the camping sight which was our home for the next two days. The sight of the snow-laden 0mountains right from our tents was mesmerising. At this village, vegetarian food is readily available (one has to pay more for non- veg fare.) The place is filled with budget hotels and camping sites. Bargaining can help you get good deals.
What to keep in mind
Always carry warm clothes and your rain gear because it is cold throughout the year and it can rain anytime.
Put your bargaining skills to use as it may save you quite a sum.
When trekking, carry water, torches, rain gear and some food. Listen to the instructions of locals as there is a chance of getting lost in the mountains. It is always advisable to hire a local guide as they know the mountains in and out.
When in two minds, it is always prudent to return because getting lost in the woods can be risky. Since phones don’t work, rescue is a challenge.
When looking for hotels on the spot (especially during weekends), make sure you bargain and check the room before you finalise the deal. Some hotel staff tend to get rude at times due to increase of tourists.