The volume of my audiobook was blasting high, but I was only partially able to listen to my audio book of choice for summer road trip across Himalayas: The Shantaram. “No wonder, people over here are worship mountains”, I conversed with myself.
They are insanely huge, mighty and of course, they possess some magic which lure all the nomads like me towards it. This time I was in Parvati Valley. And if there is a place you wanna go in Himalayas for a short 3 day refuge from city life, Parvati Valley is the place and Kheerganga trek is the detox you need.
Khirganga is situated in Parvati Valley at a distance of 22 km from Manikaran. For Khirganga, one has to go by motor-able road up to a village (now a popular dam site) called ‘Barshaini’ and from there to Khirganga point on foot. This trek leads through hilly wild terrain. Some patches of the trek are very difficult and at some point the slopes are quite steep.
For beginners it is one of the kind of trek which comes with many lessons and learnings. It is one of the most refreshing treks that you can go on anywhere. Famous for its serene and picturesque route, one can enjoy the entire trek which is filled wih tall trees and natural lush vegetations. Once you will reach the top, the natural hot-water-spring experience is something that you will remember for a lifetime. The hot water spring is situated near the Shiva Temple. The place is open for about 7 months in a year and is not permanently inhabited. The best time to visit Kheerganga is between the months of April and November when the weather remains pleasant and favorable. Winter months are best avoided as the snow makes the trail difficult to tread and the rocks become slippery.
The trek is very pleasant and offers some exhilarating views. After every 3 to 4 kilometers one can find tents, few guest houses and cafes and the people of the region are very hospitable and welcoming. One can also ask for trek guide at the Barshaini village only. If you are travelling solo, its better to join a group of travelers who can help you and motivate you when you are tired. As you ascend, you may come across a small hamlet, which has some amazing cafes which serves cold-driks, tea, coffee and other refreshments. You can also buy biscuits and chips from those shops, though they may be a little costlier their. From the village only, one can buy the trecking stick (lakdi) . It will cost upto 10-20 Rs, and is quite helpful when you hike on tougher terrains and steep pathways. I would request you not to bargain, as most of the people here depend on tourism for their bread and butter and are really poor.
I took a small detour in the village and passed through the narrow roads of the villages. You can find women and girls doing their daily chores like washing cloths and preparing food. Most of the people from the village are cattle herders and have loads of sheeps and cows. The old himalayan houses made up of woods are amazing and they give a different look to the entire surrounding. I sat at the stony pathway and looked at the azure sky for few minutes relaxing my legs. It was an amazingly divine feeling.
As I realized I am getting late, I collected my bellongings to hike again till the next stop which is Rudranaag. At the rudranaag , it was ashthami celebration which was going on and locals has sacrificed a sheep in the honor of their goddess. I quickly passed through the mad celebration and reached the wodden bridge.The wooden bridge is amazing. As its over the parvati river which flows in its own galore, its scary to cross that thing if you are faint hearted. Its unbelievable that how horses with so much of luggage pass through it because when I passed through it,.I felt the vibration of the feet of my fellow travelers.
There are tents and dormitories available for accomodation. One can also have the booking by calling the owners of the tents. Generally, most of the restaurants converts into dorms in night and allow people to sleep inside. I readily became part of a group and in the dorm and we played cards while there were people playing guitars and singing songs. It was a startlit night till 10 pm, so I did some star gazing, identified some of the constellations and kept on looking at the snow capped mountain peaks under the light of moon.
These hotels generally charge 250-500 for a night depending on their facilities. One can also contact the restaurant owner and take a tent on rent and pitch it anywhere on the mountain for having a different solo solitudinal experience.
As I prefer tent, I have talked with one of the restaurant who has arranged me a tent and charged 400 bucks. The tent was of Quechua so it successfully resisted the low temperature. The temperature generally reaches down to 4 to 5 degrees in night so its better to setup your tent, arrange water bottles and have some dinner early in night. The restaraunts/cafes at the KheerGanga serves all sorts of food and though the food may not taste like grand hayat, but it gets edible when you are at peak of your hunger.Its always recommended to eat maggie as these guys got some amazing maggie cooking skills.
Apart from food and amazing scenic beauty, this area is quite famous for hash and marijuana (maal) which is part of the hippy culture of Tosh-Parvati Valley-Kheerganga belt. One can ask restaraunt owners and they generally have stock which can keep you happy-happy for lifetime.The locals sprint down the slopes with heavy goods on their back. There is simply no way that you can keep up with the locals when they ascend and descend.
Visiting the temple at early dawn before you proceed to the pool is customary. The biting cold is forgotten once your body is in that sulphur heated water. So next day, I took a dip in the holy water and proceeded for the descent. I started at 9 AM and reached to barshaini dam site by 12:30 pm. It was easier than hiking up but it was still a tough task. I then took a cab to Manikaran Gurudwara, took a bath in its holy sulphate spring and had my lunch at the langar of Manikaran Sahib. The lipsmacking food is one more reason to visit Manikaran about which I will write in another blog piece .
Its once in a lifetime experience. Over an all its was an amazing trekking experience !
Starting Point : Barshani Dam Site
How to reach the starting point: Barshani Parvati river Dam site
One can get taxis from Kullu/Kasol/Manali to reach here. Its easy to find, roads are properly marked. You have to bargain for rates with the taxiwalas and
Approximate Distances from:
Kullu-Manali Airport at Bhuntar: 45 km by road + 11 km trek on foot
Kullu town: 55 km + 11 km trek on foot
Manali town: 95 km + 11 km trek on foot