With the sole purpose of cafe hopping and short treks in the Himalayas, my cousin and I booked our bus tickets from Delhi to Kasol to gauge what this stoners paradise of India had to offer, apart from the usual hippie delights.
However, our plans were haphazard (aka – we had absolutely NO plans) and we were definitely not prepared for a real trek – more like the shorter versions to Chalal Valley and the likes.
Delhi to Kasol is a 14 hour bus drive and as soon as you cross Bhuntar, you are greeted with exceptional valley views of Beas river surrounded by tall green trees on either side. The stunning scenery continues for 2 hours as you hop on a local Himachal tourism bus to Kasol, which is a rickety ride and far off from the comfortable Volvo you got in from Delhi.
As we reached Kasol, we quickly checked into our private room at Hosteller and headed off to do what we love best – explore the wonderful cafes.
Sitting comfortably at the Art cafe with our tall coffee glasses, one of our new acquaintances quipped, “Have you girls been to Kheerganga?”. With our vague knowledge and open itinerary we eagerly asked for more info. We were told that there was a small group of 4 trekkers heading up to Kheerganga the very next morning and camping overnight in sub zero temperatures. Brrrr.
We were also informed that the trek lasts 5-6 hours and is a steep 13 km hike in the mountains. Apprehension sunk in instantly as I reflected on my last trek in the Himalayas (Which was never!). Then, they started talking about how amazing it would be to enjoy a bonfire at 3000+ meters in these exotic mountains while enjoying the super moon. That got my attention!
We had some serious thinking to do. This would mean a lot of changes – 1) We have to check out of our hostel and leave our big backpack somewhere 2) We have to camp in sub zero temperatures with a single jacket , we were NOT prepared for anything less than 7 degrees (mostly mentally) 3) We would have to trek in unchartered territory with no gear, not even proper trekking shoes.
However, the idea of going on the night of the super moon (A phenomenon which will not be repeated for decades) and doing the best trek in Parvati valley (Rather than 2-3 short ones), made us give in after few hours of contemplation and listing out the pros and cons. We decided to do it and it turned out to be the best decision ever.
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Kasol to Kheerganga – D Day
The next morning we woke up early to prepare ourselves for the big day ahead. We informed our loved ones that we will not be reachable for over 30 hours (No network in the valley) and wrap up our last min checks on emails/social media (Very important for a travel blogger,right?).
Next task was to dump our excess clothes into old pillow covers – yeah, no polybags in Kasol (Which is a great thing) and we didn’t want to carry all our luggage for 13 km (And back, so 26+). I only carried my two cameras, a warm jacket, gloves, cap and socks in the backpack I wanted to take with me and stuffed everything else in a pillow cover provided by the hostel manager. Along with our laptops, we kept the stuff with the manager for safekeeping till we return, at a mere charge of Rs 20. Not bad, eh?
Excitedly, we headed off to the meeting point – The Art Cafe, and as soon as everyone gathered, we made our way to Barshaini. You can either take a local bus from Kasol to Barshaini or a taxi. We were 6 people so taxi made more sense and costed Rs 1300. It was a 2 hour drive with amazing valley views at every turn. This gave us a good taste of what to expect during the trek.
The Trek Begins
Once at Barshaini, we took the jungle route to head up, which was a wise decision. We had an expert trekker with us who guided us throughout (Contact info below incase you ever need help with your treks to Kheerganga).
The trek seemed daunting at first as I was gasping for breath after 15 mins of the first steep climb. It made me think about the 5+ hours of that and I felt a bit discouraged, although, I knew if I start something, I would most definitely finish it. Well, also because there is no option to go back once you are in the middle of nowhere. Umm!
The trek got better with few patches of leveled ground where we could walk faster and make up for being slow on the steep and slippery paths. Around the waterfalls, was the trickiest as we could see ice patches in the path which meant you will fall on your butt if you are not careful. It was also a bad time to go actually since it was getting colder and it could snow anytime – which would mean the trek could close the very next day.
After stopping at few cafes and waterfalls enroute, clicking numerous pictures (or whenever I had the energy to) and enjoying the long winding trails in the jungles with falling leaves and vivid colors, we finally reached our destination – Kheerganga.
Kheerganga – Unadulterated beauty
Our achievement was rewarded by 360 degree valley views and the glow of sun falling on snow capped peaks – Instant gratification followed.
After catching our breath, we had hot tea and coffee at our campsite, which was also one of the best, secluded one in the area.
It was 6 pm and already getting cold so we had a bonfire lit up and sat around it for hours talking about travels, hills, the beauty of Parvati valley and just about anything.
The Super Moon Rises
Soon enough, we saw a bright glow from behind the mountain tops – lo behold, it was the moon rising. We all eagerly turned towards it and watched in sheer disbelief as the moon slowly rose and gave us the most spectacular moon rise of our lives.
The brightness of the super moon lit up our entire camp site and we could clearly see the frozen glaciers and peaks in the far horizon. We enjoyed the chatter and views till our bonfire died and then quickly scurried away to our cozy tents. Ofcourse we stole extra blankets from empty tents to stay warm and with the temperatures dropping, this was another of our brilliant ideas.
At night, our tent shook with fervor as it got windy and we shivered underneath or layers of blankets. Wake up time in the valley depends on the sun – as soon as the sun reached our campsite, around 10 am, our tents became hot boxes and we woke up sweating. Outside the tents it was sunny and pleasant.
We waited for the water pipes to “unfreeze” before we could get some water in taps and freshen up. Then, we had a quick breakfast and headed off to the hot springs.
My cousin and I didn’t carry swimming trunks or a towel – BIG mistake so we could not enjoy one of the epic parts of the journey but nevertheless, I got lost looking for the women’s hotspring (yeah it is separate from men’s and actually right next to it, but I assumed it would be further and wandered off) but finally found my way back after a good 30 mins.
It was time to go back now and I must admit the trek back down was way more trickier. For one, we took the other route to go down which is steeper and then coming down a hill, you need to be extra cautious. Still, it took less time and we made it back to Kasol by 6 pm, got into a taxi to Bhuntar and headed off to Delhi in the night bus.
Overall, it was one heck of an experience which we would cherish forever and for those who are still thinking about it – Just do it! Kasol, in itself is totally worth a visit even for non-stoners, but, you need to be a nature lover to enjoy the peace, beauty and serenity of the place!
More Information about Kheerganga
For any info about current trek situation to Kheerganga, Tosh, Rasol or other places, guided treks, accommodation or tips, contact my friend Kishaloy, who is now based out of Kasol and is surely the “go-to-guy” for anything. You can reach him at – Email – [email protected] or Whatsall/call – +91 9873044370
Tips for first timers doing the Kheerganga trek –
- Carry your swimming trunks and towel for the hot-spring.
- Carry extra bags for things you might want to leave back in Kasol
- There is no network so be prepared for a digital detox and enjoy the beauty of Kheerganga rather than looking for network all the time
- Wear proper trekking shoes and don’t take shortcuts in the mountains
So have you been to Kasol or did this epic trek to Kheerganga or to any places nearby? I would like to hear about your experience in comments below.