Are you planning a 4-day backpacking trip being in India but don’t know where to go? Did you love the Bollywood movie ‘Yeh jawani hai deewani’ and were a fan of Bunny’s idea of travelling? Or let me put it this way, do you want your holiday to involve that adrenaline rush of an adventure, the thrill of a road trip, breathtaking views, snow capped mountain peaks and sadly for all this you have saved just 4 thousand rupees (INR)? Then say no more, a trip to Kheerganga.
Have you ever visited a place that you wished would remain a secret? Ever wanted to keep it from the world – and only for yourself?
This is that kind of place.
About me, I am a third-year undergraduate student at IIT-BHU, Varanasi. I am a backpacker. Being in the third year of my college life, I have been on a number of backpacking trips, and this is one among them- a trek to Kheerganga which was the most beautiful yet exhausting trek I had ever been on.
Did you know it is believed that Lord Shiva meditated here for around 3000 years?
Kheerganga is a very small village, to which you would have to do a 13 km trek through dense coniferous forests.
To get to Kheerganga, you will have to take a bus to Manali from Chandigarh since there is no direct bus to Kheerganga. You will have to deboard at Bhuntar, a small village before Kullu. From Bhuntar, you need to take a local bus to Kasol or Manikaran, which generally takes about an hour to reach Manikaran. In Manikaran, you will take a taxi to Barshaini, which is the base for the Kheerganga trek. Also, Barshaini is the base for the trek to Tosh, which is just 2-3 kilometres from there and the Mantalai lake which is actually a 6-day trek one way. Mantalai lake is the origin of the Parvati river.
Where to stay before the trek?
Since its a backpacking trip I am writing about, I would recommend staying in the Gurudwara Sahib, Manikaran.
With minor formalities, they gave us a room, which was enough to accommodate all six of us. And you must be knowing that for an accommodation there you will not be charged, although one should donate some amount of money if you feel like or else you could do seva there, and trust me, it feels so good to serve in the langar or do any kind of service there. There you will feel more human you know, a feeling which has become extinct today.
Below is the picture of a view from the balcony of the room we stayed in- isn’t it beautiful?
The Trek begins!
The first half of the trek- easy and predictable.
We started the trek at around 11 am from Barshaini with mixed emotions of the excitement and the thrill. First 6 kilometres were easy. We had fun on the way, stopping wherever we wished to, clicking pictures and just laughing the hours away. After 6 kilometres, there were some cafes where we had our lunch.
Try the daal and butter roti there, they serve it deliciously good.
It was really cold, but the day was sunny which I actually slept sunbathing in. It was really an experience just to sit there and let the peace of the mountains sink in and fill your soul.
It is only after first 6 kilometres, the actual trek begins when you reach Rudranag. In Rudranag, there is a waterfall from where the eater flows in the shape of a monstrous snake- and hence the name- Rudranag waterfalls. From there, the slope becomes steep, the jungle dense with the snow deposited all over the way (if there was one).
An advice –We did a mistake of taking a 2-hour break after first 6 kilometres assuming that it’s easy and it would take another 3 hours at max to cover the rest, what we did not know was that the real trek starts from there only. And trust me, you don’t want to be in that jungle after dark. It gets really dangerous after the sun has set.
We had to remain extra cautious because the sun had already set after an hour or so, and it was slippery as hell because of the snowfall a day before. There was no way to be sure that we are even on the right path, after all, it was a forest. We turned on the flashlights of our phones (thankfully we had the batteries remaining), without which it would have been close to impossible to ascend even a single step. So, anyhow, after 5 hours of continuous trekking, we reached the top, to Kheerganga.
It was a feel beyond explanation. And man, it was freezing out there.
At the top!
Let me try to help you visualise what I actually saw and what it felt like to be there. As soon as I took a turn during the trek, I could see few lights from the structures what looked like huts, 7-8 maybe. But as soon as I looked up in the sky, I was dumbstruck, literally. It was like there has been another layer of sky between us and the sky we usually see. I could see each and every star in the sky there is, and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. I don’t seem to have enough words to describe how it felt like. We could not even make out the constellations as there were so many of them, the stars, so bright. It was a bewitching view.
Where to eat?
As we walked ahead, those huts were actually cafes where we could eat and stay at Rs 150 per person. There were mattresses and blankets, for around 30 people in one hut. Also, there is a Dharamshala at the top, which has 6-7 very small rooms (about the size of a double bed) which I highly recommend, and they charge you just Rs. 300 per room with dinner included. Isn’t it really cheap? This is a real paradise for a backpacker- a cheap accommodation, cheap food, a place at the top of the mountain- peaceful and cold, a lot of friendly locals to talk to, what else can one need? Below is a picture from inside of such a hut.
I would personally recommend ‘Than Baba‘ for the ambience and the food.
Where to spend the night on reaching the top.
We did not spend the night in this cafe though, but a Dharamshala fully made of wood, which usually people fail to notice because it is at the topmost point. The rooms of Dharamshala were about 6*7 feet and housed only a double bed in it, which is more than you could expect from a place so remote. The night was freezing, we had to sleep under 8 blankets to resist being frozen till the morning!
Hot water spring!
The next morning we took bath in the hot water spring- ‘Parvati kund‘ which was an awesome experience in itself.
Imagine this, it is a beautiful sunrise you are witnessing with a breathtaking view of the sun rising from behind the mountains and it is freezing up there but you get to immerse yourself in the hot water while doing it. What would it feel like?
Exactly, it will feel awesome! And it does, it really does.
Back to Manikaran
Realizing the mistake we did the previous day, we left early for Manikaran, at around 10 am. Going down a trek is as difficult as going up, because of the slippery slope, one careless mistake and you might end up hurting yourself. We got down early because obviously it takes less time and took a cab back to the Gurudwara Sahib.