If you have a heart of steel, if you’re willing to go without taking proper showers and meals for a couple of days, if you’re willing to bear with the harsh sun and heavy rains, if you’re willing to travel eerie miles only with faint moonlight for company, if you’re willing to travel in local backbreaking buses with torn seats in this summer heat – This could be your trip to remember.
Considering the fact that this would be one of my longest vacations before I die/leave my job, I wanted to make full use of it with limited monetary expenses. A lot of you have been following my Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp updates and have often asked me how I managed to fund this trip – Well here’s the deal. Believe it or not. 4 days of Himachal Pradesh from Delhi for less than Rs 3000 inclusive of everything. This “everything” includes buses, stays, public transports, food, entry tickets (if any). If you’re going in a group, you can get the costs cut down per person for private vehicles but for a solo traveller like me, local transport seemed to be the most ideal.
Itinerary : Delhi to Bhuntar – Kasol – Chhalal – Risoul/Rasoul – Manikaran – Barsheini – Kalga – Tulga – Pulga – Tosh to Bhuntar and back to Delhi.
Note that this might be a little too long, but trust me if you’re a first timer to these places – this could be your preamble. I’ve mentioned each and every detail that will be necessary for you.
Detailed itinerary –
Day 0 : I boarded a bus from ISBT(New Delhi) at 7PM. It was an HRTC bus and the 14hr bus ride was obviously not comfortable with torn seats and no air conditioning. If you buy the tickets at the bus stand, it will cost you Rs 640. However, owing to the fact that I keep an eye on the online rates, I got the ticket for Rs 520 on Yatra.com . The bus was to reach Bhuntar(Himachal Pradesh) at 8AM in the morning but due to heavy rains, the bus reached Bhuntar at 10AM. The HRTC buses often go to Kasol itself. Other private buses mostly have their routes to Kullu Manali via Bhuntar. An alternative for HRTC buses would be Indo Canadian travels, they’re priced a bit on the higher side(Rs 1200) even if you get the tickets much in advance. So if you’re willing to sacrifice a night’s comfort, you can save some money there.
Day 1 : From Bhuntar, you can get plenty of local buses to Kasol which will cost you Rs 45.
They come at intervals of 15-20mins so you need not worry at all. The locals are considerably helpful. Kasol is a matter of about 30 kms from Bhuntar. Even with rush, you should reach in about 1.5-2hrs.
Kasol is a hamlet in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh.
Situated in the Parvati Valley, on the banks of the Parvati River, it is the Himalayan hotspot for backpackers and also as a base for nearby treks to Malana and Kheerganga.
From the spot where the bus halts in Kasol, you can walk straight down by the River Parvati after crossing a bridge for a stretch of about 1.5km and reach Chhalal.
Note that there are more than one routes to reach the Chhalal village. I myself never traversed the same paths to and fro Chhalal from kasol even in 5-6 times! I would always accidentally find a new way. On the way to Chhalal, you will see plenty of homestays and tents and camps advertising themselves on the big boulders on your right if you’re walking with the river on your left.
The Parvati river currents are very strong so do not keep posting stories and taking selfies, your life is more important and if you fall into that water there’s no way you’ll live to see the next morning. Depending on your walking speed, it should ideally take you 25-30 mins to reach Chhalal where stays start at Rs 400 for a night for proper rooms with clean baths and the like. Locals are happy to help if you ask them for directions.
I put up at the Skyward cafe for the night, the staff there were exceptionally hospitable and the rooms were spotlessly clean with 24hr running water. Seems like a good deal? It definitely was. To cut down on your cost on food, I’d suggest you pack dry foods like biscuits and cup noodles with you. Else, you can live on Maggi that will range from Rs 30-60 and not more. My hotel had a great menu so I decided to try out the hummus and pita(Rs 130),
chicken Zika(Rs 210, tradition bread stuffed with cheese and minced chicken and topped with sesame seeds bakedd to perfection)
and their fixed breakfast(Rs 180, comes with spiced potatoes and carrots in barbeque sauce, cheese sandwiches and a cheese omlette plus tea or coffee).
Thankfully, unlike trekking spots in the mountains, in the valleys of the Himachal, water is sold at MRP at 95% places. Depending on the brand, you’d get water for Rs 20-30 a bottle. 3 one litre bottles a day should keep you going.
After snacking some light food, I asked the locals about some nearby places that I could go to and they suggestes Risoul/Rasoul.
It is one of the most prominent mountain soaring upto a gigantic 10,000 ft above the sea level and can be spotted easily. One way in which it’s made distinctive is the village temple sign board stating how entering the premises would cost a hefty fine of Rs 2,000.
Rasoul is among the very untouched hikes in this part of Himachal Pradesh where no proper trekking routes have been made prominent yet.
It was a proper climb from boulder to boulder and half the time I was on my knees so as to not fall. The climb was a very tiring one, for in 3 hours there were just 2 locals that I could spot in the vicinity apart from barely 20 houses in all of the stretch. The descend too is difficult and without proper shoes, you wouldn’t want to think of going up there. Sometimes, I had to keep an eye to look for food wrappers to actually believe that people came here and that I wasn’t lost. The sun sets at around 8 pm during these summers.
I returned to my hotel at around the same time, freshened up and headed towards the Moksha cafe was barely 100m away.
Here, they make delicious hash brownies which on the menu have been tagged as “Real chococlate balls – Rs 450” for 2 pieces.
They’re simply delicious and have been born out of amalgamation of Malana cream and delicious chocolate cakes. I’m not a stoner but I could say it hit me pretty hard and that it was delicious! Moksha cafe also has a beautiful view from its seating area where you can smoke to your heart’s content.
So if you’re into the forbidden stuff, this could be your paradise!
Day 2 : I checked out of my hotel at around 8am in the morning and headed back to Kasol via Parvati where I sat for a while to indulge in it’s majestic serenity.
From Kasol, there are apparently plenty of buses that go to Manikaran for Rs 5. However, despite waiting for an hour or so, the only 2 buses that crossed my road were way too packed for anybody to board the bus. So I decided to walk the mere 4kms which with the sub overhead and a 10kg bag took me around 40minutes. As soon as I reached Manikaran, it started to pour heavily and so that my day wouldn’t go waste, I took a shared taxi that costed 4 people Rs 700 to Barsheini which is mainly a bus stand and the road is constantly kept company by the Parvati river.
Barshaini is also a small village that has all basic facilities including a medical shop, some guesthouses and dhabas, a taxi stand and an alcohol shop.
Honestly, paying that much for as little as 14kms seemed quite a waste of money. I’d suggest you wait for a bus. From Barsheini, the mouth of the village of Kalga is around 3kms and the only way to get there is to walk.
However, the trail to Kheerganga, Tosh and the trio of Kalga-Tulga-Pulga villages all start from Barshaini.
The recent construction activity of a bridge and dam over the Parvati river has marred the natural beauty of this village, but it still calls for a must-visit.
The path diverges from the overbridge built over the Parvati river. The villages and their houses are visible amidst lush greenery and thick plantations of deodar.
There are apparent charismatic views of clouds over the valleys under the gaze of snowy peaks that I missed because it was all cloudy from the pouring rains but the next day was equally rewarding with clear skies.
The Kalga and Pulga villages are more tourist friendly than Tulga – and both have lots of cheap guesthouses. Pulga is lined with narrow stone lanes and wooden houses with a very primitive village feel. There are plenty of abandoned houses too that are extremely aesthetic.
The Kalga village is perched above the dam project, and has many guesthouses set in the midst of farfelt apple orchards.
Tulga is hidden deep above from the trail and has only a few options to stay. All the three villages are close-by and can be accessed within 30 minutes of each other and are seperated by drainage systems. The rains had made the trail extremely muddy and looked so less than eligible to be sets for horror films for it was barely 100cm in breadth with shrubs on both sides. The ground was filled with leeches and gave a rather eerie feel. It’s best that you mentally prepare yourself to see leeches ascent your legs if you’re not wearing full length tracks. Of the three villages, Pulga is the best to put up at and is a genuine Himalayan treasure. It has eveyrthing from abandoned wooden houses to apple orchards to Israelis offering you charas every now and then. I put up at the Boom Shankar cafe in pulga. I was recommended this place by some other trekkers while in Chhalal. On seeing this stay myself, I too was intrigued to put up here itself. You can stay in the cafe and sleep on a chair for Rs 150 a night or get a room with a proper bed for RS 400 for the night and a common bathroom is at your expense. Their menu had everything from basic bread toasts (Rs 100) and scrambled eggs (Rs 60) to typical Israeli food. Also, every eatery here will serve you Nutella milk. If you have had a dream of just wandering aimlessly in the forest and being one with nature, this Fairy forest is the place.
Lush green grass and gigantic pine trees literally redefine paradise. You can spend hours in the forest, just reading a book or playing with the furry dogs. It’s the perfect place to de-stress. Somewhere in the lap of nature, I also seemed to find myself.
It was almost evening and the rains hadn’t stopped yet. The travellers putting up at these guesthouses are all like minded and very friendly. So if you’re a solo traveller, you need not worry at all. I had a lot of fun listening to experiences of other travellers and what’s a rainy night in the forest without some ghost stories? It was around 10 pm and the rains had finally stopped. This shall forever be one of my most treasured sights and events while trekking. 2 years back I was in Rishikesh and put up at a camp only for a bonfire but that didn’t happen because of their rains. In Triund too, a year back I put up at a tent on the hilltop not knowing that bonfires have been banned but this time all my dreams came true when a bunch of Israeli travellers asked me if I wanted to join in the activity. I can’t even explain what it felt to be under a starry sky by a bonfire warming up my soul after hours of heavy rainfall.
Day 3 : Waking up in the vicinity of the mellow snow peaked mountains has always been rewarding and fulfilling for my soul, nothing ever makes me happier.
I also had the luxury to waking up as the warm sunshine glistened on my face from the windows.
The mystic and welcoming charm of the Parvati valley will make you feel brimming with energy. I set out for Tosh which is a short trek of 2 hrs. Again you will end up to see majestic and lush greenery.
I caught myself being guarded by a guide dog – tiger.
He didn’t leave us until we had descended form the trek. It’s one of the most beautiful feelings ever. After reaching Tosh, you can go for a small hike to the waterfalls nestled in the groves of high deodar. Relish your memories with one of the most vibrant evenings in the Himalayas and stay overnight at any of the guestrooms.
It was then time to bid the mountains a good bye after exerting myself to extents greater than ever in the quest of something soulful, serene and forbidden.
You can either escape into this utopia or stay connected to your loved ones because the network connectivity is anything but poor.
With a heavy heart of having to go back to the city dust and mundane, I trodden back to Barsheini with memories, warmth and experience that was worth every penny I spent there. Remember that travelling is the only experience that makes you rich!
Note : Every detail has been curated first hand. For any queries, feel free to reach me on my personal Instagram or Facebook accounts, I’d be more than happy to help.
Some people might suggest that you don’t do the 3 villages on the same day because it may be tiring but if you’re in the need for thrill, just go for it. It is not as tiring as it may seem if you are willing to go that extra mile and are mentally prepared for the same. There’s some joy in treading into unknown without any assurance of being able to head back. There’s some joy in escaping into the forbidden laps of nature. Last but not the least, never let the insecurities stop you from doing great things.