For my first trek ever, I was really excited and somehow knew that Kheerganga would be the best part of my second trip to Himachal Pradesh.
Kheerganga is a spiritual spot located at a height of 2960ms where Lord Shiva is said to have meditated at for about 3000 years. It’s in Paravati Valley, Himachal Pradesh and the trek is of about 13kms starting from Barsheni, 2 hours away from Kasol. The trek route has no lights and a number of waterfalls amidst pine trees. The whole of this mountain is made up of glittering rocks, if you look closely. If this place isn’t heaven, I don’t know what is.
After a filling breakfast at the Freedom Cafe, we left for Barsheni, the starting point of the trek but little did I know that my first trek was going to be tougher than I had imagined and hence a revolutionary experience. We were six when we reached there at 12pm but as soon as we got off the cab, one of my friends realised that he had left his bag along with his DSLR at Freedom Cafe which was about 2 hours away from our current location. Knowing that we might not be able to go for the trek if we go back to get the bags (a journey of about 4 hours back and forth), we left for Freedom Cafe, hoping that the bags would still be there. Can you imagine loosing your DSLR in the mountains? Heartbreaking! We asked the other four to continue with their trek and if possible, we’d join them up there.
Bless the people at Freedom Cafe, the bags were safely kept aside for us and without wasting anymore time we collected them and left for the trek again. Reaching the starting point again, our debate on whether we should be commencing this trek at this hour or not continued. It’s a 7 hour brisk walk trek and the sun sets at around 7 so starting at 4, we would technically reach at around 11pm. I mean which sane human being would go ahead with that? Well, we did.
On top of all the existing odds, it started to rain! Yeah, it didn’t rain throughout our trip but during the trek alone and the way is an uneven muddy one with several waterfalls in the middle, no electricity or cell reception. The temperature in Kasol that day was 19 degree celcius. Imagine the chills 3000ms higher to that.
Now talking about the way, there were two. One being the longer but easier one and the other one being the shorter but steeper one, locally known as the “Jungle ka raasta”. One thing we knew was we didn’t have the luxury of time so we started walking on the ‘jungle ka raasta”. After our first km, we reached the first break point and we were starving! So we ordered for some maggi and coffee and spent the next 20 minutes reflecting on our decision. It wasn’t too late to go back down. Better than dying without any cell reception, right?
Two of our friends were half way up and two left for Tosh instead since one of them was sure she wouldn’t be able to walk that path. That’s the news we received, before commencing the trek, from our friends in Tosh since the other two had no network.
While we hogged in utter dilemma, I noticed a guy our age sitting alone at the same tapri looking like he was confused about going ahead with the trek himself. On enquiring we discovered he didn’t have a raincoat so was just waiting for the rains to slow down so he could continue with the trek. Hailing from Delhi, he loved solo trekking. Motivated enough now, we three continued our journey with increased hope and enthusiasm.
The first hour was soul wrecking. My nose was cherry red and I was trying hard to catch my breath and not slip down the hill. We came across a couple of men who were trekking down and each of them only scared and demotivated us. Advising us to go back since it was “too late to start from where we were”. Yes our hearts sank at every comment they made but not enough to break us down. So snacking on carbs and sugar, we continued walking. I only managed to get one picture clicked since it was raining and we had no time to waste clicking pictures.
We took some 5 minute breaks whenever any of us needed one. I was really skeptical about making it to the top the same day but the other two were very determined so we carried on. There are a couple of cafes on the way to rest at and soon we crossed the last camping stop before reaching Kheerganga which was about 9kms away from the top. So we knew that now if we continue with the trek and it gets dark, we cannot look back and will have to spend the night in the woods trying to light fire and keep ourselves warm and alive. SO much for adventure.
‘We’ll figure it out’, was our midset so we continued.
So throughout the way there are arrows painted on rocks and trees to guide the way. There was no one behind us and we were the last lot attempting to reach the top. On the way I came across a poster stuck on a tree which said a guy of young age died falling from the spot I was standing at. My feet froze and so did others’ when I brought it to their notice. Further ahead there were many such posters which mentioned the deaths of many young trekkers and how careful we should be. More like warning signs and I’m not exaggerating AT ALL. There was one that particularly mentioned not to take the short cut.
We happened to cross some beautiful water falls, some with a strong flow, the key being stepping on rocks that wouldn’t sink or move. Obviously our trousers and shoes were wet and muddy by now from walking in the water and rain. Walking fast was the best way to keep ourselves heated up.
Now if you go for the trek, you might see these signs that say ‘Waterfall cafe 1 hour away’, ’30 mins away’, ’10 mins away’, DON’T believe those milestones. It took us more than an hour from where it was mentioned that the cafe was 10 mins away. It’s probably to encourage the trekkers because Kheerganga is like 2 hours away from there.
So it was around 7, the sun had set and we were under the moonlight. Not so bright either since the pine trees blocked most of it. We had bought a torch so using two phone lights and a torch we continued but our speed obviously halved. All of us slipped multiple times but none of us discussed it till we reached the top so as to not discourage each other. But there were so many times where I was just 2 cms away from falling down the edge into God knows where. It’s almost impossible to even find the body of anyone who falls off the edge there. The way is rocky and muddy, mostly a feet or two wide.
As it got pitch dark it became even chillier. I was wearing a high neck-full sleeve-tee, jeans, shoes, a hoodie, a wind-sheeter and gloves and yet shivering like a leaf in breeze. I don’t know what happened inside but I was more than determined to reach the top and sleep in a tent under the moonlight. All this could not be for nothing. The guys were now skeptical, thinking of ways to survive the night and stay somewhere in the middle and continue with the trek next morning. These thoughts were keeping my safety into consideration according to them but I wasn’t going to listen to that now.
It was almost after 8 when we reached the last stop before Kheerganga where the locals told us it would take another 2 hours to reach the top. I wasn’t even ready to take breaks now. Frankly I just wanted to get this over with, imagining the beautiful serene view that awaited us after this hard evening. And when I said it got pitch dark, I meant every letter of that word. I couldn’t see the trees, the way or even the person right next to me. It’s like I was now blind torches turned off.
There was a short cut to the top, and we couldn’t even think of taking any other way now. Yes the warning sign encountered hours ago came to our mind but we were dead tired and starving so we went for the short cut.
Now we reached a point where our torch lights couldn’t find the directing arrows anymore. We freaked out for a moment. Did we take a wrong turn?
We then saw an arrow on a standing stone that pointed towards the sky at 90 degrees. We freaked out more. Is this a joke? Does this mean this is where we die and go right up? No silly, seconds later we realised. This was the shortcut. It’s not a way, it’s climbing a muddy hill at around 70 degrees. My feet had given up. They can’t even bend to 70 degrees practically. I almost started to crawl in between steps. I just wanted to lie there and magically be transported to Kheerganga.
But we all know that wasn’t happening so we crawled and while we did, we heard a man from top ask us if we were headed to Kheerganga at this hour. He passed us within seconds, sprinting in the dark down the hill without any light wishing us all the best. 100ms below us he stopped and said,” Humari mulakat ho ya na ho wapas, tum tumhari manzil pohonch jaoge. Jai bhole naath!”, my friend directed the torch at him and what we saw was rather scary. It was an old man with grey beard, holding an axe in one hand that rested on his shoulder. After saying that, he got back to running down the steep slope and disappeared in the dark within seconds.
“Is he on a hunt?”, “He could have killed us with that axe right here before we could have even seen his face”, “How can he see in this darkness or run down the slope at that speed?”, Maybe he just swings his axe onto some tree to save his arse in case he slips off the hill”, was our discussion for the next couple of minutes. Anyway, so another 15 minutes of soul-sucked crawling and we reached the top.
With hundreds of tents and shacks set up across the meadow, solar lights at some spots, bonfires amongst groups and a sky filled with a million stars. This is it. It was orgasmic. We did it!
A couple of men started conversing wth us while we were awestruck, not knowing where to go or how to find our friends. Our phones had no reception at all. They were shocked and amazed when they heard we just reached the top through the “jungle wala raasta”, as first time trekkers. At that moment, we fell SO strong and proud of ourselves. Frankly, I could never even imagine doing this. And you’d agree with me if you know me personally. I’m the person who hates to even walk a km. But here I was, after a 13km trek up a tough hill, in the worst conditions altogether. It was almost 9.30 and we saw the first shack with a board that all food joints shut at 10pm. Sleeping without food? Nightmare. So we decided to find our friends later and feed our hungry stomachs first.
It was a cozy hall with mattresses along all sides filled with foreigners and Indians, eating food, playing chess, all buried in blankets. We got ourselves some blankets as well since we were frozen. Even our gloves were moist and icy. We ordered for coffee, naan and paneer and hogged on it like we weren’t fed in years. I tried calling our friends from the local bsnl number but they still had no reception. There was no way we could find them at this hour. So we decided to look for them the next morning, hoping they made it here alive.
On one of the stops on the way, we were given a card of the camping site Silver Shine so we started looking for it. Some other travellers helped us find it and we got ourselves a tent at INR600.
The starry sky was just magical. Writing this blog makes me want to go back there right now!
Cozying the tent up with 5 blankets, we hung the torch up in the middle and our tent was one tiny warm place for the night. The party was about to start. We had carried a bottle of champagne for this moment. Popped it open, playing songs on a tiny speaker and discussing our adventurous journey, we dozed off by around 3am. Getting out to pee in the middle of the night at an outdoor plastic shit booth was a nightmare. It was too cold!
I woke up at around 10am and every inch of my body was screaming in pain. I opened the tent to see where we were and did the view take my pain away or what!
Recharged in moments, we freshened up and had some coffee, soaking the sun rays in. So this is how sunbathing feels to people who live in cold countries eh? Amazing!
Set out to find our friends, we literally took a whole round of the meadow and even checked inside this stay dorm called Dharamshala because I recalled hearing that name sometime on the way when we were together. But no, we couldn’t find them. We were just hoping they were fine.
Excited to try the food here, we went to this cafe and ordered for Tuna Pizza, ginger lemon tea and Tuna spring rolls. Oh My God they were the best! You won’t find this at every shack there so make sure to go to the one before Lotus cafe or you’ll end up eating maggi and Indian food that you get everywhere.
We spent the whole day doing nothing but soaking in the beauty and peacefully vibrant vibes. We didn’t want to go back down. There is a natural hot spring on top which is a must if you get there.
If only we knew how amazing this place was, I’d spend a whole week there. Soon we were all packed and ready to trek down and see the way we came up through, in darkness! We were faster and clicked a lot of pictures and videos which will go up on my YouTube channel soon.
Had a lot of coffee, nutella bread and maggi while coming down. The cramps were unbelievable though. We contacted our driver through a local phone and were ported to our hotel, where all our friends were alive. The other two who we couldn’t find wanted to stay another night at Kheerganga too but if only we would have met up there!
Never mind, that one day was an experience of a lifetime. To more treks in the future, cheers!