Kheerganga – The Offbeat Trek
It’s such an irony that those who scale the mountains meter by meter, survive in the oddest of all niches, face the challenges as nightmares – that is soldiers, rarely utter a word about their experience of trekking. Well, now is the time to break that silence.
The Place and How To Get There:
As majority of cold regions in the Great Himalayas, Kheerganga is also such a gem which can be spectored only in peak summer months (May, June, July). Located at 10,000 ft above sea level, forming renowned Parvati Valley in Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, it is only accessible by road from the nearest airport at Bhuntar. Kasol or Manikaran – the Gurdwara and hot springs is the straw one would hold to get to Kheerganga. Kasol is the most appropriate place to stay for a night if one seeks a pre-trek kind of thing for fun lovers. Others can seek refuge at Tosh or Barshaini.
A well defined but rough track begins at Barshaini – a place with ample of parking space. It’s hardly 19 kms from Kasol or if you are staying at Manikaran, it’s just 15kms. The journey on foot must begin with light load of luggage, and companionship of a guide if needed. Among the two tracks that lead from this point – one through the forest, the other through Rudranag, it is best to enter one way and exit the other. We chose the trodden Rudranag path that eventually led us to Nagthan, four kms away and abruptly changed in views. There are several homestay options available at Nagthan for those who like to take their time.
Rudranag literally means “furious serpent”. As the name suggests, here river splashes down in a fury, invoking fear and devotion altogether. What makes it a place worth stopping is a temple on the riverbank of Parvati, a wooden bridge over it and a cafe. The cafe serves simple yummy food at a happy price, the bridge can only be crossed with crossed fingers and panting heart, and the temple is a solace before the steep jungle track ahead. Your journey till now has been midway to Kheerganga, so it’s best to avoid any shortcuts.
After aching your feet for fourteen kms, you will discover the moors nestled between two huge mountains roaring at each other. A legend says that Lord Shiva- a Hindu God lived and meditated in these valleys with Parvati (his wife) and Kartikeya (his son) for more than thirty centuries. He also blessed it with hot stream of Kheer (an Indian desert made of milk and rice). Lord Parshuram (Indian warrior God) anticipated that humans in Kalyug (this era) will fight against each other to own the stream of Kheer, hence, he turned the Kheer into water and cream (malai) which made it a hot gushing river. The hot water is still there in a pool, adjacent to the Shiva Temple, at 10000 ft amidst snow covered peaks.
Setting up a tent is first choice for tourists. you must carry warm jackets and pay for firewood, as nights are really cold. There are plenty of camping grounds, diverse food options in Indian, European, Italian and Israeli, and flock of tourists who are here just due to the abundance of cannabis. Non- vegetarian and alcohol is absolutely restricted. Like most public toilets, camp toilets and not so clean and charge INR 5 for single use. The hapsided setup of tents spoil the view even more. Packaged drinking water costs INR 50 per bottle and chocolates are highly expensive.
The Return Way
At the highest point, a little thrift entered us and we got along with a guide, pre booked by two young women camping in their own tent right there. When returning we were guided through the dense forest, which an outsider cannot enter, unless accompanied by a guide. It’s better to keep a raincoat with you as the weather can be moody and fresh water springs and waterfalls appear every now and then.
The people are very reliable and simple. You can cling a little to bargaining, but it’s better to not cheat them. There are a few things for which people will readily help you, free of charge. People are very hard working and only their labour is responsible for the little development. Overall folks are friendly and very good.
Have a happy journey!