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Kasol, Kheerganga, Tosh – The Trail Journals

If you, too, wish to truly understand the meaning of numinous beauty and if you, too, believe in the magic of nature then read on, for this trip took me to places which can and which will unleash the wayfarer in you!

It’s time we Indians got over the overrated Shimla and headed out to the more beautiful places of Himachal! Shimla at one point, yes, was undeniably beautiful, but now all that remains of a once ‘Summer capital of India’ is commercialized streets with cramped houses and hotels.

Kasol, Tosh and Kheerganga had been on my list for almost two years and I’m so glad I could make it there in 2019, finally!!

I had been meaning to do Kalga and Pulga too, but hell, I’m going back there, so no regrets! 😊

This trip was part of the ‘TravelWithBanjara’ series that came second in line to the Meghalaya trip (which reminds me that I haven’t written about Meghalaya yet!)

How I went about it!

I chose some 15 of my followers to join me on this little escapade to the hills and we got Bummlers as our Travel partner. It costed us 14k all inclusive of transfers, stay and meals from and back to Delhi!

The people who joined me were all my followers and while some might find it weird, I find it absolutely normal and in fact a healthy way of meeting new people who share a similar passion for traveling and have stories to tell! 😊

While I got the people to join in on my trip, the logistics and bookings were taken care of by Bummlers. We had a traveler to ourselves for the trip that took us from Delhi to Kasol and then back to Delhi. The traffic sure did kill us and what would have normally taken 12-14 hours one way took us close to 18-19 hours because well, dilli ki garmi had everyone swarming to the hills and what better than Himachal that is home to over 15 hill stations!! Having said that, every moment outside of Delhi, and inside of HP was like looking into a painting which made the terribly long journey bearable!

ITINERARY

  • Day 1 – Overnight journey to Kasol from Delhi (520 km)
  • Day 2 – Reach Kasol in the morning, check into campsite(tents) by the River Parvati. Trek to Chalal Village
  • Day 3 – Drive to Barshaini from Kasol. Trek to Kheerganga (15km). Stay in Kheerganga camps
  • Day 4 – Trek down to Barshaini. Trek up/Drive up to Tosh village (5km). Stay in Tosh campsite
  • Day 5 – Trek down to Barshaini. Drive back to Delhi!

Best Time to Visit?

Himachal has a pleasant weather throughout the year. The best time to visit Kasol, Tosh and Kheerganga is from April until October since in winters the whole village is covered in snow and becomes quite hidden. However, if you want to enjoy the snow, you can opt for November to February.

What to carry on treks?

If you are reading this blog and you haven’t been on many or any treks before, and you plan to go on one sometime in your life, then this section will be useful for you! 😊

Nowadays most of us no longer live much closer to nature and are used to the obvious availability of certain things in life. Hence, it is very important to understand and appreciate that when you are hiking or trekking a mountain, some obvious things may not be around you when you find yourself in a tricky situation. Here’s my must-carry-items’ list:

  • Trekking Bag – You CANNOT carry a trolley bag on treks, guys, understand
  • Best Quality Hiking Shoes (some treks are okay with general sports shoes too, but make sure your shoes have good grip, especially in monsoon season)
  • Backpack / Rucksack (For some one-day treks when you don’t want to carry a whole donkey on your back :P)
  • Thermals – Top and Bottom (IT can get really cold in the hills! Keep some brandy handy too :P)
  • Moisturizer and Sunscree
  • UV Protected Sun Glasses
  • Good jacket to protect from cold
  • One Raincoat
  • Lightweight Towel
  • Torch/Flashlight
  • Toilet Paper (plenty, since when you stay in tents, washrooms are usually make-shift and only one per 30-40 people)
  • Wet-Tissues(plenty)
  • 3-4 Pair of socks
  • Dry Fruits, Chocolates and Energy bars (They keep you fueled for long spells of the trek where you do not have shops)
  • Water bottle (please refrain from using disposable plastic ones
  • Medicines: If you are under any medications, please carry enough to last for the whole trip
  • SENSE OF FUN AND GOOD HUMOR 😉 😀

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the actual trip and how it was! 😊

Kasol – Mini Israel

Imagine staying in tents put up right next to the serene Parvati river, waking up to the gushing sound of the river in full flow, sun shining through the trees and ricocheting off the rocks of the river making your skin glisten as you go and perch yourself on those rocks to enjoy the music that the river and the trees so melodiously deliver. Now add to it some music that other fellow travelers are playing on the guitar as they smoke you-know-what! What a different high, whoa!

On your trek to Chalal, expect to see many tourists especially from Israel, some of whom have settled in the nestling hills of the area.

We learnt a thing or two about how Kasol used to be a truly untouched remote area until 20 years back(this makes me sad for what we saw was already a pretty urbanized version of Village Kasol), how Cannabis cultivation and export is the only form of livelihood for the locals and how they worship deities from their folklore.

Kasol was all about cafes, the flowing river, bonfire and music for us 😊

Cafes to visit – Evergreen Café, Moondance Café

Kheerganga – Stairway to Heaven

Imagine vast green grasslands with little white flowers springing out of those grass beds, vast 3D mountains, where you could see green hillocks in the foreground, and endless silhouettes of gigantic hills in the background followed by snow capped mountains further beyond those green hills.

Can you imagine what a sun rising from among these hills or a sun setting into those hills would look like? No, you can’t. I can’t even begin to put it into words. MAGIC is what it can be best described as.

Don’t get me started on the moon in the hills, I might just drop a tear in the memory of its beauty!

The trek to Kheerganga encompasses everything- walking through rivers, waterfalls, holding on to dear life on narrow walkways, apple orchards – you name it. If you’re a regular hiker, then this one is a dream to do. One of the most beautiful treks, so picturesque that you feel an impulse to reach for your camera or pinch yourself hard to make sure it’s real. The amazing landscapes, waterfalls and the alpine meadows are bound to make you stop and feel it and soak it in! Trek from Barshaini to Kheer Ganga is 15km. Agreed that 15kms is a lot of climb but heaven awaits you at the end of it. All your tiredness will be washed away with a sight of the unending view of the glaciers and mystical hot springs of Kheerganga. 10 minutes into the pool and you’ll be tripping because of the Sulphur fumes. Do not be surprised if you hear Dholak and groups singing and beating some Shiv Natraj Music. It is a one of a kind experience!

At Kheerganga, we ate, ate and ate, witnessed the most beautiful sunrise and sunset, petted and became home to fluffy dogs, watched beautiful white horses graze the grass, took a dip in the hot water springs, sat on infinity swings, sat around bonfire singing and sipping on hot tea and slurping down hot Maggie, and engaged in the super intriguing stories of locals! 😊

I would have loved to extend a day at Kheerganga! Probably next time! 😊

Tosh – Save your HASHtags for later, coz brownies are here babbay!

5kms ahead of Barshaini, lies the charming village of Tosh. Tosh, the last village in Parvati valley, is well-hidden amongst tall pine forests and is located alongside the Parvati river. Alongside the village is the Tosh River, which begins at the Tosh Glacier.

Tosh is a preferred destination for lazy hippies. Unlike Kheer Ganga, Tosh is much populated and not surrounded by thick meadows. Trekking trail passes through ranches and unorganized plantation of Marijuana. Accommodation and food options are in surplus in Tosh and are in much better shape than what we find in Kheer Ganga. The tents we stayed in offered an excellent, mesmerizing view of the Parvati valley and we had nothing to complain about!

There is nothing much to do in Tosh than to explore the surroundings. With every step you take there will an upsurge in love for this place. Such breathtaking views it provides of the beautiful Parvati Valley. In addition, as Tosh is becoming quite popular among the backpackers, many trance and psychedelic parties are being organized here.

We trekked up further to reach Pink Floyd Café just in time to catch glimpses of the sun melting away behind the hills. We tried the much talked about ahem ahem, brownie there. Hah! Oh my! What an experience! Shall not forget it 😀

That was my trip for you guys! We headed back to barshaini and back to Delhi the next day with heavy hearts but with hope of returning sooner this time around! 😊

Hope this blog leaves you a little more enthused about planning a trip to the beauty that these places are! 😊

Do follow my updates on Instagram to be a part of the #TravelWithBanjara trips! Bali is up next! 😉

Till the next time then! Do drop in your questions, your comments, your feedback below and I’d be happy to address them!

Forever a Banjara,

Diksha | TwofoldChic

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Nagaland – A Dollop of halcyon bliss

If you are someone who loves the rhythmic rain and vibrant green forest and wet lands then the valley of flowers is for you. The cotton-like clouds that surround the valley as you reach the top make this untouched seductress a valley much like heaven on earth.

26 years of existence seemed futile after I did my first proper trek last month. I felt so sorry for myself for not having done it earlier. Dzukou Valley trek marks the first of many more treks to come in my life!

While Shivani has trekked in the Himachal, I was oblivious of the incredible world of trekking and hiking. Now, when I’m asked what I like better- Mountains or beach – I do not know, and perhaps, never will. Both have a charm so different that it’s unfair to even ask to pick one! Coming back to the trek – let me share how we made it possible. PHOI came up with this Nagaland package right when I had planned my vacation. It was destined to happen. I decided that I’d cut short my stay at home by a week and accommodate this trip. And so, it began. As you may have guessed, it doesn’t take long to convince Shivani, after all, birds of the same feather flock together!!

PHOI teamed up with ChaloHoppo, who are a bunch of enthusiastic young folks determined to bridge the gap between the people of the world and Northeast India.

Indians, unfortunately, are most tempted to travel to Europe and South Africa and the US before they’ve even seen all of India. While there’s nothing wrong about it, they do not realize what beauty and thrills they are missing out on in their very own country. The thrills and the panorama that they seek abroad can very well be found in India! There is so much more to India that the regular tourist trails and which is why I’m even writing this blog!

North East India has a culture and heritage so different, you will want to immerse yourself in the stories of their people and want to learn all you possibly can about their history! Nagaland is not about historical sites as much as it is about their culture. North east is brimming with exotic hills and waterfalls and natural springs and rivers and valleys! You can’t just get enough of all the natural beauty! Shivani and I had never traveled to that side of India before and hence, we pounced upon the first opportunity that came our way. An opportunity to visit a land of rugged hills and tribes where ancient headhunting habits have collided in a train wreck against the Burmese identity, leaving modernity derailed.

A 4-day trip to Nagaland which included Kohima, Jakhama Village and Dzukou Valley.

For INR 7800 (ex flights) it seemed like a pretty fair deal, add to it the excitement of meeting new people, 40 of them! All of us took flights from our respective cities to Guwahati (a cheaper option. Alternative is to fly to Dimapur directly). We all assembled in Guwahati and embarked on our trip, that started with an overnight train journey to Dimapur. Our trip officially began on the morning of 14th June where we were greeted by the rain gods as soon as we stepped foot into Dimapur. It was surprisingly pleasant. We had a hearty breakfast near the railway station and scrambled in our sumos to get to Kohima, a mere 80kms away, but easily a 4 hours’ drive!

Once at the capital city Kohima, the tourists in us had taken form and we went about visiting the War Memorial – Kohima is steeped in history; one had vaguely remembered that the Japanese had tried to enter India through northeast during the WW-II, but we realized that the action took place right in the centre of Kohima town only after visiting the War Cemetery. All the soldiers of Indian Army who laid their lives defending Indian soil are remembered here, some of them as young as 17! We also visited the churches, the local markets et al. The local markets were full of men and women selling what is considered as exotic food up there – silk worms, snails, frogs, and even dogmeat! In a word, anything that could crawl, hop or walk seemed to have fulfilled the pallets of the local people.

I wasn’t too excited by the idea of eating these delicacies, but some of the people in our group did, and they sure loved it! I, however, stuck to the usual – chicken and pork – Shivani, mostly vegetarian options!

A little about Nagaland here – This enchanting state with natural beauty and ethnic diversity is populated by the Naga people of Mongoloid stock.  There are 16 major Naga tribes in this state, each having its own language and unique customs and traditions. The Nagas have always been brave warriors. Although most of them have now become Christians (90% of the state population is Christian), they still preserve the remnants of their early animist culture and ancient traditions. Baptists constitute more than 75% of the Christian population. Nagaland is known as “the only predominantly Baptist state in the world.

We loved how stylish people are in Nagaland. You will find people clad in the most fashionable clothes and shoes even in the local markets. We had the opportunity of seeing a fleet of beautifully dressed people who were headed to a day wedding. Once we were done with lunch and sight-seeing, we then headed to our camp in Jakhama Village. The camp was beautiful and we stayed in a tent after ages! The camp had tents everywhere, a very cozy common area where we would all eat, sing, dance, play… We spent the rest of the night around the intimacy of the fireplace in the common area, moonlight over our heads, dancing to the tunes played out by our talented fellow travelers on guitar.

The next morning, our trek was to begin. Our tents overlooked beautiful, lush green paddy fields and waking up to clear blue skies, little drops of rain and lush greenery around is the most beautiful feeling ever!

We were all up and excited by as early as 5 am. We huddled in our sumos to go to Viswema, the starting point of the trek. A note to be made here, since we were going to be trekking for hours, we had already bought food supplies that would last us through the trek. Nuts and biscuits and bananas are good options!

A raincoat is a mustttttttttttt! Cannot emphasize enough on its importance.

So, yes, after a 45 minutes’ drive on a steep road, we reached the base of Viswema trek. From then on, it was a steep climb of about an hour followed by 6kms of walking on along a plain surface lined with small bamboo plants in a circular path. The initial walk is through a thick forest with giant rhododendrons trees and the 6kms walk gives passing views of the narrow Dzukou stream and glimpses of what the valley promises. The trek is a moderate one but was slightly more difficult than moderate ones because of the rains and mud that had accumulated because of the incessant rains. Lots of people kept slipping into the mud, the bamboo shoots would always come to our rescue. The trek took about 6-7 hours to complete and once we had arrived, the views are something I will never forget in my life!

   

The picture-perfect Dzukou Valley is located at an altitude of more than 2000. Only lush green mountains for as far as the naked eye can see!

The waterfalls that we encountered on our way stole my heart. I would have totally bathed in the river too had it not been chilly, but I made sure to plonk my face in the rivers and waterfalls that we crossed and drink water from them directly! Little pleasures of life! 😊

On reaching the top of the valley, we reached our dormitory where we were to stay the night. There was no electricity at this place and we cooked our cuppa noodles on woodfire and had that for two of our meals! The other meal that we had was also simple cooked lemon rice. Once we had rested a bit, we went on to see the valley of flowers of the north east which was another trek, not half as long as the trek it took us to reach up there. Walking through the Dzukou Valley – with beautiful plains with lush greenery and the loveliest flowers growing on them, passing over the brisk passing streams of crystal clear water, getting lost in the melodies of the cooing birds, surrounded by thick forests – for tourists, it’s one of the best experiences that they are ever likely to have. The calmness, the complete silence, the serenity of the surroundings is a complete change from the noise, the hustle and bustle of an average Indian city….

The temperature dropped majorly as night came and the chills literally rattled our bones. We all were carrying our sleeping bags and were given one thin quilt each but it was just not enough!

The next day, we had our breakfasts and began the climb down to Viswema again. It had been raining through the night and we were very worried about trekking down because of the slippery mud, but it was easier than we had thought. It took us some 5 hours and we were back to the base from where we headed back to our camps in Jakhama Village. That night ended on a blurred note after one too many cups of rice wine and rice shots 😀

The next morning, we set out to explore the village – it’s beautiful churches, the vivid and bright painted houses- Most of which still have the buffalo horns and skulls before their houses, the memorials, the stream and the paddy fields. The village walk was beautiful! The locals were very nice and greeted us all with a lot of warmth and smiles. We learnt a lot about Nagas – who were called head-hunters as they hunted for skulls which they hung in their homes or on trees. The larger the number of skulls one owned, the higher would be his status in society. Later, the custom was limited to animal skulls.

We interacted with the locals and ate plums plucked fresh from the trees. It was a beautiful clear day. Life seemed to be simple, peaceful and happy there. With smiles on our faces and warmth in our heart, we returned to our camp where we packed our bags and bid goodbyes to friends made over the past few days.

The trip was coming to an end. With heavy hearts, we set back to Dimapur, from where we again took a train to Guwahati. It might have been a short 4-day trip, but the memories made will last a lifetime – even if it sounds like a cliché, it is true!

And well, we surely will visit Nagaland again hornbill festival, that’s a given!!

And oh, the other six sisters are yet to be explored…Such a short life and so many places to see! 😊

Even thinking about it gives me an adrenaline rush!

Hope you enjoyed reading about our trip. I hope you guys plan a trip to the mystical lush lands of Nagaland soon enough. If you do, do hit up @chalohoppo. They’re your go to guys for exploring the north east!

 

Till then,

Love galore,

Twofoldchic