When you talk about travel plans, people expect you to speak of the mainstream hill stations or luxury travel destinations. But there is a very thin line between a tourist and a traveller. And I consider myself to fall in the latter. Travel is pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and keeping an open mind to whatever comes your way. This is the reason why my girlfriends and I decided to take ‘the road less traveled’.
The Kheerganga trek was indeed a mind expanding experience for us first time trekkers. With zero knowledge of trekking, the whole idea of carrying a backpack and climbing uphill for over 13 km, the idea in itself seemed scary yet fascinating. With the help of a Delhi-based travel company (MytravelPie), it all seemed fun and possible.
We started from Manikaran where we met our Mytravelpie mate Nitin Ahuja. The rain gods decided to show no mercy upon us that afternoon. Nitin took us through all the details while we were driving to Barshaini. We got off at Barshaini and took a short trek up to Tosh (30 min). This actually seemed like a warm up trek before we could take over the 7-8 hour long trek up to Kheerganga the next day. Tosh is a hidden treasure amidst mountains and tall trees- a perfect home for hippies. Our trek partner Mytravelpie made sure we felt at home. We chilled that evening at the hilltop café. Must try food – hummus and pita, pizza and chocolate roti’s. Chilling under the coal black sky at 7 degrees, Nitin arranged us some wood and fire while we shared more travel stories.
The next morning we were all set to take over the hills for the next 7-8 hours. There are 2 routes taking you up to Kheerganga – Kalga route(17 km) and Rudra Nag (13 km). We climbed down from tosh back to Barshaini and finally started our trek at 9:45 am taking the Kalga route. This route is filled with rocky-curvy pathways with bridges made from fallen trees and stones. This route took us through one of the most untouched mountains. Amidst all the greenery the parvati river roared in its own charm and pride.
I will be honest, giving up did occur to me many times through the journey, but when we did finally reach Kheerganga, the view was absolutely worth it. It was almost 6 pm by the time we reached Kheerganga. It was breezy and chilly. We threw our bags into the tents and climbed up for another 600 mt to get to the ‘parvati-kund’. It’s a natural water hot spring. One suggestion, DO NOT miss it. A dip in a hot water pool after making your body walk through dirt and mud and freezing water is TOTALLY worth the extra 600 mt climb. Indulging in the hot spring only made me feel like every bit of my body was melting away and before I knew all the pain my body was put through had vanished. It was a calm, cold evening atop Kheerganga with fellow travelers surrounding a bonfire, some good music, easy food and crazy stories.
The next morning we bid the oh-so-gorgeous Kheerganga a goodbye and started the trek downhill around 8 am. Our descent through Rudra nag was definitely more scenic. This was a fairly easier one till we got face to face with a landslide, crossing which seemed impossible. But our trek guide Hemu and a few other local men were at their best to help us all get through the landslide.
We struggled through the last few kilometers of the trek and reached Barshaini around 1 pm. I remember turning around and looking at those vast mountains and smiling in bliss to the greenery and breathing that air one last time. When I saw the mountains the weight lifted and my restless spirit calmed… I knew I was where I belonged.
Each of us had an entirely different perspective to the trek. Each of us have our share of feelings attached to those untouched trails. But there is one thing that I am sure all of us would agree to – ‘It’s always further than it looks. It’s always taller than it looks. It’s always harder than it looks.’ To me the mountains spoke in silence to the very core of my being. To me hearing my heart roar into my ears and my feet clench in pain meant eternal satisfaction. By bringing myself to the edge and back, I discovered a passion to live my days fully, a conviction that will sustain me like sweet water on the periodically barren plain of our short lives.