A Blind Trip to Pulga, Kasol and Kheerganga

Would you be ready to go on a blind trip? They are also called surprise trips and mystery trips. I have always been excited about the possibility of traveling and not knowing where, such as going to the airport and taking the first plane that leaves. I am seduced by this formula of going on a trip to know the destination only at the last minute. While traveling blindfolded may seem unimaginable, it is possible to buy a plane ticket or stay at an unknown destination.

I had to be strong and contain myself so as not to cheat. Two months before the scheduled date, I could have opened the website and planned an entire trip. With a click I could have made all the bookings but what grace would it have?

For 48 days I restrained my impulses, convinced that surprise was one of the best parts of the enriching experience. I want to go on a completely blind date. For my date I only knew that as it was winter I should have enough protection for it.

Delhi to Pulga trek Parvati Valley Kasol

The Blind Date Arrives

The night before, I could hardly sleep. The mind jumped across continents. In Europe I kept visualising from Portugal to Norway, from France to Italy, from Belgium to Iceland, from Germany to Finland, from Greece to Turkey. In Asia, I kept visualising from Dubai to Tokyo and Beijing to Singapore. In America it could be from Canada to Argentina, from Chile to USA, or from Mexico to Brazil.

Which would be the chosen one? I had my predilections, but I was not going to confess it. I looked at the clock on my smartphone again. It was 2.30. Did I place the umbrella in the backpack? I went back to check the alarm to make sure that the four alarms were properly set at 5:10, 5:20, 5:30 and 5:40. I left my smartphone on the bedside table, covered my blanket up to my neck, and tried to sleep.

I jumped out of bed with the first alarm of the alarm clock. I walked to the kitchen and put the coffee pot on the fire. I looked for the clothes that I had left ready on the chair and I began to dress with some awkwardness. I'm not a morning guy. The smell of coffee flooded the house and I poured myself a cup. Black, without sugar. I sat down, still with half eyes-closed and half-dressed in bed, and took a sip. It was still too hot. I looked at the clock and it was already 5.30.

How is it possible that the minutes in the morning go by so fast? Or am I so slow in those inhospitable hours! I put the coffee aside and I finished dressing. I went to the bathroom to wash my face and teeth even knowing that I would still drink coffee, but there was no time to wait. I put more cold water around the eyes to make them look more open. I took a couple of more sips of coffee in the bathroom, because the cup comes with me wherever I go.

The time had come to unveil the great mystery. The heart began to beat hard and the hands became wet. I picked up the phone, opened Google Earth and clicked on the 'I'm Feeling Lucky' button to get the random destination that I will go. I looked at the large blue screen with white letters and scanned all the destinations with my eyes. What would be waiting for me? What would be my blind date?

My hands were shaking. And there that marker appeared with the information of my appointment. It is Pulga! I checked on the map where this place was located. It was somewhere in Himachal Pradesh. I tried to search the map for the major landmark and I could see the only known place to me was Manali. Automatically a chink appeared on my face.

I put one more sweater in my backpack, closed it, took a last sip of coffee and went out of the door. The early morning of that Delhi winter was freezing. I almost did not cross anyone in the streets that I walked till the auto rickshaw stand. I was lucky and I did not wait more than 5 minutes. Sitting on that yellow coach I fiddled with the idea of my blind date and imagined the qualities of the chosen one from food to culture, art, and elegance.

I arrived at the bus station at 7.15 am. I was nervous, in the best sense of the word, and somewhat anxious. At 8.30 am with many illusions I take an old rickety bus that in about 14 hours, I think, will take me to the first step towards Pulga. I only know that a valley in the middle of the Himalayas has to be amazing. I kept looking at the Google Maps to try to discover the possible destination. I did not succeed.

I could not sleep all the way, a little because of the discomfort of the seat, another bit because I did not want to miss anything that I saw through the window. The dense jungles after entering Himachal never ceases to end with sounds of strange birds, monkeys of all kinds, and sounds unknown to my ears.

By the way, in that journey through the unknown I ate the most flavorful samosa of all time, and I become friend with the person who invited me to that samosa. As my mind goes in disarray my new friend sitting beside me starts narrating the legend of the place. He goes on to say that somewhere in the valley, more precisely in the village of Manikaran, Shiva rested for 10,000 years, after making love for another 10,000 years with Parvati.

As a token of gratitude, Shiva heated the rocks so that future travelers could rest and meditate in a warm and comfortable place. From there, the special and spiritual nature of the place emerges. Knowing the history, the legends and the reason of the names of the places gives an extra charm.

In the late evening the bus stopped. Most passengers slept, but not me, as I was interested a little to know what was happening. The sky was totally clear, the smell of nature pervaded the place, and the strange and diverse noises that came from the bowels of the jungle made me shudder. The first thing I thought was that it was a puncture, but it was not like that. The driver lifted a lid that was inside the coach, touched few things, and started again. I do not know how.

After about 14 hours I arrived at Bhuntar, where I took a taxi to Parvati Valley. As I reach near the valley I start feeling the magic of the place. Seeing nature in all its magnitude surprised me with huge mountains separated by the force of the river. The Parvati Valley gathers a series of towns and villages, one more beautiful than the other. Not all connected by roads.

Kasol is the first of the series. It is the entrance door. And for the first time I feel foreign in my homeland. It is Israelite land. If Manali, was the small Tel Aviv, this Kasol is Tel Aviv directly. Many there speak to me in Hebrew! Although Kasol is full of tall, green pine trees, it is also full of cars, trucks and restaurants.

Delhi to Pulga trek Parvati Valley Kasol

Road to Pulga and Beyond

The morning wakes me with a scorching sun and a blue sky with few clouds. I looked at the sky and smiled. Thanks for receiving me like that, with your best face and your best sun. I thought, but I did not say it out loud because I was still walking with surprise at every step. The nerves were breathing in the atmosphere and it was great to feel the emotion of the moment. The adventure had just begun from Kasol to Pulga.

I left for Manikaran without knowing where I would end. It is the most "Indian" village in the valley, so to speak and had the feeling of returning to the deep interiors of India after a long time. In Manikaran there were no amenities for tourists, nor does much place to stay. But it has what India has, with its mysticism of rural life.

The next town that I come across is Flea near Kalga, and near Barsheni. Already more in the Valley, and no routes to get there, Flea fascinated me. The slow walk gradually leads to Pulga. It is a peasant village, with some guest-houses lost among crops. Women harvest crops with the sickle, while men carry sheep and goats to graze. I see a beautiful view of the valley that I hope save on my eyes for a long time.

I walk along paths that cross innumerable streams around the village, lie down and observe the different forms of the mountains according to the light that reaches them or the amount of clouds that accompany me that day with rain and many chillums!

I then discover the paths that lead to Kheer Ganga, the hippie paradise of the valley that also has hot springs. I did not see homes, only guest-houses and restaurants, all prepared to receive people. Khir Ganga lends itself to contemplate nature.

Here I learn about the Rainbow Gathering. What is it about? It is a movement that was born at the end of the '60s with the idea to camp and live in community with collective cooking, shared music and a little meditation among other herbs (literally). The idea is that everyone can learn what they want and teach what they know.

In Khirganga there is nothing, or there is much. It's an amazing place, as the mountains have extra energy. Hopefully it has infected me a little. Hashish is everywhere. Even in the roads. To understand a bit how life works here, I will give you three words that define in some way what surrounds life up here that is Chillum, Charas and Chai.

I live in the house of a local. In that house there are several rooms. My room consists of a bed and nothing else. One of the best things when I travel is to meet new people. It is in the blank spaces where fortunate connections occur. The problem comes in the language, although I'm sure that after a few drinks, that barrier is definitely broken. It is always good to meet new people.

An Israelite wearing necklaces in which the main part is a stone or crystal spends the day smoking in the adjoining room. The owner starts preparing a fire to prepare something hot at 6pm. It is a pleasure to lie there a while and look at the mountains and surroundings. The magic of the place is in the river, or at least I find it in the river. The huge river, full of strength does not stop surprising me with the power and intensity. And in its flow it shows the stillness.

The water passes, wets and splashes. While the shore, stones, earth and the mountains are as perennial, static, immobile. Is it a metaphor for life? Some things that should flow, go hard as the river and some other things are fixed, seems like forever. In this contrast I live and feel, seek and balance. Or at least I try.

And after this experience I have no doubt that I will repeat the mysterious trips, since it has been exciting to live the accumulation of sensations that each time I felt before the unknown.

Read more about the places to visit in Kasol and Solo Travel Tips for Kasol.
Kalyan Panja