Written by Aditya Gupta.
Do you love heights?
Oh yes, so do I, but it’s rightly proven when experienced in reality. Standing atop the mountains, feeling the cool breeze and the inner beauty of nature, with this I can definitely say that trekking is something one can and should live for.
Being a Tourism student and an explorer by nature, travelling to different places has always been at the top of my mind. I have travelled to various cities but never had a trekking experience, Trekking was always inside the bucket of my to-do things, and finally came out of it by chance, or should I say, my heart and mind together made me do it. In my first year of graduation, I planned a trip for Kheerganga trek. Some of my friends were also interested in joining me for the trip, so together we planned a budget trip and bought some essential things for the trek. They included things like a rucksack bag, shoes with good grip (or if u have trekking shoes then it’s the best), trekking stick (not compulsory), water bottle (reusable), woollen clothes, sunscreen lotion and a power bank in order to keep your phones charged.
To quickly take you through the trip – starting from Delhi – reaching Bhuntar – completing the trek and overnight stay in a camp – local sightseeing of Kasol, Manikarnika (having langar in a gurudwara ), and Kullu – returning back to Delhi.
Day 1: Delhi to Bhuntar
Once we reached Delhi we went to ISBT (Inter State Bus Terminal), Kashmiri Gate to catch a bus to Bhuntar. It takes about 12 hours to reach Bhuntar from Delhi. The first bus that leaves Bhuntar is non-A/C seater bus that leaves at 6:30 am in the morning from Delhi and the last bus that leaves to Bhuntar is AC seater Volvo that leaves at 11:15 pm at night. Chole bhature and kachauri are one of the best street foods of Delhi which one can crave for on a day without food in the bag, take a bus to Bhuntar. I would recommend you to take a morning bus so that u may reach Bhuntar by evening and can get proper rest to start your trek the next day. We reached Bhuntar by 8 pm in the night and took proper rest, We knew the next day was going to be full of adventures and tiring of course.
Day 2: Starting off the trek and stay at a camp
Bhuntar is a small town in the district of Kullu and is the gateway to the towns of Manali, Kullu and Manikaran. We woke up early and went to Parvati river to watch the beautiful sunrise and feel the sounds of the river gushing sprightly below. After having breakfast we caught a bus to Manikaran and from Manikaran to Barshasni. You can also take a sharing cab directly to Barshani from the Bhuntar bus stand. Barshani is the last motorable road in the valley with few staying options, dhabas, and a taxi stand.
Trekking routes of Kheerganga
1. Through Nathan Village
Walk to the bridge from Barshani and take a left turn which goes to the Nikthan Village and Kheerganga. This is the shortest and the easiest route and takes only 3-4 hours for a person with average trekking speed. You will get to witness the flawless Parvati river on the left side. This is the most popular trek route to Kheerganga so it is well marked and one can never get lost there.
2. Through Kalga Village
Walk to the bridge and take a right turn to the Kalga village. This route goes through dense forests and it is difficult to keep track of the path, so it is advisable to take a guide who is familiar with the route. If you want to avoid crowds, this route serves as the best option and after a few kilometres, it joins the main original route.
3. Through Tosh Valley
Tosh village is around 3 km from Barshani. This is a different route mostly opted by people who spend a night in tosh and want to start an early morning trek. It joins the original route (route no. 1) near Nakthan village and you get to witness the Tosh river which joins Parvati River near Pulga.
I went by route 2 and came by route 1 in order to not miss the last bus that goes to Manikarnika. The last bus usually leaves around 3 or 4 pm, but do not forget to confirm that with the local people before going on the trek.
Trek to Kheerganga
We reached Barshani by 11 am and bought some eatables for the trek. It is advisable to buy some eatables in Bhuntar because of the high rates in Barshani. We set our target to reach Kheerganga by evening. We started our trek from route 2 i.e. from the Kalga village.
Beautiful things and destinations are hard to conquer but not impossible; Similarly, the way when people try to get the sandalwood from the tree, apart from knowing the fact that it’s dangerous. They never lose hope and do succeed. It only requires the right way to perform and will power to take the risk.
In the same way, when we opted for the way through the jungle, we knew we’ll face difficulties but as it is rightly said: “Nothing can be achieved without utter dedication”. However, it is preferable to take the help of a guide for a safe and knowledgeable experience. The way through the jungle was a bit dangerous but the view was highly satisfying. There were huge trees all around, and as we went higher the sound of the fierce river could be heard.
However, don’t forget to maintain your safety and consciousness. The jungle area is very muddy and slippery and could be a bit of a rough journey. But life is all about taking risks. So, just hold your breath and courageously continue to trek!
After a few km, you will reach Rudra Nag temple, where you can fill up your bottles from a small pristine waterfall that is a short walk away from the temple.
Passing this waterfall means that around half of the trek is completed successfully. Here you can have some rest at a nearby dhaba even enjoy a cup full of Maggie or some snacks. Besides refilling your water bottles here, do not forget to carry candies as they’ll – help the throat not to get dry and also give energy. Here on, the trek becomes a little difficult and can be challenging to the first time trekkers. There are a lot of short cuts on the entire trek but don’t be in a hurry to reach the top by choosing the shortcut. It is advised not to take such shortcuts, as there’s a high chance of losing the right path, and the fear of something bad might turn true. Many people have also lost their lives because of these shortcuts.
The uphill climb is tiring so don’t be in a hurry – “Slow and Steady Wins the Race!” , Enjoy the beauty of forests, and keep going. The sound of the river flowing down below will give you immense pleasure and definitely a bundle of motivation for the further route. As we were about to reach the top it started raining and the path became slippery, To avoid such cases it is good to carry a raincoat along with you. We reached the top around 5 pm in the evening. We went to the hot spring and instantly plunged into it. All our tiredness vanished as the sparkling hot water covered our bodies. After spending some time there, we went to the temple nearby to get blessings from – Lord Shiva.
This was the first time when I was staying in a camp. A perfect bonfire was arranged by the owner and many people came: some were singing while others were dancing. It was a perfect night spent underneath a sky covered with stars. The temperature over there decreases at night so do not forget to carry your thermals. The food and water bottle at the top are very expensive so spend accordingly.
Day 3: Return to Delhi
We woke up early the next morning and trekked down to Barshani and reached by 11 am. It is better to start your return journey early morning as it gets hotter as the sun rises. We took a bus from Barshani to Manikarnika. A beautiful gurudwara is located in Manikarnika that is a must-visit place. We had langar there and spent some time around the natural hot water spring near the gurudwara. And then took a bus to Bhuntar to catch a bus to Delhi.
If you get late while returning to Bhuntar- you can spend a night in Kasol where the mountains are shrouded by the lavish greenery and one can also enjoy river rafting in Kasol. As the last bus to Delhi from Bhuntar leaves around 6-7 pm in the evening make sure you reach there in time.
How we made it a budget trip?
I know you all must be thinking that what must we had spent and you would be surprised to know that in a group of 6 – per person expenditure was around 3,000rs only. So here are the few points which we kept in mind to make it a budget trip-
1. “Better plans, lesser rates”
Coming up with a plan means the proper use of both efficiency and effectiveness which itself results in optimum use of resources. Similarly, for making your trip cost less, it’s important to keep aside all your luxuries and enjoy with it with, I would say “comfort yet discomfort”, Comfort of satisfaction and discomfort of few difficulties in your way. For this, you don’t need to make an hour to hour itinerary but, you must be aware of the trains flights and bus schedule (having the details of every sort of transport helps). We knew that the first bus will leave in the morning; we planned to reach Delhi accordingly. HRTC bus cost around Rs 600 per person (one way) as compared to other Volvo bus which costs around Rs 850-1000 per person
2. A place to rely on – Accommodation for your journey
After you leave all your luxurious life aside, up next we have our decision of choosing a better destination for our stay. It’ll be better if you search for a place where you can find a hostel to live in. The thing which I meant by a better destination is that we choose Bhuntar for our stay instead of Kasol because of the traffic over there. It’ll make your trip costlier. We were able to get a room in Bhuntar for around Rs 800 for all of us and the owner arranged some extra beds for us as well. Your communication skills play a vital role in ‘negotiating with the rates'(we got our camp stay for just Rs 1000 when the owner asked for Rs 1600).
3. You are your best helper – Pack properly
Essentials are a must to have!
Buy all your essentials before leaving for the trip to avoid expenditure during the trip. The expenditure increases if you buy things at the last moment. No matter where you are heading, do not forget to carry a pair of a warm hoodie and waterproof jackets for unpredicted weather conditions.
I hope you enjoyed this literary trip to the Blue Mountains and the starry nights of Kheerganga. Trekking, when done not just with one’s body, but also with one’s heart and soul, can help us evolve in different ways. It will test our strength and our grit but will also reward us with warmth amidst the cold, comfort of life-long friendships and human company while we soak in nature and most importantly, it will rejuvenate us for all the ups and downs life continues to take us through as we return to our hectic schedules. One doesn’t need a big budget for such adventures, just a will and some pals.
There is something magical about such adventures, the ones which give us memories besides putting us out of our comfort zone. When you return, you come with something new and you come with a sweet longing- longing to go back, for the mountains never stop calling!
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Aditya Gupta, a contributor at The Strong Traveller, is a bachelor’s student in Travel and Tourism. He is passionate about spiritual tourism, trekking, and adventurous trails. To explore new destinations, be in the mountains, road trips, and experience different cultures are the key factors that keep him motivated to travel. When he travels he feels like being on cloud nine and wants to share his travelling tips and experiences.
Another post by the author: Chota Char Dham – A Sudden Spiritual Roller Coaster