Back-Pack-Go!: Parvati Valley, Himachal Pradesh

It’s been a couple of days now since I’ve returned home from what I can easily refer to as one of the best adventures of my life (it’s completely different that I barely ever have any adventures and so even the smallest adventure becomes the largest by default), and nearly everyone I’ve spoken to since my return has asked me how my trip was. So I’ve been pushed to write this blog because every question was so guilt-inducing, I just had to bring myself to do this.

To start with, let me just say that Vagabond is a brilliant bunch of fun-loving, funny-as-heck guys who go out of their way to ensure you have a whole bunch of memories to take home from their trips. (Shannon, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re happy.) I was introduced to them by a friend (you too, mini-Narcissus, here’s some fodder for that already-inflated ego) who had gone on one of their trips earlier this year, and his experience was enough to make me want to venture out and do it myself.

The thing is, I don’t travel a lot (or at all, really, apart from the daily journeys to and from college), and this was my first trip without family. When I saw the announcement for this trip, I was immediately drawn to it because it was a trip to North India – a place I’ve always wanted to visit. It took a lot of convincing (both my parents and a couple of friends whose company I needed) until I finally got the go-ahead.

It was an 8-day trip to the North – a place that’s already cold through the year – AND we were going in the winter. As if that wasn’t challenging enough, it was a TREK. If you know me personally, I’m easily one of the laziest people in your life. I don’t have a problem with trekking per se, but maybe if it didn’t involve so much movement, you’d see me indulging in it more often. Not that that came in the way of my decision, though. I really didn’t give any of it much thought – I didn’t even research to find out whether the trek would be easy/difficult – I was just so excited that I was finally doing something like this on my own.

Coming from a considerably large family has its perks: I stole borrowed all of the necessary equipment for my trip from my sister (and her husband, who was surprisingly generous about the entire affair), as also a couple of other stuff (like the coolest hydration bag ever whaaat) from a couple of other people (thanks, you guys!) and after stalling for the longest time, I put together all of my “borrowed” stuff a day before I could leave, which is when the excitement kicked in in full swing.

We flew to Delhi and assembled at the bus stand to board our bus to Bhuntar (a journey of about 14 hours, cut short to 12 courtesy the (real-life) NFS-obsessed bus driver). To make for easier reading, our itinerary for the week looked something like this:

7th & 8th – Chilling (ALWAYS used literally in this post) at our homestay in Pulga. This place was so chilly, and it didn’t take long for my roommates and I to figure out that there was absolutely no escaping the cold [thank you, door, for killing us slowly with that random, unnecessary gap at the bottom]. We did a mini warm-up trek thing to a BEAUTIFUL waterfall on the 8th in preparation for our trek to Kheerganga the following day. Most of the time we spent here was just bonding and trying to survive the cold.

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Our home in Pulga

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One of the dogs who very conveniently showed up at breakfast time every morning at our home in Pulga.

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Snow mountains in the distance from our home in Pulga

 

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THE waterfall.

 

9th – We began our 14-km trek to Kheerganga at 11am and reached only by 5:30pm. There’s really not a lot to be said about this trek, except that it was so tiring, I actually thought the end (of my life, obviously) was near several times during the trek. The only thing that kept me going (apart from the fact that I couldn’t really be left alone literally in the middle of nowhere) was the HOT SPRINGS right at the top. Honestly, in that weather, just about anything with the word “hot” in it sounded perfect. They were an absolute delight – Kheerganga was absolutely freezing!- and definitely made the whole thing worth it. We stayed the night all together in a cafe with heaters (aw yeah!), and tried our best to keep ourselves and one another warm, even though some of us were too close for comfort (Elton&Elton, I’m looking at you).

 

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hot springs at Kheerganga

 

10th – Most of this day was spent in our descent from Kheerganga and return to Pulga, which again took up nearly half of our day, leaving us dead exhausted with not much to do except shiver ourselves to sleep. The good bit (at least for me) was that we were done with the major trekking, and the rest of our trip was pretty chill.

 

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11th – 13th – We travelled to Kasol, where we stayed in a super-cosy homestay (thank you, fully closed doors for being so considerate) for the remainder of our trip. Since Kasol was so much more relaxed, we spent time warming ourselves as also warming up to each other by the fire and playing games in the dining room, which eventually turned into dance parties until we were all too tired and decided to call it a night. We also spent some time shopping, which didn’t quite work out well thanks to the inconvenience caused by the demonetisation saga. We left from Kasol on 13th evening for an overnight bus ride back to Delhi again, except there was no awkwardness on the bus this time round: we watched what was probably the lamest movie of our lives, and still managed to have fun while doing so. Special thanks to my bus partner whose amazing taste in music made for brilliant company through the long ride.

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Rickety bridge on the way to our home in Kasol

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Cosy fire on our last evening in Kasol

As cliched and fake as this may sound, my favourite part of the trip (apart from the obvious gorgeous scenery) was the people – not the local people, although all of them were also too kind. The only reason I’m ever so apprehensive about making these trips is because I’m always worried about not having good enough company. But every person on this trip was so much fun, and eight days may seem like too little to form a close bond with people you’re meeting for the first time, but by the end of it, I was oddly comfortable around a bunch of these people. It was a week filled with minimal blood and sweat and tears and oh SO many laughs! Sure, a trip to the North can be fun on its own because of the beautiful place that it is, but never underestimate the power of good company to make your trip that much better. I’m writing this blog post today because I was able to make memories worth penning down, thanks to the wonderful people I met on the trip.

I learnt so much from that trip, most of which involved survival tips for the winter. Honestly, though, I’m so glad I made this trip, because there was so much I learnt about pushing myself out of my comfort zone and not setting limits for myself. It’s a pity that we have to learn how to let ourselves be free, that it isn’t something that comes naturally to us, and so I’m grateful for trips like these that help me pick up where I left off on the path of rediscovering myself.

Thank you, Vagabond, and thank you all who came on the trip. Some of you are exceptionally funny, but all of you made me laugh and made me happy in a way I couldn’t have expected.

Special thanks to my parents (obviously) for letting me go on this trip and to my dorky roommates, who never let me be embarrassing on my own.

Above all, thank you JESUS for keeping me safe and bringing me back ALIVE. :’)

To more adventures of a lifetime.

ps: GUYS. I fell down only ONCE in the entire trip WHAAAAT!?!?!

 

-CF

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