Thundering clouds and ominous skies had greeted us as soon as we had started walking on the bridge that separates Kasol from Chalal. My two travel partners were already becoming fidgety about the ‘trek’ to Rashol or Rasol.
We had spent two marvellous days in the serene setting of a wooden cottage right beside the Parvati River. My friends had never travelled in the Himalayas by themselves before and their parents had only sent them after knowing I was the leader of the gang! Locals and outsiders spoke alike about rave parties at Kasol and a famous festival called Parvati Peaking.
My last experience with one of them had not been good; almost 13 years ago we were holidaying in Kashmir in May and after a sudden snowfall, traveller no. 1 had been spotted to be unconscious. He had never returned to the mountains after that. Traveller no. 2 had only done comfortable travel until now. They had hurriedly brought backpacks and stuffed them with lots of clothes.
I had been fooling them by saying Rashol was an easy walk that wouldn’t take more than two hours. We were happy, walking among the pines in the slight drizzle on flat terrain near Chalal. The resplendent shade of green was pleasing to the eyes.
As Chalal village appeared, it started raining in full flow filling the slender stone path. We were enthralled with this cute village full of little homestays, and some tented accomodation by the roaring Parvati River. Everyone seemed to be smoking up and kept offering us charas.
My friends were already regretting their decision to carry heavy backpacks and the onus was on me to ensure their wellbeing. I was made a beast of burden, enjoying this intense workout amid the surreal views that kept getting better as we climbed higher. My friends were bickering and made slow progress. A sturdy mountain dog helped show us the way in the downpour. Two hours had passed and there was no sign of Rasol.
It was my turn to laugh and tell them Rasol was another two hours away. That broke them, one of them contemplated going back. The other one suggested it was better to walk two hours and go ahead rather than going back. We stopped and sat savouring the most gorgeous valley views, the landscape had acquired a different shade of green. This trek was a stark difference from the trek to Malana.
We were pleasantly surprised to spot a yellow tarpaulin near a water crossing; it was a small dhaba and chai was called for. Another dog joined us while we danced to music on our bluetooth speakers. The rain had stopped for a little bit, causing the clouds to sweep across the valley. Wild cannabis plants grew everywhere, we were in thick green surroundings and there was barely enough room to walk.
A wooden house appeared after ten more minutes on the track only for us to be told that Rasol was still a bit far away. We were drenched in the persistent rain and were very hungry too. After walking with breaks for another half hour, we spotted the first structure which was a guest house. My friends were behind, the path being quite uphill and the stones had made it slippery.
I ordered basic lunch of rice & rajmah for all of us. We relished the hot food with great delight in the pouring rain and set off to find the best place in the village to stay for the night. It was turning out to be a lovely evening, most of the houses in Rasol village were made out of wood and gave the surroundings a very tranquil feel. The non-stop rain had made the area dirty, the only path through the village was clogged with water and we nearly fell in a huge puddle.
After checking out two or three basic guest houses in the rain, we settled on the one on top. There was no electricity and my friend had started feeling numb due to the cold. It was very chilly but we gave our jackets to the one in need and dried our wet clothes from inside our backpacks. There was a little covered verandah outside our room that revealed the entire valley to us. Rasol village appeared very pretty from the top, its stone tiled houses created a picturesque image in the lush greenery.
It finally stopped raining at around 5 in the evening, and the clouds parted enough to reveal a tantalising preview of what was in store for us the next morning.
Locals came and tried to sell us charas known as Rasol cream but we said we were not interested. Apparently the quality of Rasol cream is better than Malana cream. The guest house owner said he could make rajmah and chapati with french beans for dinner. The taste of that lip-smacking food we ate still lingers in my memory. My friends exclaimed after eating, ‘Now we know why you praise Himachali food so much.’
With happiness in our souls we slept and woke up at 530 to capture the extravaganza of sunrise in the valley. It felt like a dream, clouds creating surreal patterns on the jagged green mountains, while snowy peaks stood tall in the far distance.
Our breakfast of paranthas was as good as the dinner last night. Kids played around the central courtyard of the village, while elders smoked and loitered around the temple – which was out of bounds for outsiders.
We stopped on our way back at the first homestay near the dhaba to be pleasantly surprised with mint tea freshly made with wild mint. It was a fabulous setting in the midst of wildflowers of various colours blooming.
Away from Tosh and commercialisation, we had managed to find a perfect oasis in Himachal’s remote Parvati Valley.
Fact : Rasol is a short trek of three-four hours from Kasol, and lies on the same trail after Chalal. Just ask the villagers or take the left turn at the forbidden temple at Chalal.