I had overslept on the Prashar – Mandi bus and found myself in Mandi instead of being close to Bhuntar. The bus guys were supposed to drop me at the turn near Kandi-Khatola village so that I could catch another bus to take me to Bhuntar and onward to Parvati Valley.
I was in a dilemma alright at the bus stand in Mandi, it had already been over a month travelling aimlessly and I still had no home to go back to. The mind does funny things when it is free. You are happy to let things drift and hope that time will find a way to make life alright. My mind was stuck at the dangling bridge over the roaring Parvati river and I convinced myself that the Manikaran Gods won’t be happy if I didn’t visit them. I had been in Malana only a week or two ago and had forgotten to pay my obeisance at the Manikaran Gurudwara.
What a flimsy excuse to reach paradise in the month of November, eh!
It was already night when I reached Bhuntar. Luck was on my side when someone directed me to a cheap guest house; it was incredibly tiny and I remember having paid 50/- or 80/- rupees for it. Money was a luxury I didn’t have; and all I wanted to do was to make my holiday last as long as possible.
After a lucky hot water bath (my room had no bathroom!) arranged by a staff, I boarded a Barshaini bound bus that stopped for tea before reaching Jari. I had bought a ticket for Barshaini, and had decided to get down from the bus wherever I felt right.
Read : Winds of change in Malana
It was just before Kasol, that a small chat with another backpacker resulted in a change of (no) plans. Other friends of his were in Kasol and he asked me if I wanted to get down there and then go together to Tosh (or wherever!). I didn’t have much time to think and after collecting the change we got down just after Kasol.
After a brief meet up with the other travellers, we set about on our way to Tosh. But the bus wouldn’t come, and we walked 3 km to get to Manikaran and enjoy free food in the langar at Manikaran Gurudwara and also paid our respects.
It was decided to hire a sumo taxi, because we were 5 of us and reached the small village of Tosh at around 3-330 in the afternoon. This was better than the bus, that would have dropped us at Barshaini and we may have had to walk the remainder of the 3 kms on the motorable road to Tosh. This was almost the end of November and there were hardly any taxis remaining in Barshaini.
An ugly three storied ‘hotel’ stood on the other side of the bridge; I wasn’t particularly pleased. Tosh had been chiefly notorious for being a hidden village with some of the top quality charas in the entire Parvati Valley and commercialisation certainly seemed to have made its way up here (especially with the road connectivity.)
It was pretty chilly with a cloud cover and the wind blew unabated; Tosh is located on a ridge that was flanked by snowy peaks on the left and right. As we walked to the village, there seemed to be more guesthouses and homestays than local’s homes. For a remote village, there were 2 sizeable shops too. I was quite happy to see no other tourists. The other backpackers with me were regular visitors to Tosh and locals immediately recognised them.
A local Sadhu sat on a wooden log and a plate of marijuana seeds was passed; everyone ate some as prasad. I was quite amazed. Everyone smoked a chillum as the sun also made an appearance and made things considerably warmer. Our bags were lying in the open and the boys were chilling nonchalantly without a care in the world. This was a change from my style of operating, I would always first find accommodation after arriving someplace.
We were told Hilltop is the best place to stay as it was located on the far end of the village. On my insistence, we began walking through the village and were happy when a wooden cabin appeared directly faced with a small guest house. I had spotted solar power geyser on top of the structure and we were happy when a deal was struck for 2 rooms for 500 rupees.
We were immediately ushered to the warmth of the wooden structure that stood on the edge of endless Tosh valley, with fabulous views. On the other side, the stars had started shining brightly as night descended on Tosh. The mountaintops were full of fresh snow and it was a pretty sight shined in the moonlight. Apparently a Russian guy owned this wooden structure which was a café, there were lovely lights and psychedelic paintings inside.
There was another foreigner couple sitting on the other side, the Russian played lovely music, it was mellifluous to hear the sound of the wind blow in the serene quietness of the valley. Amongst us, there was a guitar strumming singer and he chose to regale us with songs and performances. The dim lights made for a lovely setting.
The dinner menu was unveiled at 7-730 and it appeared everything was quite costly and exorbitant. While the others started ordering snacks and maggi, I stayed put and asked for Rajma Chawal. Maggi has never appealed to me as I am quite firm on not eating any processed food. A plate of local rajma and rice cost me 180 Rupees, but it was totally worth it.
Also check : Heaven in Himachal Pradesh
In the meanwhile, I had begun asking the locals about the trek to the hot water springs of Kheerganga. My co-travellers weren’t interested in the trek and I was told to forget about doing it alone. The path had apparently been snowed out and back in those days there were hardly any accommodation options at Kheerganga after the season had ended. That plan was quickly nipped in the bud.
There was no to-do list for anyone of us and we were happy to hang on to this experience for another day; I wandered around the village and found out that the top of the village has some nice accommodation options that are secluded as well. It is said that authoritative locals own that land. There are some lovely trails near Tosh and also a short walk among the pines brings you to the pristine village of Kutla. Apart from this, there aren’t many things to do in Tosh and you may actually get bored in high season, if trance music isn’t your thing.
It was time to part ways; the boys were headed to either Malana or Rasol and I was keen to spending time at this delightful away-from-it-all place in Kasol. We could see fresh snowfall on the mountains as the weather had remained cloudy all night and our teeth chattered in the extreme cold.
The temple in Tosh had exquisite wood carvings and like other places in Parvati Valley, there was a notice instructing outsiders to keep away from touching it, else a big fine would be levied on them. It was definitely a form of racism. Everyone sat in the compound and admired the temple from afar.
The wind blew and asked us to go back, we walked back to Barshaini and as luck had it, found a bus waiting! This was a part of the Kullu Valley, also referred to as the ‘valley of gods’, everyone’s wishes were fulfilled here.
Kheerganga would have to wait some other time. While Tosh had been a wonderful experience, I was also sure I wasn’t exactly looking forward to return. Responsible tourism had given way to commercialisation in Tosh, and being an experiential traveller (especially in the Himalayas), this didn’t seem my cup of tea.
I’ve returned many times to the Parvati Valley after this and the village of Rasol remains my favourite.