Tosh : Mellow Call of the Snowy Peaks

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.

Somewhere on the road, as we took a breather while walking,

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!

Confluence of the Tosh Nallah and Parvati river near Tosh.

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

Welcome to Tosh! November is a lovely time to be in these lower reaches of the Himalayas.

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.

Like they serve Bhaang ki Chutney in Kumaon, these marijuana seeds weren’t hallucination inducing at all. Or were they!

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.)

Autumn Colours in the Himalayas

Lovely lights in the café. It was warm inside, with the tandoor or bukhari burning wood.

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.

Also Read : 5 offbeat places to spend the entire summer in the hills

Psychedelic paintings in Tosh; they are a common feature all over Parvati valley and are a hit with the hippies.

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.

The forbidden temple of Tosh.

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

Pristine views from the small hamlet of Tosh.

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.

The temple seemed to be newly made; there was no one to ask around.

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.

Whats a 3 storey concrete building doing at the entrance of Tosh? It was still in the process of being constructed.

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.

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11 thoughts on “Tosh : Mellow Call of the Snowy Peaks

  1. Looking at how popular the entire region has become among the youth in recent years( for certain reasons known to us all), I wouldn’t be surprised if the pristine surroundings lose itself to the incessant commercialization. The concrete building is a visual clutter which really doesn’t blend with the surroundings. But then, who cares?

    1. You said it right, Arvind bhai. Nobody cares as long as they are getting money out of it. But history suggests one day the tourists decide to leave; and then we all know how it goes. 🙁

  2. If I were with you I would order rajma chawal too <3
    And the singer looks familiar :p 😉
    Loved your honest take on the place. This entire circuit has been on my list but locals I know keep forbidding me to come.I have heard so much about the water at Kheerganga. Wish to visit it once before commercialisation washes it all away.

    1. Yay, rajma chawal it is Divyakshi. Hehe, you remember the crazy guy singer!

      I shudder to think how touristy the place is in the high season. Went to Kheerganga earlier this year and wasn’t impressed with the Delhi crowds there as well, and the rampant commercialisation. As always, you have to go farther every time to find little known havens. Road connectivity has its pros and cons, like all things.

  3. Best parvati villages as per you? And would love to know the south american guy’s homestay number if you may, thanks in advance.

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