Kasol was teeming with tourists and we were glad to have arrived in Barshaini in a bus. The clouds had laid down their welcome on a platter and it duly began raining; and for good reason too – we were inadvertently hiking to Kalga village! The original idea was to trek to Kheerganga but ominous dark clouds and subsequent rains had caused a change in plans and we were walking with the mist into Kalga village, tucked in a hidden corner of Parvati Valley.
After around 20 minutes of walking, we could see a few houses in the distance surrounded by greenery. A few locals who had passed us told that we had perhaps taken a wrong turn and were going by the opposite direction to Kalga village. A slender path was in front of us; shaded by tall trees and with dark clouds hovering it felt as if we were heading to a mysterious land. There was a signboard for a wood and stone cottage to the left, we continued walking and reached a place called Rama House in Kalga.
Here’s what I wrote about Responsible Travel with regards to Kalga (and all pristine villages, for that matter), in 2016.
The solitary house had a chilled and happy vibe and a few hippies lounged on hammocks enjoying the pristine offerings of nature. I was immensely happy with this accidental discovery and had immediately fallen in love with Kalga! We wanted to ask for a chai but figured it was better to find accommodation first. We reached a wooden homestay and restaurant and were astounded to notice how much space every homestay in Kalga commanded! There were vast open fields in front of us and the Parvati river meandered in the valley below.
We were quickly shown rooms in the homestay and were quoted a very reasonable price of Rs. 200. There was no attached bathroom and that led to us asking if there was a homestay in Kalga that had attached bathrooms as well? He pointed the way ahead; we told him we ‘d come back if that turned out to be too expensive. In the restaurant cum café, hippie graffiti and posters claimed all the walls. There was a tandoor also kept in the middle and even though it was May, the weather was still very chilly in Kalga. Night temperatures were surely going below 10 degrees C.
We asked for thali to make up for not having eaten anything since morning. We had boarded a Delhi – Manali Volvo and got down in Bhuntar. After quickly meeting up with the owner of Heaven in Parvati Valley : The Himalayan Village, Kasol, we caught another bus for Barshaini – which is the last stop in Parvati Valley. The thali comprised of rajma, local vegetable, chapati and rice and it tasted so delicious because everything was freshly made.
While we were eating, some foreigners who were staying in the same homestay started playing hula hoops. A few tables had been laid out in the open space and a stream flowed next to us. The sound of gurgling water was like happy music to my ears. We were surrounded by apple trees and the white flowers had just began to bloom. A local rolled a joint in a beedi and it all felt so peaceful.
We said our goodbye’s to the homestay owner and walked to find a homestay in Kalga village which has an attached bathroom. The valley opened up as we strolled ahead, 2 cute kids came and said hello to us. Men and women worked in the fields and were sowing potatoes / peas. A sizeable structure was to our left and one of the locals confirmed that it was indeed a homestay.
It seemed like an artsy place and was located in the midst of an apple orchard. There was an end of the world feel to this ‘hidden’ homestay in Kalga that had no signboard and only people who were exploring would reach here! Isn’t that so nice though? We got speaking to the owner and worked out a reasonable 600 Rupee cost for the room which also had a kitchen, a bukhari and an ‘attached bathroom!’
Every room had a sitting space outside and it was a surreal feel to even breathe the air in Kalga. The freshness of nature was intoxicating. We were surrounded by lush greenery and I spotted fresh chamomile growing in the garden! During that brief conversation, the homestay owner had warmed up to us and he might have realised we are not the typical ‘alcohol drinking, noise making’ people from the plains. And when the mention of chamomile came up, he offered to make a special ayurvedic tea for us.
A stiff breeze blew through the apple trees, pushing us higher on the spiritual level and making us happier (if that was possible!). The homestay owner was a person who had shifted to Kalga village with his parents and was content living a calm life here. He grows his own herbs that comprise the concoction of Ayurvedic tea and appeared very knowledgeable about food. The tea turned out to be delicious and provided much needed warmth as the weather in Kalga had turned colder after the sun set.
Another realisation quickly dawned on me that the reason why Kalga village has this otherworldly charm is because there is no road that connects to it.
There was no to-do list in Kalga, and hence there were no traditional travellers to be seen. The homestay owner’s family supports education of a few girls in the village and they had come to study for some time. It was heartening to see how simple life really was in this magical village lost in time. There were no deadlines for getting work done and the constant clutter and noise of the city didn’t exist in Kalga. There was an epic valley view where you could look into oblivion whenever you needed to disappear in your own world.
We woke up to clear blue skies and the sound of chirping birds next morning. The homestay owner made another mix of herbs for tea and it tasted so good. We went on an aimless walk and found a wooden bench set amidst an apple orchard. The structure nearby looked to be a guest house in the making; its minimalistic walls were being colourfully painted with graffiti. The villagers were out and about in the fields working and we were having fun conversing with them and soaking in the sunshine. Snow clad mountains were right in front of us and I could see a beeline of travellers making it to Tosh village.
Life in Kalga Village, Parvati Valley – In a Slideshow
An entire day was spent doing particularly nothing; I learnt again to notice the apple flowers sway happily when the breeze kisses it, I learnt to listen to the sounds from faraway when the gentle hum of Parvati river flowing came to me in minutes of solitude, to appreciate the magic of eating food grown locally (the city folk use the word organic!) and delighting in ‘dolce far niente’ while gazing at the jagged snowy peaks.
We requested the homestay owner if we could have a proper local lunch, as the prices per person were quite expensive at around 150 Rupees. We were served exotic and tasty wild mushrooms that grew around Kalga, and roti was made with a mixed flour of grains that was grown locally in Kalga village as well. Apart from this there was tasty dall, salad and rice as well.
Read : Winds of change in Malana
We savoured the food in enormous quantities and the host’s mom gave us company. The funny thing about eating locally grown food is that even after eating a lot, one doesn’t feel heavy at all. Another reason is that the food quickly digests due to the walks and also mountain water aids in digesting.
We met a South American guy from Venezuela who took us to the upper floor of the homestay; he was in charge of designing the rooms there. A hammock hung with an immaculate view of the mountains. The wind rustled and made a hissing sound as it came from the pine mountains on the right side. Apart from apple trees, there were also peaches, pears and apricots trees spread across Kalga.
Life’s simple pleasures lie in sitting in a quiet space and reading a book, spending time with a loved one and not looking into your cellphones, speaking to kids for conversations that don’t have an ulterior motive, looking at the sky and see the clouds floating past the snowy mountain tops. The added incentive of sipping fresh apple juice during the apple plucking season made me fall into a reverie!
As evening came, I wondered about the term ‘development’; and what it meant for one of the most pristine villages in Parvati Valley. Kalga was a fairytale village that would only reveal its magic to people who had the heart to feel it. Over walks to different parts of Kalga, it was apparent that the village knows how to do tourism right. Almost every second house is a homestay and even though Kalga has remained aloof to Indian tourists, foreigners have been coming here forever.
What will become of this magical village, Kalga? Only time will tell.
How to reach Kalga Village?
From Delhi to Bhuntar; then either direct bus from Bhuntar to Barshaini or from Kasol to Barshaini. From Barshaini, there’s a road going on the left side to Tosh village. Do not take that. Keep walking straight near the bridge, and a path is going to the right. Thats the way to Kalga village. Ask the locals in Barshaini in case of any confusion.
Where to stay in Kalga?
There are plenty of homestays and guesthouses in Kalga, I’m not sure if Kalga has ‘hotels’ yet! Homestays range from simple ones for Rupees 200 to more elaborate and artistic ones for around 1000. Open spaces come free with the homestay and thats the real joy of staying and spending time in Kalga.
Since internet works fine in Kalga (3G & 4G), and long term stayers can get rooms for as little as 100 per day – this could be a perfect village for people who work remotely to spend the scorching summer months away from the plains.