The people in mountains live a simple and minimalistic lifestyle with a smile always plastered on their faces, irrespective of the prevailing weather outside. This gives a totally different picture of the level of their happiness. You start appreciating the smaller aspects of life, respecting others and seeing the goodness in their actions. Isn’t that what matters?
I have said this before and shall reiterate it again that humility and goodness can be cultivated only if you experience it firsthand yourself. Believe me, the world is lacking on these parameters right now.
It was going to be a long weekend this holi and I had nothing on my mind to spend the time. So giving in to the wanderer inside me, I made an impromptu plan to go for a solo trek.
Little did I know that these would be the most calming and distortion free two days for me. I started reading about the trek online. With no adequate trails defined and the path going through dense forests, it was not one for the weak heart. The weather forecast for the region suggested rains over the weekend which did not make matters any more pleasant for me. A local friend suggested to contact the PWD and FRH (Forest Rest Houses) for a room or to look for rooms in the local temple built on the lake side. Since it was a festival, my calls remained unanswered to all the places. This made me apprehensive about my trip.
But I was not going to be deterred by such hurdles. I contacted a local camping site and was immediately comforted by the person on the other side. He cleared all my concerns and even went on to explain the way to reach the base camp (Baggi Village) for starting the trek. This boosted my confidence manifold and I decided to go ahead with my plan.
It is strange how sometimes the most unexpected incidents can provide you with courage to perform your task.
On a side note though, I tried negotiating the rates for the stay and food to which the camp owner replied, “Sir, we are the only people who have our own water supply up here.” Knowing the importance of that, I said jokingly, “You should charge more!” 🙂
Without wasting any more time, I booked my bus tickets from the HRTCHP website which promised to drop me to Mandi,Himachal Pradesh, the nearest road link, by early morning the next day. I packed the bare essentials based on the weather forecast and set out for Delhi ISBT.
I planned my trek such that I shall be just in time to catch the return bus from Mandi on the day after the trek completed. This would give me enough time to explore the surrounding places, if any, and spend the night near the lake.
After alighting in Mandi, I took a bus which would drop me 3 kms before Baggi village. It takes around 2 hrs to reach Baggi village by bus, including the walk of 3 kms.
“Are you heading towards Lake Parashar?”, I inquired in the bus.
“Yes”, replied the fellow traveler. “We are.”
Two guys from Patiala were travelling towards Lake Parashar. We decided to walk till Baggi and trek upwards from there.
We freshened up at a restaurant and enjoyed the view of the mountains with a seasonal stream flowing below. Once we stuffed ourselves with aloo parathas, we started our climb at around 0945 hrs after asking around for directions towards the start point. On the way we met other trekkers as well and continued climbing.
The trail started on dry river bed strewn with boulders and small seasonal streams flowing. The stream turned left after walking for 1.5 kms with small farms along the stream. On the right there was a clearing with a way going up the mountain. We took it and entered the forest.
After hiking for half an hour through dense forest, we were left with no further trails going up. The eerie silence and the utter absence of any sunlight penetrating the forest was making it difficult to navigate as well. The deciduous forest with tall tree trunks coupled with pine cones strewn all around gave us no hint about the direction or where we were. I pinged the location in the GPS and found our bearings. With each step making it all the more difficult to find our way through the forest, we were hoping that we found some clearing soon.
I started searching for signs left by unmindful hikers for any empty wrappers/used juice packs etc which could give us an idea about the general direction we had to take. But soon the double ordeal of a steep climb without any trail in sight ended as the forest gave way to a ridge line with electricity poles going up the mountain. We hiked along them from there on. After another half an hour, we hit another patch of dense forest area which looked steeper than the previous one on approaching it. But we started the climb with renewed vigor as we could see the snow lined mountain slopes in the distance. Thrilled that we were close to our destination, we mustered on. This climb drained every ounce of energy left in us.
We reached a meadow lined with mud huts post the steep climb through the second forest patch. In the distance we could make out the fencing on top of the mountain. There was the PWD guest house as well. After literally crawling up the last 500 meters we finally hit the unmettled road which leads to the fenced area of the Lake and Temple. The last mile, as they say was the most tiresome knowing that we were so close. All our troubles to reach the top vanished once we saw the lake and the temple in the distance. It was mythical indeed.
But our excitement was shortlived. A chilly breeze started gathering speed and soon we huddled in one of the make-shift eating points, near the lake. The care-taker provided us with food to eat which we gulped down without any complaints. It started raining as suddenly as the wind had started blowing.
My camp organizer contacted us and led us to the camp site which is further 2 km down the road from the Lake Parashar. A bonfire and hot pakodas were waiting for us to relieve us from the tiredness. We soon started discussing of the day that was. The drizzle turned into rain and suddenly we had snow flakes falling which made the whole place look straight out of a fairy-tale setting. It alternated between snow fall and drizzle while we enjoyed the view.
With soothing music playing in the background on speakers (provided by the organizer), everyone was lost in their own thoughts. We spent hours in front of the bonfire doing nothing and just sitting and talking. Soon we were served our supper. To top it off, there was shahi tukda as dessert. What more could we ask for?
The best part about the camp site was the availability of proper restrooms and flowing water (as he had responded earlier!). It was a blessing in disguise to be able to attend nature’s call without worrying about the climate. 😛
It rained non-stop while we huddled inside our respective sleeping bags with layers of clothing decked on.
The next day, we woke up to find the weather not yet cleared up. The organizer said that we may experience snowfall if the weather doesn’t clear up. While contemplating to go down or experience the snowfall, we thought opf taking a short hike up the mountain to enjoy great view of the valley. The time there was spent experiencing some of the most breathtaking panoramic views of the entire range
We waited till 12 noon and soon it started raining. With the rain starting and no other means of transportation available once the bus at 1300hrs departed. We decided to board the bus for Mandi with slumped shoulders.
As we were about to reach Baggi village on the way, the organizer sent us photos of the snow covered Lake Parashar. It filled me with utmost joy to see the location covered in snow. Not letting the disappointment of not being there overshadow the joy of seeing snow fall, I asked him for more pictures. He promptly sent me and thanked me for giving him an opportunity to host us. It was definitely a memorable trip so far.
But, no trip is complete without tasting the local cuisine on offer. With hours to spare before boarding my return bus to Delhi, I tickled my tastebuds with some mouth watering mandyali dham food in Mandi. The food is cooked over low heat for hours using local herbs and spices and carry a strong flavour of black pepper. Being in the foothills of Himalayas, I was served amazing basmati rice and 5 varieties of subzis. It was eat-as-much-as-you-can system, I had tears of joy by the time I finished my dinner for the food was simple amazing.
I thanked the dhaba owner while he asked me about my visit to Lake Parashar. I was so engrossed discussing about my short and wonderful trip that I didn’t keep a track of time and soon it was time for me to board the bus.
And just like that I rejuvenated my mind and soul with a trip to the Himalayas.
How to Reach :
Mandi AC & Non-AC Buses from Delhi run throught the day from Delhi Kashmere Gate ISBT and take around 9-10 hrs to reach.
Baggi Village (Base Camp) It is around 47 kms from Mandi. State Transport Buses from Mandi run at 0600hrs (drops 03 kms prior to Baggi) and at 0800hrs (goes till Lake Parashar top via Baggi). One can either trek or ride all the way up till Parashar Lake.
Where to Stay :
Forest Guest House – +911905-278407 PWD Guest House – +911905-222151 Kisna Camps (Kisna/Ramesh) – +917807090086 Kisna Camps (Devender) – +918219958452
You can even ask in the Local Temple Dormitory. Rooms are available which have basic quilt and cots to offer. But they may not offer always.
Approx. Expenditure Break-up :
Volvo Bus Tickets – INR 2500 ( to and fro from Delhi) Camp Lodging @ Kisna Camps (inclusive of dinner and next day breakfast) – INR 800 Local Bus Fare (From Mandi) To Baggi Village – INR 43/- (Starts from Mandi @ 0600 hrs) To Lake Parashar – INR 73/- (Starts from Mandi @ 0800 hrs) Timings are indicative and may differ. Locals may provide with day to day plying time more accurately.
Must Try :
Local Mandyali Dham Cuisine @ Sharma Dhaba, Mohit Pandit – 9805216164 A climb over a small hillock overlooking the lake and temple for stunning vistas. A short trek to Tunga Mata Temple which starts from the camping site of Kisna camps.
Location of Sharma Dhaba :
3-4 shops next to Mandi ISBT, on the road going towards Manali