Kasol – Heavenly Hills
Kasol is a lesser known jewel in the crown of Himachal Pradesh state. Who doesn’t savour the almost negligent crunch of the lush green grass, whose blades are still weighed down by the pristine drops of the morning dew under their dried, city-worn feet? To replace the blaring of car horns with the soft whisper of wind, sifting through the needle-like pine leaves punctuated only by the melody of a songbird and the occasional scuttle of a squirrel on the branches above. And put all of that against the backdrop of the mighty snow covered peaks, wound by a gushing stream, whose sparkling water is a testimony in itself to its sweet purity and the refreshingly freezing temperature. And smells, oh the smell, rather fragrance of all this, cannot be written in words. If you thought a picture is worth a thousand words, then I would take a million to describe what engaged my olfactory senses, while I ‘rolled’ on the grassy slopes of Kasol.
Located in Himachal Pradesh, nestled against the bosoms of the Parvati Valley of the Himalayan village resort , Kasol is an unimpressive small village washed on the side by the Parvati River. Usually a pit-stop for pilgrims travelling to Manikaran (4.3 km uphill), Kasol to me, was to be an excuse to get away from the monotonous humdrum of the city life, switch off my cell phone and for once just absorb the soothing tranquil and maybe to an extent, rejuvenate my city stained soul, and live like how God intended man to live on this Earth! (Maybe I have gone too far…Let’s come back)
People travel for countless reasons. In vacations and holidays, people usually seek new experiences, new places of interest to visit, and a chance to meet new people. Some of us also take vacations to rejuvenate and to unwind. But in doing so, we unknowingly seek interesting places so as to make the most of the trip. So I grabbed hold of my friend Arijit, who wanted to do a meteor shower photo-shoot along with the customary scenic landscape shoots (Oh and did I forget to mention the obvious: pollution less air + no city light glare = more stars than you have seen under the Nehru planetarium dome in Delhi.)
However our ‘ride to heaven’ was strewn with more speed bumps than we had anticipated. We were promised an Air Conditioned ride on the bus, were instead treated to an overnight sweat steaming ride on seats that could replace unyielding marble slabs on a hot day. The bus guys tried to soothe our anguish by a generous distribution of free Tablet PCs to all the passengers, for which they later tried to leech money out of us on the pretext of ‘renting’ those Tablet PCs, but probably it was our painfully flattened bottoms and crooked backs that denied them anything more from us other than a stream of complaints till we reached our stop gap: Bhuntar (located just before Kullu on the Kullu-Manali highway). At Bhuntar, we thankfully switched our concentration camp akin bus and got on another one headed for Manikaran. Early in the morning and denied any chance to relieve ourselves, the second bumpy ride did nothing to delay the oncoming predicament in my bowels. However, the scenery that gradually unfolded outside the bus’ window compensated (and in some way distracted) me from all past miseries.
With the sun smiling on us and a ribbon of water gushing down the snowy hilltops, through the grassy meadows and mystical pine forests, we reached Kasol. The first thing you will notice about our little piece of peace embodied by a village is the unending greenery all around, the multilingual yet welcoming people, scores of graffitis on the walls splattered artistically all over the place and, of course, the flowing music of the Parvati river churning endlessly in the background.
The hotel we checked in cost us around 800 bucks for one night and in return offered us a view of the lush green forest all along the side of a huge mountain that seemed just a grasp away. A quick brunch and we were off exploring the village of Kasol, dotted by Cafes and German Bakeries spread from the village and some fringing the edge of the greens. A small market in the heart of the village offered everything a person needs to survive. From handicrafts to bare essential groceries and from travel agents offering bus tickets from Bhuntar to Kullu or Delhi to bike mechanics, everything could be found in that market.
From the village of Kasol, except for the main road that heads towards Manikaran, there are two other roads, one heads right along a tributary of Parvati River and takes you to the forest of solace. The other heads towards a small hanging bridge over the river and the mountain beyond. We took both the roads on the two days we were at Kasol. The forest-day made me experience what cannot be explained in words. As if peace personified and void of any human existence except for a lone wooden cottage, the place was just perfect and out of the world. Till now I had only experienced such view through pictures or movies. Mesmerised and enchanted, I walked till my tired legs could carry and then I decided to lie down. If there’s tranquillity, it was there. Arijit got busy taking pictures and I was more than happy that there was no one else to take me back to reality.
The river-day bumped us against many like-minded tourists idling by the river banks as if in a trance, just letting the time and river flow by and I could instantly relate to them. There is something in the air of the place that makes you feel melancholic while at the same time intrigues you to explore more and more. Nightlife at Kasol, blanketed under the shimmering clear sky, lit by countless stars, was condensed around the happening cafes whose names in itself beckons and are enough to tell you what Kasol is all about: Jim Morrison Café, Om Café, Shanti Café, Mama Café (the biggest and the most popular) and so on. Friendly service coupled with choice cuisine and a liberal dosage of poison on the side livened up the already rich experience that is Kasol.
All in all, we stayed for 2 days in Kasol, since Arijit came all the way from Kolkata and he was running on a tight schedule. But the 2 days I spent there seemed like a lifetime spent in a flash. While our stay in Kasol, we visited not a single place of interest (considering there was none) and we shopped absolutely nothing (except for a key chain that Arijit got as a souvenir). What we brought back was a bagful of memories and a longing to visit the place again as soon as possible.