Friday, December 26, 2008
After the adventure on river Beas, the four of us, still wet from the experience, (literally and figuratively), left to our next destination, Kasol.
Himachal, I must tell you, is very different from Uttaranchal.
Uttaranchal is for pilgrimage. Himachal is for recreation.
Tourists to Uttaranchal belong to every rung of the economic ladder. There are devotees from all classes; the rich in cars and luxury buses, the middle class mostly taking packaged tours, the poor and miserable in government buses and the sadhus and swamis on foot.
The scene is also different. People thronging temples, bathing in rivers, bhajans playing on loud speakers, shops selling idols and pictures of Gods, semi precious stones, Prasad etc.
Labour is available in plenty. Drivers, coolies(porters), guides, tea shops… mules and their owners, palanquin bearers… and there is competition between them, so you can bargain.
Most of the places are Hindu religious places. I did not see any Buddhism.
There is nothing specific about the local culture that differentiates it from the common Hindu culture.
There are but a few foreigners.
The place is dirty.
But, only slightly away from the clutter of pilgrims, there is much scenic beauty, plenty of water, great mountains and greenery.
Tourists to Himachal on the other hand, belong to only certain rungs of the economic ladder, mostly the upper rungs.
There are many foreigners. The places are not known for temples and the few temples you will find are not acclaimed.
There are many Buddhist monasteries.
In many places, of a certain belt, people grow crops used in the making of drugs. It would not be an exaggeration to say that these drugs are worth their weight in gold.
These drugs attract a lot of foreign tourists. The local people make money. Needless to say, labour is not easily available.
Himachal is more expensive than Uttaranchal. Himachal is more urbanized.
The culture is markedly different; the presence of Buddhism and foreign tourists. Also, economy dictates culture to an extent. The local people here don’t have that subservient attitude.
People engage is various sports like para-gliding, river rafting, river crossing etc.
To someone who has seen the breathtaking grandeur of nature in Uttaranchal, Himachal will not seem special. For Himacahl is comparitively dry and the mountains are not very high.
But it is special in other ways.
So we reached Kasol and checked into a hotel.
I took this picture from my hotel room.
Since it was dark already, I did not venture out.
The next morning, I walked out of my hotel and strolled in the surroundings.
This is not a river but a stream that, in less than a kilometer from here, merges with the Parvathi river. I stood on the bridge as I took these pictures. After we returned to this place from Rashol, the clear water had turned to muddy brown water. This was because somewhere high up, it had rained. This happens in the mountains...
As I strolled towards the bus stand, I saw shops selling western clothes, fashionable accessories, paintings which glow in the dark, etc.
This is a place where you will see Israelis in great numbers. They come here mostly for the drugs. Grass, or marijuana or hashish or whatever they call it. To my surprise I learnt, that it was available over the counter. You just have to ask for it. A small quantity, a spoonful, can cost as much as 500 rupees.
People inhaling the drug from a chillum is a common sight here.
Shops sell the kind of garments that westerns, especially Israelis wear. Restaurants too sell the kind of food that is to the liking of the tourists.
Momos are available on push carts on the streets just like pani puri is available in other Indian cities. This is not just in Kasol but generally in Himachal. This could be because of the presence of Tibetan population in the state and its influence.
There was a German bakery. Too bad I did not take pictures of these.
After some strolling, we began trekking to Rashol, our next destination.
This is where the stream merges with Parvathi river. Can you see? Parvathi river is at the far end, muddish and brown in colour.
We crossed the Parvathi river over a bridge and began our 8 kilometer trek to Rashol.
Here is a raging, roaring Parvathi river.