We began trekking to Rashol.
This place was an 8 kilometer climb from Kasol.
At this point, we reached a bridge which we had to cross to begin our trek.
The stream merges with Parvathi river here. You can see the muddy brown water on the far side.
This was on my left…and this the direction of our journey.
This trail on which we walked was by the Parvathi river for quite a distance. I did not get enough of taking pictures. Its raging, roaring and beautiful.
I stopped so often to take in the scene and take pictures that my friends got ahead of me and I lost sight of them. I had to quicken my pace to catch up with them.
It was a narrow muddy trail flanked on one side by the river and Deodar and Pine trees on the other. Beautiful. Isn’t it?
The walk was easy as the trail did not yet have a gradient. But after sometime, the climb began.
We passed through a few small villages and then entered the wilderness.
As I have mentioned in my poem,
Where the focal length of eyes adjust involuntarily
To view the towering mountains and faraway skies
And all objects small and nearby
Become unworthy of notice
As they take a bow and retreat silently
From your field of view
Wishing not be a barrier
In the great union between you and the faraway mountains
As if they read your mind
And at once understood
The need for your privacy
With the Devdars and the Pines
Almost all throughout the journey, my eyes ignored my immediate surroundings…but once in a way my attention was drawn to an exotic variety of ferns or a shrub touching my ankle and my knee…sometimes so beautiful, that I was compelled to take a picture… Check out the picture below....I was running out of my 4 GB memory and there were 3 more days left before I returned to Delhi….i had to be judicious.
Ah! It hurt to think of my return.
And the one below, I photographed, not because of its delicateness or beauty…. I think it is far from any delicateness… but because people in these areas depend on it for their living… it grows everywhere and like a weed, does not need any care or tending, but it’s worth its weight in gold…ok I am exaggerating…
This is the one from which the drug is made… marijuana…known as charas, hashish and other names.
As we came close to our destination, we started seeing a few huts here and there. There were a few villagers and mules that followed them. We stopped at a small wooden shop for some refreshments. There were two dogs scampering about innocently but I wished they were tied, scared as I am of dogs.
Here, I had the best carrot juice of my life.
The result of all the trekking – losing a few inches around my waist –was visible and I was happy about it. I could have indulged in the banana pancakes and other exotic stuff but ate with caution, just for the benefit of my waist.
It was beginning to get dark and cold. We trudged on…
There…….on the hilltop, we saw the village of Rashol at last. Oh! We were almost there… Or so it seemed!!!
As we got closer to the village, there were herds of mules stomping their way up the hill and each time I had my heart in my mouth as they came near as if to attack…
I would stand on the edge of an already narrow track, sometimes precariously and wait for the herd to pass. Sometimes, just to amuse myself, I would compete with the mules and climb as fast as I could so they would not catch up with me soon. :-)
But eventually they did.
I reached the village entrance before all others and stood there observing my surroundings.
Some men passed comments and laughed as they looked in my direction.
Men are men I thought. Wherever you go. :-)
All the kids around stared at me. I smiled, and they smiled back.
On some of the rocks were written the words “Do not touch. This is a holy place. 1000 rupees fine”.
My friends joined me and we started making enquiries about a certain Chunnilal.
We found him and followed him to what seemed like a house.
It was cold. We had chai. It started drizzling outside.
We rested inside and started hearing with interest, Chunnilal account of the place, its culture, myths etc.
Thanks to my absent mindedness, I did not follow his account completely. But from whatever I heard, I gathered that this place and its people were indeed different and worth exploration.
There were not so many stories about Rashol itself but there were way too many stories about Malana, 12 kilometers from Rashol, further up the mountains.
There is a lot of legend about Malana. It is a world by itself. Since there was no motorable road to the place all these years and is situated high up the mountains, this place has had no definite links with the outside world. One of the many legends has it that these people are descendants of Alexander, The Great and some of them therefore, have blue eyes. But many in the mountains denied it.
All this knowledge about the place had led us to include this place in our plan. But when we reached Rashol, we were not sure.
Chunnilal told us more about it.
Their ‘devta’ or deity is believed to be a very powerful one. ‘Jamlu’ is what they call their deity.
Further talking to Chunnilal revealed that the deity ‘Jamlu’ was the father of Parashuram. That’s when when a bulb went on in my mind and I turned to him sharply to ask him “Parashuram ke pita the?” He nodded. “Jamadagni?” I asked. Yes, he said. Oooooo……
BTW, Jamadagni was one of the most powerful sages ever known, about whom you will read, if you read the Mahabharat.
People here do not touch anyone outside the village. They are hospitable to visitors but you better know your limits. Those violating the rules of the place will be ostracized if they are natives(and eating together with an outsider is a violation) and if they are outsiders , they will be fined.
There was a fire sometime before and most of the old houses were destroyed. I believe their God is not at all happy about the village developing links with the outside world gradually. The old temple also suffered damage in the fire.
Chunnilal and frenz advised us to go to Khirganga instead as they said it was a difficult climb to Malana and not much was left.
Presently, we were taken to our place of resting, a place owned by Chunnilal and done up to receive guests. Our rooms were on the first floor of a two storey wooden building. It was dark already, so I took a picture of it only the next morning…
I have my doubts but I think this was the place… or it looked very much like this place
The whole place was made of wood. Devdar wood. How it smelled! Aahh………
On the floor of the balcony that looked down upon the valley, thick mattresses and warm blankets were spread. There were a few incandescent bulbs.
The guys took the room that had a music system and we took the other one.
All of us settled down in the balcony and made ourselves comfortable.
We were joined after sometime by Chunnilal and his friends.
Chunnilal, who sold the drug to people, awed everyone with stories of how he helped different tourists pack the drug carefully in the least dubitable of places and manner, so as to fool the notorious police…inside a pen, inside this and that….etc.
The men prepared their chillums and drew long breaths/inhalations of the drug with a bubbling sound.
Soon, there were swirls of fumes in the air and the smell of the Devdar became obscure.
I turned my attention to other things. The wooden panels on the parapet of the balcony had some artwork on them; created with a sketch pen or ink … some of them were created by travelers who had stayed there previously.
There was absolute silence in the air, space and space and more space as far as you could feel and perfect stillness. I sat quietly in that silence understanding fully well that this kind of silence was not to be found anywhere except in the mountains.
Suddenly one of them remembered that there was a music system and soon after, rock music was playing aloud.
Silence became obscure.
Dinner arrived. Rice and curry.
I retired to bed.
4:30 AM. I peeped out of the window. It not dawn yet. But soon….
I woke up and walked out to the balcony, camera in my hand. I was hoping to see some magic of a mountain dawn. And this was what I saw…
As the sun rose higher…
The more the team delayed our departure from this place, the happier I was. I was hoping that the sky would become clear and those faraway snow mountains would reveal themselves at the end of the valley… but the clouds would not just listen…
We had lunch, said goodbye to Chunnilal and left.
We stopped at the shop where I had that carrot juice. We rested, made plans for the next day, ate some and continued the climb down.
This scene was magical… a grey scene, completely cloud covered, and just a mountain with streaks of snow, glistening in sunrays that fell on them from I don’t know where.
And back I came to Kasol…
The Parvathi river…