We rushed to the Majnu ka Teela to catch our bus to Kasol. It was an impromptu plan and I could only get one of my friends to accompany me. No matter how engrossing or how rewarding one’s job is; frustration is only round the corner, waiting to pounce upon you, when you least expect it. It was such frustration only which enabled me to hatch an eleventh hour plan on my own. Since this was the start of an extended weekend, the place was full of young eager faces ready to make the holidays count. When the bus didn’t arrive for quite some time past the ETA, we asked around and came to know that we had to rush onto the next available bus to make it out of there. And we did so. We later deciphered that private travel operators were offering tickets beyond their capacity on sites like Redbus and Makemytrip, and causing the travellers much harassment. They were making hay while the sun shone and also after it had set for the night. Finally the bus started and our journey began. Soon we dozed off into deep slumber.
Although we had expected to reach Bhuntar by 10 am at the most, we reached there around 3 pm. The bus left us in the middle of the road and soon we met a conductor who guided us to the bus for Kasol. As we had been told it was the last bus of the day for Kasol, we climbed onto the already crowded bus. We knew that kind of crowd, travelling in the Delhi metro from time to time, and we were prepared for grumpiness and intolerance of the fellow passengers. But it was nothing like we imagined. Whenever we caught sight of a native face, it was always smiling and talking merrily. We were greeted with smiles whereever we looked. The atmosphere was so jovial, it seemed that all the people knew each other. To add to the already pleasant ride, we soon got seats as more and more people got down. The bus was decorated with bright colours, and the speakers roared with famous bollywood songs. Although the road got narrow at times and the incoming vehicles would have made it very difficult for the drivers pling on plain roads to navigate, the driver manoeuvered like a virtuoso without breaking a smile.
We reached Kasol around 5pm and were soon taken in by the natural beauty. The road was jotted with small joints, cafes and shops selling native clothes and artifacts. Mountains of the Dhauladhar range stood high on both the sides of the road. River Parvati flowed on one side of the road. The sight of so many food joints made us realise that we hadn’t eaten much during the journey of 20 hours and we soon settled in an tibetan shop and ate momos and thukpa.
After satiating our taste buds, we started looking for a place to bunk down for the night. But it being an extended weekend, cheap and good accomodation was hard to come by. Pre booking had ordained a bleak future for the likes of us, making impromptu plans and heading off blindfoldedly into the wild. At last, we settled for a room in one of the houses of the village. The landlady lived next to our room and cooked homely meal for us. The only issue was that we shared a washroom with another 6-7 rooms. That said, the warmth and affection of the owners could not be overlooked. The name of the owner is Ashok and he can be contacted at 8679157199.
The next day we woke up to a very cold morning. I had heard a lot about Tosh and decided to go there. Tosh is a small village located around 20km from Kasol, and is not as commercialised. Buses ply on a regular basis from Kasol to Barshaini. The last part of the journey involves a 3 km trek to Tosh or one could hitch a cab ride for 200 rs.
But before the ride, we decided to get some breakfast. We had read about Moon Dance Cafe and wanted to try it out. We ordered Israeli breakfast, omelette, garlic bread and masala tea. The small compound was jotted with tables having colourful umrellas and tableclothes. The service was good and soon we were gorging ravenously on delicious food.
Soon we boared the bus for Barshaini. We passed Manikaran Sahib gurudwara on the way. The route was a bit treacherous at times, and once again we marvelled at the driver’s dexterity. The bus left us at our destination and we started the trek to Tosh, after having tea and maggi at the bus stop. Unmetalled road, steep cliffs and a gorgeous view of the valley greeted us. We were gaining altitude with time and the further we went, the better we found the view. River Parvati was our shy companion, flowing at a distance, moving in and out of sight. Finally we reached the Tosh 0 km Milestone.
The Village was situated on the other side of a small rickety bridge. It was as rustic and virgin as they come. Small houses with children playing and cattle idling, we felt we had gone back in time. The village was obviously untouched by the ruthless clutches of commercial tourism. Up and up we climbed, looking for a decent shelter. This place doesn’t boast of big hotels, but small guesthouses attached to cafes.
After being turned down at some places, we were finally shown a room with attached bathroom and hot running water at Pink Floyd Cafe. The balcony afforded us a view of the village and we idled for a while, sipping hot tea with toast.
Around 3pm, we decided to go further up the way to Kutla. The way was very narrow and was non motorable. It was nothing like the trek upto Tosh. We were literally moving through all kinds of green vegetation and apple orchards.
We reached a spot where we sat near the river and enjoyed the view. We were surrounded by mountain on all the sides, the lower ones full of trees and the upper peaks snow capped, shimmering through big deodars. . The sunlight played hide and seek among the leaves of the tall deodars. A small wooden ladder serving like a bridge crossed the river, leading the way to Kulna village and further to KhirGanga.
We were tired and it was almost sundown, so we left after sometime.The way back was quick and we reached Shiva Moon Cafe in no time. Because of a lot of tourists hanging at the cafe, it took a lot of time to meet our food, but when we did, we made it count.
We moved up to our rooms and after chalking out plans for the next day, went to the Pink Floyd Cafe. Tosh village only gets electricity ( and that too low voltage) after sundown. The cafe was dimly lit with star shaped bulb holders and candles. Everyone was sitting on mattresses placed on the floor. The music was good and soon engulfed me, taking over all the chit chat which gradually faded into the background. We came out to find the night sky lit with the most number of stars I had ever seen in my life. I wish I had a good camera to capture the view. And then we slept.
We woke up to find the sunlight bouncing off snow covered peaks infront of us. The room was very cold so we sat in the balcony. Inspite of the sun shining heavily upon us, the wind cut through our skin and made us shiver. The battle ensued for another hour, after which the wind gracefully accepted defeat and the sun, emerging a winner, smiled benignly. We went to the cafe and ordered breakfast. Although we had been here for sometime now, the view didn’t fail to impress us again.
We loitered around with the idea of going to KhirGanga for sometime, after which we decided to leave for Kasol and spend the day at leisure, relaxing amidst all the natural beauty it had to offer.
We checked out of the Pink Floyd Cafe and started trekking down to Barshaini. People who want to go to Tosh can find quite good accomodation at Pink Floyd Cafe, Shiva Moon Cafe, HillTop View or Blue Diamond Cafe.
Upon reaching Kasol, we decided to stay in a campsite KASOL CAMPS near the river Parvati. They can be contacted at 98163-28555 or 86288-27675.
We were to sleep just around 4-5m from the river and the prospect enthralled us. We also met some guys playing cricket and joined them. Thereafter while my friend stayed in the camp, I sat next to the river and drank ginger honey tea.
In the night we went to the local market and got ourselves some traditional wear. Later we sat at Moon Dance Cafe and ordered chicken risotto and veg lasagna. The ambience was more enchanting in the night. The colour pattern of the bulb holders, a juxtaposition of purple, red, green and white, hanging against the dark sky, looked transcendental.
After our sumptous dinner we walked over to our campsite after taking cash from a local vendor, as the only ATM in Kasol had stopped dispensing cash. I sat again at the riverside and listened to the sound of running water, slowly yet steadily. It is one of my favourite pastimes, listening to running water, and I could do this for hours on end. The sense of calm, the amount of gratitude for this life, the feeling of laying in nature’s lap, all this is immeasureable. There were many camps & tents and people were enjoying themselves either by listening to music in their camps, playing games around bonfire, or just sitting together, sipping tea or beer. Sipping my ginger honey tea, I sat for good part of an hour, listening to the roar of the river. There was a small deodar tree next to my chair, which I hadn’t noticed much in the afternoon. But right now, it glowed white in the light of a bulb hung on the tree. This milky white appearance, against the black backdrop of the mountains, gave it a ghostly demeanor, almost eerie. After some time I slept.
We sat at the Stone Garden Cafe afterwards and had chicken bruschetta and nutella pancakes.
Walking back to the campsite, there was a sadness, that we were leaving this amazing heavenly abode and going back to the mad rush and drudgery of our everyday lives. But a man’s gotta eat you know. While 4 days ago, I was frustrated beyond measure, I felt cheerful and thankful right now for having the bliss and fortune to witness such amazing sights. So it was with our heads held high and with a firm resolve that we would make more time for such trips in the future, that we left for Delhi.