By Sanat Pradhan (L&T Howden)
Legends tell us, during the Satya Yuga (First Epoch), Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati lived on a mountain near present day Kullu. “Kheer” (rice pudding) flowed from the top of the mountain during those days. Foreseeing war for its possession during the Kali Yuga (Fourth Epoch), Lord Parshurama, converted the “Kheer” into water. Thus came into existence, the hot spring of Kheerganga, with its medicinal properties, overlooking the vast meadows of Parvati Valley.
We were a group of five friends, who travelled from Delhi to Kasol by motorbike. The plan was to start the trek to Kheerganga from Barshiani before sunrise and return on the same day. It is considered one of the easiest treks in the Indian Himalayas, being 22 km (total) and at 3000 meters height. Being our first trekking experience, we were in for a surprise!
As with any other expedition that we had undertaken before, we were terribly late the next morning. We reached Barshiani at the late hour of 10 AM as opposed to sunrise. Now, we only had half the time for climbing. Being Project Engineers, this felt like business as usual.
The trek started with a plain path through lush green forest parallel to the Beas river. As it was monsoon, the river was flowing at its peak, the sound of which was impeding our communication. Also, the sight of clouds striking the mountains had left us awestruck. It was an easy walk till we reached a very calm and alluring village. The kids there were more than happy to greet and play with us. We quickly filled our water bottles, bought some biscuits from a shop and continued our onward journey. At the exit of the village, the milestone read “Six kilometres to Kheerganga”. We had completed more than half of our journey in not much of time. How much time can 6 more kilometres take, right? Yeah, right!
After some light climbing, we reached a rickety bridge over the river at the foot of the hill. The bridge condition and the river flow could give anyone goose-bumps. From this point on, we were climbing at an almost 30-40 degrees gradient. We saw abundant waterfalls during the trek. After some more climbing we reached Rudranath, a small shrine near one of the waterfalls. We rested for some time and then continued our journey after asking a priest about the distance left, to which he said “six kilometres”!!!
The next one hour of climbing was exhausting! Now we were clicking pictures as an excuse to rest. Due to rain, the trail had become muddy and slippery. At this fateful moment, one of our trek mates got a bright idea of skipping the trail and climbing (or crawling to say) up the mountain. The other less hearty ones agreed with some reluctance and went ahead; only to find that this was not a bright idea after all, as going further was not possible after some distance. To make matters worse, even crawling back was not possible. Thus we had to slide through the mud all the way down. A mistake at this point could have thrown us into the river! Now we were all muddy and hopelessly tired, looking at an unending climb. Little ahead, we found something to cheer us up, apples. We plucked some, sat on a rock in front of a sign board that said “No Plucking”. There was also a signboard below which to our astonishment read “Six kilometres to Kheerganga”.
We climbed up the mountain for the next hour and a half, extremely tired, to finally reach the meadow. Now we could see our destination, the Kheerganga Hot Spring. However, at this point, we were barely able to stand. Our thighs were shivering due to the fatigue. Every step required motivation. We were cursing our overconfidence as well as the internet information that said “easiest trek”.
Upon completing of the trek, we took a bath in the hot spring. Returning the same day was out of question. We took shelter in a temporary house for the night, and set foot on our return journey the next morning.