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Published: July 18th 2008
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During the steaming times at the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur), we dreamed of the cool hills up north, particularly of a small village called KASOL. I had heard it was home of the best guesthouses and some of the cleanest restaurants in India. No second thought, we put it on the itinerary.
At 7:45 am, backpacks on, we walked down the steep of hills of Shimla
to catch the ''luxury' tourist bus. After some minutes, we were very lucky that an Australian traveller took the time to come down the road and let us know that our bus had been cancelled, and the substitute one was up the hill. We hop on the "not-luxurious-at-all" bus, and remembered that here in India, luxury is relative. In this parts, this busic, dusty, squeeky bus, is probably deluxe alright.
The trip was actually very nice. Friendly travellers from all over the world, beautiful lush mountain views, and a river and mango groves lining the road. We were the only 2
heading to Kasol. Everyone else was going to Manali and beyond.
8 hours later we were literally DROPPED off the main busy road, in the middle of Bhuntar
. We were to figure out how to find a bus to Kasol, on our own. No one spoke English, it was dirty, confusing, raining, and we attracted lots of attention, being the only 2 foreigners around, and females. There was no bus station; just a bunch of old buses randomly parked on puddles of water. I kept saying loudly: "KASOL, BUS", and locals kept pointing; we kept walking in the rain until we were finally inside this very old
public bus, which soon was crammed with locals. Lots of staring and smiling, and I prayed to the blue Shiva picture with neon flashing light at the front of the bus, that this was indeed, "the" bus. The 2.5 hour ride was to cost only 50 cents!
The smell of body odor was soooo intense that we laughed hard, not to cry. Soon we had hand sanitizer up our noses, followed by hand lotion from The Body Shop... they didn't help... it was that bad! I than had a brilliant, life/nostril-saving
The great team of 2 in Kasol
We've become super travel buddies
idea: stuck a strong smelling, kiwi and citrus flavored Trident bubble gum on our noses. IT WORKED! We were to use the newly discovered "olphatory-saving tool" at all the smelliest Indian situations.
Oh my God!!! We were not warned about the suuuuper dangerous, scary as heck
drive up the hills. Blind curves at every few feet; super narrow roads. The bus door was left open and we could see the thousands of feet drop a few inches away. Seriously, there were times when I thought I was going to have a panic attack. Amanda turned red as a beet. What were we thinking????? I thought. I hate roller coasters, so why I am here????? Well, because the travel book, n,or anyone else warned us about the scary drive, we were already there, the scenery (if you could concentrate on it, rather than your upcoming death), was spectacular. So, we decided to make small talk, laugh, even if nervoursly, and somehow minimize the adrenaline rush. Kasol
is tiny, and we were so happy to find the super nice Holiday Home. Great room on the 6th floor, with balcony, clean bathroom and mountain view, for 300 rupees (the most expensive
Craaaaazy, scary but beautiful roads on the way to Bhuntar and also Kasol.
one... with TV and all, for $7.50!!!).
The setting was beautiful, with a fierce river, a suspended walking bridge, snow-capped mountain peaks. But, and there is always a "but", it didn't take long at all to notice that the travellers who flocked to the village were, let's say, "different". Blond dreadlocks, hippy-like clothing, and a different "vibe". We definately did not mix/belong with the crowd.
Well, we came to find out that Parvati Valley
has been nicknamed " Hashishi Valley", Kasol mecca for pot lover Israeli travelers who stay for 2 to 6 months, smoking "charas" (marijuana, which grows literally as "weed", everywhere) during the day and partying in the forest at night. I read that the Parvati Valley, has a bad reputation with dozens of foreign travelers vanishing or being murdered due to drug related incidents!!!! The box title on our book read:"Warning: Fatal Vacations." Holy cow!!! Where have we ended up?
Well, again, this is India, where you have to be preapered for the unexpected. The village, hotel and local people are extremely nice, so, we decided to cautiously make the most of it.
A hike to the small village of Chalal
, after crossing the
scary pedestrian narrow suspended bridge, proof to be delightful. Just passing-by locals herding cows and us thru the trail.
On the second day we met another "fish out of the water". A lovely, older Israeli woman, who was also feeling lonely. We travelled together by public bus further up the hill (now getting used to the narrow, hilly roads) but our plan to hike at ...... was ruined by rain. So, we stopped at the Sikh religion temple in MANAKARAN
, which was quite an experience.
The misty and mystical place by the river and the hot springs was filled with tons of friendly pilgrims, colorful banners. We're the only tourists, so again attracted lot of attention, with families and guys asking to take pictures with us.
At the entrance, shoes must be taken off and heads covered. I didn't have my scarf, and looked pathetic with my raincoat hood on. At sikh temples they offer "Langar", free "food from the Gods". We were invited to eat with the pilgrims, lined up sitting on the floor, like everyone else. I felt very welcomed, and loved to see on one wall, pictures of many Gods and deities, including Shiva
Shiva & Bob Marley!!!
Worshiped side-by-side in Kasol, where dreadlocks from tourists and faith from local Hindus co-exist
and Vishnu, of course, but also Jesus and Buddha among others. All is welcome.
Other things which we will remember about Kasol:
Learning how to cook Indian food at the hotel's kitchen, with our new friends.
Massage ($12 for 2 hours!)
Run down school, kids seating on the floor, no matching uniforms. Sad reality of poverty.
Encounter with village women on colorful but ragged clothing, many looking more Nepalese than Indian (this area was part of the Nepalese Empire in the past), wearing 2 nose rings.
Pictures of Shiva and Bob Marley, side-by-side at restaurants!!!!!
We spent 3 days in Kasol and loved it. It's a shame that it doesn't get more travelers who appreciate the place for all that it has to offer. I hope that a variety of people will come to enjoy this special place as much as we did.
Moving again, I wish you the best and hope to hear from you.
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