A walk to Manikaran
Manikaran, a religious and transportation hub, is about five kilometres from where I am staying. The easiest way to reach there is to catch any Westward bound bus from Kasol. Instead of taking a bus, I decided to walk the entire road. This is the same road that leads to Baba Place. It follows the Parvati River along its Southern bank. Manikaran is in the other direction.
Just beyond Kasol, there are premium resorts. Some of these are the tent based camps I had seen yesterday.
As I walked along through Choj village, I kept getting clearer views of the Annapurna range.
The closer I got towards the upstream of Parvati River, the flow itself became more turbulent. It may be deceptive from the photographs, but if someone falls into the stream, there is very little hope of their survival.
There were some interesting things that I saw on my way.
About one and half kilometres from Manikaran, there is a stretch of road that is slightly dangerous. There is a long, continuous railing and an abundance of signboards warning the drivers and pedestrians alike.
A bath and lunch at Manikaran
Few hundred meters before the fork in the road that leads to Barsheni, I deviated from the main road and crossed a footbridge because a signboard said ‘Shiva Cave’.
Manikaran has more temples than a human or a god can handle. They are all within a span of few hundred metres. It starts right after crossing the bridge that connects the Shiva cave. I do not even remember all the temples but there was a Shiva tempe, a Gurudwara, a Ram temple and three to four more. There was another large one under construction, too.
Since this place has natural hot springs, there is a public bathhouse right beside the Ram temple. (There is one inside the Gurudwara and another inside the Shiva temple, too.) I had carried my towel and an extra pair of shorts just for this purpose. The water must be around 60 degree Celsius. I could not even submerge myself in the water. Instead, I cupped my hands and used them like a mug. Forget the ice-bucket challenge. I challenge anyone to stay inside for five minutes straight inside the pool. Even a local guy wasn’t able to do so.
I had my lunch at a local shop. Hot and crispy aloo paratha was godsend after the bath. Also, this particular shop, just in front of the entrance to the Ram temple, prepared them in wood fire.
Combating the cold at Kasol
Kasol is experiencing a cold wave. Tonight’s prediction is -6 degree Celsius. By the time I will have my dinner, it will be around -5. There is a prediction of snowfall in two days. I will have descended by then.
The locals light up bonfires or switch on heaters in shop to keep themselves warm. They are also very accommodating. I sat with them for hours, struck up a conversation and had tea. Then, I proceeded to another bonfire. I kept doing this throughout the evening.
A man was selling California Sunshine (an euphemism for LSD) near a chat shop. This place is a junkie’s heaven. The strangest part is that I have not seen locals consume psychotropic substance. It is always the tourists who fuel this business. Even kids aren’t bothered by these tourists. After all, the entire economic ecosystem is based around these hippies and junkies. Sober tourists like me are few and far in between.