Himachal had been waiting for too long. I’d heard much of the beauty of Pin Parvati and the turn in landscape on the two sides of the pass to be dissuaded by the difficulty of the trek. And difficult it turned out to be. But not without rewards.
After an early morning drive from Prini, on the outskirts of Manali, where we chose to stay at GIO’s beautiful Himalayan Eco Lodge, we started our trek from Barsheni and walked to Kheerganga on day one. The first day was so representative of what the next few days, before the daunting Pin Parvati pass, had in store. Landscape rife with greenery, fragile bridges and waterfalls galore feeding the river Parvati from unimaginable heights. It also gave us a peek into the notorious difficulty level of this trek with near constant rain and a pretty rough landslide to negotiate before we reached Kheerganga. It was not all toil though as a stunning vivid rainbow hanging above the green valley greeted us at our first camp.
Day two started out as a moderate walk to Tunda Bhuj, where we had our lunch at the famous Baba Ashok Giri’s hut, but culminated in one of the toughest days I've had to endure on a trek. A couple of technical rock sections due to a broken bridge after Tunda Bhuj were excruciating and terrifying. Add to it a long nine-hour day! Babaji has been living in the Himalayas for around thirty years and was kind enough to share a few interesting anecdotes with us. Can't say the same about the "bidi joint" he was smoking though! Our second camp, Thakur Kuwan was cold, dark and windy by the time we got there and we turned into our sleeping bags after a quick dinner.
The walk to the meadow of Ody Thach on day three was comparatively shorter and easier except traversing the two Pandu bridges, which were essentially huge boulders over the roaring Parvati. Not easy that! The walk along the ferocious Parvati flanked by waterfall after waterfall and over some arduous terrain, eventually led to the birthplace of the river, which is the holy lake of Mantalai. Lined by trishuls and known to be the place where Shiva was married, Mantalai is pure magic. We also met an ascetic who was on a yatra to the lake from Barsheni barefoot!I’ve been lucky to have trekked a bit in the Himalayas but never have I been on a trek so engulfed in such beautiful Hindu myths and folklore. After a deserved rest day at Mantalai and witnessing one of the most beautiful sunsets we had ever seen we moved on to Parvati Base Camp on day six.
The slog up the pass on day seven started at 4 am. The first light of the sun hitting the mountains behind us as we struggled our way towards the pass was a sight to behold. We then crossed the snowed under Pin Parvati pass, negotiating some tricky crevasses, to reach the stark valley of Pin, so in contrast to its greener cousin. We walked along the Pin River after crossing it barefoot (!) to our last camp. This trek, as much as it is about the two valleys of Parvati and Pin, as much as it is about the treacherous pass and terrain, is also about these two stunning life-giving rivers.
The last day was an easy but longish walk to the road head some kilometers before the first Spitian village of Mudh. We were to stay on in Spiti for a little under a week and exploring a bit of this curious wonderland. Little villages with a dozen white houses under towering mountains, light filtering through clouds on the brown, arid landscape, a people so warm and dazzling sunsets so typical of the Himalayas. Spiti was everything we expected and more.