Every time I am in need of an inspiration I look up to the mountains. Do you know why? Their beauty, mystery, stillness, and transcendence is matchless. Whenever I climb a mountain I see a valley below and it’s the valley of peace & harmony.
With these thoughts in my mind, I began my next journey to a village hidden in the dense forests of magnificent Parvati Valley, Grahan. I always seek to explore the lesser known areas of Himachal as the journey to such destinations is always fruitful. Grahan is a beguiling village whose name literally means “eclipse” and has adopted the eclipse’s characteristic obscurity. The village is located north of the famous hippie town of Kasol in Parvati valley at an altitude of about 7700 feet.
The village has about 50-60 houses and some of them are said to be 200 years old. The trek from Kasol to Grahan is an easy to moderate 10 km trek with a rocky trail throughout the trek. However, after covering 8 km of trek you will reach a junction where you will have to decide if you want a shorter, tough trek to reach Grahan village or the easy but longer one. The trek on the left-hand side is very exhausting and requires extra efforts. We took the shorter left-hand side route.
Day 1: 06.10.2018
Grahan is a trek with the negligible crowd. The village offers fresh crisp air detoxing your body, very helpful locals and the shimmering strip of the Milkyway at night to gaze upon. I have completed some easy to moderate treks and my colleagues wanted to take them along too. Of course, who doesn’t want to witness the majestic Parvati river & the dense verdant woods? Sajid & Paras came with me this time and they enjoyed every bit of it, right from trekking on rock-strewn paths to walk in the woodland.
We started our journey from Chandigarh on 5th October at 10:40 PM. HRTC buses are the best mode to travel to Himachal and I prefer to travel by normal ones as the fresh air circulation makes your journey easy. We reached Bhuntar in the morning at 6:30 AM. The bridge leading the way to Kasol had got damaged because of which we have to board another bus to reach Kasol. As we had to trek the same day we thought of getting freshen up at the Bhuntar itself. We then boarded a bus from Bhuntar to Kasol at about 8:25 AM and we reached Kasol at 10:15 PM. As you enter Kasol you will find hippies in tattered clothes over tattooed bodies all around. After having our breakfast we started our trek at about 10:40 AM. We asked a few locals about the trek route and they guided us on the right path.
The hike to Grahan starts from the Kasol itself along the bridge. The bridge separates old Kasol and new Kasol. The moment you lay your steps on the trail the beautiful Parvati river welcomes you with its gushing water running alongside the rocky trail.
The Parvati river goes aggressive as you move on and makes your adventure even more exciting.
The hike was a gradual climb and the weather was quite sunny. En-route we took plenty of pictures of the prevalent flora and fauna. We spotted some really beautiful flowers such as whorl flower, orchids, and birds such as magpies. It was enjoyable to be amidst the jungle, listening to the orchestra of birds and the whispering of pines. It was absolutely blissful.
The trail is more or less marked out with red arrows & crosses all the way to the Grahan village. The crispy clean and fresh air kept us moving out in the wilderness. During the trek, we crossed a few wooden bridges also.
There are some really beautiful spots where you can sit and enjoy nature’s creations. There are no mobile signals after about 2 km of the trek. Soon we spotted some hippies who were also going towards Grahan. After trekking halfway we found one pit shop near the river. We reached this point at 1:20 PM and relaxed there, feasted on some good food, had some chit-chat with the hippies and then finally started our journey again at 2:15 PM to Grahan. It is the only eatery in the entire trail.
Towards the last 2 km of the hike, we spotted signage indicating two routes to reach Grahan. We took the one indicating 1.5 km to Grahan.
The route is quite steep from here and a real test of one’s endurance & strength. We came to know that this route is usually taken by locals and their cattle while the other one is an easy trail to the village.
The weather changed suddenly from sunny to overcast. It started drizzling. Earlier we thought to wait for a while and let the rain subside but Paras insisted to move on so that we could reach early as it might get even worse. The weather in mountains changes just in few minutes. After waiting for about 10 minutes we decided to move on but we could feel the fatigue so we rested for a few minutes in between, where we could. The weather was quite cold due to the drop in temperature because of the drizzle. We reached the Grahan village at about 3:40 PM. We took around 4 hours to reach Grahan from Kasol. There is something divine in the mountains that always motivates me to keep moving and the fatigue just vanishes in no time.
Arriving in Grahan is a tranquil sight with its wooden houses, lush greenery, pure mountain air to breathe and beautiful vistas to witness. I was wondering, why can’t I be in this place forever which brings so much joy to me, irradiating all worldly worries.
I enjoyed each & every moment of mine in Grahan. The villagers were simple and hospitable. There is no mobile connectivity in the village and it is better to make your phone calls before beginning the trek. Grahan houses various cafes and home stays. The Hebrew- English signage is all over the village. One wonders how it can happen in such a remote village located at such at such altitude. We were welcomed by the children playing in the temple complex of the village. We were totally mesmerized by the rustic beauty of the old traditional houses with pitched roofs. We learned that these houses are very old, some of them were 200 years old. The houses had surreal views and each one was picturesque. It seemed like a perfect little world.
History of Grahan
It is said that Grahan was first located near Malana village, the village of taboos. Some of the elders decided to migrate deep into the Parvati valley tributaries. The villagers from the Grahan are only outsiders who the Malana people consider equals. So much so, that they allow them to visit their temples and enter their houses. Consumption of alcohol is completely banned in the village. Signs indicating not drink alcohol have been put in the trek trail as well.
Grahan is also known as the magic honey village. The villagers gather honey from the forest nearby. A couple of tablespoons and one will feel heavy sugar rush, something very uncommon after having honey. It is believed that such honey has such after effect because the bees gather the nectar from the wildflowers around the forest. The honey is being prepared in the wooden logs (in the picture below) which hollowed from inside. The honey cost around Rs. 2000 for one bottle which I think was of about 1-liter capacity.
We stayed at Mount View Guesthouse. We got a room at a very cheaper rate, just Rs. 100 per person. The rooms were quite cozy with huge windows for an awesome view of the mountains. The food cost seemed to be on the higher side. It may be because they have to get everything right from gas cylinders, food items etc from Kasol.
After having bread toast and ginger tea we went for local sightseeing. The village has houses with traditional wooden construction giving you a complete feel of old Himachal. We also saw some locals weaving cloth using traditional machines. The village also has three temples which are extremely beautiful with intricate wooden craftsmanship and having distinct architecture. The village didn’t have a mobile network, however, our guest house had a landline.
The village offers some spectacular views of breathtaking mountain peaks. Grahan is also a campsite for the Sar Pass trek in Parvati Valley. At night we did star gazing and tried to capture some beautiful shots of our milky way galaxy.
Day 2: 07.10.2018
We started our descent in the morning at around 6:55 AM. Just 30 minutes of walk and we were greeted by the sun shining over the mountains. The beauty of the woods comforted our hearts. The forest’s smell was fresh and organic. We could hear the songs of birds. En-route we also spotted two pheasants. Grahan is still untouched and the road less traveled in Parvati Valley. The charm of Grahan lies in the fact that it is located deep inside the forest that can help you feel a sense of total disconnect from the outer world, which is a much-needed relief in today’s life.
We reached Kasol at 10:45 AM. We then boarded a bus to Bhuntar at around 12:05 PM. I was just looking at the green mountains passing by when a voice came from the backseat, Hello! are you guys coming from Kasol? I looked back, an old man wearing a traditional Himachali hat was smiling at us. I said yes, we had gone for trekking from Kasol to Grahan. Oh! that’s great people usually come here to smoke hash otherwise. Seeming to be an interesting guy, I just kept on talking to him and he told me that he is living in Kalga from last five and a half months. He retired last year, stays in New York with his family. Then why you are here? I just asked him and he said I am on a vacation. Can you believe a 67-year-old man living in New York and is alone on vacation in a remote town of Himachal? He was totally a surprise package to us. I asked his name and he replied, it is Jag… Jagdeep Singh. People in New York are unable to say Jagdeep Singh so I am better known by the name of Jag. I am living in Kalga with a family who takes care of me. I love to design travel websites and currently, I am developing a website for listing out cafes & hotels on a common platform named http://www.kalgahomestays.com. Jag seemed to be totally a gem of a person living his life the way he wants. Asking about his future plans he said I will go back to New York after this vacation and will decide whether to live with his wife along beachside Florida or will come back here. To my surprise he told me that he is a pass out from Department of Economics, Punjab University, Chandigarh and has also taught in Pre-engineering at Punjab engineering college, Chandigarh. We had a good laugh, discussions on our lives spent and finally exchanged our contacts. He asked if I know from he can get fresh goat meat at Bhuntar and that was the reason why he had come from Kalga to Bhuntar. He offered us to visit Kalga on 19th October i.e. on his birthday. I thanked him for the invitation and finally, we parted our ways at Bhuntar. Nothing beats meeting new people, hearing their stories and getting inspired from them. It was just a simple hello which made me a new friend named Jag….. Jag NYC.
After reaching Buntar we boarded the HRTC bus to Chandigarh and reached by 11:15 PM. We rested for the day. Remembering the two days well spent in such a pristine village stripped of all luxuries and materialistic desires, I walked into my office.
Best time to visit Grahan
Mid-March to the first week of June and during springs from September to the first week of November. Homestays are a plus point on this trek. At homestay, you get proper sleep and food which is missing on other treks.