Khir Ganga. A place where Shiva, the god of creation, destruction, regeneration, meditation, arts, yoga and moksha, the auspicious one, meditated for 3,000 years. Where natural hot springs rain down the Himalayan mountainside to the highland meadows forming natural baths.
Where tourists, babas, and sadhus alike flock to the holy waters to escape others, find themselves, and heal. Where mindful sighs of chillum held charas exhales into the breeze. The sun shines on the encampment of temporary huts, the smoke from the fire pits waft through the roof.
10km above the cradle of the Parvati Valley in Himachal Pradesh, lies Khir Ganga. The hike follows a 2 hrs 4×4 ride from Manikaran to Barshaini, which follows a 2 hr bus ride from Kasol to Manikaran, which follows a 4 hour bus ride from Manali to Kasol through Bhuntar, which follows a 10 hr overnight bus ride from Delhi into the mountains.
Rain pouring from the clouds, our public bus careened along the occasionally operable road from Kasol to Manikaran, just as it did in the 1980s, when the bus was made. As we wrapped around one blind turn after another, 200ft above the raging river below, it was clear that we were racing the landslides that were often caused by the heavy and unpredictable rain of the Himalayan region.
From Manikaran, a city of Sikhs and holy men who come to bath in the natural hot springs that rise from below the river, I find the 4X4 that takes us into the Parvati Valley. 5 strangers packed into the back of a old 4×4 we bump our way to Barshaini, the base of the Khir Ganga hike. From there it starts.