The American poet Ralph Emerson once said: “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
When we huddled into a mini traveler which was supposed to take us to Kalga Village, we had no idea of what was in store.
For starters I had heard very less about Routern – a travel tech company which was launching its product called Hummus Trail, miles away from the humdrum of the city life. Also Kalga is not really a sought after destination when you are venturing into Himachal Pradesh and the mighty Himalayas. Kasol, Tosh and Manikaran are usually the preferred destinations for the adventurous backpackers. Some might even venture far upto Kheerganga but that’s about it. However after a few friends pursued me to join the trip! I thought of joining along.
After an all night driving spree and 17-18 hours later, we finally reached Barshaini. It is only much after Kasol (beyond Manikaran) that the roads get uneven and the drive becomes bumpy till Barshaini and that’s exactly where the roads end.
Beyond this, you need to rely on your foot and embark on a steep trek towards Kalga. Tough roads, however, are usually the signs of a good offbeat destination; the bumpier the road, the lesser the probability of tourist traffic at the end of it and that’s exactly what kept us going along a forty-five minute hike up a somewhat steep slope!
Love at First Sight:
The first word that comes to your mind about ‘Kalga’ is the word ‘Sleepy’! The most striking characteristic of Kalga is the lack of hustle and bustle of village houses. There is also an eerie silence due to the abandoned houses and sparse population.
With alpine beauty all around, the village lies amidst gigantic mountains. Green patches of land are interspersed with an odd house or two, and you cannot miss the multitude of apple trees! We trekked upto our guest house called – The ‘Stoned Place’ (yes, that’s right) and settled in our rooms. With wooden stairs, stone chimneys, open landings and small windows, you will feel time has also decided to take a break, in Kalga.
The Next Few Days:
Over the course of 2 days, we met the entire Routern team and the 30 odd people who came for the exclusive launch started soaking in the solitude and silence which Kalga had to offer. The special highlight was the performance by Celebrity Violinist Aneesh Vidyashankar (also India’s only wireless Walking Violinist) and renowned Guitarist Monjyoti Bhattacharya.
Their act was nothing less than soul-stirring as we meditated to the sound of violin and strumming of guitar. Amidst the backdrop of pin drop silence of mountains and only crickets lending their background sound – it was truly a performance amidst the lap of nature.
The ‘Unconventional Launch’
The performance gave way to the official launch of Hummus Trail on the website. While the data and tech team of Routern worked relentlessly to deploy the code on a real-time basis from another location, the product was unveiled live amidst a bunch of hardcore backpackers. Chirag and Chandrakant from the Routern team demonstrated the product to a bunch of Israeli travelers who were blown away by the ease of the interface whereas Ravi and Yashmev from the core team attended to all the guests personally, making it one amazing experience!
Like we mentioned before, ‘Hummus Trail’ comprises of around 60 towns and villages which are frequented primarily by Israelis in India and are a perfect mix of ‘trippy’ and ‘peaceful’. Though quite famous within the backpacker community, there wasn’t enough documentation and tools available to ease the process of planning for people to embark on this amazing journey!
Routern took upon themselves to provide the necessary tools to make travel along this route easier. A discussion with Chandrakant, one of the founders also made me realize that there was a potential for disruption in this space since these routes are usually a monopoly of traditional tour operators who are not trustworthy and operate without any transparency in prices. Customer experience is also least of their priorities which leaves unsuspecting Foreigners to fall prey to their tactics!
The product was also launched in kalga, to stay true to their brand vision and mission – for the backpackers, by the backpackers.
Kalga is definitely not for those looking for a typical tourist place, but instead those who want to escape it. It is one of the few places where I have been where every wish to interact with nature at a close proximity is granted. From walking obscure trails to plucking mint leaves to make that cup of piping hot tea, Kalga gives you enough time to merge into the surroundings with a book in your hand.
Kalga was once upon a time – a preferred destination and an important route along the Hummus Trail. However, due to alternative routes available (which are easier of course) there has been a steady downfall of tourists in this village. The product was also launched in this village – at the heart of the Hummus Trail as a sign of solidarity to revive the dwindling tourism here.
A trip to this tiny hamlet also makes me realize the possibility of so many such lesser known, but mesmerizing secrets that lie deep within the villages of Parvati Valley.
So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and #explore the Hummus Trail! #KeepTravelingKeepExploring