The mountains are wailing. Hill stations in India have increasingly been subjected to the influx of careless tourists. These weekend travellers have left popular destinations like Shimla, Manali, Kasol in the far north, water-parched and choking with traffic jams.
The only possible covenant that can seemingly save the beauty of these places is to be made by travellers who decide to head to more untouched, unseen parts of the valleys, leaving the cities to their own devices for a while.
These untrodden paths are saved only for the true nature/travel enthusiasts and take more than your social-media-savvy 'wanderlust' to tread. One such unexplored corner lies in the Kangra region of Himachal Pradesh, environed by the rocky, green Dhauladhar ranges – Rajgundha.
The base camp
There are two ways to approach the Rajgundha trek.
Book a trek package online that provides local guide, shelter, and food or just pack your own sleeping bags and go!
Either way, you will first have to reach Barot, a rural village initially developed for India's first-ever hydel project, Shanan.
Barot is accessible from towns Palampur and Jogindernagar.
Depending on the mood of rains, your trek route will lie somewhere between easy and medium. Initial terrain is rocky and plain, with the Uhl river whispering from the bottom of the valley. For about a kilometre, you will encounter content village-folk going on with their mountainous chores.
As the path gets steeper, you leave inhabitation behind and enter a jungle of Himalayan oaks sprinkled with lilac rhododendrons. The climb soon transcends into a rather adventurous descend towards the river.
At the base, the chilly Uhl awaits you with raging waters. An iron bridge was broken by a minor flood a few yeas ago, leaving only one way to cross the river – walk through the icy and unbelievably refreshing water. The pebble bed of this river makes for one of the most scenic spots of this trek.
The last two kilometres are the steepest and slippery, if it has rained. Few places will make you feel like a spunky Tahr, to be honest!
Once on top, you can camp and spend the night surrounded by nothing but forest whispers, stargazing the soul into the city-dweller in you.
Not enough? There's more
After a satisfying night of solitude, you can can head back to Barot on the same route or trek another 12 km to Billing – India's most popular paragliding site.
This trek is not as adventurous but the route itself is an adventure for the eyes with rocky paths that silently cut through cedar and pine trees on the backdrop of snow-caped Greater Himalayas peaking through the Dhauladhar ranges.
The fulfilling walk is made perfect by the many natural water sources that fall on the way and meet you just when you start to feel exhausted. The chilled, sweet water goes perfectly well with whatever you have packed for lunch.
What not to miss
Be sure to try the local cuisine which uses a lot of wild vegetables and plants. One such speciality of the region is 'lingdu saag' which is basically baby fern that grows generously in the regional forests. The local preparation is basic and uses very little spice but will leave you wanting more.
P.S. Do not hog this delicacy lest the heat should upset your stomach and trek!
Cauliflower is farmed in abundance here so 'gobhi ke paranthe' is a must-have breakfast item, to be had with loads of homemade butter, of course.
What to carry
Sufficiently warm clothes
A thermal wear
Hiking shoes (waterproof, if possible)
Snacks (preferably chocolates, nuts, or protein bars)
ORS or energy drinks.