According to astrology of Sun Signs, the signs which belong to air and water are highly compatible with each other because air and water are different forms of the same element. I guess that explains my fascination with waterfalls. Being a Libran (Air sign), I go in search of them on almost every vacation. From my school visit to Kempty falls in Mussoorie to the surreal falls enroute the trek to Valley of Flowers or the frozen waterfalls on the Chadar trek; although I have had the good fortune of being close to many of them, I still want to experience more.
Imagine my thrill when I spotted not one, but 3 waterfalls from my room in Manali! It was as if angels were sprinkling fairy dust in Old Manali. First I saw this tall waterfall on the left. Then in their playful mood, I guess the angels sprinkled some more fairy dust and I saw the second one, far into the mountain top. And the angels sprinkled still some more; maybe they were trying different colours! I saw the third waterfall on the right and the landscape ahead just became more special.
I woke up to this every morning and stepped out to see the magic unfold. The energy with which the water falls down, then hides into the mountains to step out from another fold and create some more magic.
I learnt from Co-survivor that there is a trek to one of the waterfalls that I can see from my room. Across Old Manali, there is a place called Vashishth, known for the famous Vashishth Rishi temple and natural hot water springs. It was the base village for the falls and a short trek would take me to the source of magic.
I planned to try this trek the following day.
After an awesome mountain breakfast of honey and oats porridge, I stepped out to explore Old Manali. I walked in the nature park that has been built and maintained by the government since the 1980s. It feels more of an enchanted forest than a park. The trees are so tall that you feel they reach the sky and the rays of the sun coming in through the leaves created some magical rainbow like light effects.
I spent some time amidst sunshine and smiles. On stepping out and walking a little past the Beas river bridge, I came across Himalayan Caravan Adventure. I asked Ravi about the trek to the waterfall in Vashishth. He shared that the trek would take approximately 4 to 5 hours. Excited to the core, I scheduled the same for the afternoon.
All set with my day pack, some sun block, bottle of water and lots of excitement, we set off for the trek at 2 in the afternoon. Instead of going from the common route, Ravi selected the back country route to reach the falls. We started the walk by taking a left from Manali Club House and walking down the path lined with trees on both sides. Away from vehicles, this route is perfect for cycling. It reminded me of the back country bi-cycling ride in Udaipur.
I passed by beautiful mountain homes, trees which resembled Rhododendrons and the Beas river joined us ahead.
We entered a small wooden gate, stepping off the road. The path was laden with stones akin to a river bed and I realised that this must be a flowing river in the summer months. We reached the Gaushal village. There were homes built from stone and soil local to the region. It was a pleasant sight to see rural architecture styles which is very different from urban concrete buildings.
A little further up, the Beas river caught up with us J We were walking along the banks and in some parts, we had to cross the river. There were 2 foot bridges along the route, quaint, made from flat planks of wood. I met school children in sports uniform with red cheeks. There is something about the mountain air, it helps drive away the blues.
We completed the walk through the village and river path, reaching the main road. This was followed by a short tea break at Bahang Village. There are bakeries that line Manali and they serve yummy chocolate coconut balls apart from cookies and other indulgences. A quick bite gave us the necessary carbs for the trek ahead and we resumed walking.
This is the same route that goes to Rohtang Pass. A walk of another kilometre and we were at the mountain base. I realise that walking is by far the best way to explore a place. If I had passed this route in a car, I would have never known that the mountain leads to a waterfall trek or I would have never experienced the secret back country roads.
I spot a plastic bottle in this image and I choose not to crop the image. I hate to imagine if 100s of trekkers left the bottles behind and the impact it would have on the delicate bio-system of the region.
It is interesting to note that Himachal Pradesh Government has completely banned plastic from the state. Stores hand out goods in brown paper envelopes, cloth bags or re-usable non-woven bags. Plastic has become an intrinsic part of our lives, not just in the cities, but also in the mountains. It’s properties of storing food adds to its functionality. While we may not be able to eliminate plastic in entirety, the least we can do is use it responsibly and not treat the space around like a trashcan. That is probably the first golden rule of responsible travel.
Rules are applicable for mountain climbing too. As we started climbing up, Ravi gave me instructions that could only come from a seasoned climber. He asked me to walk in rhythm. He also shared that I should reserve energies for an emergency. With these two important points in mind, the walk up the slope continued. Since the slope was steep, we stopped at regular intervals to get the breath back.
We reached a flat landing, a perfect spot for some fun pictures and the views of the mountains ahead. The view ahead reminded me of glaciers amidst the mountains.
As we walked further up, I saw some interesting flora and fauna, a plant which resembled wheat when it is about to be harvested. The SASE (Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment) helipad is also visible on the trek to the waterfalls.
The walk continued and then just after a bend in the path, I got the first glimpse of the waterfall.
We had been walking for over an hour, so we decided to take in the view for some time.
As we walked ahead, the magic began to unfold and I will leave it for the pictures to do the talking.
While the pictures are beautiful, the place has to experienced in person to feel the beauty of nature. No amount of technology, photographs or words can describe the spectrum of awe I felt there.
This is the Jogini falls or Angel waterfalls. And I understood why they are called so. The angels were playing with fairy dust in all colours of the rainbow. This rainbow stayed with us all the time we were admiring the falls.
As we continued with the trek, all I could do was thank the angels for this other worldly experience.
The path ahead was amidst the forest, followed by a downward slope amidst pine trees. The walk down generally takes lesser time than the walk up. The slope along the pine trees was a little challenging at first. When walking down hill, step sideways and walk diagonally were the instructions from Ravi. Short bytes of mountain lessons and this practical approach was fun.
The waterfall flows down the mountain to reach the Vashishth village. The highs of the trek were met by lows of seeing concrete debris and garbage collected in those stretches which passed through the village. As the picture shows, the path of the fall has been nearly blocked due to the pile up of waste. (Insert ET article on waste management)
Further ahead, there was graffiti on the walls with a message to not stick posters on the school wall.
As we walked through the village, I came across village homes with a dish for the cable television reception. I also saw homes with flattened stone roofs with beautiful house gardens.
The route through the village is an alternate path to reach the falls. This path is an easy walk as compared to the route through the mountains.
From the base of the Vashishth village, a rickshaw took us back to Old Manali. This was followed by a hot cup of pahadi chai and amazement on the afternoon gone by.