So there it was again, that itch, to travel somewhere. To be one with nature. To walk among the clouds. To meet strangers and become friends with them.
During my last Beas Kund trek in Kullu Manali valley, I was fascinated to see the Gaddis and I even spoke to a few of them. Though we did not know a common language, we spoke in signs and smiles. I was also fascinated by their goats that thrive in such high altitudes and extreme weather conditions. The Gaddi shepherds are a very sweet and congenial tribe who are extremely helpful to the trekkers.
Also Read : Travel Guide To Beas Kund Trek
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Extremely amused by my allurement towards the Gaddis, my co-trekker enquired if I had any plans to do the Shepherd Trail Gaddi Trek. It was then that I learnt of this trek and had decided that I had to do it soon. So when the urge to travel appeared, I wasted no time in booking my tickets to Himachal Pradesh.
"Gaddi" means a "nomadic shepherd" in the local Himachal dialect. They live a very interesting and unique life. A Gaddi starts his journey in March from Himachal to Lahaul, Spiti and Pir Panjal, and returns in September. They cross high peaks and passes and this becomes a way of life for them for 7-8 months every year. They believe in living in harmony with nature.
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Stretching from an elevation of 2050 m to 4500 m, and locally known as the Gaddi trek, it connects Kullu valley with Kangra valley. The trek passes through many Gaddi villages, filled with grasslands for grazing. This journey includes several high altitude passes like the Kalihani pass, the Thamsar pass and the Khanapari pass. The trail is filled with polished meadows, colourful flowers, tall trees, ebullient streams and, of course, many many Gaddis.
Best Time To Go On This Trek: June to October. The snow will be thin, the monsoons would not have set in yet and therefore, it is easy to trek.
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What I Carried For The Trek: It is important to pack light for a strenuous trek. Yet, it is imperative to not leave out the essentials like walking stick, head flash light, medical kit, energy drinks, compass, trekking shoes, sleeping bag, binoculars, camera, cold cream, poncho, woollen clothes, water bottles, snacks and chocolates.
The trek was supposed to start from Manali. I flew to Delhi and took an overnight bus from Delhi to Manali.
Day 1: Manali-Lama Dugh
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The trek started from Manali behind the Hadimda Temple. It is an uphill trek and the concrete road quickly paves way to the mud road of the forest. Densely packed with deodars and maples, the path is steep and relatively easy. After about 2.5 h, we broke for lunch and enjoyed our meal in the lap of nature. The next leg of the trek gained height and moved into high altitude area. The slope went easy in the last couple of kilometres and we reached Lama Dugh, our campsite for the night.
Day 2: Crossing Khanperi Pass
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We started early and walked in the Chandrabhaga ranges. After a couple of hours, magnificent views of Deo Tibba, Indrasan and Indra Tilak started appearing. The trees had disappeared at this point and all we could see were meadows till the eyes met the sky. Few kilometres of ascent and descent later, we reached Riyali Thach to rest and recuperate.
Day 3: Base Of Kaliheni
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We started with the descent into a zone of trees where the Kaliheni Pass was visible in the vast openness. We had to cross a river. This was the most favourite part of the trek for me. But this river is fast flowing and it is dangerous to splash and play around here. After crossing the river, we witnessed some beautiful glacial peaks. After walking a few more kilometres, we arrived at grasslands to camp for the night. We were told to rest well since the next day was supposed to be physically excruciating.
Day 4: Kaliheni Pass
We were to walk on glacial debris and snow to reach the top of the pass. Boy, was it hard! Walking on the rocks, big and small, and through the snow is a tough task. However, the gorgeous views spread on the crest of the pass made up for it. It is a steady ascent and keeps gaining height. We reached the pass, which was between two steep ridges. Incredible views of ice roll on both sides of the peak.
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We started the trek by retracing our path to Riyali Thach camping ground. This is a rather long trek so we just relaxed for the day and enjoyed the views, for we had to leave for Manali the next day. Many structures ala Stonehenge come into sight at this location.
Day 6: Descent And Reaching Manali
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This was the last day of our trek and we had to reach Manali this day. We started traversing the meadows, descending in the direction of Sangchur. The view of the Kullu valley from here is stupendous. Further descending down, we reached Sangchur village. We boarded the bus to be taken to Manali.
Also Read : Attractions In Himachal-Pradesh
While on this trek, I came across many Gaddis with a sense of peace and calm on their face. They seemed unperturbed and when most of us are intent upon running behind worldly pleasures, they seem completely content in being nomadic and in harmony with nature. In my opinion, we all have a thing or two to learn from them.