We stood outside the relatively deserted bazaar, waiting for any other travelers who might wish to pool with us for the travel to the coveted Malana. Each day in the hills was enterprising in different ways, and each place you need to go ,you very much need to cover the trail on foot and hike up areas to reach the spots . Malana was on cards and I tried my best not to succumb to the thoughts of skipping it and lounging around the banks of the Parvati river. We got up early and took the bus to Jari from Kasol, which was the easiest part. From Jari you have cabs going to Malana, well not exactly , but to the mountain opposite to the Malana hills.There is a bus service too, but frequency is just one bus a day at 5pm going from Jari to Malana and the same starts from Malana to Jari at 10.00am following morning. The Cabs charge 850/- one way and 1350/- two way with a waiting of 3 hours in between for small cabs. The two of us ,tried our luck with waiting for any other travelers..but soon gave up. Apparently the usual travelers to Malana as guys who sleep off over dope and really don’t start their day so early. So we took a cab and headed our way to Malana. The ride takes about 1.5hr and the roads are decent. The journey is specially beautiful through the Malana Valley,with mountains unfolding around as you move higher onto the route.The torrential Malana river flows through the valley as you crane to see the bottom from the vehicle. I in particular had very high hopes from this trip ,like many others I had an image of an Utopian place shrouded with the mysteries of Superiority of race, Do not touch locals, Do not enter temples and ofcourse fields of Hashish etc. I had read blogs saying you would be finding even young children peddling hashish and every second person will approach you asking if you need ‘cream’, referring to the Black Gold , Malana cream.Not sure what, may be I looked too much of Miss goody two shoes, but no one approached me for anything , I had an image crises in my head, high disappointment.damn!
Well, the route reminded me of the only other trip I had done in life through ascending hills,in no mans land, Ladakh. The roads being narrow and winding around , there werent many instances we halted,infact just a couple. Malana was highly disconnected to the world, until the Malana Hydro electric project made the now available road till the dam. It is heard that the road will be extended to meet the Village to make life easier for the People of Malana, until then the only way if to hike up. So we reach the foothills of Malana, through the wondrous journey of streams, tunnels, boulders and pine tree jungles, to find ourselves at another Taxi stand. From here we could see the Village, lovely , quaint, desirable and mythical. The Village of Malana sits atop another mountain , which one needs to trek up to after getting down to the valley from the taxi stand.
My curious Company, a travel blogger, wanted to explore the road ahead before hitting to Malana trek, and so we trekked some more!. After walking around the mountain for 1.5 km we arrived at the Dam site, beyond which there are a handful of camps where one can stay in. Our initial plan was very much to climb Malana previous night and stay overnight therein. But we had been updated that the stay was banned for couple of months uphill and didn’t wish to get stuck with luggage for hikes.Magic Valley seemed luscious and Swiss like from the road , but needed another 2 kms hike uphill before we landed in fields of Hashish.My partner was wearing slippers,and so we ditched the idea right there. Ocassionally we came across farm workers being ferried to the Magic valley through little tempos.But for us, it would have to wait for another day.Turning back we walked up to the taxi stand again for Malana.
The trek was simpler in essence since there were steps all along the route. It feels like climbing the way to a temple site. My pathetic stamina had me panting and resting every few minutes and thus ending up appreciating the setting of the valley far more than my partner. It didnt help that it was almost 11.00am and the sun was getting hot overhead.I couldn’t imagine hashish lovers climbing so much to score the cream. I pretty much would have paid extra for it in Kasol to score it. Seriously its far!!.On the way up,there are couple of shacks that have popped up in last couple of years as heard, so you are sorted incase you are fainting with parched throat. The roads on the opposite site are gorgeous as viewed from Malana. Malana village looked like a magical land from the distance,primarily due to the beautiful setting perched atop the hills ,but as I reached closer I didn’t have a good feeling about the place.
And I was not wrong at all. The village has a lot of new structures of crudely framed cement pillars popping on the outskirts as you enter the village.Malana Village is not big, one can pretty much go through the whole place in half hour time. I didn’t have the heart to go deeper, just looking at these, but then we braved on to have a quick look around. My partner got asked for cream finally! price 3000/- per tola..Stupidly astronomical. So I advise not to head to Malana for scoring at all, Tosh can set you back by 800-1000/-bucks that’s it. Try that is you must. We halted at a dhaba at the onset of the village for lunch,the place had rooms for rent as well. I remember thinking to myself , thank God , we didn’t choose to stay here. There were groups of Indian youngsters, boys, with their T-shirts screaming marijuana and Bob Marley prints,lunching in the place. We hydrated ourselves before we moved further .With my Utopian bubble busted , we loafed around for half hour looking for something that would help us treasure this Malana memory. As we moved along the cement laid pathway, it took us through wooden houses , quite shabby with not so friendly looking people around. I did look at some really pretty faces of young kids and ladies, who were dressed almost in rags sitting on the top of the crudely constructed double storeyed wooden houses. The lower levels of the houses were stacked almost all through with wood and had few cows lurking around. But overall, there was nothing besotting not remotely pretty about this place , that I had read about. Moving on we reached the village chowk, where stood the Jamlu devta temple. The temple was unique with wooden carvings on the façade and few heads nails onto it.A few kids played cricket in front of it,older men sat outside chatting and a bunch of local boys hung out in vicinity looking at me, the only girl there at that point. I seeked permission to click a couple of pictures here at last. Dont touch the pillar, said a teenager to me, as I was absently retreating behind to get a frame of the temple.People of Malana as I read, consider themselves very superior, and in some way descendants of Aryan race in India. They follow the Jamlu rishi, who is now worshipped in form of a God. I feel this is only a way to keep practicing the old beaten ways of caste division under the pretext.Further from this point on, after a trek of half hour or so , we were told is a waterfall.But neither me nor my travel partner were in any mood to go deeper into this place,which primarily seemed less inviting and didn’t really relay any happy feelings. I felt disheartened , considering the huge effort it took to reach Malana. We hardly spend about 30-40mins in the village inclusive of our time to have lunch there before we headed back for our descend.
As I raced ahead of my partner who was struggling in slippers, smart boy, I passed several groups who were on their way up.Each had young bunch of boys , mostly from Delhi/ Chandigarh sort, panting and puffing , dreaming of Utopia in their head and looking forward to scoring Malana cream at some dirt cheap price. I could only pity them if those were their reasons of visiting Malana. For me, there was absolutely nothing in Malana, except the mythical remoteness of the place and the magical mysteries people have rolled around it to sell it off as some utopian destination. As we reached the Taxi stand, I oggled a little more at the Village behind me before we got a ride to Jari again.If I must say what I loved, it was the sighting of the village as seen from the foothills, and the journey to the place from Jari.It no doubt is a beautiful hilltop, virgin due to its remoteness and almost in the clouds due to its height about 8700ft above sea level, but something about the village didn’t fit my expectations and readings about the place. Maybe We should have done that additional trek till the waterfall, maybe we should have stayed a night to witness the stars and the anticipated beautiful dawn breaks, maybe we should have gone further up to look at the Chandrakhani peaks..maybe we should have smoked up a bit and just stayed around feeling afloat. Maybe any or all of this… but we didn’t…nor did we feel like.
My two cents if you are heading to Kasol, just head to Malana if you wish to tick it off your list, you have more beautiful places and villages to visit in Parvati valley far more mystic in the lovelier sense than Malana.But you love the feeling of going on never ending roads, to distant mystic places and looking back at snaking roads… the road to Malana it could very well be. Its the journey and not the destination that matters and this befits it totally.
p.s: Start early , so you get enough time to cover Magic valley and Malana same day before you return to Kasol.Get you own cab and go slow with halts, the journey is gorgeous.
For stay , please inquire beforehand, since they often randomly stop the people from staying , being superstitious of the evil they bring.
Dont click without asking permission, and dont touch anything around, or carry extra cash for fines. 😛