With an intent of staying close to nature and getting to stare at mountainous landscapes for hours together, we thought of going on a Himalayan trek. After a lot of research and keeping in mind our physical ability, we zeroed in on the Bhrigu Lake trek.
Why the Bhrigu Lake trek?
We had planned to do a trek in the month of August, which narrowed down our choices to the monsoon treks in Himalaya. One of the most important considerations was the difficulty level of the trek. Since this was our first high altitude trek, we decided to stick to easy-moderate difficulty level. We also did not want to spend more than 3-4 days on the trek, partially because this being our first trek and knowing that we’ll need to prepare ourselves physically for the endurance these treks demand.
Given our preferences, the trek that tick-marked all of them was the Bhrigu Lake trek and it took us no time to firm up our mind as it also offered a view of lush green meadows throughout the journey. We all have heard/seen people going on and on about how beautiful Switzerland is and this is primarily because of the meadows which are an integral part of the country. Although such beautiful meadows can be witnessed without too much of an ascent (8,000 feet) during the Bhrigu Lake trek.
And the journey begins…
We took an 8:30PM bus from Delhi (ISBT, Kashmere Gate) which arrived in Manali at around 11AM. We had planned to stay in Manali for a night, before the trek as this was my first visit to the famed hill-station and also the starting point for the trek. After a good day’s rest, we were scheduled to meet our trek guide at 2PM near the Government bus stand.
Day 1 –
Our trek operator had arranged for a cab that would take us to our destination for the day, Gulaba. It was approximately an hour long ride from Manali and you get down at a point called Badi Chowdi. From here it is a 30 minutes easy ascent to Gulaba campsite where we were to spend the first night. Since it was raining incessantly at Gulaba, we had to spend most of our time inside the tent and rarely got a chance to observe the view from this campsite. Also when it stopped raining for a couple of minutes, there was so much fog that the visibility was almost zero. Our dinner for the night and breakfast for the next day were taken care by the only dhaba (a makeshift hut with enough space for 5-6 people to sit). We had simple but nutritious dal and rice for dinner and called it a day.
Day 2 –
We were scheduled to leave Gulaba at around 7AM but nature had its own plan. It had been raining the entire night and showed no signs of stopping anytime soon (this was at 6AM when we woke up). We had breakfast at around 7:30AM and by 8AM, the rain Gods decided to show us some mercy. With the rains subsiding just a little, we decided to take our chance and began our 5 kilometers journey towards Rola Kholi, our campsite for the next couple of days.
The first 5 minutes of the ascent, we realized that it was literally going to be an uphill task. The journey is marked by climbing through muddy terrain and the rain wasn’t helpful at all. Our trekking shoes really proved their worth in the difficult terrain. Throughout the journey, no matter where our eyes gazed, all we could see were miles and miles of meadows. We had to take a couple of 5-10 minutes breaks to hydrate ourselves. TIP: Drink as much water as you can as you cannot afford to be dehydrated at high altitudes. I intended to test my new prime lens but the persistent fog didn’t allow me to. We also had to cross few small river streams and also many distant waterfalls were visible.
After around 4.5 hours from when we started, we reached Rola Kholi. By the time we reached, it had stopped raining and we could finally soak ourselves in the calmness of the surroundings. We freshened up and had a tasty bowl of Maggi. After taking care of our hunger, we thought of taking a stroll around the campsite. It was cold and although it had stopped raining, the sky was overcast. There was a big river stream and we sat appreciating the stark difference from our busy city lives. To our surprise, a group of Pack-horses were at their playful best. You can find them playing around in this video. We spent some time adoring them and went to our dhaba where the locals were preparing for dinner.
After a couple of hours of rest in our tent, we had delicious rajma (kidney beans), aloo gobi (a staple dish comprising boiled potato and cauliflower cooked in Indian spices), rice and roti (flatbread). We called it a night and went to our tents, but we realized that at such high altitudes, sleep is difficult to come by.
Day 3 –
The penultimate day of the trek is the defining one as we were to ascent for the destination, the much revered Bhrigu Lake. With much enthusiasm but not much rest, our day began with the much needed breakfast as it had almost been 12 hours since our last meal. Our trek guide had asked us to be ready by 7AM such that we could leave by 7:30AM as we had to also come back to Rola Kholi, which was going to be our campsite for the day. The trek began with a steep ascent and all our preparation over the last 2 months was put to test. As we were almost at 12,000 feet, the air started getting thinner and breathing takes a lot more effort which strains your body further. The view remains pretty much the same but we were able to see further by the virtue of our elevation.
Marching on for a couple of hours, we took a hydration/snack break and our trek guide detailed out the last stretch of around 300-400 metres, which was completely daunted by stones and boulders. To give you some perspective, this climb was daunting because of the uneven size and shape of the stones and boulders. Adding to this, there were also huge gaps between them which made it difficult to establish a grip (the trekking pole, which had been a faithful companion throughout the ascent, isn’t of much use here; you would rather use your hands in case of a slip).
It took us almost an hour to complete this strenuous stretch but the effort is well-rewarded when you get a glimpse of this mystical lake at an altitude of ~14,000 feet. It was an overwhelming feeling to have reached our destination, partly because this was our first high altitude trek and the sense of accomplishment made us feel proud of ourselves.
Let me tell you a little bit about Bhrigu Lake. According to Hindu Mythology, the lake is a namesake of Maharishi Bhrigu, who supposedly used to meditate here. The locals consider the lake to be sacred. Being an avid photographer, I was excited to click some pictures here and nature, as a sign of support cleared the fog completely, rendering the whole landscape as my playground. I was gifted a prime lens specifically with an intent that I could make good use of it on this trek.
After spending some time at the lake, we then began with our descent. We had to come down the stony stretch very carefully because you tend to be a little faster in a descent, as compared to an ascent. And it was not just this stretch, but the entire descent till Rola Kholi was more demanding than we had anticipated. This is mostly due to the sheer stress on your knees during the descent. It took us around 90 minutes to come back to Rola Kholi. We then lazed around the campsite and went on with our mountain routine that we had developed over the last 2 days.
Day 4 –
Nature worked in mysterious ways and surprised us with bright sunlight and clearing up the fog that had been omnipresent over the last 3 days. It was as if there was new found energy on the campsite. Without wasting much time, I hooked up my camera to make the most of this opportunity. This was the first time we realized how beautiful our surroundings were at Rola Kholi, specifically the mighty Mt. Hanuman Tibba.
After fulfilling my photography desire, we began the last leg of our trek which was descent till Gulaba. This 2 hours journey, although not too hard on your lungs compensates by putting your knees to a grueling test. The consistent rains over the last 3 days ensured that the trail was slippery and even our faithful trekking shoes gave up in some situations, leading to small slips (luckily without any injury). We realized that descent is more about balancing your body. TIP: Our trek guide advised us to walk in a zigzag pattern and not in a straight line to balance better.
We then had a quick hydration break at our 1st campsite, Gulaba. And then we managed to reach our pickup point by 11AM, where our cab was waiting to take us to Manali.
It was a mixed feeling as we boarded our cab; on one hand it felt strangely good that we were back in our natural surroundings of the man-made amenities and at the same time a sense of disappointment in leaving behind the untouched natural habitat we spent the last 3 days in. We’ll surely be back to the mighty Himalaya and take on yet another high altitude trek.
What I carried for the trek –
- 50 litre Rucksack
- Sun cap
- Head lamp
- Thermal wears – 3
- T-shirts – 3
- Track pants – 2
- Undergarments – 3 pairs
- Jacket – 1 padded & 1 fleece
- Small cotton napkin – 1
- Water bottles – 2 of 0.80 litre each
- Socks – 3 pairs
- Trekking pole
- Cutlery – 1 tiffin box, 1 spoon, 1 plate, 1 steel glass
- Slippers – 1 pair
- Trekking shoes
- Toiletries – 3 packets of wet tissues, 1 roll of toilet paper, lip balm, toothbrush, toothpaste (small), 1 spray bottle filled with rose water, moisturizer cream, sunscreen SPF 40+, deodorant, hand sanitizer, 4-5 zip lock pouches, 3-4 cotton pads
- Medicines – Diamox, Dexamethasone, Combiflam, Crocin, Dispirin, 3-4 ORS sachets, Omnigel spray, Band-aid
P.S.: Don’t litter your surroundings. Make sure whatever you take, comes back with you.