The mystical Bhrigu Lake sits on India’s Pir Panjal Range in Himachal Pradesh. It’s a three-day hike which takes you through lush grasslands and alpine meadows strewn with wildflowers, amidst breathtaking views of the mountains; the beauty, alive during the monsoon.
Is The Monsoon Season A Good Time To Visit India?
This depends on your destination. Mona and I were planning to return to Kashmir to experience one of the most beautiful hikes in India, the Kashmir Great Lakes. Also, during a monsoon-season hike, we were promised magnificent landscapes as we would weave through the altitude of the Zaskar Range.
But God is the best of planners and as meticulous as we were, our travel arrangements experienced the first of many alternatives.
Always Check On The Safety Of Your Destination
On the eve of our departure from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a travel advisory was issued by the Indian government. Tourists were asked to leave Kashmir in the interest of their safety.
Reluctant to abort the trip altogether, we conferred with our Japanese friends, Kazu and Hiromi, who had already arrived in India. Deliberations followed and we agreed to detour to Manali, Himachal Pradesh instead.
Delhi To Manali Before The Bhrigu Lake Hike
Manali is a 540-kilometre journey by road or just an 80-minute flight away. We braved the former option as landing at Kullu airport, nearest to Manali, is often tenuous during the monsoon season.
Our rendezvous remained in New Delhi. However, despite the long journey ahead, we still had not set off at the crack of dawn. The privileges of our hotel, The Holiday Inn at New Delhi’s Aerocity kept us cocooned a tad longer, knowing that the days ahead would not afford us these comforts. By the time we inched our way through Delhi’s traffic, it was almost noon.
Be Prepared For What The Journey Entails
Indeed our spirits were high, buoyant with animated exchanges and sheer optimism that this journey wouldn’t take up to sixteen hours judging from Bubbaloo’s driving! Speedily weaving around buses and trucks heavily laden with passengers and goods; and other inevitable road-hoggers, surely our taxi would arrive sooner than later! Regardless, more so erring on caution, we each popped a motion sickness tablet.
The national highway took us through the states of Haryana and Punjab and just before nightfall we were winding up the mountains to Manali. “At long last” couldn’t have been a more apt expression in this instance; we finally checked into D’Country Villa, in the dead of night. By then, all we wanted was to stretch our travel-weary limbs, not even batting an eyelid at the modest accommodation before us.
Charmed By Old Manali Before Mystical Bhrigu Lake
Morning came sooner than later. The day’s walk through Old Manali with its gradual incline eased us into acclimatisation at an altitude of approximately 2,000 metres. The temperature averaged at 26°C, pleasant t-shirt-wearing climate.
We were enthralled by the meandering narrow streets, the tuk-tuks heaving themselves up and almost freewheeling down the slopes; the Manalsu River thundering through; the locals and visitors completing a potpourri of audio and visual landscape. We loved the charm of the old and let’s not even mention how much we adored the little shops that lined the hilly slopes. So yes, our acclimatisation was also subtly skewed towards acquainting ourselves with the Indian rupees!
The Trek To Bhrighu Lake Wasn’t Easy After All
Expectedly, it rained all night and through the early morning, leaving Mona and I quite nervous for the slippery climb that lay ahead. Our reservations were not unfounded. We set off from the tiny village of Kulang, scrambling up the slopes and the occasional boulder-hopping crossings across the river. The tricky footwork involved in negotiating the terrain and indeed the altitude gain undoubtedly contributed to the fatigue at the end of the day.
The Ascent, Though Pleasant, Was Long
Once we had overcome the steeper incline, the trek, although marginally easier, was kinder to our beings, particularly our senses. The air was laced with the aroma of pine cones as we remained in the shadow of the alpine forest. The clearings saw distant mountains and valleys behind us, ahead looming trees and flowers dancing in the occasional sunlight. We crossed paths with locals scurrying along with supplies on donkeys, a couple of dogs and, on a couple of occasions we even heard a cow mooing from a distance!
Closer to our base camp at Moridogu, we walked through fields of pink Himalayan balsams that gradually grew taller, at times dwarfing us. It was a good six-hour hike before we arrived at the camp; nestled amidst the flowers and the trees. Evening showers had by then formed a misty curtain over the horizon; the campsite took on an enchanting and even mystical air.
The Beautiful Trek Up To Mystical Bhrigu Lake
Scheduled for an eight-hour day trek, we quickly settled in for the night. The early morning start was a cautious and sure-footed one. The light rainfall through the night rendered the trail muddy and slippery. Mystical Bhrigu Lake is at an elevation of approximately 4,300 metres and promised an arduous ascent. Despite the acclimatisation and daily dosages of Diamox over the last five days, I experienced the occasional breathlessness.
But really, it could well be the view before me that rendered me so. A seemingly endless carpet of wildflowers lay ahead, and behind were the endless mountains that make up this range; snow capped and gloriously outlined against the startling blue skies. Further up horses and sheep were grazing in the meadows, the occasional dog curiously sniffing about. Quite simply idyllic.
The Challenge To Bhrigu Lake
“Oh, a glacier. How thrilling!” I thought.
Quite suddenly a “white sheet” appeared before us. Although the crossing was for a very short distance, I was nervous. Despite the trekking poles, I was thrown off-guard by walking on hard snow. I could barely see into the misty distance and my anxiety took charge.
Three more glacier crossings followed, with scrambles over boulders and the rocky face. I was so intent on safe manoeuvres that I did not realise the mystical Bhrigu Lake was already before me.
The stage seemed set for mystical immersion. The mist hung low at first. We could barely make out the lake except for the water’s edge. In the stillness of the stony air, we gazed silently across, rapt in the serene landscape.
Quite suddenly the mist lifted, revealing the oval lake. The sacred site all the more evident. Maharishi Bhrigu had meditated here more than 10,000 years ago and apparently this is the reason why the lake never freezes completely.
We descended from the mystical Bhrigu Lake and braved the glacier crossings again. The brief meditation and regrouping of strength did little to alleviate my trepidation! However once over, it was gloriously downhill all the way.
The following day’s return trek to Manali was not as beguiling. The occasional showers and mist had followed us down, along with the mud and minor grazes!
No More Hikes For Us, Here’s To Plan B
The schedule for the next day was a hike through Hampta Pass, a crossover trail through the passes on the Pir Panjal range. While Kazu and Hiromi continued, Mona and I decided against a back-to-back hike. And so we schemed and plotted the alternatives.
Our Indian Odyssey had begun.
How We Got Here
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Photo credits: Thank you HimTrek, Masakazu Niwa and Mona Jamaluddin for sharing the beautiful captures.