Nishant, the holiday activities supervisor at Sterling Resorts, with a Sean Penn smile and soda like effervescence, suggests we take Bamboo Baba’s blessings and gulp from the Vashisht sulphur baths en route to Jogani falls. Cynically, I thought I was subtly being prepared for the hardship that lay ahead on the trek to Jogani falls.
Deserted by his German wife whom he married in Manali, Bamboo Baba, a Japanese national had decided to stay on. His hut barely accommodates a bed and cooking stove where a dutiful disciple cooks and cleans for him, while Bamboo Baba sits outside and smokes his life away in contemplation. Being a suitably unfit city woman I thought I’d take Nishant’s advice and insure myself.
The air was invigorating and I charged ahead. Inhaling the scent of pine and walking under their shade, I began to loosen my grip around my metropolitan self. I was amused by painted arrows on boulders, pointing to cafés in the wilderness, with signs instructing ‘Quiet! Yelling and shouting prohibited!’ and ‘Come back after the winter’.
Soon enough, as the uphill task began, so did my questioning of the purpose of this climb. Between huffing and puffing I was now glancing menacingly at my enthusiastic companions for suggesting this trek. ‘Why the hell did I need to do this?’; ‘ I can’t breathe anymore, I’m dying!’; ‘Why do people have to climb mountains just because they’re there!?; I’d be happier at German bakery right now!’ Rajesh, the dependable and resourceful resort manager at the gold crown Sterling Holidays resort(Manali – White Mist), egged me on ‘Don’t worry, you can do it…. Only 15 minutes more! We’re almost there.’
Nishant butts in, ‘I once had to push a lady all the way up at a 40 degree angle; if she could make it so can you!’ I was incredulous through my panting! Is that supposed to make me feel better!? ‘Come on, breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth, walk in a zig zag way, you’ll feel less tired’ but like Arjun’s focus on the fish eye, I was fixated on the extra pair of knees I’d suddenly grown.
As if to mock me, a lean Labrador accompanied us uninvited, all the way up, jumping spritely over each hurdle while my tongue hung out like one from his species. Though it’s only 3 Kms from Vashisht, Jogani falls is an uphill trek.
As I took a breather, Nishant pointed out the plates in the ground, carved from rock, which wandering mendicants treat as a serai or resting spot, to take a break and eat here. Stunning views of the Pir Panjal and air fresher than a new born began to slowly ease me up. A sense of acceptance overcame me. I felt empowered.
Kullu folk are religious and consider their district to be dev bhoomi, land of the gods. There’s even a facebook page by that name! A multitude of fierce and powerful female deities from the Hindu scriptures are feared and revered here without elaborate temples being dedicated to them; elements of nature are named after them instead, in the belief that their spirits roam free.
Water gushes out from two sides of a jagged mountain edge, much like a sari draped around load bearing shoulders. Amazingly, the rock face also resembles a pharaoh with headgear, drawing curious Egyptians visiting India to this site. Jogani Devi resides here in spirit and is feared and loved. It’s believed that she’s irritated by raucous laughter so one must be quiet, but it’s acceptable to drink and smoke here though.
Valmiki is supposed to have rested here, in a cave at the foot of the falls. Today, foxes find shelter from the cold here. As for me, I capture a distinguishable rainbow on my camera, just where the force of the fall hits the Beas river below.
The views expressed by the author are in her personal capacity.