In a minibus, we head to Kasol, a small village in Himachal Pradesh, in the north of India. As we approach our destination, the landscapes look more and more beautiful. A valley appears, overlooked by palm trees growing on the mountainside. At the end of the day, we arrive in a city invaded by Israeli youth. We are greeted by a Shalom in the Parvati Valley.
Around us, wooden panels on which hand-written scriptures are written in English and Hebrew, inform us of the services offered by travel agencies, the menu of restaurants, and the amenities of hotels. The local guys take care of finding us a lodging, then to reserve it, while we await them, warm, in a restaurant.
While we could taste Israeli specialties, we opt instead for delicious momo accompanied by soup in a tiny Tibetan restaurant. We go the wooden chalet and warm up at the corner of the stove before plunging into the cold beds, under heavy blankets. I am happy to find a little winter in the fresh air of the mountains after living in such heat.
In the morning, we get up very early, buy something to eat on the road, and then leave on a path that, initially, is good. We decide to leave in the direction of the village of Rasol, at over 2500 meters altitude, planning to make a small loop that will make us cross a pass, visit a city that, although alive, seems buried in the past, and finally return to Kasol by another way.
We leave some of our belongings at the hotel, then leave on what we believe to be the right road. After some detours, some doubts, we find our way. We ask hikers and shepherds that we cross how long it will take us to reach the village.
We quickly lose to find ourselves on a path that gets more and more steep. Of course, we did not find it useful to hire the services of a guide. The hike now looks like climbing. Believing I'm still on the right track, I do not let go.
I do not feel dizzy, but rather scared when I realize the emptiness that grew slowly behind me. I continue, on the way to reach the summit of the Himalayas. Then I hear a voice, in the distance. Where are you going? This is not the road to Malana! Come on! Come on! Relieved, we join this camp-step.
Finally, we see the famous marked path, find the steps after already losing a lot of time. We decide to continue our ascent through the forest of which we would like to admire for a long time the imposing trees, the flowers and the roses. A little after noon, at 3 we sit for rest. We see the village of Malana in the distance.
We thought we had covered a good part of the road, maybe half. It will be nothing as the hardest is waiting for us. A farmer tells us that we have five hours left if we go well. We descend into the sparse forest where loggers cut trees, some of which are probably over a hundred years old. We meet shepherds with their flocks, humpback cows, hamlets that we would think straight out of the Middle Ages.
A family wears colorful clothes, which seem traditional. They are surely part of a particular community. They are afraid of us. We must go down to go up again, cross a bridge, and follow the villagers returning from their work. We have been walking for more than twelve hours. I collapse from exhaustion. I am emptied with all my strength. We have barely 500 meters to go.
Women walk in groups. Their heads are covered with a Russian-style scarf, and their ears stretched out by a swarm of silver rings. They carry on the backs of bundles of wood, while men, nothing or not much. They are terrified by our presence, taking a lot of leeway so as not to risk touching us.
When we sit at the edge of the road, but our bags are on the other side, they refuse to pass, asking us first to leave the passage free. They never turn their backs on us. I pretend to touch them when they cry, Do not touch me! Do not touch me! It's fun, and some laugh too. The inhabitants of this village seem particularly superstitious.
A magnificent waterfall adorns the entrance to the village. We see a family guesthouse run by a grandmother and her two daughters-in-law, who are sisters. All come from Kullu, a small town nearby. They are foreign, therefore impure, and so they can receive tourists at home, touch them, eat with them.
The inhabitants of Malana consider themselves pure descendants of Alexander the Great just like the Brokpa and Kalasha people. They do not mix with others. There must be a lot of problems of consanguinity in this village. At the hotel we have nothing to think of. The house is wooden, carved in places. Cabinets are inscribed in the walls.
A corridor makes it possible to isolate the rooms from the fresh air of the mountain. I sleep a little, catch my breath. Then we eat together, on the floor.
After a good night's sleep, we visit the village. The temple is guarded by old sleepy families. There are dozens of deer heads, and animal horns nailed to old panels. The doorway was covered with cow dung. Young men offer hashish. The Malana cream is, it seems, particularly famous in the region, which one would find it even in the coffee shops of Amsterdam.
The little children are happy to see us, and shout Hello! Hello! but the elders are often afraid to approach us. We decide to leave after lunch. It's the world upside down here. Slowly, exceptions emerge, and a young man touched my hand, explaining that he was going to cleanse himself afterwards anyway. Teenagers shout hey, baby! to women tourists.
We head to Jari along the river, and then follow a winding road recently excavated to allow trucks to move. We take a break in a hut held by a Tibetan for the workers with masala chai with spices and cinnamon. We catch a truck, and sit back with the other passengers. It shakes a lot.
If we had walked, this day would have been as exhausting as the previous one, or even more. Jari is far beyond what we thought. There, after buying a bottle of vodka to celebrate our return, we catch a bus to Kasol. The last hike of our trip is over. It will have been one of the most difficult.
We turn to our Canadian and Israeli friends, savoring these last moments in their company, talking, drinking and laughing around the fire. We eat Tibetan food. We talk about Rajasthan. Our fellow travelers often remind us of it, to provoke us.