Sitting in Bharmour during an idle afternoon, I was indulging in one of my favourite pastimes – looking at different places in the vicinity of our current location on Google Maps. I had come to know that the traditional route of the Manimahesh Yatra started from Hadsar which was around 12 kilometres from Bharmour. As I kept scrolling along the road to Hadsar on the map, I saw the very thin outline of a road end abruptly a little distance after Hadsar. Scrolling further ahead, I could see the name Kugti and Kaylong Temple. I wondered if this temple had something to do with Keylong, the administrative centre of the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, which could be seen in the map across the mountains ahead of Kugti. All this created a buzz of interest and I longed to find out more about these new places.
Later in the evening, we met Atul with a few of his friends and acquaintances at the Pool Den of the Bharmour View hotel where we were staying. These guys informed us that Kugti lay deep into the Budhil Valley and was also a heritage village. The Kaylong or Kelang Temple was dedicated to Lord Kartik and the followers of the temple could be easily recognised by the dark pink headgear that they sported. We had seen a few locals in such headgear earlier in the day in Bharmour, and with this latest information, we were better educated about this special attire.
With all the freshly acquired data at hand, Abhishek and I embarked on the drive to Kugti the next day. As we had spent considerable time at the Ghared and Thalla Waterfalls, it was early afternoon by the time we started for Kugti. The road to Hadsar was narrow but covered with tarmac so it was a smooth and fast drive. We saw the Manimahesh Yatra trail go up into the mountains at a wide hairpin bend after Hadsar. We crossed a bridge soon after and then reached another bridge. Across this second bridge, we saw two roads going in either direction. Since cellphone network was erratic, we couldn’t access Google Maps to figure out the direction to Kugti. We just trusted our instincts and took the road on the right.
The road was initially narrow but covered with tarmac and we were pleasantly surprised. We soon reached the spot where fresh tarmac was being laid and after a 15 minute delay, we started driving again. The road ahead was just wide enough for our Swift car to fit in, with a steep drop down the gorge on one side. Moreover we struggled with traction on the loose mud and rocks at a few spots. Even if the thought of turning around crossed our minds, there was no place to actually carry out the manoeuvre. And so we drove along till we reached a wide spot where a lot of vehicles were parked.
We met a young village lad, smartly dressed, sporting a typical Himachali cap, and aptly named “Billu” for his bright cat-eyed gaze. He told us that the road further ahead to Kugti was still under construction while the road till here was built just a year ago. As it was already 3:00 p.m., we unfortunately didn’t have enough time to walk to Kugti village and Kelang Temple. Billu told us about beautiful meadows and various spots for camping higher up the mountain. We also learnt that the Manimahesh Parikrama Yatra starts from Kugti and that the stream flowing in the valley below was Budhil Khud, which becomes the Ravi river after joining another stream at Khadamukh.
And so, while we couldn’t spend much time in and around Kugti, we did capture quite a few photographs which might be of interest … just in case you are planning to explore the area.