With Kasol on one end of Parvati Valley, and the village of Tosh on the other, I had a few of the tiny settlements to explore in between. Kalga, Pulga and Tulga are all located between the two, a short distance from each other, but on the opposite side of the river.
I chose to visit Pulga quite randomly. I’d heard the same praises being sung of all the villages here – great views, friendly locals, international cuisine. I’d already spent a week in this part of Himachal Pradesh and can vouch for the views. They are, without question, beautiful beyond imagination.
GETTING TO PULGA
The last bus stop in Parvati Valley is Bashaini, and from here, one can trek to any of the villages. While driving your own vehicle will take you to the entrance of Tosh, at Pulga, you will need to cross to the other side of the valley, park at the base of the hill and commence a 30-40 minute trek. Crossing the bridge and that led to the other side was just the start of the thrilling experience! Since it was the monsoons and the river was fierce, clouds of silver spray were forced upwards, intense enough to drench a person in minutes! It was so much fun to drive through!
As someone who hates trekking, I can say that I really enjoyed this trek to Pulga! It was a painless journey, and except for a few meters of uphill climb at the beginning, the wide pathway slopes up so gently that you don’t even feel it! Somewhere in the middle, we were stopped by locals who told us that portions of the hill ahead were being blown up by dynamite, and to wait until we had the signal to proceed. Sure enough, loud explosions, throws of mud in the air and birds rising to the sky confirmed this. As we walked ahead, we passed by land excavators that were clearing out the debris.
I believe that this trek is the reason why Pulga remains relatively untouched by commercialization. While Tosh and Kasol are easily accessible by vehicles, the others are open to only the adventurous. But seeing the road being built in front of my eyes, I can’t say how long this hamlet can hold on to its charm.
Pulga is unexpectedly colourful! Bright coloured houses outnumber the traditional mud-and-wood ones, and much to my delight, there was an abundance of graffiti! A traditional ‘machan’ was the most interesting structure in the village – and while I saw one in the Himalayan Village, a luxury resort, seeing one in an actual village in the mountains was enchanting!
My walks around Pulga were always fascinating. I’d cross Hebrew speaking tourists sitting and enjoying a spell of sunshine, and walk under a house on stilts to hear ladies speaking in their Pahari dialect in the room above me. Knee-high walls made by stacking huge flat rocks on top of each other had kids playing on the other side; and in bigger spaces, locals enjoyed a game of volleyball. There were only 2-3 shops in the village and each looked like a tiny hut from the outside, but had everything from toilet paper to gummy bears for sale!
I found there to be excellent phone and internet connectivity at Pulga, and digital nomads can get a lot of work done here. The cafes here have a lazy vibe and sitting in one of them for hours to get work done makes them interesting office spaces with enviable views, albeit smokey ones thanks to the stoners.
One of the must-do things in Pulga is taking a walk in Fairy Forest, or camping in there, if that’s what you fancy. True to it’s name, the forest is magical and walking into it is like stepping into another world. The massive deodar trees appear as if they touch the clouds, and on a sunny day, the light filters through, down the branches, bouncing off the raindrops on leaves and creating little patches of light on the mossy forest floor. Romantic trysts with nature in this modern day are precious, and the last time I had one was while watching a thousand fireflies in Bhandardara. This experience didn’t fall far behind!
WHERE TO STAY IN PULGA
The guesthouses in Pulga are fewer in number as compared to Tosh and Kasol, and finding accommodation during the off-season is easy. There are a couple of hostels and a dozen guesthouses to choose from. It is better to visit Pulga and then look for accommodation as you can personally see the room before you book. Also, many of the homestays are not listed online. Since Pulga is a tiny village and can be walked through in under 15 minutes, this is an easy task. The central part of the village has older houses, many of which rest on stilts, while the new 2 and 3 storey guesthouses are towards the border.
I chose Marigold Hotel as it looked like a new establishment, and it was among the best stay experience as compared to all others in Parvati Valley. Marigold has a choice of rooms – with view and without – and the price ranges from 1000 to 1800 or so, a tad overpriced, but a comfortable option. The room comes with a TV and a balcony (if you pay for them), a comfy double bed with clean blankets and a modern bathroom with ventilation (it’s hard to get ventilated bathrooms in this part of the state!) Marigold Guesthouse in Pulga also has its own restaurant, so you can dine there or order room service. Again, it is pricey for such stingy quantities, but the food is really good. The guesthouse lies right at the start of the famous Fairy Forest, offering it a picturesque backdrop. This was the view from my balcony:
WHERE TO EAT IN PULGA
You’ll walk past a bunch of cafes and restaurants in Pulga, some better-looking than others. A few names that I remember now include Koala (I found out later it was a café, my first impression was that of a toddlers crèche), Baba’s Café, Fairy Café, and the ever-popular Boom Shankar Café. Most of the restaurants cater to foreign tastes more than Indian, but if you like experimenting with food, you can get some pretty amazing Israeli cuisine here! I thoroughly enjoyed the Sabich (hummus, fried potato and brinjal stuffed in a pita bread) at Fairy Café. The folks at Boom Shankar started giving me a warm welcome every time I visited, since they had all been to Goa several times already. While the service is slow here, the ambience and feel of the café is so calm, you wouldn’t mind waiting. The food is made from scratch and when they served me my banana shake after 1 hour of ordering it, the waiter proudly proclaimed “ghee hain, Madam!” (as good as ghee)