The weather outside was clear. The evening breeze was cold and my brain was thinking, “it’s almost winter… So what next ?”. I wear a personality that longs to be in the wild but COVID and lockdowns had played their part in being a spoilsport. So when winter 2021 came and the world moved from “revenge travel” to “plain old travel”, I was the first one to get on the wagon and decided to go on a solo adventure.
I was longing for a sight of the mountains and Kareri lake was on my mind because it was the easiest to reach in terms of transportation. Booked bus tickets and ran off to Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh from Delhi. Took a taxi to the quaint Kareri village early morning. Nothing could give you more peace than being in a traditional pahadi homestay, talking to the locals who are yet to see destruction through commercialization. I had the whole day and also left my work laptop at home, so I decided to do some exploring on my own around the village. And ended up descending down a kilometre from the village and found a quiet stream to sit by, soak up the sun and just be present.
Day 2 was trek day. Since I did not get my own camping gear, I had decided to complete the trek in one single day, although I don’t recommend this because I did not have that much time to enjoy the path. Woke up early and when I got out of my room, I was welcomed by cloudy and cold weather with negligible visibility. I was recommended not to go by my Pahadi host, but, you know what they say, when the longing is strong enough, even God comes looking for you. So there I was, started walking from my homestay in Kareri village. My phone showed a biting 3-degree temperature, a weather warning highlighted in red, time was 8:32 am, my hands aching from the chill but my legs feeling strong ready to go all the way.
It took me around an hour through the village to reach “Nauli ka pul” as the locals’ state from where the trek starts. There are 2-3 shops around the bridge and you need to go along the ascending path just beside the bridge. The trek here was covered with overhanging pine, rhododendron and oak trees. I lost my way here twice because of fallen trees obscuring the path. But the beautiful forest kept me going. All the while I was walking alongside the stream which ended up being with me for the whole trek.
At around 10 am, I crossed the stream by jumping around some boulders and entered into a much more dense forest. There were wooden bridges but they were all in a dilapidated condition. The forest pushed me into a small meadow after a short while and the path was pretty much clear after this. It was like walking, all the while the stream brushing off of your trek path. The trail was pretty much defined except the fact that while ascending you may not be able to see it clearly due to huge boulders & stones. By 11:30 am I entered into territory where the temperature dropped steeply and I could see that even the stream was frozen in places where the sunlight couldn’t reach. I became reassured of my path when I came across a few closed dhabas and a Shiva temple. I could see the problems with going solo.
The last part of 4.5 km of the trail was the most difficult because the path was covered in snow and even though my trekking shoes were helping me, I had to tread carefully. I did not want to slip and injure myself since I hadn’t seen another soul along the way. At around 1:06 pm, I reached the top where I could see all of Dhauladhar, Pir Panjal and parts of Kangra valley just melting together into Kareri lake, which was starting to freeze. It started snowing lightly, but the biting cold wind gushing around, made me decide to immediately head down the mountain.
All the shacks and dhabas were closed & there was nobody around. Just me standing at Kareri temple, which is dedicated to Shiva and Shakti. I just automatically bowed down to the temple and the mountains. Thanked them for showing me how minuscule I was.
Just as I started to head down, from nowhere a stray dog joined me along and started following me, and as if it was god sent, the dog, unlike any I have come across, followed me all the way back to base which was around 10 km of descending. 4 hours of descending just flew by. Exceptional Dog, an exceptional day and an exceptional view etched in my memory forever.
A few points to remember :
I stayed at Maan Homestay in Kareri Village. Everyone knows the host Maan Singh so just take a cab and ask around the village.
I did not take any vehicle to the starting point. Just took the beaten path just shooting off of the roadhead in the village. Had to walk 1-2kms extra due to this.
The very definition of adventure for me is to be alone and just be crazy in whatever you do. However, I do not recommend going solo especially if you have zero experience of hiking in the Himalayas or you are physically unfit.