Monsoon Trekking Isn't Such a Bad Idea

The common wisdom says that multi-day camping treks in the Himalayas are best done in any season but the monsoon. But common wisdom says a lot of things that I've chosen to ignore throughout my life and travels. Mountainsides covered in wildflowers, brooding skies, enveloping mist and the occasional, exciting valley views when the clouds parted encouraged me along the four-day Naggar to Malana trek in India's Himachal Pradesh.

The Chanderkani Pass, 3700 meters, connects the Kullu Valley to the Malana Valley. Many towns dotted around the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh--such as Manali, Naggar and Shimla--are firmly on the tourist trail. Domestic Indian and international visitors are attracted by the cooler summers up in the mountains, while the plains are sizzling. But the small village of Malana has long been isolated from its neighbours. It has only become more accessible in the last few years, with the construction of a road from the Parvati Valley. The inhabitants of Malana remain secretive, and stick to their traditions fiercely.

The Chanderkani Pass, 3700 meters, connects the Kullu Valley to the Malana Valley. Many towns dotted around the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh--such as Manali, Naggar and Shimla--are firmly on the tourist trail. Domestic Indian and international visitors are attracted by the cooler summers up in the mountains, while the plains are sizzling. But the small village of Malana has long been isolated from its neighbours. It has only become more accessible in the last few years, with the construction of a road from the Parvati Valley. The inhabitants of Malana remain secretive, and stick to their traditions fiercely.

The Hindu temple at the top of the Chanderkani Pass, where trekkers pray for a safe journey. Although Hindu temples are lower elevations are usually more decorative, at the top of the pass simplicity rules. Pieces of coloured fabric are tied around these stones, and offerings of flowers picked along the path are made to the gods watching over the mountain.

The Hindu temple at the top of the Chanderkani Pass, where trekkers pray for a safe journey. Although Hindu temples are lower elevations are usually more decorative, at the top of the pass simplicity rules. Pieces of coloured fabric are tied around these stones, and offerings of flowers picked along the path are made to the gods watching over the mountain.

The rolling green of the Himachali mountains are dotted with wildflowers in the rainy season. A highlight of the third day of the trek was walking through a hillside field of pink snapdragons higher than my head, that was buzzing loudly from all of the bees dipping in and out of the dragons' open mouths.

The rolling green of the Himachali mountains are dotted with wildflowers in the rainy season. A highlight of the third day of the trek was walking through a hillside field of pink snapdragons higher than my head, that was buzzing loudly from all of the bees dipping in and out of the dragons' open mouths.

Below, in the far distance, is the road through the Malana Valley. It took the best part of two days to descend to it, down a treacherously steep path. The Naggar to Malana trek is usually called 'strenuous', and I thought this was an overstatement until I reached this path on the third day. The four hour descent from this point to Malana is very challenging.

Below, in the far distance, is the road through the Malana Valley. It took the best part of two days to descend to it, down a treacherously steep path. The Naggar to Malana trek is usually called 'strenuous', and I thought this was an overstatement until I reached this path on the third day. The four hour descent from this point to Malana is very challenging.

In the distance, the Malana Valley meets the larger Parvati Valley. The hydropower plant, seen here, has brought well-made roads to the Malana Valley, and made it much easier for daytrippers to visit Malana town. Malana is said to produce the best marijuana in the whole world, so many people stay longer than a day.

In the distance, the Malana Valley meets the larger Parvati Valley. The hydropower plant, seen here, has brought well-made roads to the Malana Valley, and made it much easier for daytrippers to visit Malana town. Malana is said to produce the best marijuana in the whole world, so many people stay longer than a day.

The isolated village of Malana practices an extreme form of untouchability - all outsiders are considered unclean, and touching anything in the village provokes a strictly-enforced Rs 2500 fine. Photographing scenes such as this is permitted, but photographing the carved wooden temples in the centre of the small town would also attract the fine.

The isolated village of Malana practices an extreme form of untouchability - all outsiders are considered unclean, and touching anything in the village provokes a strictly-enforced Rs 2500 fine. Photographing scenes such as this is permitted, but photographing the carved wooden temples in the centre of the small town would also attract the fine.

At the end of the four-day trek, the Malana Valley opens out into the Parvati Valley, replete with power lines, a bus service and more expansive views.

At the end of the four-day trek, the Malana Valley opens out into the Parvati Valley, replete with power lines, a bus service and more expansive views.


Photos by author.

Elen Turner is a Kathmandu-based writer and editor, with plans to divide her time between Nepal and India. She's into good literature, street art, white-water rafting and pretty Indian textiles. Her personal blog focuses on travel in South Asia: www.wildernessmetropolis.com