A place hosting no concrete structures whatsoever, a place that is not as far from civilisation, yet makes you feel quite afar, Kutla is the dream-like reality – one of the many, yet lesser known places, that Himachal is home to!
Himachal Pradesh hosts some of the most surreal mountain tops, awe-inspiring boroughs and scintillating secluded towns. However, the most enshrined asset of this state is the beauty that encompasses the lesser known burgs, the hillocks and trails that are, till this date, explored by just a tiny bit of ardent backpackers, and the small villages, that even though many may have heard of, are visited by hardly a handful! Kutla village is one such place – a lesser known hamlet about an hour away from the Tosh village, located at the far end of the Parvati Valley. A place hosting no concrete structures whatsoever, a place that is not as far from civilisation, yet makes you feel quite afar, Kutla is the dream-like reality – one of the many, yet lesser known places, that Himachal is home to!
To be honest, Kutla was not on my list when I chalked down my itinerary to backpack across the Parvati Valley. However, travelling to Kutla started to feel like a possibility when my week long hiatus in the Himachal led me to Tosh village. The intention behind spending a couple days in Tosh was to trek to the renowned Kheerganga, and to visit the nearby villages of Kalga, Pulga and Tulga. Thanks to some quite heavy hiking in and around Kasol earlier that week, I decided to keep it simple, perhaps take a detour for a short while. Having the whole next day with not many plans, I decided to give Kutla a shot, and boy did I know how much I would thank myself for that!
After having breakfast the next day, I started for Kutla. This village is an hour long trek from Tosh, with no other means of accessibility. The hike is an easy one till Tosh Waterfall, a quiet, secluded place, that most people coming to Tosh prefer to visit. Ahead of the waterfall, however, we are talking some serious business. As I was hiking my way up, panting heavily, I could see Tosh disappearing behind the other side of the hill stationing Kutla. What l could see in front, however, was pure, untouched Himalayan beauty. The hike gets steep from the Waterfall onwards. You would not find many people – travellers or locals – on this route, and that’s when I felt the essence of Kutla gradually evading me – the gusto of the Parvati valley coming to a cessation, and the overall abeyance feeling quite intimidating! Thanks to this, most people who decide to take this hike do often feel lost, at times, even confused and vulnerable, constantly looking around to make sure if they are on the right track. I was no different either.
Mountains bring with them an essence of tranquility, an ambience of being a part of something colossal, something coarse, something that paves way to a heedless reverie. On my way to Kutla, I remember feeling quite lost, yet enchanted in a way.
The hike may be just a couple kilometre long, but the transition that it makes from a perfectly engaging Tosh Waterfall – one constantly abuzz with people, not crowded by any means, but always occupied – to the seemingly far-flung and aloof burg of Kutla is quite inveigling! Kutla lies less than two kilometre from the Tosh waterfall, though, the trek was not the easiest one for me; it took me about half an hour to cover this distance. This short but quite exasperating hike runs through several streams of water which ultimately unite with the Tosh River, and feels like the perfect escapade that we often relate with the Parvati valley – the scrupulous projection of perhaps, what Kasol might have looked like before the the wave of commercialisation hit the town.
They say mountains bring with them an essence of tranquility, an ambience of being a part of something colossal, something coarse, something that paves way to a heedless reverie. I remember feeling quite lost, yet enchanted in a way, as I was about half an hour into the trek from the waterfall. I could still hear the Tosh river, it’s gushing waters beneath. The byway took one final right turn around the ridge, and there, I witnessed a true spectacle of what the Himalayas are known to present, much like a tableau, a dream come true!
It is hard to imagine reality this way. It is hard to come to terms that something so raw, so surreal ever exists. Kutla is a text-book example of a place where we often dream of running away to – set amidst the thicket, beneath few of the tallest mountains, with no cell-phone coverage, hardly any people around, and encircled by ample walnut and apple plantations. The village is set at an altitude of roughly 8000 feet, with intermittent mobile phone connectivity. There are a handful small lodges, a couple small shops and cafes – no concrete structures though – that reside in one corner of the plateau. A few fields surrounded by walnut trees, with quite an unending view of apple plantations and pines behind them literally define this small village. Quite awestruck, I went to sit near by a huge rock. The fields were muddy, thanks to the evening rains of the previous day, a local farmer was pruning the apple trees, the coppice around painted by green. On the horizon, I could see the ginormous snow-clad peaks. Moments like these remind you of those old-school poems, the heart-felt songs. Moments like these make you feel gifted, contented and satiated by what nature has to offer!
Kutla presents a true spectacle of what the Himalayas are known to present, much like a tableau, a dream come true! It is a place where getting lost is blissful, where the deep blue silences of the woods take you to a paradigm less explored.
Fortunately, Kutla has managed to stay untouched. There are a few rustic wooden guest houses that one can rent for as less as ₹500 (about 7 USD) per night! There are a handful bucolic cafes too and even though scarce, it is easy to find people here whose principles reverberate with the soul of this place – mostly, solo travellers who enjoy getting lost, the rebels who cherish playing their ukuleles, sitting in one corner of one of these pastoral wooden cafes! After having some coffee, I decided to take a walk around this cloistered settlement. Kutla is a brilliant assortment of sceneries – tall mountains around, green surroundings besides, with no sight of urbanisation. It is a place where getting lost is blissful, the deep blue silences of the woods take you to a paradigm less explored. The experience of getting lost in a realm of such nonchalance could best be described by the words of David Wagner:
No two trees are the same to raven, no two branches are the same to wren; If what a tree or branch does is lost on you, then you are surely lost! Stand still…The forest knows where you are, you must let it find you!
The daily life of villagers here is mostly about tending to cattle, managing the vast walnut and apple plantations and ploughing fields. A few locals that I met here never minded sharing their life, experiences, and food with me. Even though this place is just an hour away from Tosh, life here is much different. While Tosh is heavily commercialised and crowded at times, Kutla, which is equally beautiful, if not more, is hardly known!
After spending a couple hours just roaming around this tiny borough, eating some delightful food in one of the wooden cafes, and all in all, still being in awe of this place, I decided to head back to Tosh. Sometimes, being less known gifts a place with a grace, a semblance of palpability. Not being commercialised is sometimes a blessing in disguise. As I descended on the hike towards Tosh Waterfall, I felt this eerie sensation of having experienced Elysium!
Kutla is indeed blessed to have been left aside by most travellers in the Parvati Valley, for the fact that it is sequestered, is what makes it the gem that it is!
Kutla: The Pensive Hinterland in Parvati Valley; An article by Ankur Deo.