Chalal is the waypoint to reach Rasol, much higher up in the valley behind so it’s a good place to stop and have a drink before the long hike up. Even if you are not intending to visit Rasol it’s well worth popping over to take a look at what feels a bit like a summer holiday village in Europe.
An easy 30-minute walk from Kasol across the river and through a pine forest, Chalal, a peaceful little village on the terraced open ground which catches the daytime sunshine and looks back down the valley. Little fruit orchards are dotted around and there are signs of active farming everywhere. The Parvati river runs along the edge of the village and the views and atmosphere down at the river’s edge are very special with mists and fog rising up through the trees.
It is in Chalal that you really start to see cannabis plants everywhere, and I really mean everywhere! On every little corner and pathway junction plants shoot upwards and crawl low along the small walls. Almost all the guesthouses seem to have their own mini pot field directly in front of them and where the plants had been harvested, small seedlings were already sprouting up everywhere. Even this late in the season with most of the main fields harvested, the pungent smell of fresh cannabis hangs in the air.
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There is a smattering of guest houses and campsites, and nearer to the river there is now some newer development happening. Food was a little average, but I was only really passing through and I’m sure there are plenty of good options if you take the time to explore more than I did.
I’m here at the start of winter in December so most of the places I am visiting are fairly quiet, Chalal is one of those places that I’m sure is much more buzzing with activity in the summer and harvest seasons.
It’s in Chalal; well technical just outside Kasol past the footbridge that I find my first really nice charas since arriving in the valley. As I was wandering along, I stopped to say hello to a charming older gentleman who was dressed in traditional local attire, a cream coloured round flat topped hat and waistcoat. He explains he is walking from Rasol to visit another village that is having a small festival. I explain that I’m on my way to Rasol and take the opportunity to ask some questions and advice about local customs. He takes a look at me and assures me that I should make it in 2 hours from Chalal and asks me to visit his family house when he returns from the festival.
Just as we are about to part ways, he smiles broadly (which seems to be a local precursor to a discussion about hash) and asks if I would like some Charas that he had made himself. Understanding that this is an amazing chance to buy direct from the source and especially having spent some time talking with him I happily say I would love to and we walk over to a nice rock by the river and sit down. He hands me a small baggie with a what looked like a flat block of hash but on closer inspection, I could see it was actually 9 separate balls that had flattened out slightly in his pocket.
He is very honest and explains that this isn’t cream but mid-grade Charas he made himself and it’s what he is was taking to the festival to smoke. After breaking off 3 of the balls leaving a bit more than 10 grams he asks for 2000 rupees (£25/$35), which, given the back story and the fact that I’m taking from his own stash I’m more than happy to pay. As we part ways he makes me promise to visit his house while I’m up in Rasol and I set off to find somewhere along the river to sit down and enjoy some good local hash.
The Charas is sticky and fresh and the balls don’t want to separate as the resin has pressed together. The balls come from the process of rubbing fresh buds between the hands which slowly leaves a layer of resin, the gentler the rubbing process the higher the quality of the hash but the longer it takes and less is collected. Every couple of hours this layer of resin is collected by pressing a thumb into the palm and continuing until all the resin has transferred to the thumb– the small amount that is gathered is then rolled into a ball and put to one side. Once a number of balls are collected, they are normally combined into a finger shape of more normally in this valley a small disc weighing around 10 grams ready for sale.
The Smoke is rich and fresh, slightly mint tasting, the hash burns to a fine light dust and bubbles slightly when shown the flame of a lighter. The high is nice, not too strong but long-lasting and more of a head high, perfect for walking!
After taking in the stunning view of the Parvati river for a while I set off up the pathways to Rasol and remembering the old man’s advice about 2 hours of walking ahead I feel optimistic that this hike will be easy.