Woke up this morning with a dream breaking out, a beautiful dream, of just serenity, calm, the chirp of birds, the deep intensity of a forest, the sound of a flowing river and the rain on my tin roof. And I don’t remember dreams. It’s more like meditation, waking up to your soul. And the morning today took me to my memories of travel, back to those places which have left an impact on my persona, definitely with my favorite set of people, my friends, my music (yes of course – it’s a living entity) and me, of course. And without dwelling too much on my almost a HALO EFFECT state of mind I will share with you these gems from Himachal Pradesh, which you have to visit, to give a surge of liveliness to your being.
- KULLU SARAHAN … A.K.A … BAGA SARAUN
Believe it or not, the moment you reach this glade, from a winding uphill journey through a forest of Himalayan cedar and oak, a twelve kilometer offroad trail branching off from Baghipul, you are awestruck. The beauty bestowed by nature on Kullu Sarahan calls to our innocence. The village is off the meadow and options of staying are a HP PWD rest house with two rooms and a guest house owned by a villager with 4 rooms. Trust me, the best is to camp in the open. There is a temple on the meadow dedicated to Shringi the main deity of the region. To get to Kullu Sarahan you travel from Duttnagar (near Rampur, HP, NH 22) and reach Nirmund, from where a winding road through apple orchards will bring you to Baghipul. From Baghipul its a winding offroad of 12kms to Kullu Sarahan. The best season is April to October, though the road might get closed in monsoons, however the situation never lasts. Treks to Bashleo Pass (leading on to Batahad and Gushaini in the vicinity of Great Himalayan National Park) Khanag (below Jalori Pass) Sri Khand Mahadev, have Kullu Sarahan as one of the base camps. Head here for an out of the world camping experience, walks, intrinsic village life, and yes of course they have some great crystal haze.
This is where I fell in love (read – gave myself up to the sound of the forests), wrote a book, composed a song, baked a cake and hola! made a lot of money. Chindi sure is a dream. Its mostly apple country side, lush green and quiet. The mornings here sing a prayer with the birds as chorus and the forests as audience. The afternoons are like memories you would put on a canvas or in words and the nights are calm as a child to sleep. Reached from Tattapani or Chail Chowk near Sunder nagar Chindi is a delight. 88kms from Chail chowk and 130kms from Shimla, Chindi and nearby places have a network of trails which would leave you spellbound. Treks from nearby Bakrote (2kms) lead to Shikari Devi Temple and Janjehli. Karsog and Pangna nearby are also absolute delights. There are a few good options to stay The HP PWD rest house (if you get a booking) is outstanding for its location and old world charm and the Mamleshwar Hotel run by HPTDC is fantastic for its food. There are a few other guest houses amongst them Gopal being a good one. Definitely calls for a weekend stay, Chindi here I come.
- GADAH GUSHAINI
Now there is a Gushaini (on the vestiges of Great Himalayan National Park) in Tirthan valley, and then there’s a Gadah Gushaini, definitely a thicker version of the Gushaini we might know. Rolling meadows, gentle flowing mountain streams, shepherds, pot, trails, and it takes more than just a road to get there! Intention, Destiny, Willingness. A winding road of about 33kms from Jibi (in Seraj Valley, reached from Aut 35kms on Manali Highway) gets you to this marvel in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. There is but one guest house and a HP PWD rest house here for accommodation. Before Gadah Gushaini is Bahu another gem in the area. Awesome walks lead one to Chach Galu (Galu means pass in Mandi dialect) and from there to Jalori pass or Magru Gala (near Janjehli). Now a road connects Gadah Gushaini to Chattri and Janjehli. Be here for a weekend and you will understand what escape means.
Barot takes you to that ‘Once upon a time’ era. Yes, there is a river Uhl, there is a wildlife sanctuary The Nargu wildlife sanctuary, there are awesome trails (bike and hike!) there is trout fish but then There is Barot. Way back in the British times the river Uhl was harnessed for its hydel generation. There is a winch trolley which used to function up till some years ago and used to ferry passengers from Jogindernagar. Well so be it, for everything else the place offers, its the quiet charm and the river Uhl which is Barot’s essence. Approached from a 35 km long winding road from Ghatasni near Jogindernagar (on Mandi Palampur road) Barot opens a world of opportunities for those looking to trek, cycle or just enjoy some time in the outdoors. The road from Barot now goes up to Badagaon from where you can hike to Bara Bhangal (shepherds countryside The Gaddi Land), Rajgundha pass leading to Billing and Bir (Paragliding country). The most classiest accommodation in Barot is the over a century old HP PWD rest house, and then there are basic home stays and guest houses which are neat and clean. Come here to write your own story, when you were in that time capsule. And include Parashar Lake, Bir, Billing and Palampur in your plan.
Janjehli is like a heart beat and it reminds you of those particular lyrics of a Pink Floyd song ‘Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day, you fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way’. Yes officially there is nothing to do in Janjehli, and that nothing depends on what decipher nothing to be. Long walks, Cycling, Forest hikes, Photography are often considered nothing in our modern Go get it lifestyles, and if that is not enough, then getting inspired for a creative pursuit would never find any takers. Janjehli does offer all that nothing. Approached from Chail Chowk and Pandoh (both on the Manali Highway) Janjehli is 45 kms of a very beautiful drive from either side. The road leads towards Chattri which will take you further to Takrasi and further to Khanag and Jalori pass. Numerous hikes embark from Janjehli the most prominent being towards Shikari Devi, Gada Gushaini. Be here to spend some quiet time with yourself. Accommodation options are few with the HP PWD rest house, a HPTDC trekkers hut, but yes again camping out in the open is the best option.
There is only one, non descript, over a hundred year old, HP PWD rest house here for accommodation. Daran is actually a pass perched at 2900mts, on the original (read old) Hindustan Tibet road. The views are commanding and numerous trails and bridle paths ideal for hiking. The natives rever the place for the Saraikoti temple located here. Daranghati is a declared sanctuary and boasts oof a variety of flora and fauna. The best part is getting to Daranghati. From Narkanda (65 kms from Shimla) take the road leading to Baghi. From Baghi its a ridgle line drive through Khadrala, Sungri, Bahli, Taklech and finally a 29 kms uphill offroad to Daranghati. If you cannot find accommodation at the rest house take the outdoors and camp. the road further leads to Mashnu and then Kinnu village and Sarahan, famous for its Bhimakali temple. And yes, be still for at night the sounds you hear in Daranghati will have you spellbound for long.
- KHARA PATHAR
Bang in the middle of Himachal’s apple country, highlighted by a huge egg shaped rock (hence the name) lies the effervescent village of Khara Pathar. 85 kms from Shimla its a very scenic drive to Khara Pathar. The energy of the place is invigorating and definitely, undoubtedly you will find yourself hopping to the numerous trails around, the prominent being the 7kms hike to Giri Ganga, the source of the Giri River, just below the towering Kuppar Peak. Infact the 4 hour climb to Kuppar is rewarding with an expansive wide angle view of the Garhwal and the Kinnaur Himalayas. Accommodation is great at the HPTDC run Giri Ganga Hotel and a few guest houses and rest house. Rohru and Hateshwari temple are 33 and 29kms respectively. Cycling lovers and offroading enthusiasts should head to Reo Ghati for their thrills further leading on to Narkanda, Baghi, Ratnari and Kalbog. Visit here during winters, or the apple blossom season and you will be mesmerised.
- BIJLI MAHADEV
This is the jewel of the Kullu valley, surpassing Kasol anyday. Approached from Kullu a 12 km road will lead to Chansari village from where you climb stairs to reach this heaven. Also approached from Naggar, a jeepable road with some scary cliffs will get you to Bijli Mahadev, Motorcyclists and mountain bikers will love this road. A huge meadow with unsurpassed vistas of the Himalayas greets you upon arrival, and you wish to stay here forever. Its a sacred site and the temple located at the top has a very interesting legend attached to it. In this temple of lightning, it is said that the tall staff attracts the divine blessings in the form of lightning. It is believed that the priest of the temple has to restore the Shiva linga placed inside the temple using butter and sattoo after every lightning as it shatters to pieces with flash of lightning. Perched at 2480 mt the only option is to camp out in the open. Be Here for the light within yourself and see it lighting up.
- LAROT || CHANSHAL
There was no road to Chanshal or Larot until a few years ago. Trekking was the only possibility. Now there is a rest house at Larot and a road that goes past the Chanshal Pass 4600mts into the tribal regions of Dodra and Kwar, twin villages which live and breathe in a time of their own. The only option is to camp out or stay in the few home stays that come up in the recent years. The grand vistas are breathtaking (thats an understatement) and the meadows and slopes of the Chanshal valley are great for skiing, through when does that happen here, we cant say. Trails lead up to Sangla valley and Netwar in the Jaunsar Bawa region of Uttarakhand. I would recommend biking it up, though no matter how you reach, this would remain your into the wild trip for times to come. Larot is 48 kms from Rohru and further up is Chanshal pass.
- PULBAHAL || MONALAG
These two gems, 70kms from Shimla are under the shadow of the tallest mountain of the Shivalik range, The Choordhar 3400mts. Pulbahal and Monalag ae small villages that fall under the Chopal tehsil and are marked by apple orchards, mountain streams and lush green conifer forests. The rest houses of HP PWD and Forest departments are a hark back to the old days of the Dak Bungalows and the best bet for accommodation until unless you want to camp out in the open. Make it a base for your Hike to Choordhar. Come here for a quiet weekend with your favorite book or compose some new tune here.
So as you finish reading this post, I know somewhere the wanderlust is catching up with you. Explore these gems of Himachal Pradesh and discover the joys within (if they are to be discovered)
HAPPY TRAILS (next time around I shall share some more lesser known places in Himachal – Shangarh … it’s calling in the meanwhile)3