Barot, bordering the Nargu sanctuary, on the banks of the Uhl river, is a remote valley (not so remote after the road connection) in an idyllic setting. The Uhl is harnessed for electricity and not so long ago Barot was also popular for ‘winch trolley’ used for transportation from Jogindernagar. The winch trolley now only becomes operational upon coaxing some officers for considering a special request for granting permissions. Numerous day hikes in the sanctuary and nearby spots for angling (rainbow trout), Barot is an ideal weekend getaway, though there is much more to this ideal escape than just this. The heritage PWD rest house is a marvel of yore and there are other clean and simple bed and breakfast establishments that have mushroomed in the not so near past to accommodate the rush of tourists. Barot used to serve as the base for starting the expedition style trek over the Bara Bhangal to Kullu, which has now shifted to Baragran, not so far away by road. A day’s excursion to Lohardi is recommended and so are short (4-5 hrs) hikes to the park, notably Poling. On the way to Barot, perched amidst the ‘Deodars’ (The tree of the gods – Himalayan Cedar) is Jhatingri, where the hike to Sholidhar top is recommended for it’s 360 degrees view of the Dhauladhar’s and nearby attractions like Barot, Rajgundha, Billing and Bir.
Here is something we wrote about Barot in another article
“It’s been over 12 times now that I have traveled to Barot and every memory of the place still resonates. There is something which makes me go back to those forests again and again. It could be the sound of the river, the smell of the deodar trees, the sights of the village and simple mountain life, the touch of the ice cold water, the taste of the trout of the Uhl river, all my senses bathing in the purity and serenity of Barot, a small village on the banks of the River Uhl, within walking distance of the Nargu wildlife sanctuary.
They say that traveling is the cure to most of our eccentricities and phobias. I cannot say about eccentricities, however surely I can understand phobias. Candidly sharing, I get scared in cars/jeeps, motorcycles while traveling on roads with scary cliffs hanging on the side, and somehow strangely I can never get over this phobia. There have been two or three instances when I have actually managed to jump out of the car door, with the driver braking in utter dismay coupled with confusion and disgust. I sheepishly admit to those moments. The drive to Barot was one of them. Not that it is dangerous or scary, however my habit of pressing my brake foot hard in my navigator seat looking at the cliffs and distant mountains got the better of me and when we pulled over to the cliff side embankment to take some photographs I jumped out of the car thinking we had rolled over. I ignored that moment and just giggled, knowing I had just fooled myself again. The road to Barot branches off at Ghatasni on the Mandi – Jogindernagar road. It climbs for the first 14 odd kilometers through small villages and forests of Chir pine overlooking the Jogindernagar and Kangra valleys. And suddenly, the Chir pine is replaced by Deodars (Himalayan Cedar). It happens so suddenly that we do not realise it’s time to take out a warm summer jacket, and enjoy the fresh breeze blowing through the Deodars. That could also be one of the reasons I keep going back to Barot. When we were being raised as kids in Shimla, I often heard one uncle say about the constant charm of Shimla. “It’s the Deodars” he used to remark with his eyes looking up at the forest cover “They keep calling you back to their fold”. So driving through the forest, ascending on a narrow road we reach Jhatingiri, a small village on the road to Barot. It’s good to take a break here for a warm chai uplifting your spirits and enjoying a short walk. The locals inform us of two Palaces which used to be here some years ago now defunct. However the palaces didnt matter as long as we were told of a nice walk into the woods. The path is used by locals to descend to Ghatasni and takes about an hour and half. I decided to walk some part of it and yes it was great. A singletrack meandering through a forest, some 7 kms and perfect for mountain biking. With these thoughts I turned back. For the adventure lover and for those who love driving in the mountains; the drive from Jhatingiri to Barot is a thrill. Cliffs hanging, the road descending, the river Uhl flowing about 1500 feet below, I chose to turn the music off and concentrate on the road. We descend to reach the bottom of the valley and start our ascent again. Here one road branches off to Tikken and Barot is very near. We can see the first glimpses of the Nargu Wildlife sanctuary and even though it is late afternoon, the forest cover being thick, only some rays of the sun get by on the road. We continue on the road and I put my music back, the curves and the trees rolling by in perfect unison to the rhythm of the music.
Barot is an Idyllic setting. Sometimes it reminds me of Children paintings – Mountains, Sun, A river, Forest and a house. Yes, Barot defines that innocence. Mainstream tourism has not yet made inroads here; a blessing! and there are just a few options to stay. The PWD rest house is remarkable and other options include a few home stays, a forest rest house and a few guest houses. The river Uhl has trout in its waters and there is even a Trout farm in Barot. The locals will cook Trout – Mandi style and trust me, it’s delicious. Barot is also known for the winch trolley. Now no longer in use, the haulage trolley in old times used to ferry people from Jogindernagar to Barot over the mountains in just a matter of hour and a half. The total distance of 40kms from Jogindernagar covered in just 12 over the Haulage trolley. The winch was a part of the Shannon power project commissioned by the British Col Betty in 1924.
Barot is also the gateway to The Nargu wildlife sanctuary, home to the Himalayan wild cat, leopards, ghoral, black bear and the state bird of Himachal the western tragopan or Monal. On a certain visit in October 2012 we had run into a pair of Leopard cubs right in the middle of the drive to Barot. We halted to see what they would do, and there it was; their mother staring right into us through the windshield. We quietly rolled up the windows and waited our hair already on its strands and behold! in a matter of just a few seconds the family vanished into the forest. A visit to the sanctuary is worth it and spending a few days there will certainly take the city life out of your system. You can hike up to Thaltukhod and Silbadhwan and stay at these places.
The road further up Barot leads to Baragram in the Chotta Bangal valley. Treks from here lead to Rajgundha pass from where one can hike to Billing, famous for Paragliding. These are the remotest corners of Himachal and the natural beauty is unspoilt, perfect for a quiet getaway. The more adventurous and having more time can hike over the Bara Bhangal valleys to Kullu. There is also a high altitude panoramic lake at an height of 14000 (4150m) feet known as Dianasur lake where holy journeys are started during August and September. Lord Hanuman is believed to have stopped over this place while killing an evil witch. The route to this lake requires a little experience in trekking.
As I write this I am already buzzing with so many memories of the place. I am sure one of these days I am going to head out again towards Barot and lose myself completely within me, may try and write a song this time or may simply sit on a rock by the river and soak in the sunshine, or even possibly go into the forest and put life together in tune with the song of the birds”.
Back to detailing out the trek we are talking about here and so here is a sample itinerary we can follow.
Arrive in Barot from where ever you are. Ideal to arrive by noon and after settling down make a short road trip to Lohardi or go about for a short couple of hours walk into the sanctuary. Depending on where you are staying, and if you partake fish, do not miss the trout here, cooked in local style. It will be a gentle reminder forever of good food.
Journey the scenic drive to Baragran. This is the base village for many treks in the region, Bada Bhangal, Dianasur Lake and the one which we are writing about. The walk starts from where the road ends and follows past the village into the forests. It’s not a walk where when one is pressed for time, it’s more like you are intent upon arriving, lets savor this moment and soak in the essence of the natural beauty. Not long before reach Rajgundha pass and set up camp by early afternoon. Worth exploring and a must do is the walk from Rajgundha to Palachak, rolling meadows country. Meander about and by late afternoon or early evening return back to the comfort of your camp.
Another climb awaits us, as we bid adieu to Rajgundha and make way towards Billing. Billing is touted as one of the best take off sites for Paragliding in the world and a world cup takes place here every fall. We reach the meadows of Billing in about 3 hours of relaxed walking. If you are inclined, it’s just about 20 minutes of flying down like a bird to Bir, at the base of Billing. By road the same is 18kms. Another place worth exploring nearby Bir is Dumehar village, made famous for its boutique home stays and fine art leanings of its inhabitants. However the ideal way to make the most of the short trip would be to travel by road towards Jhatingiri again and climb up and stay at the most beautiful homestay on Sholidhar top.
Options Galore! Palampur is very near, famous for its tea gardens and the majestic views of Dhauladhars. Or you could drive further up to Dharamshala and visit Mcleodganj. The more enthusiastic could look at driving up to Kareri village and hiking up to Kareri Lake or even further to Lamdal or Minkiani pass. I am just trying to lure you into options, if you are not inclined, just make your way back home and soak in the moments of your Rajgundha pass trek.