Experience it while you can. These words ring in my head as I trace my journey across the Seraj valley and the Karsog valley way back in 1998, just into my early twenties. These are the uncharted interiors of Himachal Pradesh, of districts Kullu and Mandi. Abundance of greenery which flushes out in Monsoon, however in the summer’s carpets of blue Iris beholds your soul. Seeped in rich Pahadi tradition, ancient temples dot the region and local deities are worshipped with fervour. Shikari Devi (dedicated to Kali Goddess) was worshipped by hunters of yore, hence the name, and the roofless temple perched at 3300mts, offers unparalleled views of the Dhauladhars and the Pir Panjal ranges. The trails winding through the Shikari Devi Forest sanctuary are a delight for any Mountain biker or a Motorcycling enthusiast. Hidden gems like Janjehli, Chindi are within the Sanctuary’s periphery. Its rich flora and fauna, lends to it a certain charm, which is best explored on foot or by Mountain Bikes.
Situated 100 kms. from Shimla in Kullu district, the Jalori Pass is far away from the urban rigmarole, in the silent wilderness of the Himalayas where every flower truly enjoys the air it breathes. The seasonal blossoms set the hills on fire in their rich variant hues. Cradled within a yet untouched forest heartland, the Jalori Pass offers Nature’s breathing life – bountiful flora and fauna amidst the pristine solitude of the highlands.
Birds, butterflies and flowers of various hues line the alpine meadows, woods and valleys all along the slopes of Jalori. The fragrance of Lillies, Primulas, Asters, Gentians, Rhododendrons along with various rare herbs and medicinal plants please the senses while the stunning views make a winning snapshot for the camera -friendly. Twittering and gushing forth their songs, a plethora of Himalayan feathered species are annually visited by the Gujjars and Gaddis during spring, which return in the months of October and November. For the adventure seeker, the chance meeting with a wandering leopard, a shy Himalayan black bear or a rare Pine Martin for wildlife lovers adds to the excitement. The forests of Jalori are a tribute to the magnificence of nature.
The Places we visit during the Ride
CHINDI This is where I fell in love, 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.
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.
SHOJA is a synonym for the words idyllic and pristine. This small hamlet, situated just 6kms below Jalori pass at 2600mts is an ideal setting for reading that book, which you have been putting away for months. Made famous by Silk Route (Singer Mohit Chauhan’s first Band), they paid a tribute to the place by writing a song on Shoja. Just as that song, this place is inspiring to say the least. Accommodation option includes a forest rest house and a PWD rest house, 2 guest houses and an expensive village resort run by Banjara. Ideal setting for those forest walks Shoja is an outdoor lovers Shangri La.
A little bit about the Ride
The countryside ride May 20th to May 24th, 2015 || takes you through the back roads and trails of hidden Himachal, deep forests and mountain streams, over the meadows and apple orchards. The ride would start in Shimla with day one exploring around Shimla and its hills. Day 2 we start from Narkanda at 2400mts and descend 1500 mts in 42 kms to start a 11 kms climb to reach a high ridge trail, winding its way through the orchards and we reach our put up point. Ones who have the endurance can attempt the climb to Jalori pass 3300mts and thereafter we camp out at Shoja. Day three takes you through one of the most magnificent valleys in Himachal as we mountain bike through Gadah Gushaini, descend from Chach Galu (means pass) to reach Janjehli. A night well deserved under the stars, camping out in the open, sitting by the bonfire. Day four finds us pedaling deep into the forest and meadows of The Shikari Devi forest sanctuary, cycling through verdant trails with streams flowing by and just the sound of your pedaling, birds and you. We reach Chindi for the night and stay in a comfortable Himachal Tourism Hotel. Day five we pedal 54 kms downhill and flat on a metaled road to reach Tattapani where we celebrate our five days of stupendous riding.
Day Zero Delhi to Shimla
We all meet at Himachal Bhavan located at Safdar Hashmi Marg, adjacent to Mandi House and board the 20:00 hrs Volvo bus to Shimla.
Day One Camp – Sadho Pul – Anandpur – Mehli – Camp
Arrive at Shimla bus station in the morning about 5:30 AM. Received by our representative and transfer by cab to Camp Redwoods a 14 km drive. After refreshing yourself and a filling breakfast we head for our ride for today. Start from the camp and ride 8kms downhill to reach Ashwani Khud. From here its an uphill stretch of 6kms to reach Junga 1700mts. From Junga an 18kms downhill to reach Sadhopul where we eat our lunch. After lunch we head out again in granny gears and climb the steep uphill of 3.5 kms towards Camp Hail Himalayas. The climb is further followed by a Steep climb of 7kms to reach Anandpur. From Anandpur it’s a tarmac road flat, downhill and uphill of 18kms till Mehli and a further downhill of 6 kms to the Camp. We end the day celebrating by a bonfire at the camp and enjoying a hearty dinner over conversation of the next days exciting ride.
Total Distance | 67kms.
Day Two Shimla – Narkanda – Kingal – Luhri – Dalash – Ani – Jalori Pass – Shoja
Let the excitement begin. We depart at sharp 8:00 AM after an early breakfast and board our vehicles for a 65km scenic drive to Narkanda. We disembark at Narkanda and get ready with our bikes. Its an exciting downhill of 29kms on a tarmac road (NH 22) till Kingal. From Kingal we take the offroad downhill and reach Sainj on the banks of the Sutlej river. We further cycle 6kms downhill and reach Luhri. From Luhri the climb begins towards the high perched Dalash (16kms). From Dalash it’s a straight and some uphill climb to reach Ani (21kms). We have our lunch at Ani. Further up is Jalori pass (29kms) and its all an uphill climb. For those who want to attempt the climb should carry forward and for those whose leg muscles have given up are welcome to the comfort of the Support vehicles as we start towards Jalori Pass 3300mts. We stop at Jalori admiring the views and taking some photographs. A very exciting downhill of 6kms through a forest of oak and deodar and a carpet of blue IRIS brings to Shoja and we proceed towards the Forest Rest House where our camp is already Set up. Enjoy the lovely snacks as you relax by the bonfire followed by some exclusive Himachal delights for dinner.
Total Distance | 92 kms till ANI (78 kms downhill 14 kms uphill)
Day Three Shoja – Jibi – Bahu – Gadah Gushaini – Chach Galu – Chattri – Magru Gala – Janjehli
Wake up to a beautiful morning to the sounds of the Khaleej pheasants and the Himalayan Myna and enjoy a hearty spread of Breakfast. At 9:00 AM we get ready with our bikes and take to the caution downhill of 8kms till Jibi. From Jibi we turn left to enter Mandi district followed by a gradual uphill of 10kms till Bahu and then 8 kms of uphill and downhill to reach the breathtakingly beautiful village of Gadah Gushaini. We enjoy a delicious hot lunch by the stream side on the meadow and after lunch start again to slowly approach Chach Galu (3200mts) by the meandering uphill of 9kms. From Chach Galu top it’s a 26 kms off road downhill to reach Chattri. We are still 17kms short of Janjehli, which we pedal to reach through an offroad trail going through the middle of the forest. Reach Janjehli and we check into the trekkers hut where our camp is already set. Enjoy by the Bonfire as our staff dishes out some more dinner delights for you.
Day Four Janjehli – Bagsad – Rajgarh – Sanarli – Shankar Dera – Karsog – Chindi
Janjehli is a paradise. Legend goes that when the British were ruling India they had initially chosen Janjehli to be the Summer capital of India, but as luck would have it, because of its long distance from major cities, Shimla was chosen instead. Good for Janjehli, Good for environment, if we look at the urban commercialisation slowly seeping into our Hill Stations. Start at 9:00 am on the lovely winding road to reach Bagsad, followed by another winding road of 8 kms to reach a junction where the Mile stone reads Shikari Devi. This is the start of the 10kms uphill till Rajgarh, where we have the option of stalling for two hours to climb the 500 stairs to reach Shikari devi temple 3300mts or just continue the ride. This is the pristine Shikari Devi sanctuary and we are passing through a thick forest, through a trail interspersed with streams and meadows to reach Sanarli 10kms and further Shankar Dera 12kms. Another 21 kms of climbing and descending will bring us to Karsog. From Karsog it’s a 12 km climb to reach Chindi, where we check into Himachal Tourism’s Hotel Mamleshwar.
Day Five Chindi – Tattapani – Basantpur – Naldehra – Mashobra – Dhalli – Shimla AND FURTHER TO DELHI
Wake up to a nice morning at your Hotel and after breakfast head out at 9:00 AM. It’s a downhill of 54 kms to reach Tattapani where we finish the ride. Have a hearty lunch at Hotel Hot Springs and relax your self in the Hot Sulphur Spring pool. After lunch we board our vehicles and start towards Naldehra where we sip into some hot tea and snacks and thereafter continue till Shimla bus station, where we board the overnight Volvo to Delhi.