The Trip includes places like Chail – Narkanda – Sarahan via Baggi, Sungri, Taklech, Dharanghati, Mashnoo – Chitkul – Kalpa – Tabo – Pin Valley – Kaza – Losar – Kunzum La – Gramphoo – Sissu – Keylong – Baralacha – Udaipur/Trilokinath – Manali – Sairopa – Jalori Pass – Naldehra – Mashobra – Shimla.
It was trip from Kolkata to Chandigarh via flight and then taking a Scorpio for whole trip that picked up from Chandigarh and dropped us at Kalka after 17 days. We took Shatabdi to Delhi and Duronto on next day for coming back to Kolkata.
Start Odo Reading at Chandigarh Airport: 32001
End Odo Reading at Kalka Station : 34203
Total Distance Travelled 2202 km
The initial trip was planned from 19th June to 4th July that needed to prepone by a week round last week of May due to some urgent work that came all of a sudden like a Himalayan Western Disturbance. On one hand it resulted in a complete change in itinerary, air/rail tickets, straight away forfeiting 20% of booking amount with HPTDC Hotels and many uncertainties, on the other hand it gave me much more flexibility and most importantly I got the best possible weather of June 2010, a month that would be remembered for quite long due to some un-seasonal rain, heavy snow and record late in pass openings. On Accommodation front, my only pre-booking were at Narkanda, Sarahan and Chitkul.
As a late riser I do hate early morning flights but Jet Connection at 6.30 in the morning was too lucrative to miss as I could reach Chandigarh Airport by 10.15am and that means utilizing the whole day. Actually reached 15 mins late at 10.30am and found Vinkal (my driver for this trip) was waiting with the 2009 model Scorpio(HP-02A- 2200) just outside the airport. I got some snaps of car and driver before hand and the deal was Rs.2200 per day inclusive of everything. By that time I spoken to the owner and Vinkal for at least 4/5 times and discussed the route and clearly communicated the route I am planning to take, an important thing, one shouldn’t miss if you want a hassle free journey later. There was no advance as I clearly mentioned I won’t pay unless I get a ride in the car 🙂 Ultimately I was so pleased with the Car, I decided to pay 50% on that day and called owner to come to either kandaghat or Kufri to collect it. Reason is few experienced travellers advised me to take the scenic Chail Route if possible. It’s a worth journey through the route bypassing Shimla completely and Chail Palace was a place we really liked except the monkey brigade there. Left Airport around 11.30am, took lunch break at Giani Dhaba, Dharampur for an hour, packed up the Scorpio with dry foods and 6 cans of mineral water 5 ltrs each and with a stoppage at Chail palace for 45mins,some photo stops, finally reached Narkanda round 7.30pm, when sun just sets into the mountains. As a first day of trip, I pre-booked Harsh Villa, Narkanda through HPTDC Website only and if you can tolerate the entrance that is little steep, rest is complete value for money for Rs.550 a day. If possible take a 1st floor room and the Himalayan Vista from Room and attached balcony was awesome. I had some very good snaps from this balcony itself. The guy could bring in dinner/lunch from local restaurants for you without taking any extra charges and suddenly at night with all blankets we feel heavenly after escaping from a pathetic 38 degrees in Kolkata.
Next Day, rather in all subsequent days I made sure that I get up before sun and can start the day with a beautiful sunrise. My alarm was fixed at 5.00 in the morning for next 17 days. Started around 8.00 in the morning for Hatu Peak drive and the road was awesome. Only concern is the temple that is being built there, not sure whether the same serenity would be maintained when the temple would be open for all. PWD RH on Hatu peak is still not operational as there is no electricity there at top. But I wish I could stay a night there sometimes in future, such an awesome location it has. Came back from Hatu peak, strolled around Narkanda and the ski ground was great, a local cricket match was going on there, by the way Cricket seems to be tremendously popular in whole Himachal even in the remotest places. The afternoon was planned for driving to the Thanedar/Kotgarh areas, the apple orchards of Himachal. Nice places all through and finally spending a nice afternoon in Tani Jubbar Lake.
Hatu Peak PWD GH:
Thanedar Apple Orchard of HP:
Sun Down Narkanda:
Kept a close eye on weather as my data card was still working, This was a day when I was planning to take a little off route to reach Sarahan and praying hard for a nice weather. Instead of taking NH22 via Rampur, I chose the route that British people started using to avoid hot Sutlej Valley and later established as a preferred alternative as part of Old Hindustan Tibet Road. The route was from Narkanda to take Baggi, Khadrala, Sungri, Taklech, Dharanghati, Mashnoo to reach Sarahan. The Baggi to Sungri Stretch was extremely rough and surely didn’t get any kind of maintenance for at least a year though buses ply in the section. From Sungri road becomes suddenly better and it was quite good road till 10km ahead of Dharanghati. Dharanghati – Mashnoo was complete offroading through dense forest region, an amazingly charming journey though and from Mashnoo to Sarahan again it’s a well tarred road. The whole section all along goes through higher ridges and utterly devoid of any traffic. You would get awesome vistas with awful roads. We started at 7.30 in morning from Narkanada and reached Sarahan around 4.30 in afternoon. Took a nice lunch break at Taklech and several other breaks in between. Sincere thanks to one of my friend for the idea of this route. Those who are interested can visit Saraikoti Temple from Dharanghati as it’s a divine place I heard. In Sarahan, we had pre-booking at Bhimkali Temple, a wonderful place to stay. In the evening we strolled to visit the Palace and Hawa Ghar on top, a nice place to see the Sarahan valley and in a clear weather you might witness a brilliant sunset over Srikhanda Range.
Colorful villages on the way:
Road To Dharanghati:
Journey through lush green:
The Road towards Sarahan:
Evening in Sarahan:
The day started with a brilliant sunrise over Srikhand. We started around 8.00 in the morning from Sarahan, took a tea break at Jeori, experienced the worst section between Wangtoo and Karcham, SJVN and JP has almost ruined this entire part of NH22 and this region seems to be one of the highest producer of hydro electricity. I wish they could do some justice to the roads and infrastructure of this area as well apart from their business. Felt some relief after entering Baspa Valley but till Kuppa, the road was extremely narrow and the drive was quite scary. Reached Sangla by 12.15pm and took lunch, It’s quite a busy place with lots of hotels and we decided to move ahead until we reach Rakcham. Rakcham is a small village by the side of Baspa. We enjoyed a lot there, spending some nice moments beside Baspa before finally reaching to Chitkul around 3.30pm. Chitkul was simply a divine place and I discovered not only the Data card but also the Airtel Sim stopped working there. BSNL Sim works but without certainty, I found my hotel staffs almost doing acrobatic movements over terrace to catch BSNL signal. After sundown the serenity and cold icy air were hallmark of Chitkul. Probably I would stay longer here next time. We stayed in Hotel Panchali, valley facing first floor room was awesome but this is the place where I had to pay for pre-booking. I paid 1100 while booking from Kolkata and when enquired about rate pretending to be a potential guest, my heart was broken when I heard the guy telling “last price 550 saab, aur kam nehin hoga”. Chitkul is a place that might need pre-booking during puja holidays if mass tourism from Bengal is on, otherwise there are plenty of options unless you venture in an off season.
First Ray of Sun on Srikhand in Morning:
Bhimakali Temple Sarahan:
Hall Mark of Kinnaur:
Posing in front of Camera:
Chitkul From Panchali GH Room: