We started the day early around 7.30am and headed towards Baralacha in a nice sunny day. Road was excellent in almost all section except couple of water crossing just beyond Keylong and Darcha. We crossed, Jispa, Darcha, saw the new alignment of Manali-Leh highway after Darcha via Zanskar. Entry of vehicle was required at Darcha and it was probably the third place after Sumdo and Losar where we had to do the same formalities. Crossed Patseo and enroute visited a nice and small Dipak Tal with wonderful turquoise color and moved towards Zingzingbar. From here we started a journey of lifetime, I have seen lots of snow in Europe and US but never felt it could be so divine before this. We started getting lost in the middle of snow as we come closer to this famous pass that cuts through Great Himalayan range (Himadri Himalaya), highest east west spread among all the Himalayan ranges. No word could do justice to exactly how we felt for next 2 hours. On the way found almost frozen Surajtal, a treat to eyes. Met an horrendous traffic jam near pass as it’s just one lane road by then and there was no traffic restriction in place that made the chaos. One police bus got stuck in between making it worse and along with that found large number of oil tankers approaching the pass. When pass was only opened to light vehicles, don’t know how these oil tankers were allowed, may be they come under essential service. For the first time probably we enjoyed the traffic jam in life as 95% of tourist were Leh bound and they were really anxious as Sarchu tent was not ready by then, where as we enjoyed every moment stucking in the ice age as we knew we had to start return journey the moment we reached the top and had no hurry to come out of that heaven. On way back we took our lunch at Darcha and then proceeded to Sissu for stay in PWD RH. This is another PWD RH, that one should stay, extremely good location and nice rooms.
The Vista Changes:
Amidst all white:
Towards Baralacha Pass:
Kudos to BRO for a Road like this:
Frozen Suraj Taal:
PWD RH at Sissu, a must stay:
In the morning started for a trek to Sissu Waterfalls, it requires crossing Chandra river over nice bridge and then the waterfalls stream through a precarious bridge with some loose stones and woods. Some very steep ascent and you could see the main falls clearly from very close. Other easier option would be to drive to the helipad below and from helipad you can get a nice view of the falls. We started after breakfast towards Tandi where Chandra meets Bhaga to form Chandrabhaga and flowing westward. Our destinations for the day were Udaipur and Trilokinath in Pattan Valley and found it’s much greener than Lahaul even. Chandrabhaga would be all along with you flowing at your left. In Udaipur Mrikulamata Temple was great with its wooden carving. We took another great lunch in Udaipur and headed for Trilokinath, the Trilokinath location was amazing and probably only temple that has hosts Shiva and Buddha together. If someone plans well, can include a 3 hour trek, one way, to Sat Dhar, a nice meadow from here. Trek towards Bharmor/Manimahesh in Chamba can be taken through Kalicho pass from here. The road was quite good all through except a 10km stretch from Thirot towards Udaipur. This section was one of the worst among all roads I traveled in Himachal including famous Batal Gramphoo. Not sure due to this section or not, on 13th day from start we faced a puncture for first time in trip here. Our stay was scheduled at Gondhla PWD,that itself is in fabulous location but seems not much tourist stay here. Gondhla has no tourist infrastructure and as a result no availability of foods and accommodations here, we found PWD RH even doesn’t have any arrangement for food and finally settled with Veg Chowmin for the night. It was close to full moon and the surroundings of Chandra River with high mountains and lovely valleys in a moonlit night was simply awesome.
Chandra from front and Bhaga from left meets at Tandi and flows as Chandrabhaga towards right:
Pattan Valley is the greenest among all:
Mrikula Devi Temple at Udaipur:
HRTC Bus – Himachal’s Lifeline:
Around 3 in the early morning we realized a sudden change in weather hitting by a severe storm and heavy rains. I realized IMD missed the date by a day as it was 25th when the disturbance was supposed to hit. We didn’t realize much in night that followed by a partly sunny morning with some clouds. We started early as our objective was not to get stuck at Rohtang traffic jam. We hit road by 7.00am and soon after crossing Sissu we found road is completely blocked at Pagal Nallah due to huge slide. We knew about a bypass through a village road to reach Khoksar from BCMT website and easily found out the road after back tracking couple of km. The bypass road was awesomely scenic and we saw Pagal Nalah from top then as 2 dozers were in full service there. Reached Khoksar at 8.30 and took breakfast. Started for Rohtang and found one more slide where we had to wait for 20 mins before it’s cleared and we headed towards Rohtang. After 20 years I saw Rohtang and it’s a complete change and I couldn’t figure out much rather than just lots and lots of people, cars, horses, donkeys and what not. It’s difficult to recognize Rohtang separately from Delhi Pragati Maidan or Kolkata Maidan unless Pir Panjal range used to be there. A classic example of irresponsible mass tourism and surely when Rohtang Tunnel would be ready, Himachal Govt might make it an amusement park with some rides and a good entry fee to generate better revenue. God saves this Pass!! We got stuck in traffic jam as usual and finally reached Manali around 1.30pm and stayed at Ocean Inn. No intention of getting out in Manali as the place was horribly crowded comparing to the heavenly places we came across earlier. We took the rest of the day full rest and weather gone worse to worst as evening approaches, enjoyed the rain from hotels all along. Enjoyed Italy Slovakia match on TV and some tennis as well. The hotel was just inaugurated 2 months back and very new property and we got room for 1400. Food was awfully bad and when we asked the reason, the guy told the restaurant was outsourced, not a compelling alibi though.
Water Falls from Rohtang:
Early morning started for Sairopa and still it was raining heavily. On the way Vinkal did his first mistake of the trip by saying about Kullu Shawl factories and my wife got hell-bent by then to do some shopping that I carefully avoided since beginning. Usually I play with weight/luggage restriction excuses for flight quite well to counter shopping but this time unfortunately we had to return by Train, my last excuse fell flat as it’s clearly written in all corner “Credit Cards Accepted” and all hell broke loose as we entered the factory, in next one hour our luggage counter gone up by three and countless number of times I had to choose between multiple colors and designs, none of them honestly looks attractive to me. Somehow got out the factory and soon found the weather is improving (what a coincidence!!) , taken nice lunch at splendor dhaba just before Aut and crossing Aut tunnel we took left to enter into another heaven. Banjar Valley is surely one of the greenest corner of Himachal. Tirthan, the cleanest river of Himachal starts showing up and we follow the river, take a left before Banjar towards Gushaini, the entrance of Great Himalayan National Park. Before 5 km of Gushaini, we reached Sairopa. The forest RH was awesome, I booked 2 rooms over phone by calling Shamshi range office, for 500 it’s out of the world. You can easily stay for 3/4 days in this ambience and would enjoy every moment of it. Set 3 was best room that somehow range officer allotted us. Gone for small walks near Tirthan and saw many flowers and birds in between. Apples and pears all the way with lush green surroundings and magical Tirthan in front, set a stage that is difficult to forget easily. No cooking in FRH but a nearby shop would serve you delicious dinner, breakfast and lunch at your room.
Tirthan Probably Cleanest River in Himachal:
Sairopa Forest RH, a Must Stay:
Best Place to Read ‘Sahaj Path’:
Woke up early, enjoyed the sunrise and first time I didn’t feel like moving on, it’s an addictive place and I would come back with a long vacation here. Ultimately started at 11.00 in morning (maximum late start in the trip) and proceeded towards Banjar and then towards Jalori pass via Jhibi and Shoja. Nice green surroundings everywhere with tall pine forests in every corner. Shoja end of Jalori is extremely stiff and almost all the way till pass it’s a journey in first gear from Shoja. We proceeded through Khanag, Ani and Luhri and crossing Luhri Bridge, we took the right towards Sunni instead of normal route that goes towards Sainj. This route is shortest to come to Shimla and just follows Sutlej all the ways. We had an invitation for lunch in Vinkal’s native place, Sunni on that day and we enjoyed it fully. It’s nice flat land with lots of farming. Only problem is it’s extremely hot as it’s in valley floor of Sutlej. Through Basantpur, we reached Naldehra in evening and liked a hotel Rock Heaven in Mashobra a few km ahead of Naldehra as we had no intention of staying at Shimla. The hotel was good at 1000 and food was equally good too.
Our last day in heaven, started around noon after lunch as we had to catch Delhi Shatabdi at 5.45 in evening, Had to come to Shimla as I had to pay rest 50% of the Car rental to owner there and then some uneventful moments before we reached Kalka. In Dharampur, we returned the 6 empty cans of 5 ltr water bottle in Gianni Dhaba and got 120 bucks refunded, Just before Kalka it’s always a traffic jam that would eat out some time of yours specially if its a weekend. Anyway we reached well before time and had a good journey back to Delhi. It’s a warm welcome literally to 40 degree from 5 degree.
28th June / 29th June:I had some work there in Delhi, the reason why the trip preponed for a week, completed that, intentionally took ride in a Delhi Private Bus and DTC low floor AC Bus to enjoy the contrast and then finally took Duronto Express from NDLS to reach Kolkata on 29th. It’s a wonderful journey and one of my most memorable trip that ends here.