DAY 1 : CHANDIGARH – SHIMLA – KUFRI – NARKANDA (8,650 Feet)
Finally after months of planning and research the day had come when we flew to Chandigarh to start our road trip to Spiti. We had booked a Go Air Flight from Mumbai to Chandigarh and had booked an Innova for the entire circuit: Chandigarh - Kinnaur - Spiti - Manali - Chandigarh.
We all met at the Mumbai Domestic Airport at 7:15 am for 8:35 am flight. Our flight got half an hour delayed and we landed at Chandigarh at 11:30 am approx. Chandigarh airport has been newly revamped (ground floor for arrival, first floor for departure). We met our driver – Mr. Romi – a lean and tall smiling man, wearing his customary Kinnaur Cap.
Once our luggage was loaded, we were all set to start our EPIC Trip to Kinnaur & Spiti. From Chandigarh Airport we started towards Shimla and it was not long before we saw the beautiful view of the mountain range.
The hills, the clouds were soothing to our eyes. None of us had thought that we will be seeing the mountains within an hour of our landing in Chandigarh. Initially we all were so excited and talking non-stop --- see this.. oh look at that… ahh see that peak… but after the initial excitement subsided we all were quietly admiring the beauty… taking it all in..
We were quite hungry and stopped over at a local dhaba named Shanty Bunty Da Punjabi Dhaba before Shimla for lunch and had our first finger licking dal makhani and naan with loads and loads of butter (Ymmmm... I love north indian food).
Shimla is one of the most popular hill station in Himachal Pradesh (other being Manali) and is a honey moon paradise. We could see mountains being broken in order to make a broader road till Shimla. After Solan, we were welcomed by cool breeze and it had started drizzling. There were times when we were not able to see the mountains as everything was covered with thick clouds.
Since it was a Saturday, many people were making their way to Shimla. Due to that there was heavy traffic and it took us a long time to cross Shimla. It felt as if I was in Mumbai again, just with a better view. Mall Road was packed, with crazy tourists buying everything in sight from Chappals to Jewellery to shawls. Half the traffic is because of tourists busy taking pictures and selfies. Post Shimla towards Kufri, there were hardly any vehicles on the road.
It was at Kufri some 13 Kms from Shimla, where we stopped to have some light snacks and tea. Just when we got out of the car, we realized that it was cold, infact very cold. We all looked for a light sweater or jacket. Once we got hold of some warm clothes we saw the beautiful view near our restaurant.
mountain range, the clouds… it was beautiful. The valley is full of pine and
deodar trees and so dense that you can hardly see the rugged brown colour of
the mountains. We wanted to spend some more time here by just enjoying the view
but then we had to reach Narkanda for our night stay. On our way we noticed
that en route there are so many trees on the mountain that the only colour that
we could see is green. But darkness slowly descended and we couldn’t see much
of the stunning landscape en-route.
|View from Kufri|
By the time we reached Narkanda, it was dark. Our homestay was a little ahead of the main town in a very remote area. During the drive from the main town to our home stay I felt as if I have come to the sets of ‘Twilight’ movie.
is a beautiful location and if you have time you can visit Hatu Mata Temple. We
didn’t have the time and therefore gave it a miss.
|The Beautiful Narkanda|
Narkanda could be a very chilly experience, so keep some woolens handy. The place where we stayed (Hatu Homestay) was in the middle of hills…. And therefore very chilly.. Our rooms were were nice and cozy with a sprawling balcony. The chilly winds compelled us to slip into our warm clothing and our belly was warmed by home cooked food which was simple and delicious.
There is nothing much to do at Narkanda except to relax and enjoy the natural beauty. Btw Narkanda is a skiing resort in winters. Before I realized, I had slipped into a peaceful sleep satisfied with my day.
Dot at 5 am, I opened my eyes. (It’s a mystery how I wake up early at such places without an alarm). I got out of the warm bed to have a look at the mountains in the morning. From the balcony I could see the mountains covered with thick pine trees as if they are wearing a dark green colour robe. The clouds were like a crown on their head. I sat in the balcony for some time appreciating the view and solace.
After a while I went to wake everyone up. Since it was going to be a long day for us on the road and we had decided to stop over at Sarahan to see the Bhimkali Temple, we started our day early.
After a simple bread butter, omelet and tea we hit the road. It was cloudy and little chilly in the morning. After driving for 15-20 kms from Narkanda we saw the first view of River Sutlej. The roads were in good condition and quite scenic, with the mighty river flowing on your left.
Sarahan’s primary attraction is Bhimkali Temple (one of the 51 shakti peeths), dedicated to goddess Bhimkali. Sarahan is a small place but you could find decent accommodation here if you decide to stay overnight and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of this place.
|Bhimkali Temple, Sarahan|
|Inside Bhimkali Temple Compound|
You are not allowed to carry your cameras and mobile phones inside the temple and have to cover your head. You can cover it with any cloth or there are caps (made available by the temple – free of charge) which you can use.
The temple is carved in wood and the doors are made of silver. You have to climb three floors to reach the deity’s worship place. After your visit to the temple, stroll around the compound; appreciate the simplicity and uniqueness of the temple.
yourself with some aloo samosa near the temple… they are delicious.
|Unique architecture of Bhimkali Temple, Sarahan|
Post Sarahan, the road quality deteriorates near Wangtu. At Karcham you will see the huge dam on the river Sutlej. After the dam, there is a bridge where the road bifurcates for Kalpa and Sangla. Take the road to Sangla.
|The Muddy Road|
|The Beautiful way to Sangla|
|Clouds playing with the Mountains|
|View from Sangla|
|Another View from Sangla|
|A Ray of Sun|
|Berinag Temple, Sangla|
|Inside Berinag Temple|
Points to Note:
- Book an Innova or a Xylo for a comfortable travel. As the roads are bad travel in Sumo or Maxx can be cumbersome.
- Although the distance between places (at times) is not far because of the rough terrain it takes a considerable time to go from one place to another. So plan accordingly.
- It is advised to start your day early and reach your destination while it is daylight. Please avoid driving once the sun sets. Driving in dark can be very dangerous.
- Please carry warm clothes including sweater, jacket, cap, mufflers, socks and gloves. Wear shoes and not sandals or chappals.
- Be easy on steps and while walking. Avoid brisk walk or running at high altitudes as the oxygen level is low.
- If you are feeling mountain sickness have chocolate or popcorn. It helps. Make it a point of sipping in water regularly.
- Please don’t litter and maintain the beauty of nature.
- In Narkanda we stayed at Hatu Peak Guesthouse and in Sangla at Prakash Guesthouse. In both the places are rooms are cosy and the food delicious.
- Don't forget to stop over and appreciate the views. After all the journey is as important as the destination.