Friday, 12 August 2016

Chandigarh – Narkanda – Sarahan – Sangla (8,900 Ft)

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.


View from Kufri
View from Kufri
The 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.

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.


Narkanda
The Beautiful Narkanda
Narkanda 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.

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.

DAY 2 - NARKANDA- RAMPUR- SARAHAN- WANGTOO- SANGLA (8,900 Feet)

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
Bhimkali Temple, Sarahan



Inside Bhimkali Temple Compound
Inside Bhimkali Temple Compound
At the vicinity of the temple you will get to see the green carpeted mountains and in the middle of these mountains will be equally beautiful temple of Goddess Kali. The temple is made in a unique style with wood and is simple amazing.

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.


Unique architecture of Bhimkali Temple, Sarahan
Unique architecture of Bhimkali Temple, Sarahan
Treat yourself with some aloo samosa near the temple… they are delicious.

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.


Muddy Road
The Muddy Road


Picturesque Journey 
After a few kms uphill you will enter the beautiful Sangla Valley. The drive from Karcham to Sangla is very scenic. The road is surrounded by think forest slopes offering lovely views of the high mountains. You will feel the drop in the temperature and Baspa River flowing along with you.


The Beautiful way to Sangla
The Beautiful way to Sangla

Enroute Sangla
Enroute Sangla
Sangla is a big town and has several guest houses available. We stayed over at Prakash Guesthouse – the rooms were spacious, hill facing and hot water was available. A tip – have your bath whenever the hot water is available, as power goes often, hence there is no guarantee of 24 hours hot water.


Clouds playing with the Mountains
Clouds playing with the Mountains

View from Sangla

Another View from Sangla
Another View from Sangla

A Ray of Sun
A Ray of Sun
Sangla is located at a picturesque location and has Berinag Temple and Kamru Fort as attraction. At Sangla, if you are lucky with the sky being clear you can have a marvelous view of Kinner Kailash, a mountain sacred to Hindus. It was evening by the time we reached Sangla. After resting for an hour we headed to Nages Temple. It was a twenty mins walk from our guesthouse – in between which we saw the hide and seek of hills and clouds. 

Berinag Temple is again a temple in wood and has a Buddha Temple also in its compound. It’s a beautiful and ancient piece of architecture which will make you feel at peace. We saw some localities at the temple who had come to relax in the evening and catch up with each other. 


Berinag Temple, Sangla
Berinag Temple, Sangla
Inside Berinag Temple
Inside Berinag Temple
By the time we had reached the temple, the inner sanctum doors were closed. The temple closes by 7-7:30 pm, so make sure you reach before then. Since it was already getting dark we decided to head back to our hotel.

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.