Home > Totternama > Part I – Black Goddess, Pink Blossoms, Yogurt Mountain!!!

Part I – Black Goddess, Pink Blossoms, Yogurt Mountain!!!

The best things in life mostly occur by chance. Take the case of having a child. You never intended it, but it just happened so and you are so much happier for it. At least, for a while. I was never a great believer in chance. Always used to plan, plan and plan. But this journey undertaken solely on the whim; this journey without maps; it made me a lifelong admirer of chance.

We had booked train tickets to Jammu which didn’t get confirmed till the last moment. The prospect of spending 3 idle days in Gurgaon was horrifying. The situation had to be salvaged, somehow. And the route to salvation, as always was Google. We found a blog (www.bushahrtimes.com) which described Chitkul as this outlandish, mesmerizing outpost, somewhere on the Indo-Tibetan border. That was it. That was exactly where we wanted to go. So we packed our bags and through a friend managed two seats on the Delhi-Shimla Volvo bus run by HPTDC. A chance meeting with Dharmender, our bus conductor, at HPTDC office in Janpath Road helped to fix our transport from Shimla to Chitkul. It was as if a benevolent God had ordained it. Verily, Divinum Mysterium.

Well, once we got going, Chitkul became just another destination on the itinerary. Our journey assumed a life of its own and took us to places we had never heard about. It would be overwhelmingly tedious if I narrated it all at one go. So let me divide the post into four parts, based on the four places we spent the night – Sarahan, Chitkul, Kalpa and Shimla.

Sarahan…

6 AM, the bus deposited us at Shimla. Our laconic driver, Kakuji alias Suresh was already waiting at the bus stop with his rickety Tata Sumo. For the next couple of hours we rattled through winding roads criss crossed with shadows of deodar and pine trees, shafted in the eye by a mercilessly bright sun. We passed several quaint towns perched on the hillsides – Sanjoli, Kufri, Fagu, Theog, Matiana –  before reaching Narkanda where we halted for breakfast. An impromptu discussion over Aloo Parantha and hot tea produced sort of a sketchy itinerary. We would halt for the night at Sarahan, midway between Shimla and Chitkul; proceed the next day to Sangla valley and Chitkul, stay overnight; go on to Kalpa the day after, spend the night there and return to Shimla the next day. On paper, it all looked fine. But we had no reservations and little clue as to where we were heading. Achtung Baby? Nope. Blow caution to winds, go with the flow. Give chance a chance!!!

Beyond Narkanda we followed the silted waters of Satluj till Rampur, capital of the erstwhile princely state of Bushahr. This was the last place on the circuit where we would find functional ATMs of most major banks. It was hot, humid, sweaty. As soon as we withdrew cash, we were back on the road. At Jeori we doubled back and began the steep climb towards Sarahan. Along the road were numerous apple orchards in full bloom. Snow covered peaks towered over the turquoise green landscape dappled with pinkish white apple blossoms.

At the HPTDC resort at Sarahan we got a room with a balcony overlooking the Srikhand mountain range. There was a pleasant nip in the air when we went out in the evening. Bhimakali Ji temple dominated the scenery with its intricate woodwork typical of Kinnaur. Inside, we were stripped of camera, watch and all leather (belt, wallet, shoes) before being allowed into the sanctum sanctorum. Thankfully, they allowed us to keep our own skin. A drunkard teetered over the temple entrance; an old lady with an impassive face lost in wrinkles demanded alms and walked away nodding her head when we requested her to pose for a photograph.

The Tragopan pheasantry was closed, so we decided to trek to the monastery in the valley.  The steep trail that sliced through apple orchards beside a gurgling stream ended near a culvert. An old man, intoxicated, hardly able to support himself, asked us for directions to somewhere. We mumbled an apology and excused ourselves. It was getting dark and we were anxious to get back to the hotel. On the way back, the Mouni Baba (“speechless saint?!!!) at the small saffron coloured shrine of a local deity greeted us with a dazzling smile. This sense of complete unquestioned acceptance was something, as city slickers, we were not familiar with. There was no trace of suspicion or distrust. We were there, he was there, the crimson hued snow peaks were there, there was the gradually advancing night sky, and the apple blossoms, falling, falling, at our feet like snow, and the clean, refreshing air.  As the dusk settled over the town a feeling of eternal peace and contentment descended on us.

Morning, we woke to the sound of temple chants mingled with the ruckus set up by ravens. They glided, somersaulted and performed a variety of aerial acrobatics over the valley that spread out and beyond our balcony. Across the valley the mountain sides were still under shadow. Wisps of smoke rose from chimneys down below. A handful of people pottered about. Our dinner had been miserable (Chowmein and Thukpa in a filthy Tibetan shack). We made up for it with a sumptuous breakfast of Poori-Sabzi. 8 AM, as sunlight flooded the valley, we took leave of Sarahan and hit the road to Sangla and Chitkul.

Part II – Chitkul: Click Here, Part III – Kalpa: Click Here, Part IV – Shimla: Click Here

HPTDC
Chanderlok Building
36, Janpath, New Delhi – 110001
Contact: 91-11-23325320, 23324764
Email:
newdelhi@hptdc.in
Web: www.hptdc.gov.in
HPTDC Volvo bus booking can be done from this website 12 hours prior to departure.
Ticket to Shimla – Rs.700 (off season), Rs.760 (season)

HPTDC Hotel Srikhand

Be sure to check out Himachli specialties at the restaurant: Kheroo, Himachli Pulao and the Chef’s special (a wholesome concoction made of mashed potato, corn flakes, fresh milk, coconut and dry fruits).

Koya Ram, the restaurant attendant is especially helpful.

New Himalaya Dhaba (Negi Ka Dhaba)
V P O Narkanda District
Shimla, H.P
Contact: 91-9418042466, 91-1782 – 242426

The Little Chef Restaurant and Hotel
Chuhabagh P.O, Khaneri Tehsil, Rampur Bushahr
Shimal Dist, H.P – 172001
Contact: 91-9882206844, 91-1782-233944
Email:
sharmaumesh_simplicity@rediffmail.com
Web: www.thelittlechef.com
Nice stop over for tea, quick snack and good rest rooms
Rooms are also available

Dharmender, HPTDC Bus Conductor
Contact: 91-9418673290
Amicable, but have great affinity for money. Need to grease his palm for every service rendered.
Handle with care!!

Kakuji AKA Suresh
Contact: 91-9817155355, 9459094355
Monosyllabic, conscientious. Occasionally prone to irritability.
A man you can trust.

HPTDC Brochure – Sarahan

Photo courtesy: Subha Varma

Categories: Totternama

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