(Shimla-Narkanda-Jubbal- Rohru-Chanshal- Chandernahan-Sangla-Chitkul-Rampur-Shimla)
I promised a friend long ago to write about snow covered heavens of Rohru, and he relied on me, considering I belong to the place and would have better insight about it. Today finally, after ages, I am writing down my soul to those mountains.
It all starts here: Shimla.
Journey to beautiful places starts from here. This hilly town was developed by British.
Let’s take a road to upper parts of Shimla. I remember all the curves of this road because I have travelled it a thousand times, to and fro home. Starting from Shimla through Dhali on NH-22 (Hindustan-Tibet Road), crossing through beautiful Hassan Valley and Charabra village we reach at Kufri. Kufri is amongst famous tourist locations. It is easily accessible hill town. One can enjoy skiing in the snow. Going ahead we reach at Theog. Theog has two major diversions. One goes towards Rohru via Chailla, Kotkhai and other goes to Rampur via Narkanda, Nogli.
Route 1: Via Kotkhai (State Highway 10)
It is a down ride to Chailla from Theog. Chaila is on the banks of a small river and a common spot for quick snack and tea break. Next we head towards Kotkhai via Gumma. Kotkhai is a valley rich in delicious apples. Once we reach Kotkhai we start upwards to Kharapathar. Kharapathar is one of the highest places on the route. This place has dense forests and apple orchids. It is one of the coldest places. To reach Kharapathar, we pass through Patti Dhank.
As the name suggests, this is a steep and difficult road to drive through. Earlier only trained drivers could get through it because of small width and deep slope but now with very efforts of road widening, it has become easy to cross it. Once we reach Kharapathar we can see beautiful valleys of Rohru, Jubbal and Kotkhai from atop. This place is often covered in snow. Dense forests of Pine and Deodar and low temperature makes the snow stay longer. On cold winter nights, we can find the road covered with frozen water.
From Kharapathar we have two routes to reach Rohru.
- Turn left and pass through Sheel and Ghat villages reaching Old Jubbal. From there towards Sari Kainchi or from the same route taking a turn from Sheel village towards Baral to Sari Kainchi. The road further heads towards Patsari, where it meets the main road(SH-10). We hit ground here parallel to the level of river Pabbar.
- Take straight road to Jubbal and then to Hatkoti and turn left from there to reach Patsari.
JUBBAL has an ancient Palace called “SHEESH MEHAL” which belonged to Raja Bhagat Chandra till 1951. They were the last rulers and were of Rathour Clan.
To finally reach Rohru(10 kms from Hatkoti).
Hatkori was earlier called Soonpur and was summer palace for Raja Ugar Chand of Sirmoor State in 12 th century. There was a plateau of Soonpur on the right banks of Pabbar. This capital of state got swept away due to heavy rainfall in Giri and Pabbar rivers. Giri river originates from a place called “Giri Ganga” which is nearly 15 kms far from Kharapathar. At Hatkoti, this river joins Pabbar.
Named after the Godess Hateshwari(Durga), this place resides on the river Pabbar. Its architechture is unique and was built in Gupta period. Temple is of Shikhara Style (having wide base but conical on the top) and the idol of the holy Goddess constitutes of eight metals, making it the only temple of such kind in Northern India. It also has a Shiva temple. I suggest, one must stop here and visit the temple and enjoy the quietness and calmness of the place. Sound of river Pabbar is so audible and relaxing. Near river banks, there are several ShivLingas who came through Pabba. Right next to it is a place called Parat, which used be the ruling city of Raja Virat back in the time of Mahabharata. A lots of temples created by Pandavas during their exile can be seen every other kilometer at this place.
Route 2: via Narkanda (NH22)
Take the Right road from Theog and we will reach Narkanda, which is again a beautiful small hill town and a little higher than Shimla and surrounded by Chir and Deodar forests. This valley is also very famous for crunchy and crispy apples. A lot of orchids here are cultivated in Italian varieties of apples. Going a little ahead of Narkanda on NH22, again two routes diverge, one goes to Rampur Bushehar which is NH22 and other one goes to Rohru.
From Narkanda there is a small adventure trek (5kms) to Hatu peak. Situated at 3400 mtrs above sea level, this place has ancient and authenticate temple of Goddess Hatu (Mandodri, wife of Ravana). It has forests of Fir, Spruce, Maple, Aspen and Cedar. From this peak other mountain ranges can be seen. If we climb down to other side of Hatu, we reach near Sungri.
Not taking the trek to Hatu and heading forward from Narkanda, we reach at Sungri by road, from where we can see views of three districts: Shimla, Kinnaur and Kullu. It is a nice stop to have snacks. After Sungri we can head towards Rohru.
Rohru is trade centre for nearly 400-500 villages. It is a little town by river Pabbar. All basic amenities are available at this place. Rohru is land of gods and goddesses and is famous for its Pharai Culture and delicious apples and beautiful women like Preity Zinta (wink).
From here we will head towards Chirgaon town. It is the last tehsil of this part of Shimla District.
From Chirgaon we take a right turn towards Sandasu village to reach Tikri village through Sindasli forests and further to Larot village. Larot is the base to Chanshal. Way from Larot to Chanshal is through Shiladesh(2480 mtr). There is dense forest of Deodar and Pine on the way to Shiladesh. The road is nearly motorable and it is advised to travel in a Power Vehicle(Jeep, SUV). One can also take bicycle or Bike to reach up there. Chanshal is at 12300 ft above sea level, nearly 3.75 kms. Chanshal means “cold”(especially due to snow) in local dialect and why not, when the temperature here never exceeds 20 deg at any season.
There is a lake named “Saru Taal” near chanshal which looks like a plate/Thali. There is no vegetation at this top of peak. Sedimentary rocks can be seen. One can sit there and enjoy cool breeze and beautiful valleys from there. It is a desirable spot for picnics.
To one side of Chanshal, you can see valleys of Chirgaon which eventually turns and leads towards Kinnaur and to the other side we can see the villages Dodra and Kwar, the last villages of HP to be connected by road. It was only in June 2009, the road to Dodra Kwar was built and the bus service started in 2016. Now Dodra is a sub division as well. From Chanshal downwards road to the other side leads to Dodra (again thru dense forests) and from there to Kwar. Both of these share boundary of HP with Uttrakhand.
Earlier when the road to Dodra Kwar was not built thru Chanshal pass, people used to commute by trekking or via Netwar region of Uttrakhand, which is another difficult route as it is way longer than the route thru Chanshal and also road connectivity is less.
Last place with mobile network connectivity: Larot.
It is highly not recommended to visit during rains due to cloud bursting. Suitable place for night stay is at Larot.
One can come back thru Netwar from Dodra Kwar only if you wish to walk really long paths thru mountains. Some parts of there are still not connected by electricity and of course to road as well. This path has deep and dense forest area (Govind Pashu national Park) which certainly is house to a large number of wild animals including leopards, bears, Mirag, Foxes etc and some distinct birds as well. Althogh this path eventually leads to Rupin Pass in UK.
To Chandernahan and Buran Valley:
In order to go to Chandernahan one has to take straight road along the river pabbar to Sandasu, Andhra, Dhamwari to village Tangnu and Janglik. Janglik is where road ends and also there are no further villages beyond this point. Tangnu and Janglik are heritage villages. One can explore really old culture still alive in these villages. It is like time hasn’t travelled for these people. Ancient ways, myths and practices are still in use here. They are at 8000ft elevation. Tangnu village unfortunately turned into ashes in January 2017 due to a fire outbreak. Old wooden houses and the fodder stored for cattle made it impossible to stop the fire.
From Janglik, we start walking towards Dayara thach. Path is moderate and it is parallel to river Pabbar. One can hire a porter from village or from Chirgaon or Rohru.
Last place with mobile network connectivity: Janglik.
This area constitutes of Thaches (meadows / grasslands). People from these villages along with Gaddi people from Kinnaur often resides in these lands with their cattle as these lands are rich in grass and open, wide too. It has Alpine to sub Alpine Flora. Brown oak, Bird cherry, Fir, Spruce, Pine and western Himalayan yew are the trees found on the way. On Dayara Thach one can find Bhojpatra(Betula utilis) whose bark was used for writing Sanskrit scriptures and texts in ancient times. This plant is only found at 4500 mtrs elevation. The only other place where I saw this plant was in Chitkul. I still have a piece of it and it does not show any signs of deterioration even after 13 years.
Nearby village people often leave mules, sheep, cows, oxen and other cattle to gaze here. During summers, Gaddi people walk up the meadows and during winters they return to their homes or to lower parts of HP with their cattle. Dayara thach is perfect to set a camp, cook a meal and rest for night.
Looking up the sky, stars seem to be very clear and very near. From Dayara thach going upwards following the river trail we reach, Litham Thach, which is smaller than Dayara but again other camping site. One should spend a night/ day here because you can see Chandernahan exerting river Pabbar to life right in front of this thach. Looking at it feels like God has beautified these landscapes by Himself. This thach is to the left of river and the origination of pabbar i.e. chandernahan is to the right of the river. It is at 4150 mtrs above sea level. One can return back from there thru the same route to Rohru. Or if you have thirst to trek more, start trekking beyond Chandernahan.
There is a waterfall of about 28 mtrs before it turns to river. This waterfall is called Chandernahan waterfall. Pabbar does not originate from a single spring but it constitutes the water from seven holy lakes (Glacier formed only) which resides quite and calm in the Chandernahan valley. These lakes are greenish in color and surrounded by purple mauve primulas and dwarf rhododendrons. During winters all the lakes remain frozen. It is risky and not recommended to go up there. But during summers half of the lakes melt down while others still remain frozen. The further we move the mesmerizing it becomes.
Each lake is more beautiful to the previous one and holds a larger amount of water than the previous. Sometimes more or less number of lakes may form depending upon the environmental conditions like the amount and time of snowfall and also for how long it stays. But it has been noticed that the seven lakes have been forming for a long number of years and they are also significant to the gods of Rohru.
These lakes are named truly as Chandernahan or The Moon lakes. “Chander” in hindi means “Moon” and “nahan” means “to take bath”. Once again one can witness how these lakes look in moonlight.
Pabbar river joins Tonsh river in Uttrakhand, which further contributes to Yamuna.
Daytime temperature, ranges from 13 deg to 18 deg. and night time from 0 to 7 deg.
Next pass from this place leads to Sangla (in Distt Kinnaur), called as Buran Pass.
After Chandernahan, the difficult trek starts, one might need ropes and other mountaineering equipments to cross through right angled rocky mountains and snow walls. It is pretty much, Slide-Climb way. Nearly after 5 Up-and- Down rides through Buran Ghati (at 15000 ft) and snow walls (formed due to glaciers), you will start a moderate trek towards Sangla. Where there is snow, it is difficult to climb, you need ropeway. And to climb down, you can easily slide. Where there is no snow it is easier to climb up with the help of grip of small plants.
Reaching at village Barua Khas of Sangla Tehsil and 24 kms from Sangla(3450 mtrs, the road (motor road) starts. One can visit the Sangla village, Rakcham village and Chitkul village before heading back. Chitkul is the last residing village of Kinnaur distt and after few kilometers we share a boundary with Tibet. Way to back from Sangla is through Karcham and Wangtu. It is a deadly ride from Sangla to Karcham through spectacular rocky mountains. If you see upwards, you will only see rocks at right angles and if you look downwards, you will see only rocks to the base where one can catch a glimpse of river Satluj. Next stop is Rampur Bushehar.
One can go to visit temple Sarahan near Rampur. This temple is dedicated to Goddess Bhimakali and has a unique architecture. Right beside the temple, there is the palace of Raja Padma Singh, last ruler of Bushehar state (Father of Raja Virbhadra Singh) and at a little distance, there is a Peasantry which houses various birds like Monal and Jujurana. From Rampur, one can head back to Shimla on NH22 or if you have to go to Rohru, you can turn from Nogli to Bahli and then to Rohru.
Both places are open from May to October
Nearest Hospital: Rohru
Nearest motor shop: Chirgaon