Himachal Pradesh

In the lap of the great Himalayan Ranges lies this mesmerising state of Himachal Pradesh. Possessing an enviable diversity of natural beauty, Himachal Pradesh cradles snow capped mountains, snow fed rivers, dense deodar forests, cultivated terraces and apple orchards within itself. Fondly called as Devbhumi or land of the Gods, this land welcomes visitors to enjoy the natural splendour of Rajgarh Valley, Chail, Great Himalayan National Park and Pin Valley National Park. For a peek into the past, there are historical sites like Sujanpur Tihra and Kangra Fort.
Bird watchers would love the Maharana Pratap Sagar Lake Sanctuary, which attracts multitudes of migratory ducks from the Siberian region during winter months. Himachal Pradesh has pleasant summers and cold winters with snowfall in some places. Many favoured destinations for those who wish to get away from the heat of the plains are the hill stations of Simla, Dalhousie, Kasauli, Manali and Chail.

A trip to Shimla, Himachal Pradesh

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From Sankat Mochan Temple, Tara Devi is 20-25 mins drive depending on the skill of driver. This includes a steep uphill drive of 3 kms. This is a very quiet temple, you won’t find much crowded here except in Navratra or on special occasions. Height of Tara Devi temple is same as of Jakhu Temple; moreover you can see Jakhu Temple from Tara Devi. Temple has close to 100-150 stairs which are hard to climb for the person having breathing or knee problems. Apart from spiritual interest this place has great scenic beauty. We clicked lots of photographs here. After offering our prayers, we asked our driver to take us to some local restaurant for lunch. He took us to a road side dhaba at Shogi where we had Rajma Chawal , which were very tasty.

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Surya in Tent at Sarchu

Ladakh Calling… (Part 2) – Manali to Sarchu

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Next morning I was up @ 05:30 Hrs & dived out of bed to see some positive signs of relief but the scene was frustrating & heart breaking. The conditions were totally overcast with little rain. Few Peaks were not even visible & were fully covered under the mist. On the other side of Bhaga River some mountain tops received fresh snowfall in the night.

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The Great Himachal Circuit – Part 5 : Manali to Delhi Via Shimla

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With green mountains on one side and the beautiful Beas on the other side, we crossed beautiful places like Bhunter, Aut and Pandoh. We halted for sometime at the very beautiful Pandoh Dam on the river Beas. This is basically the end of Beas river with us and it diverts towards Punjab. From there on we reached Mandi in another 1 and half hours. Mandi is a plane area and is not very cold. The sun was really on its peak, but then it’s a lovely small town. There are numerous Dhabas enroute and in one such Dhaba we had our lunch.

Another 30 minutes and we reached Sundernagar. At Sundernagar, we took the Shimla Highway and dropped the excellent Manali Delhi Highway. Sundernagar is also a good small town. Around 4 PM, we had already entered the Shimla District. And again we started climbing up. The roads in Shimla off course not to explain are awesome. It was drizzling slightly and the fog was dense. That was one adventurous journey through the hills.

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Ladakh Calling… (Part 1) – Delhi to Manali

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We started from Shahbad @ around 14:30 Hrs & reached Chandigarh soon without any further break. It was 4:00 in the afternoon & we passed through lot of “Thekas” (Liquor Shops) on the Chandigarh bypass road. Finally, we succumbed to the temptation & stopped at a decent place. Deepak & I happily ordered chilled Beer while Surya, a bit apprehensive for beer-n-ride, was having fun with his chilled Limca. We dozed ourselves quickly & without wasting much time we soon crossed Ropar, Kiratpur Sahib & reached Swarghat. On the way we negotiated well with the heavy traffic spilling out diesel fumes & with all the dust & pollution on our bodies we reached Bilaspur @ 18:30 Hrs. The sun was about to set & we took a small room in the Hotel “LakeView” at Bilaspur. It was time to cheers for successfully completing the 1st day of our ride. Without wasting much time we took out our B.P bumper & sat in the balcony with the lake view. We had good round of discussion & comments on the riding styles & also planned for our next day’s target – Manali.

It was drizzling in the morning & we were keeping our fingers crossed for those high passes on our way. We got up early, dressed ourselves & without having any morning tea or breakfast, which was a regular routine for all of us, we started journey @ 07:00 Hrs.

On our way crossed Bilaspur city & NTPC Koldam site on river Sutlej. By 08:30 Hrs we were dying from hunger & we finally took a halt near a road side dhaba “Evergreen Hotel” for breakfast. We had the best of the possible breakfast available on this route “Gobhi/Aaloo Parantha + lot of Butter with hot tea”. We tanked up our stomachs & thanked the owner for making such tasty fresh “Paranthas” & promised him to come back on our return journey. On the way we crossed some recognized towns like Sundar Nagar, Mandi.

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The Great Himachal Circuit – Part 4 : Kaza to Manali

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Chattru at a height of around 13000 ft, around 17 KM from Gramphu, 32 KM from Rohtang top, and we started around 4:30 from there. Next was Gramphu on way and because of the pebbled roads another 1 hour to reach Gramphu. And lots of small as well as big waterfalls. And lots of nullahs. As we approach towards Rohtang top, greenery starts to appear and the dryness starts to disappear. Lovely view of small waterfalls in distant mountains on the opposite side, makes the journey lovely. In one such waterfall, Lekhram stopped the cab and washed it, while we enjoyed the view of the waterfall, the chilled water and the amazing view.

Once Gramphu is crossed, then starts the steep rise to Rohtang Pass. And oh man, the view is something one can never forget. Just before getting up, there is a route that joins the route we were into. This route is coming directly from Ladakh, the well know Leh-Manali highway. As one rise up, there may be numerous landslide clearances. And stoppages and long traffic snarls can eat up few hours. But all these clearances are very enjoyable.

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The Great Himachal Circuit – Part 3 : Kalpa to Kaza

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It’s a lovely monastery with the monks all around at a height of 12774 ft. specially the view of the spiti valley and the amazing spiti river from that height. The monks are always available to explain you everything about the monasteries. Since the number of tourists in Spiti is always few, you always meet up the same people again and again, and mainly foreigners.
Taking snaps inside the monk is prohibited, so I did not waste the opportunities to take pics from outside and the valley. Spent around half an hour in the monastery, before getting back into the cab.
It took us around another 20-25 minutes to cover this monastery and around 1 PM we got back into the cab. From Dhankar Monastery it took another hour or so to reach Kaza via the Kaza bridge at Shitlong village as I mentioned early in the write-up. Kaza is a lovely small city in the Spiti valley and is the district headquarter at a height of around 11500 ft. By 2PM, we checked in into a hotel after some searching. It was a beautiful hotel, located at a nice location right beside the Kaza monastery. Time was stretching, as we had to cover Kibber also the same day.

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View of mountain range from Himachal Tourism hotel

To the beautiful Kinnaur district in Himachal

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The scenes were becoming increasingly breathtaking and that made me even more eager to reach Chitkul. And boy, is it something! The amazing view of the mountains, waterfalls and the river going along. Twice we came to a point where there was no road, and I had to drive my new Indica vista, 1300 cc engine, through water. What an amazing experience! Beautiful valley, river flowing, and an absolutely divine view of the mountains. The view is imprinted in my mind’s eye forever. That’s how mesmerising it was.

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The Great Himachal Circuit – Part 3 : Kalpa to Tabo

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Time to get up early in the morning to get a view of the awesome Himalayas from the balcony. It was so cloudy all around at 6AM, that hardly anything was visible. With a cup of tea, we started waiting for the fog and cloud to clear up. After that it was cloud moving around with occasional clearances of the mountains. Believe me, its one of the most awesome views as the clouds play around with the kailash range. And with the sun occasionally coming out in between the clouds with clear lights, another lovely worth seeing site.

While we were able to see the Kinnaur kailash easily, we were not able to spot the shiv ling. The hotel staff said, because of the fog we might not be able to view it. It was hidden behind the clouds. But then suddenly, one of the hotel staff said, its visible now. As we saw, the 69 ft height shiv ling was clear visible from that distance not more than 1 inch. But a very beautiful view.

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The Great Himachal Circuit – Part 2 : Shimla to Sangla via Sarahan

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A very important thing about Himachal, is that people are very cooperative and they are very happy with what they are and have. I am writing this because I tour as well as I interact with people over various places, trying to find the differences in the cultures, way of living etc. This is what travelling is all about. I found Himachal people in the remote of the areas to be very well educated (better than what we are in cities) and well behaved. They are clean by heart and they educate their child to be as clean as them.

Soon it was getting dark and we entered the temple which normally opens up after 7PM. Not everywhere inside the temple are cameras and accessories allowed, but there are lockers where they can be kept. So we put our accessories in the lockers and entered the temple. The Bhimakali Temple at Sarahan is quite big and unique in its own way and own beauty. It looks more like a monastery rather than a temple.

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The Great Himachal Circuit Part 1: Reaching Shimla

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In the evening, we started for a small walk up towards the Mall. On the way, The Grand hotel and the Kali Bari are located. So visited all and then finally reached the Mall. We spent around 3 hours in the Mall and Lakkar Bazaar right below the Mall. Took beautiful photographs and had our dinner in a cool restaurant. The Shimla Mall road is a real beauty in the evening, there is no doubt in it.

We got back to our hotel in the same route walking around 9 in the evening. Quickly I called up the cab we booked for the rest of the tour and everything was as per plan. The cab driver was on target for the next day and informed us about the time he would be in.
After this went in for a nice sleep. We had to cover a long and adventurous journey ahead.

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लेह लद्दाख – मनाली – केलोंग – दार्चा – बरालाचा ला – लाचुलुंग ला – पैंग – 3

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यहाँ पर बहुत से सरकारी दफ्तर और सेवाएँ है। एक बड़ा बाज़ार और सड़क से दाएं ओर नीचे बस स्टैंड भी है। यहाँ पर रुकने का पूरा इंतजाम है कई रेस्ट हाउस, सरकारी बंगलो और होटल भी है। केलोंग मे गाड़ी का हवा-पानी टिप-टॉप करने के बाद हम बिना रुके “जिस्पा”, “दार्च” होते हुए “zingzingbar” पहुँच गए। एक बात बता दूं की “zingzingbar” मे भी रात को रुकने का इंतजाम है। अभी दोपहर का समय था तो हमने रुकना ठीक नहीं समझा। ये हमारी बहुत बड़ी भूल थी। इसका ज़िक्र आगे चल कर दूंगा। “zingzingbar” से आगे खड़ी चढाई पार करने के बाद हमने “बारालाचा ला दर्रा” दर्रा पार कर लिया था। इस दर्रे की ऊंचाई 5030 मीटर या 16500 फीट है। यहाँ से लगातार उतरने के बाद हम लोग “भरतपुर” होते हुए “सार्चू” पहुँच गए।

“सार्चू” मे हिमाचल प्रदेश की सीमा समाप्त हो जाती है और जम्मू-कश्मीर की लाद्द्खी सीमा शुरू हो जाती है। यहाँ पर भारतीय सेना का बेस कैंप है और एक पुलिस चेक पोस्ट भी है। चेक पोस्ट पर गाड़ी सड़क के किनारे रोक दी गई। हमारा परमिट चेक किया और रजिस्टर मे दर्ज कर लिया गया। “सार्चू” मे सड़क एक दम सीधी है और गाड़ी की रफ़्तार आराम से 100-120km/h तक पहुँच जाती है। यहाँ पर गाड़ियाँ फर्राटे से दौड़ रहीं थी। तभी क्या देखा एक फिरंगी महिला साइकिल(आजकल तो bike बोलते हैं) पर सवार होते हुए चली आ रही थी। मुझे सड़क पर लेटा हुआ देख वो साइकिल से नीचे उतर गई और पैदल चलने लगी।

हम सब उसको देख कर हैरान हो गए। शायद हरी ने उससे पुछा की अकेले जा रही हो तो risk है। उसने बताया की उसके साथ के और लोग भी पीछे आ रहे हैं। वो और उसके साथी मनाली से लेह साइकिल से ही जाने वाले थे। और उसको आज “सार्चू” मे ही रुकना था। इतने दुर्गम, पथरीले, टूटे-फूटे, चढाई-उतराई, अनिश्चिताओ से भरपूर इलाके मे जहाँ 2.6L की Xylo का भी दम निकल जाता था ये फिरंगी इसको साइकिल से ही पार करने वाले थे। इनके जज़्बे और हिम्मत की तारीफ़ की गई और इनको सलाम बोल कर भोजन की तलाश मे चल दिए।

ठीक से याद नहीं है पर दोपहर के करीब 3 बज रहे थे और भूख लग चुकी थी। यह जगह एक बहुत बड़े समतल मैदान जैसी है। यहाँ पर भी रुकने के लिए बहुत सारे टेंट लगे हुए थे। ये सब देख कर समझ आ गया था की यहाँ के लोग काफी मेहनती है। साल के 6 महीने ही मनाली-लेह हाईवे खुलता है। इन्ही 6 महीनों मे इनकी कमाई होती है और बाकि के 6 महीने तो बर्फ पड़ी रहती है। यहाँ पर लगे एक टेंट खाने का इंतजाम था। हमसे पहले और लोग भी थे तो हमको 10-15 मिनट बाद का टाइम दे दिया गया। इस टाइम का हमने पूरा उपयोग करके फोटो session कर डाला। “सार्चू” मे ली गई कुछ फोटो। जानकारी के लिए बता दूँ यहाँ पर ली गई सारी फोटो मैंने नहीं बल्कि मनोज, हरी और राहुल ने खीचीं हैं।

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लद्दाख यात्रा – > नोएडा – बिलासपुर – मंडी – मनाली

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खेर बहुत बड़ी बला टली और 5 मिनट चलने के बाद “Haveli” आ गयी और हमने गाड़ी पार्किंग में लगा दी। अंकल के साथ गाड़ी का बाहरी निरक्षण किया गया एक भी खरोंच नहीं थी, ऐसा लगा की सारा झटका Xylo के शौकर और कमानियों ने झेल लिया था। अंकल ने कहा की अगर इंजन मे कोई लीकेज होगी तो पता चल जाएगा क्योंकि हम वहां पर 30 मिनट के लिए रुकने वाले थे। हम चारों “Haveli” के अंदर चल दिए, पर अंकल अभी भी गाड़ी के निरक्षण मे लगे हुए थे। इस घटना को याद करते तो पहले तो हम सहम से जाते पर कुछ समय के बाद ये एक मज़ाक का विषय बन चुका था। इसका जिक्र आते ही ज़ोरों की हंसी आती थी क्योंकि अभी तो ट्रिप शुरू ही हुई थी और अंकल तो इसका अंत करने ही वाले थे। आगे के पूरे रास्ते हम यही सोच कर बहुत हँसे थे। हमने यहाँ पर कुछ नहीं खाया। सब फ्रेश होकर गाड़ी के ओर चल पड़े और अंकल से कहा कि अब सीधे रात्री मे भोजन ही करेंगे।

यह सोच कर हम आगे निकल पड़े। अम्बाला से कुछ दूर पहले ही नज़र “Liquor” शॉप पर जा पड़ी। गाड़ी को रुकने का आदेश दिया गया और “Haveli” से पहले हुए कांड का अफ़सोस मनाते हुए मूड बनाया गया। यहीं पर अंकल की एक खासियत का पता चला, ट्रांसपोर्ट लाइन मे होने के बावजूद वो मदिरा का सेवन नहीं करते थे और सुद्ध साकाहारी थे। ये सुनकर हम लोगों की खुशी दुगनी हो गई और हम अपनी बाकि बची हुई यात्रा को लेकर निश्चिंत हो गए थे। आजकल ऐसे ड्राईवर कम ही मिला करते हैं। यहाँ पर थोड़ा टाइम बिताने के बाद हम लोग अम्बाला से पहले ही अंकल ने एक U-Turn ले लिया और बोले की हम जाटवर, बरवाला, रामगढ़ होते हुए पिंजौर पहुँच जाएँगे। हम सबने कहा जैसी आपकी इच्छा “अंकल”। रात के 10 बज चुके थे हमने पिंजौर में रुक कर खाना खाया, अंकल को बोला की गाड़ी मे जो pizza पड़ा है वो ले आओ। अंकल बोले बेटा वो तो मैंने खा लिया है। अंकल के सामने किसी ने कोई आपत्ती नहीं जताई। लेकिन बाद में ये भी एक joke बनके रह गया क्यूंकि अंकल ने बड़े शान से कहा था “में pizza नहीं खाता, हम तो सादी रोटी खाने वाले इंसान हैं”। हम आगे बद्दी, बिलासपुर, सुंदरनगर, मंडी, कुल्लू होते हुए मनाली जाने वाले थे और अंदाजन दोपहर के 12 या 1 बजे तक पहुँचने वाले थे। खाने के सबने सोचा की यहीं रूम लेकर सो जाते हैं। दो-दो का ग्रुप बना कर हम लोग रूम देखने चले गए। रूम रेंट यहाँ पर बहुत ज्यादा था। सिर्फ 5-6 घंटे की ही तो बात थी। क्यूंकि हम अगली सुबह जल्दी ही निकलने वाले थे। होता वही है जो होना होता है, सबने बिना रुके आगे चलने का फ़ैसला किया। यहाँ से थोड़ी देर बाद हम बद्दी पहुँच गए। नालागढ़ के आस-पास ही गाड़ी रुकवा कर चाय पी। अभी भी हमे 255km आगे मनाली तक जा कर 10-सितम्बर की रात वहीं बितानी थी। बद्दी के बाद हम चारों गहरी नींद मे चले गए।

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