Chail-Narkanda-Hatu Peak trip part 1

Delhi Summer makes me wonder if we are being punished for our bad karma or is it God’s way of building patience and tolerance in human beings. Whatever the reason, it makes me run to the hills frequently. So, after spending four days at Nainital in last week of May with family, I was ready for another trip.
The destination chosen this time was Hatu peak, Narkanda. Mahesh (my friend and colleague) and I wanted to avoid driving all the way to Narkanda in a single day and Shimla is not exactly a hill station any more so Chail was promptly selected as our stop for first day. I visited Chail in 2004 with my wife and loved the place. It’s a small hill station near Shimla and most people prefer to visit Chail for a few hours while staying in Shimla.

Destination decided, now came the question of where to stay. It was a no brainer since the Palace in Chail and HPTDC’s Hatu in Narkanda are the best places to stay in these towns respectively. We went to HPTDCs site to book the hotels but did not factor in the peak season effect. There was no room available in The Hatu and only the expensive types available in The Palace. The tariffs at Palace hotel have been hiked sharply and I realized that the room I got for Rs 1600 in 2004 was now 5000+taxes. Since this was going be a trip without the family, we decided to behave like true travellers and leave without any booking.

Day1 – 18 June 2010
Mahesh landed at my home in Delhi’s I.P. Extn. At 5:45 AM and we started at 6 AM for Chail. We crossed the Delhi bypass at 6:30 and the first stop was at Jeevan Dhaba near Chandigarh expressway toll booth at 10:30 AM. Except for a few diversions for widening of the roads and lots of dust in the Panipat-Karnal stretch, it was a smooth ride. The breakfast was the usual highway fare of paranthas with curd and chai.Nice tandoori paranthas with just the right fill and thin crust were much enjoyed after the 250 KM ride.
After spending about 45 minutes here, we moved on towards the hills. Construction of many flyovers on the Zirakpur-Parwanoo road meant the usual combination of diversions and dust. To top it, there was a long traffic jam at Kalka which took us 1 hour 15 minutes to cross. After Kalka, it was a pleasant drive till Kandaghat from where we left the Shimla highway and took the road going up towards Chail. Some 3 kms down the road and we took a tea break. Another 15 minutes drive saw us at Sadhupul. We both agreed that having some pakoras sitting in the middle of the stream was not such a bad idea so another break was in order.

Chail-2Chail 1
Before Sadhupul

Chail 3
Pakodas at Sadhupul

The water in the stream was not as cold and the pakoras not as hot as expected but the break was still enjoyed. We spent an hour at Sadhupul and then drove straight for Chail. Finally, we reached there at 4 PM and after enquiring in the hotels near the Palace, settled for Hotel Kailash in lower bazar. Lunch was at Anand Bhojanalaya in upper bazar. After lunch we started walking towards Sidh Baba temple and cricket ground about 2.5 km uphill from main bazar.
Before the photographs, some history lessons about Chail.
Chail as a hill station was established in early 20th century by the then Maharaja of Patiala. The Maharaja was a tall, handsome and flamboyant man and very popular among the british ladies. He had a fling with the then viceroy’s daughter in Shimla and was promptly banned from entering Shimla by the viceroy. The Maharaja then vowed to develop another place in hills near shimla and throw parties that would be the envy of the Shimla crowd. The first spot chosen for the summer palace was on the hilltop where Sidh Baba’s temple is situated now. The construction at this place would be demolished automatically every time they tried and no one had a clue why. Then Sidh Baba appeared in Maharaja’s dream and told him that this was his place. He advised the Maharaja to build his palace on the adjacent hilltop. Baba’s advice was followed and the palace was completed where it stands today. Maharaja then built the temple for Sidh Baba at the original site. You can see a picture of Maharaja in the temple. Nearby, a cricket ground was built (at 7500 ft, said to be the highest cricket ground) where Maharaja enjoyed cricket with his british friends. The palace building that we see today is not the original palace although the whole estate is still very beautiful. The palace was bought by HPTDC in 70’s and converted into a hotel. You need to pay Rs 100 as entry charge if you wish to see the palace without staying there.Interestingly, there is no picture of Maharaja in the palace.

Chail 9
Chail 4Enroute Chail

Chail -5Chail-5
Towards the temple

The views while going towards the temple and from the hilltop are beautiful. We were somewhat tired with the long drive and then the hike so spent an hour sitting outside the temple and enjoyed the cool breeze and the views. All the worries in the world were forgotten, only the feeling of harmony with the nature remained. It was difficult to leave the spot and move towards the cricket ground but the sun was about to set so we had to move.

Chail -8

Chail 7

Mahesh at Siddh Baba temple gate

Chail 10

Chail 11
Cricket Ground

Chail 12
Chail Market

We came back at 7 and had tea at the Kailash Restaurent on our hotel’s ground floor. It’s a nicely decorated small place. We chose to sit on the last table near the window where cool breeze from the valley coupled with the hot tea refreshed us. Ghulam Ali’s famous ghazal “Ye dil ye paagal dil mera, kyun bujh gaya, aawaragi” was playing on the restaurent’s music system. At that moment, all seemed well with the world.
We roamed around the market for some time and then came back to our room. Went down to the restaurent again at 9 PM for dinner and talked about the plans for the next day. After dinner and sweets, we took a brief walk in the market and then sat in silence near the edge of the forest looking at the clear sky and stars.
To be continued….


  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Dear Tarun,

    You looks like a true Ghumakkar. Jese Pine walon ko pine ka bhana chahiye wese hi Ghumne walon ko Gumne ka bhana chahiye.

    Very well written post supported with beautiful pictures.

  • Ranjit says:

    Dear Tarun,
    I was at Chail for 4 years and i was working with Tarika Resort. The people of chail are so helpful, polite , decent , i never find such a gr8 atmosphere for living in India. Your story really reminded me about my past days spent at chail, Mr. kapoor of Kailash Hotel, Mr. Indra Thakur of Anand Bhojanalaya and Sidh Temple, Cricket Ground everything. Tell me had you visited kali ka Tibba or not, such a fantastic location also known as sunset point. One should never miss that. Thanks a lot for posting.


  • Deepak says:

    Hi Tarun,

    “Well said”
    it Gods way of building patience and tolerance in us Dilliwalla’s…
    But he has only Given us the Chance to take Bed Tea at Home
    n Lunch up there in Hills… it SHimla ,Mussorie or Nainital…..


  • vibha says:

    Having Hot Pakoras with your feet dipped in cold stream. An ideal cause for a case of ‘sard garam’, as per my mom! :-)

    Anyways, nice writeup and good pictures…

  • GAM says:

    Very well written. Look forward to further chapters.

  • Tarun Talwar says:

    @Mahesh Ji, thanks for liking the post. You are right, any excues is a good excuse for some ghummakari.

    @Ranjit, Thanks. Great to know that you spent so many years at such a beutiful place. I agree with you about the people at Chail. The sanctuary/Kali ka tibba was given a miss this time as we did not have enough time.

    @Deepak, you are absolutely right there.

    @Vibha, thanks. The water in the stream was not very cold so we could avoid the sard-garam case. But this was still a great experience.

    @GAM, thanks. the second part will be up in 2 days.

  • manmeet says:

    Nice pics..

  • nandanjha says:

    Welcome aboard Tarun.

    I did go to Chail few times but somehow Sadhupul never happened. Your pic is very tempting, how so ever non-cold the water was :-)

    Very soothing when you say “…Ghulam Alis famous ghazal Ye dil ye paagal dil mera, kyun bujh gaya, aawaragi was playing on the restaurents music system. At that moment, all seemed well with the world….”

    On to part 2.

  • Tarun says:

    @Manmeet, thanks.

    @Nandan, Thanks for liking the post. the music playing on the system (ghazals) that evening was very appropriate for the mood that we “aawara ghumakkars” were in.

  • Tarun says:

    Nicely written, and I’ll be interested to know if you did the Hatu Peak trek. I am going to do that this month end.

    By the way I am your namesake.


    • Tarun says:

      Hi Tarun,

      Surprised to get a comment after nearly 11 years. We did the Hatu peak trek and it is covered in part 2. I understand the place is much changed and has developed a market mid way, where there was only a gujjar hut at that time. Still, this 6 km trek was beautiful and serene.

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