Gain the best solo backpacking experience in Himachal – Part I

Tripoto
29th May 2018

The day I decided to go on a backpacking trip to Himachal on my own, I was at my college, I just gave the last exam of my College tenure. My college life was ending unofficially on that day. So I wanted to backpack to Himachal for a very long time, but every time some last minute crap lead to cancellations. This time I made up my mind - if none will accompany me, I will go on my own. I had done zero research about exactly where I want to go to Himachal. I just wanted to take a one-way ticket and then figure out where I want to head towards. So I left Jaipur on 29th of May for Chandigarh during the evening and reached Chandigarh on 30thof May, which cost me around 670 INR. I stayed there for a day to meet my Friends.

Anyway, On 31st - I went to Chandigarh bus stand and took a bus to Bhuntar. (which I got to know from the enquiry. I didn't know that to reach somewhere in Himachal, you need to get a Bus to Bhuntar). So I will start my itinerary from Chandigarh onwards:

Trip Cost: 3500-4200 INR

Food cost: 300 per day

Day 3

CHANDIGARH to BHUNTAR

BUS FAIR: 375 INR

So I left for Bhuntar from Chandigarh at around 12:30 pm and I was expected to reach Bhuntar at around 6:30pm or 7pm. Unfortunately, there were greater challenges to reach Bhuntar than I ever thought. There was the first rain that I encountered in Himachal (Oh God! I feel lucky), hence there was some landslides, there was heavy traffic which took hours to get cleared. This made me really scared at a point, as this meant delayed arrival. And by that, I didn't know that I will make it to Bhuntar by 10:30 at the night. And the locals told me that - by that time every commuting services will be closed. So I decided quickly to take a shelter and relax my body which was suffering from great pain due to this long jittery journey.

My Stay: Hotel Malabar

Loved their food quality, especially mushroom soup, just they have slow service.

Places to visit in Bhuntar: Dechen choekhor mahavihara monastery

AUTO FARE: 300 INR round trip

Photo of Dechen Choekhor Mahavihara, Gompa Road, Sarabai, Himachal Pradesh, India by DeepAnwita Nandi

BHUNTAR to JARI

TRANSPORTATION COST: Bhuntar to Jari - 35 INR

I had to take a Bus from Bhuntar to Jari so that I can reach Malana. I got to know by the locals that you cannot travel Malana directly. I had to take a car/cab from Jari to reach Malana. The roads to Malana are quite jittery and broken, so it's not possible for a bus to go there. Even people going there riding their bikes have hard times.

- I reached Jari in 1 and a half hours

- There was a cab booking stand - They have a government issue chart for Cab fare. Hence you cannot negotiate.

- Once you book your cab for 850 INR, you can manage any number of travellers with you to share your fare.

- They take you to Malana and wait for your return for next 4 hours.

- If you get late they charge you extra per hour.

- There are combo packs too, i.e. you can choose to go anywhere after Malana - but the fares vary then.

JARI TO MALANA

Cost: Jari to Malana - 850 INR

Photo of Malana, Himachal Pradesh, India by DeepAnwita Nandi
Day 4

MALANA to CHALAL

COST: Included in 850 INR for Jari - Malana - Chalal

Photo of Chalal Trek Trail, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, India by DeepAnwita Nandi

The hotel receptionist contacted an auto guy and he took me all the way up to the monastery at 10am. I shared the auto fare with another traveller. Then due to lack of time, I came back around at 12pm, had lunch at Hotel Malabar then I decided to go to my next destination asap.

So I, along with one more solo traveller trekked to the village together in almost 2 hours. Usually, it takes 1 hour 15-20 minute, but I had to take many halts as I was struggling with my breath.

Here is a highlight from my Instagram story: https://bit.ly/2vboVqC

Also, there is a small river between the valleys which connect one mountain to the other - So I took a moment to sit there and munch over hot Maggie which is available there. So satisfying and relaxing. feels like I have entered into some third dimension of life. There I got to talk with some locals at the tents who warned me about all the Malana stores and taboos they follow.

Here is me having Maggie on riverside: https://bit.ly/2vboVqC

Once I reached the top of the village to the other end, the whole new world was visible out there. People were rolling and chilling sitting in front of Hilltop cafe - the only visible in front of me. Also, the only place which I have heard that it lets the tourists stay. And there was this edge of the Malana village where it ended and a whole new magical valley was visible with the superficial beauty of other mountains all covered in mist and different shades of green.

Though I couldn't enjoy for long as I had to rush back to the cab-which officially waited for 4 hours. But surely I enjoyed my walk through the Malana village which is completely adorned with natural beauty and with unbelievable dimensions of horizons. The whole village resonated the playful voices of playing children and adults and olds playing songs on their radios. Otherwise, a subtle peace and silence had decorated the corners of the village. Very peaceful. Except what disturbed me the most is the bad drainage system in the village and clogged drains. The irresponsible tourists have totally littered the whole area making it super dirty at the entrance of the village.

Anyway, as I head back it was almost dark, the sun was setting behind the mountains. It got scarier on my way back. I had even lost my way up and trekked the wrong way in the jungle. But luckily I wasn't alone at that time so I got some moral support and got back safely with their help.

STAY AT CHALAL: 500 INR per night (It was a new camp, it had no particular name - I just found it on my way)

Met my cab driver - the most friendlier. He drove me back to Chalal. On my way, I had collapsed in the back seat of the car. I saw so beautiful Twinkling stars - Like the one in some fantasy land. I asked the Cab driver to stop to enjoy the diamond-like stars. with my own bare eyes, I could differentiate the stars and galaxy and even certain types of constellations. It was so wonderful and breathtaking - something I wouldn't forget until my next visit.

Heading back to Chalal, I had done some online booking at Snow view hostel, But luckily, I encountered a Campsite beside a river with plenty of enjoying people around campfire - I heard a voice from inside that You had always wished to camp beside a river in front of high mountains with sky full of stars. So here is the moment - all I needed was to grab it.

I got lucky again and I called the hostel guy and asked him to cancel my booking and I got off the cab - Paid him some tip and headed back down to do my enquiry. The tents were available at the rate of 500 INR per night. I jumped into it and got myself a camp for a night.

I chilled a while near the bonfire, sang my heart out and shared some stories and made friends. Then I crashed back into my tent and called it a day there.

Read Next Part: Gain the best solo backpacking experience in Himachal - Part II

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