The Incredible Himachal Pradesh - Roads less Taken (Part 1)

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Photo of The Incredible Himachal Pradesh - Roads less Taken (Part 1) by Debashish Baidya

Himachal, the most talked about places in India. There is something about this name, and you can’t resist to find out what it’s all about. People from all over the world land up here spending long time periods, settling in the serenity that it offers. India’s pride not just because of the amazing landscapes it offers and natural abode, but also the hospitality. The people who hail from here are extremely kind hearted. And I say this out of experience.

There have been numerous blogs written on Himachal, and which eventually motivated me to try my hand on it as well. After doing a lot of thinking on how to go about writing this one, I figured some directives for myself –

*Himachal is enormously huge as a state and honestly I haven’t covered it entirely. There is still a lot to explore and experience and hence I have planned to divide the blog in multiple parts as and when I encounter more places

*I have touched Himachal quite a few times at different time zones and each time I did, I was mesmerized. No exaggeration! And that is why the structure of this article is my experiences and various locations in Himachal articulated in different sections which are independent of each other with no sequential flow

*Though I have seen more than what I have articulated in this blog, I preferred not to highlight all the places which people already know and have read about. The popular ones to be precise! Instead I have tried to showcase places and routes that are remote, less known, less traversed, and not been documented much on social media and travel websites. Not much information exists on them so to speak .

*Overall the blog showcases remote locations, my experiences and a photo journey through the mystical land of Himachal

Hope you enjoy the read :)

1) NH44 - The route that leads to the paradise, if you are road tripping from Delhi

To venture into any place far from the city, first endeavor is to always get out of the heavy cries and bustling of the city roads which to everyone’s fate is always heavily crowded with vehicles, cows and dogs crossing each other’s path, screaming of people from all the sides, and the heavy layer of toxins that fill up the air, Huh! Quite a challenge which comes in your way before you finally leave your trail out of the city. ‘Delhi’ is one such busy metropolis which even goes further to make your life hell, with that strong pungent smell of the garbage lying in the areas of Rajghat, Kashmere Gate, and then you see a big mountain of waste with crows flying all over and trucks carrying heavy load of garbage waste onto the hilltop. All of this and then you enter nh44 with a burdened soul.

Sorry for a creepy start of this blog describing pathetic conditions of our cities, but that’s how things roll in our so called developed and enlightened parts of the country. Having said this, I promise to take you to an adventure filled blog as we roll.

NH44 is the road which shows you the urbanized lands of Sonepat, Panipat and Karnal in Haryana state, and then flamboyantly enters Punjab state through Ambala and Chandigarh. It is after Chandigarh, you enter into the mountains, to often referred as ‘land of gods’ called Himachal Pradesh.

NH44 stumbles you upon a straight well maintained multilane highway road, tripping you into fields, villages, highway restaurants, sugarcane juice vendors, huge trucks and your regular traffic. For a motorcyclist coming from Delhi, it takes 4-5 hours to reach Chandigarh on this road if maintaining average speed of 80-90 Kmph, and is assisted with all sorts of facilitations like mechanic services and fuel stations. All and all, a smooth ride to Chandigarh and ahead towards Himachal.

*Road to Chandigarh from Delhi, adorned with all the ingredients that a highway can provide

Photo of NH44, New Delhi, Delhi, India by Debashish Baidya

*And as you move closer to Punjab, trees welcome you from all the sides. Also a lot depends on what season you going, summers can be hard and you may bash the road journey. Best time to go- monsoons or winters

Photo of Chandigarh, India by Debashish Baidya

*Well, I have done this route couple of times but the best one has been on this beast. Stopping at one of the long bridges to take a shot, well I had to stop. Have a weakness for bridges

Photo of Ambala, Haryana, India by Debashish Baidya

*Road from Chandigarh to Shimla, and start of what I call speechless ‘WOW’ moments

Photo of Chandigarh, India by Debashish Baidya

2) Mashobra – A fragrant flower hiding in the interiors of Shimla

I had never heard of this place. All I had heard in the Shimla district, was ofcourse Shimla town and nearby locations Kufri, Chail, Narkanda and Theog. Even in the map, Mashobra isn’t so easily visible. Not a very big town so to speak, and falls just few kilometers ahead of Shimla. Known for it’s landscapes and misty encounters, these qualities primarily was the reason why it caught my attention and put me in the gear to see it.

Though as unpopular as the place may sound, Mashobra is notably quite a destination for President of India (Yes, you heard that one right, and the place houses one out of the two presidential retreats in India). The president visits this place yearly and stays for weeks. The other place which our president visits is Secunderabad housing the other presidential retreat. I heard this from a government official when I ran into him eating maggi on the road side. I wasn’t that surprised though. The place definitely deserved attention as it offered peace and serenity instantaneously, when I reached there.

*Road trip tp Mashobra that was. Crossing Dharampur, a tiny place which comes on the route Chandigarh to Mashobra. There are some good places to eat here if you want to try local food. I had aloo paratha and daal, only the best I had

Photo of Dharampur, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*After Dharampur, another place i crossed was Taradevi, a small village located in the top of a hill in Shimla, houses a temple of a goddess of stars. I was quite stunned to see houses placed on a distant mountain. It looked beautiful. That was the ‘Taradevi’ moment for me

Photo of Taradevi, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*Reaching Mashobra. By the time you travel some in Himachal, you are deeply hypnotized with the gigantic hills of Shivalik and valleys all around. Your frequency of stoppages increase, and your time is delayed as far as reaching the destination is concerned

Photo of Taradevi, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*Mashobra. I don’t want to use words now to describe what I saw, as that is exactly my state was when I reached here. Speechless and elated! You can see and figure for yourself of how it would have looked. I had seen the most beautiful view of my life

Photo of Mashobra, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*View from my lodge in Mashobra. Rudra lodge, where I got the room for INR 700/- a night. A decent room with a TV and no wifi. Do you really need a wifi connection here? The whole town was enveloped with mist, with a hauntingly looking building next to my lodge

Photo of Mashobra, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*An encounter with locals doing a procession with their deity. They were stopping vehicles, and doing gestures of giving blessings with their deity that was kept on the throne on people’s shoulders

Photo of Mashobra, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

Mashobra is not a big town with any over-worldly tourist spots, but there are few small treks (3-4 hours) that one can indulge in and around the town, and witness apple plantations all around. The place is very apt for couples, group of friends. It promises silence, nature and crates of apple . Best way to reach here is on a car or a motorcycle, as the road is scenic and well maintained. Buses do have connectivity, but I don’t recommend a bus ride. Where’s the fun in that! ;)

3) The giant lush green valleys of ‘Chopal’ and ‘Nerwa’

There can be multitude of reasons why someone travels to Himachal. For me, it was to explore the less known routes which people would not know about, and places these routes lead to. Now if you lay your eyes on the map of Himachal, you will see there are so many tiny names sniffing around the big ones. Places which are over-looked as against the likes of Manali, Shimla, Dharamshala, Spiti or any of the popular trekking sites. But there are surplus of such small rustic unknown locations that abode the mighty hills of Himachal, giving a grand experience of its own. One such pair of villages that doled into my path, and made an impression were Chopal and Nerwa.

It was like entering into some kind of mystical land. Like a treasure that I found after an arduous journey. A beautiful story had unfolded; a work of art was discovered! And I couldn’t assemble my mind together, because I was in such awe. All I could see were far entrenched valleys surrounded by huge mountains and sun shimmering the entire region with its rays.

*See what I mean. Over-abundance of nature at Chopal

Photo of Chopal, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*After seeing Chopal and Nerwa, you will fall in love with the color ‘Green’

Photo of Chopal, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*A hazy encounter with the hills of Chopal and Nerwa, as the sun dawns upon the village. See the houses? How would it feel to stay there for some days?

Photo of Chopal, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*You know what, this shot was not easy. I was somehow keeping myself sturdy and still, fighting against the strong wind blast here

Photo of Nerwa, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*These milestones looked so cute and innocent. A great contrasting visual of giant hills merging with these tiny milestones

Photo of Nerwa, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*Nerwa, this was as far as I could get on the edge of the road, and the kid at the far left looked at me with surprise. His curiosity told me that not many come around this part of the place

Photo of Nerwa, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

4) Solang valley – An alternative to Bir-Biling, for Para-motoring/Para-sailing in case you are in Manali side

Solang valley was luckily discovered by me and my parents when we were road tripping in Hamirpur, Manali, Kasol and Manikaran. A valley close to the Himalayas and home for Indian Army camps. As we ventured in Solang, more than the hills and the Himalayan range that we saw, we also stumbled upon something very exciting - a big ground where people were seen gliding and landing with their parachutes, from way up to as far as our sight could go.

What on earth was that all about? I had heard one being done at Bir, but this was such a grand discovery, maybe as grand as Bir Biling. Para-gliders ruled that part of Solang valley. They were seen everywhere in the sky, gliding and witnessing a much closer view of the Himalayas. Rates quite pocket friendly – short glide INR 1000/- with a flight time of 10-15 mins, long glide with a higher altitude jump INR 3000/- with a flight time of 30-45 mins. And this is kept opened throughout the year, even in winters during the snow. Can you believe this? Solang valley is also home to lot of hotels, homestays and is quite a commercial place because of all sorts of adventure sports that happen there.

*Road tripping with parents. Quite a scene to witness along-side the road at Solang Valley

Photo of Solang, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*My father - Pranab Baidya, Retd Colonel from Indian Army. He was quite happy to see the army base in Solang

Photo of Solang, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*Army Base camp in Solang Valley, and that’s my mother looking at the snow clad mountain peak I guess

Photo of Solang, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*The jaw dropping scene that I was telling about. Para-gliding in Solang Valley

Photo of Solang Valley, Burwa, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

5) Nerwa to Haripurdhar - 'Don’t do this route if you are an amateur rider'

I can say it with no doubt, in lieu of my pulsating experience that I had on this route, that this one’s not a 'friendly'. Extremely narrow, frequent show up of muddy, slippery sections with technically no road at all, no fuel stations, no bike repair shops, no restaurants, no lodges, no water (yes and I mean mineral water for sale, otherwise you can find hand-pumps in the interiors), rocks/gravels all throughout the road, no sightings of tourists/bikers or any outsider, and huge river crossings (no kidding).

All of this was leading up to a certain fear in me that whether I would be able to make it through this route or not. I kept moving though. The view of the valley and mountains is indeed picturesque here and of course locals who are seen carrying heap of plucked grains and crates of apples that they put in their trucks. Himachal is pre-dominantly run on apple business, which is of course seasonal, and also tourism.

The only gut that kept me going (and also since I was solo so..) was my prior experience of had traveled on such terrains (Uttarakhand and Ladakh were my boastful projects), but quite frankly it wasn’t helping much. This terrain was undoubtedly tougher, and I don’t recommend anyone doing this, at-least if you planning solo.

If in a group with pro riders? Then yes.

There are two routes to reach Haripurdhar from Nerwa, one is the good one that crosses Soil, Shatal and takes a big ‘U turn’ touching Uttarakhand border. But I didn’t take this route. Instead I took this bypass cum short cut which google maps didn’t recommend because of its treacherous condition. The explorer bug in me told me to plunge into this dungeon and I fell for it. The latter one which I took was crossing Dhansari, Dahiya, Kupvi and then Haripurdhar. It was 80 kms of ride in a cold blooded terrain of rocks, mud, forest and giant mountains. The famous Churdhar top as villagers told me came in the way, somewhere around Kupvi.

But,

The route did present landscapes that I had never seen in my life. Here’s a snapshot of what all I saw

*From this spot, a panoramic view of mountains, sky, trees and houses

Photo of The Incredible Himachal Pradesh - Roads less Taken (Part 1) by Debashish Baidya

*Everything was coming so widely on this route. There was a river that I could see from here, and I wondered what that river would mean for me as I would move further

Photo of Kupvi, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*Nope, I don’t call this a road

Photo of Kupvi, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*People who live in mountains worship like this. Tiny temples with boundary flags placed at the road side. Some similar ones I saw in Uttarakhand as well

Photo of Kupvi, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*Humbled with the hospitality of locals in Kupvi. They gave me food, water and boosted my morale in completing this arduous road journey. They didn’t charge for any of it. Said, “Outsiders think mountain people are good at heart, we should maintain that image”

Photo of Kupvi, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*There was still quite a distance to cover before Haripurdhar and seeing the love of locals, improvement of the road, and the great view ahead, I was now confident that I would make it through comfortably

Photo of Kupvi, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*Did I mention the place looked like a dungeon? No exaggeration! And I was the only one wandering there

Photo of The Incredible Himachal Pradesh - Roads less Taken (Part 1) by Debashish Baidya

*Huge green clad mountains. Unshakeable, enormous and scary

Photo of The Incredible Himachal Pradesh - Roads less Taken (Part 1) by Debashish Baidya

*And the river crossing shows up. Didn’t expect a thick wide blanket of river flowing at an unnerving speed, to pop up. I parked the bike, thought for 10 minutes before I decided to plunge into it. Did I have a choice?

Photo of The Incredible Himachal Pradesh - Roads less Taken (Part 1) by Debashish Baidya

6) ‘Haripurdhar’ – A jewel in the Shivalik range of South of Himachal

Haripurdhar is a small town in Sirmour and at an altitude of 2500 metres above sea level. It is situated at a high ridge, overlooking the Shivalik range of mountains and gives a very picturesque view of the valley so deep that you can’t really stop the penetration of your sight. And that is not it, there is a beautiful temple that is nestled at the heart of this town, the primary reason for a heavy influx of tourists at this location.

In the month of May/June you can enjoy 0 to 5 C. In winters however, there is a tremendous view of snowfall here. Town is full of hotels and guest house and the temple is situated at the border of Shimla & Sirmour.

*The main town of Haripurdhar, and way to the famous Bhangayani temple

Photo of Haripurdhar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*Bhangayani temple at Haripurdhar

Photo of Haripurdhar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*Local kids playing with my bike. They asked for a snap and I couldn’t resist :)

Photo of Haripurdhar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*Poser alert*

Photo of Haripurdhar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*Hair pin bends at Haripurdhar

Photo of Haripurdhar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*Wow moment

Photo of Haripurdhar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*Another attraction of Haripurdhar is the outburst of cloud and mist that moves with the wind, all over the place. It’s trapped only in this part of the mountains. A totally unexpected scene! A similar entrapment of mist exists in lock heart gap near Munnar, Kerela that I know

Photo of Haripurdhar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*Clouds moving elegantly in the valley. Looks like a painting of sorts

Photo of Haripurdhar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

7) A night with the locals in a remote village called ‘Dahiya’

Do you remember me saying at the start of this blog that people of Himachal are extremely friendly and helpful? Well, I can boast about this fact because I had a first-hand experience of it in a village called Dahiya. So small and remote this place, that it don’t even exists in a map, leave aside anyone visiting the place for vacation purposes. No details whatsoever available in the internet about this place. To my fate, I landed there. It was dusk and I couldn’t find any lodge to stay put. That is when a bunch of local young guys extended their help to me, and invited me to stay over at their place for the night.

Anku, Vijay, Sharma Ji, Ustad and their other friends. They were a mixed group of friends from different facets of work. Some were into agriculture, some were restaurant owners, one guy was a tour operator/guide, and some were bus drivers. All majorly doing business in the town of Shimla, Solan and Manali.

*Reaching Dahiya from Nerwa and quite a view to watch at sundown. Lonely road, lonely place and an incredible view of sundown

Photo of The Incredible Himachal Pradesh - Roads less Taken (Part 1) by Debashish Baidya

*On my way to Dahiya. I was not sure of what laid ahead. I didn’t know whether there was a hotel, or a food counter of any sorts. Looking at the village road and the time, I didn’t have my hopes

Photo of The Incredible Himachal Pradesh - Roads less Taken (Part 1) by Debashish Baidya

It was almost 8:30 in the night when I reached Dahiya, and there was nothing there apart from one or two shops. Everyone was watching a movie there in TV, and I marched towards them for some water and food. None I could find there to eat which I could call dinner, I started to panic. The locals told me that there is nothing I could find here that can be called a lodge or a hotel either. One old fellow however attempted to help me at this stage, by reaching to some people through his phone, but none helped. The situation was getting a bit out of hand. I couldn’t rode also ahead, as the villagers told me to avoid the roads of that area in night. The route that lied ahead was going through a forest, and there was absolutely no way I could get out from there if I got stuck.

Hmm.. I was stuck nonetheless! Stuck at Dahiya. It started to feel like one of those nightmares that you get in dreams where the whole world falls apart and you are seen running haywire.

But then a bunch of guys reached out to me and started talking. Quite fancied by my outfit, the bike and overall situation, they showed a keen interest in inviting me to their house. First time any traveler on bike had come to this side of the hills. It seemed to me they never expected such a scene, and hence the excitement. I had some hesitations initially to join them, which later converted into comfort and overwhelm as I began to experience their heart-warming, direct, no nonsense talks, and hospitality overall. They talked maturely of how they survive in this part of the world, what work they do and overall daily chores.

*The rescue team for me. Locals of Dahiya who helped me. It was quite a treat to be with them, as they talked relentlessly with each other and with me, cooking chicken curry and rice complimented with alcohol and a bit of Himachal ‘hash’ that people were smoking in a ‘Bidi’

Photo of The Incredible Himachal Pradesh - Roads less Taken (Part 1) by Debashish Baidya

*The house for the night. From left, Vijay the host, his daughter, his mother. Next comes Anku the guy from the travel agency in Shimla, bus drivers Sharma Ji and Ustad ji. All of them had that typical Himachal accent in their language, except for Ustad Ji who was from Pathankot, Punjab

Photo of The Incredible Himachal Pradesh - Roads less Taken (Part 1) by Debashish Baidya

*Early morning shot of the house where I was staying. It was on some hill top in Dahiya forest. All wooden structures

Photo of The Incredible Himachal Pradesh - Roads less Taken (Part 1) by Debashish Baidya

*As I walked in the corridors of the house, it shook a bit with the squeaky sound of the wood from the floor. I knew nothing was going to happen to the house least of all collapsing, because it was made with so much love

Photo of The Incredible Himachal Pradesh - Roads less Taken (Part 1) by Debashish Baidya

It was time to say goodbye to Dahiya and it’s hospitality! A night to remember

8) Renuka Ji and Gurudwara at Paonta Sahib

The last leg of this blog. Well i could have added a few more, but the ones written are some of my best experiences so far. Last but not the least being arrival at Renuka Ji and the gurudwara of Paonta Sahib in the southern part of Himachal.

Renuka Ji adorns a beautiful river surrounded by local habitation and mountains. It is located 55 kms south of Haripurdhar and 40 kms from Nahan (which is placed at the border of Himachal-Haryana border) . The road to reach Renuka Ji from Delhi is NH44 uptil Kurukshetra, and then a right towards Yamunanagar and Bilaspur in the Haryana state.

*The river which goes to Renuka Ji

Photo of Renuka Ji, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*Kiss of nature at Renuka Ji. And the bridge connecting Nahan road to Paonta Sahib was amazing

Photo of Renuka Ji, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

Paonta Sahib is again a religious place situated a bit more east of Renuka Ji if you go towards Uttarakhand state, and south of Sirmour district of Himachal. Popular for it's Gurudwara where Sikhs come regularly to worship, it is placed on the banks of river Yamuna.

*Yamuna Ghat at Paonta Sahib

Photo of Paonta Sahib, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*The Gurudwara

Photo of Paonta Sahib, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

*The giant gurudwara at Paonta Sahib

Photo of Paonta Sahib, Himachal Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

I have come to the end of this blog. Many more places to explore in Himachal which i will be covering in second part soon, i can sense that this is just the start of exploring the enormously incredible Himachal that people so much talk about :)

Stay tuned on this space, and request to leave comments / feedback for this blog

Thanks and keep traveling !

Asta La Vista

Photo of The Incredible Himachal Pradesh - Roads less Taken (Part 1) by Debashish Baidya
2 Comment(s)
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thanks Sahil
Sun 08 19 18, 08:53 · Reply · Report
Great writing there.... Loved your uttarakhand blog too
Wed 08 15 18, 13:05 · Reply · Report
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