The thrill of journeys begin when it is all dark outside and you hit the road at the brink of dawn, waiting for the celestial body to rise like a crimson ball in the sky. And so we left Chandigarh before sunrise, en route to Sangla Valley, which according to many travel bloggers was achievable in one day. A few kilometres of drive out from Le Corbusier’s beautifully designed Chandigarh and you enter the rugged territory of the Himalayas. The roads are well built but fall short of that uninterrupted gliding experience with the excesses of human population and traffic. After a few hours we stepped out in the morning chill for breakfast at the charming HPTDC a few kms before Shimla. When no one responded to our hunger calls there, we decided to settle for a ‘desi’ dhaba meal right across and what a real delight it was with mouth watering aloo paranthas.
After this short break we continued our journey, looking at our environment, unable to see undisturbed stretches of greens. In our last few trips to the Himalayan terrains, we have observed a phenomenal growth of commercialisation and construction that is slowly removing all the natural jewels of the ‘Himalayan beauty’, like the Alpine meadows, the deodars and replacing it with glass and cement concretes. The promise of Spiti Valley, the distant land away from hoarding consumerism of cities, felt even more becoming at this point. Moving away from the concretised silhouette of Simla, the vistas opened up intermittently to green carpets.
The drive through the tall pines of Narkanda Valley painted some memorable sights. We stopped briefly for lunch at an indescript place, and by evening were moving towards the dusty township of Rampur. The sun rays were slanting already. We didn’t want to continue in the dark so decided to break the journey at Sarahan, which was a bifurcation, rather a detour from from National Highway22 , which we realised only the next day. Until now we believed Sarahan was on the way to Sangla Valley.
As we turned towards Sarahan, in amberish light of the setting sun, the roads become narrower, adorned with tall wild grass and flowers. Ahead was a small water fall, camouflaged with rocks and wild trees. Suddenly we spotted a colony of yellow billed blue magpies, that were trying to escape our gaze . The sight of the birds was so exciting that we all jumped out the car like little children who had discovered a treasure. We had no bookings at Sarahan, as we originally planned to reach Sangla, which was still a good 6 hours away.
We realised that there are no hotels in Sarahan, excepting a HPTDC property, at a beautiful location, but poorly kept and over priced rooms. We decided to stretch the limbs and refresh ourselves over tea, and find out about the PWD guest house close by to camp the night. And so we did. The PWD guest house was a charming little colonial style bungalow, enticing from the exterior with very basic interiors. But decent enough for its price and a one night sleep. The care taker was a reticent but warm person who agreed to cook us a meal if we shopped the essentials from the market. There was a strong chill in the air by now as it was dark and temperature had dropped by a few degrees. We took a short walk through the small market place near Bhimakali temple, dotted with veggie shops, medical store, essential goods corner, not your bustling bazaar, but a grid of winding little uphill streets, with fading lamps, street mongrels and an occasional 2 wheeler. Away from light pollution we could see starts shine in the night sky. Our dinner was amazing with home-made style chicken curry, potato & cauliflower ki subzi, fresh salad, hot chapatis and rice!
We were warned not to step out towards the compound of the house as its the route a local leopard takes. We were excited to spot the leopard, but too tired to keep watching from the window.
After the blissful meal we quickly huddled into the bed, to wake up and see our first sunrise in the Himalayas.
The Bhimakali Temple in Sarahan is one of the 51 Shakti Peeths. The village, called the Gateway To Kinnaur, is known as Sonitpur in the Puranas. It was summer capital of the Bushahr Kingdom.
What to see : Many trekking routes, The ancient Bhimakali Temple, and there is a Pheasantry, a breeding centre for the endangered pheasants of the Himalayas.
How To Reach : From Chandigarh by road, Sarahan takes around 9-11 hours. During Winters, the route may be closed due to heavy snow fall at Narkanda and landslides around Jhakri.