Himachal: Virgin Beauty, Not to forget the overcrowded Tourist Destinations

#1 Nov 4th, 2017, 16:34
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  • jaydeepy is offline
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Last year our Diwali vacations were spent in the wonderful state of Karnataka. But the allure of the mighty Himalayas was too strong to resist. So it was decided that the vacations this year would be spent in the northern state. A little bit of surfing on the net pointed to the pristine beauty of Tirthan valley in Himachal Pradesh. I decided that it would be a third trip to our beloved state. Many friends wanted to know why I was so keen to make so many trips to one state. But I knew that the photos of our travel tales would tell them the real reason for my frequent trip to this state.

Day 1: Oct 14 2017
The train no. 12781 Mysuru-Hazrat Nizamuddin Swarna Jayanti was bang on time as we boarded the 2AC compartment to undertake a long journey. The train departed the Pune railway station at 4:10 pm & stuck to its schedule throughout till about a few kms. short of its final destination. We were carrying delicious chutney sandwiches that took care of our dinner saving us from the ordeal of having to start our journey with food in the train.

Day 2: Oct 15 2017
We had a breakfast of bread, butter & veg. cutlets that we ordered from the on board catering service. For a change, the breakfast was fairly palatable. Lunch was shared with two meals among the five of us. My son gobbled one half of the portion while the rest of us shared the remaining half. The whole of the afternoon was spent in a much deserved siesta which I eagerly look forward to during our long train journeys. The train maintained a fair speed throughout its journey. But just before reaching Hazrat Nizamuddin, the train was held up for nearly an hour. This last hour was a true test of our patience. By the time the train slowly trudged into the railway station, our bodies were tired but more so our souls. My co-brother who works for a multi-national in Delhi had sent his car to receive us at the station. I knew that the 12311 Howrah Kalka mail was delayed by 41/2 hours through the net. We were famished & tired. So we asked the driver to take us to the Fatehpuri mosque where we could have an early dinner. Myself & son were keen to have food at Kake-di-hatti. My son had watched a number of videos of the food joint on You Tube. The driver dropped us at the main gate of the Red Fort. He asked us to take an auto to Fatehpuri mosque. The auto charged us Rs. 50 for five people & dropped us at Kake-di-hatti. My eyes literally popped out on seeing a man removing huge sized paranthas from the tandoor. They looked delicious indeed. We went to the small family joint upstairs. We decided to go easy on the ordering as we did not want to waste anything. The portions were not only huge, they were mammoth. We had ordered an aloo parantha, a paneer parantha one dish of kadai paneer & a pineapple raita as an accompaniment. I found the paneer parantha to be the best of the food that we had ordered. The paneer filling in the parantha was really soft & luscious. We had the famous rabri falooda at ‘Giani-di-hatti’ next door & a single glass was shared amongst the five of us. After all this we had a glass of lassi at ‘Amritsari lassiwala’. An auto dropped us back to the main road near our car. Old Delhi railway station is just a short distance from the red fort. I knew that the train was late. So we found ourselves a nice bench on the overcrowded platform. I & my son spent the time watching the trains go by & impatiently keeping a tab on the status of the train on the net. The train which was due to arrive at 8:40 pm finally arrived at 1:00 am past midnight.
Day 3: Oct 16 2017
We settled quickly in the 2AC compartment of the Howrah Kalka mail. The lights were switched off quickly. I passed off into a deep slumber tired by the long journey & never ending wait at the Delhi station. I woke up in the morning when the train had already arrived at the Chandigarh railway station. Daily chores were taken care of & we immediately disembarked at the Kalka station. The 52451 Kalka Shimla Shivalik Deluxe Express was already ready to depart. Now this train is a connecting train to the Howrah Kalka mail. It waits for the Kalka mail to arrive up to 5 hrs. After this the passengers arriving on the Kalka mail have to make their own arrangements to go to Shimla. We settled nicely into our compartment.
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The journey was a big disappointment though. I remember the bogies of the Shivalik when I had traveled to Shimla nearly nine to ten years ago. The bogie was luxurious & had huge glass windows. This bogie seemed slightly better than the bogies of the Himalayan Queen which was standing on the adjacent platform. But it was a far cry from its earlier self. The sun was shining harshly & a slight headache was adding to my woes of a tiresome journey. The Barog station seemed affected by commercialization & I was disappointed remembering the earlier quaint station. The breakfast, that was served, was very inadequate. But beyond Barog, the weather started becoming cooler & the vegetation started giving way to coniferous trees. The toy train took 5 hrs. to complete its journey & it was 2:00 pm by the time we got down at the Shimla railway station. I had booked an innova to pick us from the railway station. I had booked Hotel Kapil on the Ellysium Hill road for our stay in Shimla. The hotel had charged me Rs. 7600/- for one super deluxe suite & one super deluxe room. The contact number of Hotel Kapil is 09318834361. The hotel turned out to be very well maintained with all the necessary amenities & our stay turned out to be a relaxing one especially after the long journey. The hotel is located at an easy distance from the Mall road. We decided to skip going to any of the sightseeing places in Shimla. We just decided to enjoy ourselves on the mall road. We straight away started searching for a nice restaurant to have a late lunch. We entered the ‘Hideout’ Café above the ‘Puma’ showroom. We had a large pizza which was really big & delicious. The veg. ginger bread sandwich was filling & the cappuccino was as good as it gets. The owner was very attentive & courteous & he was eager to know the quality of the food that we had been served. We were sitting by a window overlooking the mall road. Mall road was thronged with tourists. But it had a certain charm to it. There were a lot of youths strolling on the road. This only added to the colour of the atmosphere. We were relishing our food with a great view through the window. After a hugely satisfying lunch & our tummies full with the sinful food, we started to stroll on the mall road. We had a spectacular view of the valley from the ridge.
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The famous Shimla church had closed for the day but it made a splendid background for a good photograph.
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The cool climate was already acting as a balm to my tired soul. We enjoyed seeing the cute building of the Shimla post office.
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From the post office we took a short walk to the Kali Bari temple. I particularly liked the heritage structure of the Bantony Castle & it made an impressive picture.
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My wife was hassled by some monkeys. One of them even managed to tug on her dupatta but it all ended in a good natured laugh & without any harm.The Kali temple offered great views of the surrounding valley.
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I was very impressed by the lovely idol of Goddess Kali. My wife shopped for some warm clothes for our son. The church was dazzling in the night lights.
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We enjoyed a leisure walk through the Lakkar Bazaar. The walk & good food did us plenty of good. It freshened our tired souls & we returned back to our hotel to retire for the day. I had decided to skip dinner owing to the late & rather heavy lunch. But my wife, son & mother decided to have dinner in the room itself. Dinner was mushroom masala with piping hot rotis. My son enjoyed the latest episode of ‘Masterchef Australia’ along with the delicious food.
#2 Nov 5th, 2017, 22:24
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  • jaydeepy is offline
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Day 4: Oct 17 2017
I had hired an innova by calling up a Mr. Ajay Rathore at Rs. 3500/day. But due to some unfortunate incident in his family he was indisposed. But he gave me a call & immediately gave me a replacement driver. The name of the driver was Bhumi. His number is 09418113959. Bhumi turned out to be an excellent driver, quiet in nature. He seemed to be reserved in the beginning. But he opened up when we started to converse with him & we enjoyed his company immensely. He arrived at the hotel sharp at 7:00 am. We were soon on our way to Karsog valley. The road was continuously descending & was winding through the hills. It created an uneasy feeling inside me & I threw up by the roadside. But this made me feel much better. I started enjoying the surrounding scenery.
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The road descended all the way till Tattapani where we saw the famous hot springs. We refreshed ourselves by washing our faces in the hot water & were soon on our way. The landscape soon changed to dense forests of pine interspersed with deodar on both sides of the road. We were near Chindi by 11 o’clock. So we took the detour towards Mandi. We visited the Mahamaya temple in Pangna village.
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We checked into the HPTDC Hotel Mamleshwar at Chindi. I had booked two suites at Rs. 2600/night through the HPTDC website. We were pleased to see the location of the hotel. It is located just outside Chindi village amongst dense pine forests. We freshened ourselves & had a not so great lunch of paneer, roti & dal. We asked our driver to take us to the Karsog village. We were pleased to visit the Mamleshwar Mahadev temple. The structure of this temple is very eye catching.
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The idol of ‘Shiv-Parvati’ is unique & not in its usual ‘linga’ form. The rest of the temple had some other eye catching idols.
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We also visited the Kamakshi temple 5 kms. away from the Shiva temple.
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On our way back to Chindi, we had tea at a roadside stall. Our driver dropped us at Chindi village. We took a short stroll through Chindi village & envied some villagers gorging on piping hot pakoras. But we were not hungry. We visited the Durga temple in Chindi & took the short walk back to our hotel.
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#3 Nov 5th, 2017, 22:27
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It soon turned dark & we decided to rest in our rooms. We had a dinner of mushroom soup, rajma, rice & dal. The dinner was not very tasty. But who cared? This was devbhumi, Himachal & we were very happy just to be here.
#4 Nov 8th, 2017, 21:39
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Day 5: Oct 18 2017
In the morning we left Chindi at 7:00. After passing Karsog our driver decided to repair a puncture in the tyre. I decided to walk down the road & not wait in the vehicle. The rest of the family joined me. It was a great morning walk with the pine trees protecting us from the harsh sun.
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I saw this chameleon on a rock face by the roadside.
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Our driver soon collected us after getting his repairs done. We first took the road to Kilodhar & then took the road going down to Rampur. The road descended upto Luhri. We had our breakfast at Luhri where we had aloo paranthas & curd. I was beginning to get sick of paranthas. After Luhri, we entered the Kullu valley where the landscape changed drastically. The road started ascending rapidly. There were dense pine forests on both sides of the road. The pine trees slowly gave way to deodar trees. It made for a very pretty picture. We drove through the pretty villages of Nigan & Khang. After Khang the climate suddenly changed. It started getting cooler as the road passed through dense deodar forests. After some time the deodar trees were replaced by Oak trees. The road was smooth tarmac right upto Jalori top. We could see the snow clad Himalayas at a distance.
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We paid our homages to the Mahakali of Jalori Jot. We had already planned on trekking upto the Seriulsar lake. We wore our warm jackets, with the chill factor in the air increasing even in the harsh sun. Within a few hundred metres the jackets were in the rucksack that I was carrying on my back. This trek is about 5 kms. long with the path descending about 60% of the way. I could see dense Oak trees all around me.
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The road was winding through thick forest.
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#5 Nov 8th, 2017, 22:13
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#5
I saw this fungi growing on a dead tree log.
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There were a lot of trees whose roots were literally above the ground.
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It was a long walk and my son was completely exhausted. We first visited the nagdevta temple on the banks of the lake.
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I also went around the lake for taking some good snapshots. The lake made for a perfect picture setting.
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We started the long walk back to Jalori top. The descent we had so enjoyed on our way to the lake made for a pretty tough ascent. We completed our trek in roughly four hours. Hot tea made for a nice refreshing drink in the cold weather at Jalori top. My mother became an instant celebrity as a lot of young trekkers posed for selfies with her.
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We started on our way to Tirthan valley. The road was good till Shoja. The road passing through thick deodar trees was wonderful.
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But after Shoja, the condition of the road deteriorated. The road was bad throughout, upto Jibhi. It must be a nightmare for regular commuters. We passed through Banjar & took the ascending road to Gushaini. We reached Raju’s guest house by 7:00 pm. It was dark & I called Raju to inform him about our arrival. He was upset at our timing & it was a bad welcome. But soon Karan, the elder son of Raju came to receive us. We enjoyed crossing the river in a trolley to enter the guest house. We were given hot coffee & biscuits to refresh ourselves. Karan took us to our lovely cottages. I had booked two rooms at the guest house. The rooms were huge & had a four bed setting. The rate was Rs. 1600 for a vegetarian person & Rs. 1800 for a non vegetarian person per night including all meals. I saw some guests enjoying a campfire in front of our cottages. But we were tired & decided to rest in our rooms. Dinner comprised of good non veg & veg options with green salad as accompaniment rounded off with custard for desert.
#6 Nov 11th, 2017, 22:04
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Day 6: Oct 19 2017
In the morning there was an elaborate breakfast at the guest house. There was upma & aloo paranthas with curd. Fresh fruits were kept on each table. There were apple, plum & rhododendron juices which I liked the most. We decided to go to Gada Gushaini. The road was the same till Jibhi. From Jibhi we took a detour & the road started ascending towards Gada Gushaini. The road was in a bad shape. At Bahu village we decided to see the Bahu Nag temple. But I was told by the villagers that it involved a trek of around 45 minutes. So we skipped the idea & continued on our way to Gada Gushaini. The road turned from bad to worst. The road passed through thick deodar forests. Deep valleys covered with deodar trees interspersed with a cluster of houses made for a pretty sight. There was a big bazaar at Gada Gushaini on account of Diwali. I could see a lot of people from the neighboring small villages walking towards Gada Gushaini. The diwali stalls were full of pretty goods with shopkeepers wooing people to their shops. The villagers decked in all their finery, added colour to the atmosphere. We strolled through the bazaar enjoying the sights but soon realized that we were proving to be the centre of attention. We decided to turn back. On the way we saw that some villagers had erected a makeshift pandal & were preparing hot jalebis & pakodas. I gave in to the temptation & enjoyed a very tasty mid day snack. We crossed Bahu village & decided to stop for lunch amongst the thick trees. Karan had packed a nice lunch of sandwiches & paranthas. It made for a very tasty meal. The sandwiches were delicious & my son gobbled up half of them. At Banjar, the market was thronged with people on the occasion of Diwali. The narrow roads led to a massive traffic jam. It took the police a while to clear the traffic. Till then I enjoyed the sight of the shops packed with men & women all decked up for the festive season. We reached our guest house at around 4:30 pm. After a hot cuppa we decided to spend our time at the river front.
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The clean pristine waters flowing rapidly down the valley, was postcard stuff.
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I shot photos of a number of small birds jumping on the rocks in the bed of the river.
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My son had a great time by engaging himself in a game of throwing stones in the river rapids. We were enjoying our vacations to the hilt in this heavenly place.
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On my request, at the first hint of darkness, Karan lit a bonfire for us. We enjoyed a game of Antakshari around the fire in the chilly weather & were soon joined by two lovely young couples from Delhi. I couldn't help but click the photo of Karan's cat enjoying the bonfire with us.
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My son & wife enjoyed a lovely dinner of some fresh trout cooked by the chef at the guest house. We were also served Diwali sweets for desert. My wife & son engaged themselves with a game of cards after dinner to round off a great day.
Last edited by jaydeepy; Nov 12th, 2017 at 00:32..
#7 Nov 12th, 2017, 17:52
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#7
A very enjoyable read. I was lucky to visit Himachal Pradesh back in 1983, before the main tourist boom!
Great photos too...

Ed.
#8 Nov 13th, 2017, 20:39
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#8
Thanks OldandRambling. You are lucky indeed. Now there is indeed a tourist boom.
#9 Nov 13th, 2017, 21:11
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Day 7: Oct 20 2017
In the morning we went to the riverside to enjoy the picturesque setting before the harsh sun set in. I managed to capture a lot of birds frolicking on the rocks in the river bed. I captured this elusive Crested Kingfisher after a lot of efforts
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This chestnut crowned laughing thrush was attracting a lot of my attention.
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The white capped water redstart gave a lot of poses for the camera
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My son & mother crossed the river on the small footbridge. But Bhalu, the friendly pet dog of Karan stopped them from coming back. I was enjoying the funny sight in front of me.
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Somehow my son managed to make the way back to the guest house.
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Thereafter he made a great friendship with the pet dog. Karan's pet cat had a great early morning exercise.
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After breakfast Karan had made arrangements for a guide. We had decided to go on a short trek to Bandal village. The trek took us uphill through lovely apple orchards. There was not a single apple though as the apple season was already over. I could see a lot of trees with ‘Japanese’ fruits.
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#10 Nov 13th, 2017, 21:20
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The trek was through narrow winding paths in hilly terrain. Bhalu accompanied us all the way on this trek. We saw the lovely Khodu Devta temple at Bandal village.
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It was closed. So we could not enter the temple. We visited the Durga devi temple. My son was pleased to hold a toddler in his arms who was accompanying her mother on a temple visit.
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I could see the hill on the opposite side dotted with small houses.
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On the way downhill our guide took us on the newly constructed village road. So the trek became much simpler. We saw a lovely temple by the roadside called as ‘Rehadi Devta’. There was a small natural spring near the temple. Perhaps the temple was named after the spring
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We had a great refreshing drink at the spring. We came back to the guest house for lunch. I enjoyed a small nap in the afternoon. In the evening we took the road to go upstream of the Tirthan river towards Goshaini village. I saw this luxurious house on the other side of the river. On asking the locals I was told that it belonged to a M.P.
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On the bridge near Goshaini we saw the confluence of Tirthan & Plachen rivers.
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My wife purchased a lovely colourful woolen scarf at a small village shop on which she had set her eyes upon right from the bazaar of Banjar. We started walking towards the Himalayan National Park. It was dense foliage all around. The walk was absolutely enthralling with an easy gradual ascent.
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It started getting dark quite rapidly. We decided to turn back. On the way back we met a person named ‘Vikram Singh’ who worked as a chef near Mandi. He originally belonged to the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, had migrated to Jammu & Kashmir & then had married a Himachali girl from the Tinder village in the Himalayan National Park. The village was just a short distance from the point from where we had turned back. He seemed pleased to strike a conversation with us. Bidding him goodbye, we came to Goshaini & visited the quaint Durga devi temple.
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We came back to the guest house in pitch black darkness.
#11 Nov 17th, 2017, 22:26
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#11
Day 8: Oct 21 2017
In the morning after breakfast we cleared our dues & bid goodbyes to Karan & Varun. The contact number of Varun is 09459833124.
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From Goshaini we came to Aut & then took the Manali road. At Bajaura we took the diversion to Prashar lake. The snow mountains made an unexpected appearance.
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The sun was harsh & the road was dusty in patches. After Baggi the road started ascending rapidly. We got a magnificent view of the snow capped Himalayan range.
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The air started getting cooler. The road was smooth tarmac from Baggi right till Prashar lake. I saw a number of bikers on this stretch of the road. Prashar lake is about 17 kms. away from Baggi. Bhumi informed that the road was only recently repaired & this had encouraged a lot of day trippers to the lake. We reached the PWD guest house where I had booked ourselves for one night. The chowkidar, Ramsingh denied having any information on our booking. He could not detect any entry of my name in his log book. I called up the PWD Mandi office where I was informed that the person in charge of the booking had gone on leave. The person talking to me realized that the lady concerned had goofed up & given us a booking for 21st September for a booking done on 11th October. Ramsingh expressed his helplessness. We were upset with this apathy. But the guest house offered a great 180 degrees view of the Himalayas.
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We decided to move on. The temple of Prashar Rishi on the banks of the lake was magnificient & the idol of the rishi was unique.
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The lake surroundings were full of day revelers. I saw some of them carrying bottles of liquor. My wife expressed that it could be a blessing in disguise that we had not got a booking for a night stay. We started on our way to Barot. I called Hira Guest House in Barot & requested for two rooms for our stay.
On the way back from the lake I clicked the PWD & the Forest Rest House which enjoyed magnificent locations in the Prashar lake surroundings.
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We reached Mandi & saw the sprawling campus of the IIT. We took the Katindi-Zhatingri road & bypassed the town of Mandi. The road was desolate but in excellent condition. Our driver, Bhumi was familiar with these parts of Himachal & hence was well versed with this road. The landscape changed & trees were replaced by short stunted bushes. I saw fields full of small yellow flowers on both sides of the road. I asked a local person about the flowers. But he was unable to name them. He informed us that the flowers were used to extract oil & it fetched a good price in the market. The tall trees soon made an appearance & we could see the sun setting in the hills. The weather turned cooler. The surroundings made a pretty picture & we were thrilled. Barot is 20 kms. from Zhatingri. The road was surrounded by dense forests on both sides. After Tikkan, I saw a wild cat cross the road & disappear into the trees. We soon reached the Hira guest house. It was already dark. The guest house was a huge disappointment. The rooms that were offered were very small with barely enough space to move. But since it was dark we decided to accept the offer of Rs. 500/room. Hiralal & his wife are a lovely couple though. We had cabbage & rotis for dinner & soon retired to our rooms.
#12 Nov 19th, 2017, 22:14
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Day 9: Oct 22 2017
In the morning I went to the verandah to get a feel of the surroundings. The guest house offered a lovely view.
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We went for a small walk on the Koti Kahad road. The river Uhl running in the valley below looked beautiful.
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We came back to the guest house for a simple breakfast of aloo paranthas & maggi. We checked out, bid a goodbye to Hiralal & his wife & started off towards Luhardi. We could see the Lambadug river in the valley below. We saw a small waterfall on the way & decided to stop on the way back. Luhardi village was quaint with high mountains in the backdrop.
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We saw a small garhaat at the entrance of the village.
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We took a stroll in the village. My wife struck a conversation with a village woman who was knitting a sweater. On the way back we enjoyed some nice moments at the waterfall which we had seen earlier.
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We came back to Barot & saw the trout farm. My wife had an urge of enjoying a trout delicacy. The attendant at the farm directed to a nearby restaurant where she ordered for a grilled trout. My wife & son had a second installment of breakfast & they seemed to relish it. We visited the Shanan Power House & started on our journey towards Dalhousie. We had to come back to Zhatingri. At Tikkan we paid our respects at the Pashakot temple. I saw some villagers sacrificing a goat there. I learnt that it was a ritual among newly married couples to do so. We joined the Mandi-Pathankot highway at Ghatasni. We passed Jogindernagar & had lunch at a roadside dhaba. I enjoyed the paneer & dal & had a hearty lunch. We visited the famous Baijnath temple. The temple has some great carvings in stone & is a great example of stone architecture.
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#13 Nov 19th, 2017, 22:20
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  • jaydeepy is offline
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Just before Nagrote we took the Dharamshala road & visited the Chamunda Devi temple. A lot of construction work was going around the temple & we decided against stopping for a night halt. After the short visit, we came back to the Pathankot road & traveled to Kangra. The famous tea gardens made their appearance on both sides of the road. We purchased a few packets at the government tea emporium.
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We checked into the Hotel Grand Raj in Kangra town. I negotiated a rate of Rs. 2800/night for the executive rooms. The executive rooms were more spacious than the standard ones. Kangra was warm & immediately the AC’s were turned on. We had a simple dinner at the dhaba located just opposite to our hotel.

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