Weekends In Chamba
I have always had sentimental attachments to Chamba and its surrounding areas. Located on the banks of the river Ravi, the entire district offers some breath-taking views. Being very close to my town, it also doubles up as a perfect weekend destination.
So, recently, over a span of two weekends, I decided to make two separate trips to rediscover this quaint region in all its majesty. The places I explored ranged from the Ennan Mata Temple, Jot, Khajjiar and the Dalhousie region.
Weekend 1: Ennan Mata Temple & Water Falls (Bhatiyat, Chamba)
The first weekend, we chose to visit the Ennan Mata Temple & Water Falls. We woke up early on Saturday morning, ate a hearty breakfast and started our drive into the mountains. It was a sunny day and the sunshine was resplendent on the mountain side. We wanted a quick weekend getaway idea and given the distance, this was an easy choice.
Highway to Ennan Mata
Ennan Falls was a place we often visited as children - some locals go there for adventure and some for worshipping. It is in a secluded place and in fact most people from the area are unaware as to how to get there. As for us, it was a familiar road.
We left home and traveled up north on Highway 33, the one which connects Phatankot to Chamba. A few kilometers after Tunuhutti before Dalhousie, we came to narrow but extremely thrilling stretch which was just a teaser of the kind of adventure that lay ahead of us.
As it is with boys who enjoy exploits like this, we got really pumped up. The drive was intense, required a degree of concentration but the experience was rewarding.
We drove for about thirty minutes on this narrow curvy path carved out of the mighty mountain, all the time being guided by direction boards to the waterfall until we caught the first glimpse of our destination - the majestic view of the temple on the edge of the mountain.
Soaking In The Waterfall
The temple is located right next to a gorgeous hundred feet high waterfall. Words don’t do justice to the view that awaits if one can hike up to the right place. And of course, we were there for the view. We got out of our car and began our hike downhill.
The entire area is green with foliage, shrubs, and trees. As we were used to the trail, it took us about an hour to get to a good halting spot.
The frothy, hissing waterfalls have a soothing effect and all one needs to do, is just soak it in. We took our time, resting our tired legs on the rocks and hydrated ourselves with the drinks we were carrying. This gave us a chance to catch our breath and just be with nature.
Once we were done, my brother reminded me to capture some shots. Unfortunately, due to the lower level of water and general dry spell in the area, the pictures we took, wouldn’t have done justice to the beauty of the falls.
Onwards To The River
We then got up to make the final trudge down and it wasn’t much of a challenge. It took thirty minutes and as soon as we reached, we spotted a rainbow arching in the sky above us. The beauty of it surely made up for the bad pictures which had played a dampener on my spirits a short while ago. We trailed a little further until we reached the river and found several safe swim spots.
We decided to relax and rest our tired feet and body and there is nothing better than beer for this purpose! We dipped in, savoured the snacks we had carried and sipped our beers. The quick swim was really rejuvenating. We then took a nap on the river banks to wake up refreshed. Its little experiences like these that are truly unique; these cannot be described in words but these will make you want to come back again and again to places like these.
Hiking Back Up
The hike back was harder than expected and it took us longer. However, sticking to the trail and using some simple precautions, we were back up safe & sound.
I turned around and took in a final view of the place and admired its beauty. The only thing that I wished could have been better was the water level. Being the fall season, the heat had evaporated parts of the water body. But post rains, the place would be back to its former glory.
The pictures I have shared are from the rainy season when the water levels were high - so you get the idea. Our drive back was quiet and retrospective as we were just too tired. By the time we reached home, it was dark. Luckily for us, the family had fired up a barbeque and that ended the day on a beautiful note. Thank God for weekends like this!
Weekend 2: To Jot, Khajjiar & Beyond
Before we realized, we were on to our next weekend. And as more the merrier, we invited our cousins to join us!
This time we planned to drive towards the north-eastern part of Chamba and made it a slightly longer trip. It’s an isolated route where you don’t come across much traffic or travelers, but that’s the whole point of adventure, right?
Of course, one can never be too careful, so I did some research before leaving, planned our routes in advance and learned about some amazing places like Jot which promised to be heavenly.
Picnic By The Obhari
My cousins and I had decided in advance to stop by the river Obhari. We set off early morning with our gears and supplies and reached the spot in merely half an hour. Of course, it wasn’t an unfamiliar territory for us as we have been coming here for ages, with family and friends.
However, as we grow and move ahead in life, we come back with new experiences and we are never the same person we used to be. So, revisiting a place simply helps us look at it from a new perspective and we come back with new memories.
As children, our time here at this spot was spent doing fun activities like fishing, cooking, and swimming. And we did exactly that, again that day, revived our memories and making some new ones!
I got lucky with fishing that day and trumped the catch my cousins caught. Lunch was deliciously roasted spicy freshwater fish, chilled beers and some salads we had carried with us. Somehow, we lost track of time and before we knew it, it was almost late afternoon.
Heading to Destination Jot
We left quickly for our next stop, 'Jot', hoping to reach there before sunset. It took us a few hours to get there and we reached the place late in the evening. The hotel which we booked ourselves into was at the highest point I have ever been to in terms of hotels. The view from the hotel was bound to be mesmerizing!
Being a small town, most shops were closed for the day, so we decided to cook our own food!
A helpful tip is to always carry a stove and gas when you travel in these parts. I do the same and we got lucky that night. We cooked ourselves some hot Chowmein, lit up our hookah (local smoking contraption) and called it a day.
The Pristine Jot
A little informational nugget on Jot - Jot is one of the highest altitude tourist destinations in Chamba and is located on the Pathankot-Nurpur-Chowari-Chamba stretch. During the winter months, it remains covered in thick snow and is closed for vehicles. The route re-opens in the summers but being a less commercialized place, it does not get crowded with tourists. It a primeval stretch, perfect for those who love exploring the unexplored.
I was woken up early the next day, by the fresh morning breeze and accompanying chills. It was just the fuel I needed to travel and explore more of this region. We were at a very high altitude so naturally it was very cold. We went for a quick hike around the place and checked out of the hotel after a steaming hot breakfast of aloo paranthas (Indian flatbreads stuffed with spiced potatoes) and tea.
View Points & Hikes In Jot
We left Jot for our next destination - Khajjiar. On our drive to Khajjiar we made it a point to stop by and check some of the famous vista points in the Jot district like the Manimahesh View Point, Chamba Valley View Point, Tragopan View Point, Pir Panjal View Point and last but not the least Dholadhar View Point, which is part of the Himalayan range of mountains.
An interesting piece of trivia: an acclaimed Indian movie - 'Gadar' was shot at this very point.
Jot is well-known for trekking and hiking. We decided to skip the easy hike from Jot to Dainkund this time. It is approximately 5 km in distance but as we had other hikes planned for the following day, we thought it would be best to move ahead. However, thanks to the many vista points, we made good use of our camera and captured some amazing shots.
Post the hike, we continued drive on to Khajjiar which is about 20 kms away. Driving at an altitude of 2300 meters above sea level it took us an hour and a half to get there. The drive was scenic and encompassed the best of waterfalls, mountains, and rivers. It offered a 360-degree view of the entire Pir Panjal, Dhauladhar and Zansakar range of mountains. We reached Khajjiar at around 3 pm and decided to stay the night there.
Khajjiar is a hill station in the Chamba district and is around 20 kms north of Dalhousie. It is also referred to as the mini Switzerland of India as it is about 6500 ft. above the sea level and is surrounded by meadows, forests, and mountains.
It is no wonder that it is quite a touristy place. Set right in the middle of this place is a scenic lake which adds to its beauty. There are a lot of trails in the forest here and if you like you can take a walk or a hike to discover the place.
In fact, there is one hike of about 3.5 kms for Dainkund from here. Since we already had planned to head to Dainkund the following day, we decided to stay the day in Khajjiar and bask in its serenity.
Khajjiar is famous for its magnificent view of the Himalayan mountain ranges, given the height at which it is located. It receives heavy snow fall every year in the month of December and around the new year it is covered into 6 to 7 feet of snow! During the season, the snow-covered deodar trees adds to the beauty of this place. The months of March and April are busy as many tourists come here to see snow and play in it. We spent the rest of the day, chatting, enjoying warm meals and several cups of tea.
Camping in the mountains - Khajjiar- Dainkund-KalaTop-Dalhousie
Mountains of Dalhousie- Dainkund
The next day, we headed to Dalhousie with plans to visit Dainkund and Kalatop, which lie in the same area.
Dainkund is about 20 kms from Khajjiar and is the highest peak in Dalhousie at about 2755 meter above sea level. It is believed that Dainkund (Dain = witch, kund = lake) was the abode to a powerful witch. She was slayed by an incarnation of Kali Mata (Goddess Kali) that arose at the site from a stone. The locals worship the incarnation as Pholani Mata and the sacred place was marked by building a temple around it.
It took us around an hour to reach the temple’s car parking spot. After parking we started our 2.5 km long trek which would lead to the topmost point - the Mata Devi temple. Fortunately, this trek is not that difficult and even elderly people can complete it. We faced a little difficulty since at that time it was partially covered with snow. After a little over an hour of walking, we could see the temple from a distance. Many people also come here to visit Pholani Mata temple, which is adjacent to the main Mata Devi temple.
The hike was worth it and we felt like we were walking in heaven - we were getting the 360-degree view of the mountains, forests, and the valleys. Once we reached the temple which is located on one of the highest peaks in the area, we could see all the neighboring mountains. It was an amazing feeling.
We relaxed for some time and took some breath-taking shots of the place.
A side tip: apart from the temple view, this place also offers some adventure sports like paragliding, hiking, and camping. We gave them a skip as we had some other exciting plans!
Camping at Kalatop
Getting back to the parking lot did not take much time and as soon as we reached, we left for Kalatop - our last and final destination for the weekend 2.
Kalatop is known for its green landscape, majestic mountains, and wildlife sanctuary. One must pay a reasonable INR 250 at Lakkadmandi to enter the Kalatop forest. The forest is covered with deodar, pine and oak trees. The forest cover is so dense that even sunlight cannot penetrate through it, making it a very cold place. We had carried extra warm clothes for this very reason.
The habitat supports a variety of wildlife. We were lucky enough to spot the beautifully coloured western horned tragopan, a ghoral (Nemorthaeds Goral) and a herd of barking deer (Muntiacus Muntjak) during the trip. Apart from these, visitors can also see the black bear, Himalayan serow (Capricornis Thar) and many more such animals indigenous to the region.
If you are a true nature lover and really want to enjoy this scenic beauty, it’s a good idea to trek from Lakkadmandi to Kalatop but I would advise being accompanied by someone who knows the place as it is easy to lose track in the dense forest. Despite being in a car, we were exhausted by the time we reached, because of the long drive and we were also very hungry.
We initially thought of staying at the Kalatop forest guest house but some locals informed us that there were some camping sites available nearby and we wanted to camp to have a differentiated experience. So, we booked the site to stay for the night. Even though it was cold, we managed well in our tents.
We set up a barbeque, played some Himachali music and danced the night away. The sky was super clear and the sound of the breeze made us feel like we were in heaven. It was the perfect ending to a memorable weekend. We couldn’t have asked for anything more!
Weekend 3: Manimahesh and Sach Pass
We have waited for this trip for a long time and we knew it would be simply amazing. It was Friday, the night of Champions League final, Real Madrid vs Liverpool and I was definitely not going to miss this. The unfortunate loss of Liverpool saddened me and I was low on spirits.
My friends and cousins decided that we go to the riverside for some quality time. We packed our bags and left for river at 2 am. We lit a bonfire and dipped ourselves in the cool and fresh river water. Since it was summer the dip was very much needed and of course we didn’t shiver, after all a beautifully lit bonfire was giving us company.
We spent some time at the river and decided to venture further out and explore newer destinations. The first place was ‘Manimahesh’.
Lord Shiva Resident
We took state highway to reach Chamba, from there we took MDR 52 to reach Bharmor. The road from Chamba to Bharmour is uphill and winding, as we moved further we gained altitude. Bharmour is popular for its mountains and scenic views. It’s also known for some of the toughest hiking terrains.
The starting point of our hike to Manimahesh was Hadsar which is approximately 12 km away from Manimahesh. We were little tired but we decided to continue as stopping to rest would lead to wastage of half a day. Before we reached Hadsar we stopped at a temple called Bharmani temple. Bharmani Mata is believed to be Lord Shiva’s sister.
Local folks believe that in order to have a good journey to Manimahesh you must dip in and swim in the waters at Bharmani temple. The swim refreshed us again and gave us much needed energy to start the hike.
Our hike’s starting point Hadsar was a small drive away and we reached there in sometime, once at Hadsar we didn’t waste our time and started our trek, which would take about 7 hours.
The first part of our trek from Hadsar to Dhancho was moderate. This trek is adjacent to fast flowing Budhil river and Deodar trees. It took us around 3 hours to reach there. We were super exhausted by the time we reached there. We rested for a few hours and by the time we were ready again it was evening. Before night could set in we decided to hike for a few more kilometers and then rest at camps.
So we hiked and reached a place called Sundrasi. This place had several camping sites. Most of us were quite exhausted. We booked our tent, lit bonfire, had Maggie for dinner and went to sleep.
We woke up around 5 am the next morning, had our early morning tea and started to trek again, this time to the 2nd part of our journey to Manimahesh. This part was steep which made trekking quite difficult. However, we were determined and after a few hours we reached Gaurikund.
Gaurikund is from where you can see the breathtaking view of Manimahesh Kailash Parbat (Lord Shiva’s Home). Gaurikund is a water reservoir that’s covered from all sides, in this water reservoir the ladies bathe before worshipping and reaching the final destination.
It took us another 1 hour to reach the final destination; Manimahesh lake and temple. This is the final point of this hike. Beyond this point there is no way one can hike. Lord Shiva’s disciples from world over visit this place to get a glance of Kailash Parbat.
There’s a lake nearby where we bathed and worshipped Lord Shiva in the temple. We stayed there for some time, we were completely mesmerized by the amazing view. We then decided to head back to Hadsar, that’s the place from where we trekked up.
The journey back to Hadsar was quicker and not really tiring. Once at Hadsar we geared up for next adventure, it was something for which I have eagerly waited for a long time. Now the wait had come to an end and the big day was here.
Journey to Adventurous Sach Pass
As soon as we reached Chamba we took state highway 35 (Pathankot-Chamba-Tissa). The best thing about going on that trip with 7 people in a big car was that we could always switch driving amongst ourselves to avoid fatigue. Time simply flew and before we could realize we were in a small rural town Bairagarh. It is supposed to be one of the last towns before you hit the treacherous, narrow and adventurous road of Sach Pass. As soon as you leave Bairagarh you reach a checkpoint where policemen will verify your identity, take pictures of your vehicle and your group with whom you are traveling. It’s mandatory for everyone to undergo the police verification process.
Once you’ve crossed this post you will slowly start climbing the mountains. The drive is simply mesmerizing, I do not have words to describe the nature’s beauty. The road and the terrain changed every other minute and trust me each moment brings with it a new beauty and nature’s new wonders. We were excited as well as slightly scared due to the road condition. The higher and longer you drive the road gets narrower and the vicinity starts looking even more amazing. I am posting few pictures and videos of this drive. During the entire drive you will see waterfalls, forests, animals, mountains. It will give you a feeling that you have seen almost everything on Earth.
After reaching a point we stopped at a small roadside hut that served food and beverages. That place even had their own kitchen and beds so that travelers can get some rest. After discussing with my cousins we decided to spend our night there. We sat in front of angethi (small fireplace) to warm ourselves.
The owner of that place served us tea, Maggie, pakodas etc., some of us even had a few drinks as well. The guy who owned this place was one of the nicest hosts we have ever meet. He even offered some amazing local hashish for the night. We played guitar, some songs and sat in front of the bonfire. Later at night, the host cooked for us some amazing local dish. After dinner, we smoked some hookah with Hashish and went to sleep.
We woke up the next morning and as expected the morning view was again breathtaking. It was a little cloudy and we bathed in a waterfall that was very close to where we stayed. Even though it was cold we still had fun. Later we had our breakfast and continued on our journey toward Sach Pass.
The next 3 hours drive were nerve-racking, we were gaining heights as we drove further, the roads got narrower and became quite slippery. Over the course of next few hours we passed through several mountains. The view as usual was breathtaking. As soon as we started approaching the destination we were able to see snow all over the place. The occurrence of snow started increasing and at one point the only thing you could see around was snow!
It would give you a feeling as if you had come to a glacier. After few more hours of drive we reached Sach Pass. It was freezingly cold. We were now 14,000 ft above the ground level!
We were surrounded with snow. There was a temple as well, we went inside the temple and prayed for some time. It was for the first time I came to a place that was this high on the Pir Panjal Himalaya mountain range. We took several pictures and decide to head back. If you have some more time you can always drive to Pangi which is another scenic place. From Pangi you can go to different places like Jammu, Leh, Rohtang Pass, Kullu Manali etc.
It was a long and tiring journey for us. Some of us had to go to work the next day and our journey back would take at least 6 to 7 hours to reach home, hence we decided to head back home without any more delay. One thing is for sure, we will definitely be coming back to this place and will continue our journey ahead towards Pangi in future.
As always by the time we were heading home most of us were tired and most of the time we slept. This is the journey which we will never forget. If you plan to come to Himachal and if you want to see nature’s real beauty, I recommend you visit this place for sure!