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Rest Houses of the Raj (Sarahan to Roghi)


Shimla – Theog – Narkanda – Hatu peak – Jobagh – Tani Jubbar – Rampur – Gaura – Sarahan Catching up with National Highway 22 early morning we head on to Narkanda 2708mts. nestled amidst Sub alpine forests of fir and birch, and also serves as a winter Ski Resort. Further up the road, begins the climb towards Hatu Peak. 3200mts. the highest peak in this area well known for its grand views and the Hatu Temple dedicated to Goddess Hateshwari. The Alpine meadow of Jobagh is a twenty minute walk from here. Musings thereafter we continue on to Tani Jubbar a small hamlet by a lake side in the middle of the Apple Country of Kotgarh and Thanedar. About 60% of Himachal Apples are grown here. We zig zag our way through the apple country to the Sutlej Valley below and reach Rampur 924mts. the seat of the erstwhile Bushahir Kingdom. Magnificent view await us as we go on uphill towards Sarahan via Darang Ghati and Kinnu, the road which in earlier times used to be a shepherds trail. Crossing some spectacular cliffs enroute we reach Sarahan at 2040mts. the gateway to Kinnaur and famous for its Bhimakali Temple and the Majestic views of the Srikhand Peak 5230mts. and Gushu Pishu 5670mts. of the Srikhand range. Sarahan is the base for the annual Pilgrimage to Srikhand Peak.

Sarahan (2165 mts) – Chaura (1800 mts) 13kms
The first three Km out of Sarahan lie along a motor road, till one crosses the shoulder of the steep bare ridge falling to the NH a little beyond Jeori. Now begins the walk along the old HT route, traversing around the semi-circular bowl of Badhal, the last village of Shimla district. The Sutlej lies far below, as the next ridge called Manotidhar is approached. Standing on this divide, a short detour from the main track, one looks into Kinnaur. Over 900 meters below, strung out along a thin ridge, is Kafour, the first village of Kinnaur. Descending from Manotidhar, through a mixed forest of Pine, oak and rhododendron and then past fields, orchards and a young Deodar thicket, the Chaura forest rest house is reached.
Over a hundred years old the Chaura rest house is small however comfortable. In a nearby grove of blue pine, jungle pheasants come in to

roost in the evenings, cuckoos call in the oak and horse chestnuts and it feels good to put one’s feet up on the railings and stare across the steep, rocky slopes topped by thick spruce forests, on the other side of the river.

Chaura (1800 mts) – Taranda (2240 mts) 9kms
The second day, just out of Chaura is Saundhar. This ridge offers the first view of the Kinner Kailash on the old HT road. Local legend has it that the huge rock above was at one time home to mighty serpent, which devoured unwary wanderers. It seems a peaceful enough place now and school children, reciting lessons at the primary school just above the path, dispel any such terrifying visions.
From Saundhar, the next ridge, Thindeoring, is clearly seen and just across this the Taranda rest house, an 8 Km walk, curving around the Chaunda Nullah, before Thindeoring is reached from where it is a climb to the rest house which like others on the Old Ht route is more than 100 years old.

Taranda (2240 mts) – Ponda (1800mts) 8Kms
It is a short walk to another landmark rest house on the Old HT road on the third day. Beyond Taranda, the older HT road takes off from the rest house, through Deodar, Pine and Oak forest and winding around the hillside, descends sharply to the Solding stream. The more frequently used 1930’s path lies below the Taranda fields. Below are the Taranda cliffs, an impressive stretch of rock walls falling straight down to the Sutlej, 600mts below. Across the Sutlej, the Kamba cliffs complete the picture of a narrow impenetrable gorge. About 300mts below the HT road is the NH. Gouged out of sheer rock, its construction is an engineering marvel of the late 1950’s. The 1930’s alignment, hewn out of the same rock with chisel, crowbar and hammer, is no less a feat of its time. Less than an hour out of Taranda, the track takes a sharp right, away from the roar of the Sutlej and into the valley of Solding. The Solding rivulet has two tributaries which join up just below the village. After crossing them, there is a steep ascent to the Ponda – Bari link road and then a little over a Km along the Motor Road, lies Ponda rest house built in 1886.

Ponda (1800mts) – Nichar (2200mts) 8kms.
Ponda to Nichar is another 8km along a motor road, past the village of Kangosh and through the dense deodar forest belonging to Sungra Maheshwar. Amidst the forest, the temples of Maheshwar and his lesser acolytes flank the road on either side, lending to the scene the quiet air of a Greek temple retreat. Nichar, one time headquarters of the upper Bushahir forest division, boasted one of the most impressive deodar stands in the Sutlej valley a century ago. Andrew Wilson, an Englishman traveling the road in 1873, wrote admiringly of trees with 12 meters girth, however the present forest is only an abbreviated shadow of this former magnificence.
Nichar – Wangtu 5kms
It’s a steep 5km descent from Nichar to Wangtu, where the old HT road and the NH merge, till Tapri 11kms further ahead.
Wangtu – Tapri 11kms
Journey along the NH 22 in a bus/car/jeep towards Tapri which boasts of yet another old Rest house, amidst a pine grove.

Tapri (1750 mts) – Urni (2500 mts) 6 kms
It’s a short climb, to Urni from Tapri. The trail is best tackled in the cool of early morning or late afternoon as Tapri gets quite warm during the summers. Perched above slopes falling steeply to Choeling far below, Urni has another of those old, two room British built rest houses.

Urni (2500 mts) – Roghi (2782 mts) 16 Kms
From Urni Rest house, the HT road slopes down to the Rora and after crossing the stream, ascends gradually, passing well below Miru as it curves out again towards the Sutlej. Winding around the mountain sides towards the small village of Runang, the Pine nut is increasingly in evidence. Runang, tucked dreamily away in a magnificent forest of Deodar and Holm oak, is also a landmark of sorts. A little further on, as the Sutlej resumes its gorge like course after the uncharacteristic width and gentleness near Kilba, the traveler enters the domain of the “Greater Himalaya”. Classic mountain scenery is now close at hand. The wind sloughs through mushroom topped deodars and across the river, the emerald green Baspa (Sangla River) meeting the turbid

Sutlej, offers a brief view of the enchanting Sangla Valley. Then, the forested flanks of Kinner Kailash rise up with the firs on the tree line giving way to Pasture, rock and ice above Harang Ghati. Approaching Roghi, the roar of the Sutlej far below is clearly audible. The already steep hillsides turn sheer on the Roghi – Kalpa Stretch. The Roghi Cliffs, falling straight down to the river, clearly visible over 900 mts below, are a spectacle, a daunting area for those without a head for the heights and fraught with risk, as in the old days many an English Riders discovered if on a skittish horse. Roghi again has a comfortable, two roomed, over 100 years old rest house looking down to the village situated across a small stream with the grand vista of the Kinner Kailash range as a background.

Roghi (2782 mts) – Kalpa (2800 mts) 6 Kms
From Roghi to Kalpa, the HT road has been widened and made motorable, reducing considerably for walkers, the terror of the Roghi cliffs. We have the choice of either walking the distance or ride on a Bus/car/Jeep to Kalpa. This region of Kinnaur is known as the Sairag region and for a long time “Chini” in this area was the only place in Kinnaur of which the outside world had some knowledge perhaps due to hard Dalhousie’s two summer visits as Governor General of India in the middle of nineteenth century and a mention in Rudyard Kiplings “KiM”. This region offers some of the most dramatic scenery in the Himalaya. Here the Kinner Kailash range appears to spread itself out for the admiring gaze of the visitor. Not so close as to induce claustrophobia, yet almost to hand, the Mountains rise majestically from the river bed up through orchard forest and glinting glaciers to rocky pinnacles and snow-capped tops. The semicircle of peaks includes Raldang, Jorkanden and Kinner Kailash. Close to a saddle on the northern shoulder of Kinner Kailash, one can pick out the 17 – meter rock pillar of “Shivling”, changing colors with the movement of the sun. Further down 13kms Reckong Peo has a monastery of the Mahabodhi society and was constructed specially for the Dalai Lama to perform the Kalchakra ceremony in 1992. Next to it is a 10m statue of standing Buddha, visible from a considerable distance. Chini too has a Bodh Temple visited by outsiders from the antiquity point of view.


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