Our trip began on 3rd June 2016 in the union territory of Chandigarh. We arrived from our respective cities and were picked up by our tempo traveller driver from different locations such as airport, railway station, etc. After a joyous reunion, our driver took us to Pal Dhaba in sector-28 where we had a delicious lunch. We bought some essentials for our travels from the nearby market and started our journey for Narkanda by 3 pm.
ROAD TO NARKANDA
We took the NH 5 from Chandigarh and soon started the ascent into the mountains. We had an early encounter with our arch nemesis of this trip – the dust, due to a road widening project. There was a lot of traffic and consequently pollution on the road to Shimla. Anyone expecting to see some countryside (I was!) is going to be left disappointed by the extensive urbanization on the way to Shimla.
One of the famous attractions of Shimla is the toy train which runs between Kalka and Shimla and soon we had toy train tracks running alongside us. By the time we passed Kumarhatti and Solan, the afternoon had given way to evening resulting in a significant drop in temperature compared to the oppressive heat of Chandigarh. We stopped for a short tea break and resumed our journey. As dusk fell around us, the capital city of Shimla appeared on the horizon. The word that instantly sprang into my mind on seeing Shimla was ‘clutter’. Shimla looked like a vast clutter of buildings and it is no wonder that the place has lost its appeal among the travellers.
Any hopes we harboured of reaching our destination on schedule were dashed by a heavy traffic jam just before Shimla. We took this opportunity to get down from our vehicle and stretch our legs. Finally, after about 45 minutes we got going again and it was almost 10 pm by the time we reached Narkanda. We had chosen Narkanda over Shimla as our first halt because we had a long journey ahead on the second day and we wanted to save on that extra 60 km from Shimla to Narkanda.
Our day 1 route in brief: Chandigarh (3 pm) ->Solan (5:15 pm) -> Shimla (7 pm) ->Kufri (8:30 pm) -> Narkanda (10 pm)
NARKANDA (2,710 m)
Narkanda, a town famous as a skiing resort in winters, wore a deserted look by the time we reached there. Our hotel – The Himalaya Inn – was located in the main square of the town. We had booked 3 rooms (1 deluxe, 2 semi-deluxe) which ended up costing us Rs. 5000 though they were certainly worth it. As we had informed the owner of the hotel beforehand of our late arrival, she had kept the kitchen open and prepared us a nice dinner. We had our dinner and then retired to our rooms for the day.
HATU PEAK & TEMPLE
The 3,400 m high Hatu Peak and the Hatu temple located on its top are the biggest attractions of Narkanda and it was by visiting this peak that we started our second day. We had earlier read that only cars could make it to the top because of the narrow road but our driver ventured to take us there in the traveller itself. He managed the ascent and descent quite well but we felt that it would have been better to hire a car because the road was quite narrow and the u-turns were pretty extreme.
We left for Hatu at 8:15 am and reached the top in about 30 minutes. The road to Hatu peak was lined with trees on both sides and on another day it would have made for a wonderful trek. At the top there was the temple complex, a small PWD guesthouse, a hillock and a few steep cliffs. The scenery consisted of spectacular view of the mountains and dense forests in the valleys.
We first visited the Hatu temple. This small wooden temple is said to be dedicated to Mandodari, wife of Ravana. The entire temple was decorated with exquisite carvings including those of many deities.
From the temple we walked towards the PWD guesthouse which was at one end of the peak. From there a few stairs descended to a grassy slope where we sat for some time appreciating the view. We spent some more time at the top climbing the hillock and sitting at the edges of the cliffs and finally left at around 10 am.
After coming back to our hotel we packed our bags, had a heavy breakfast and then started for Sangla by 11:30 am.