Trip Report: Narkanda from Delhi & Hatu Peak Trek

“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.”

Greg Child

After a long hiatus, finally we – I along with 2 of my colleagues – decided it’s time we pack our bags and go footloose in Himalayas. But the catch is we have just 2 days that is, a not so long weekend break from Delhi. Destination I had in mind for a long time. It is Narkanda. We’ll go to and do the Hatu Peak Trek.

 

Narkanda Delhi Hatu Peak Trek

Breathtaking view from the Hatu Peak

Yes you heard it right; not the usual road that is available to the Hatu Temple. But a meandering road that cuts across the mountain and converge once or twice on the road that leads vehicle to the top. So read along and hope you enjoy my trip report on Narkanda from Delhi and Hatu Peak Trek.

On a not so cold winter day in Delhi we boarded the bus from Kashmiri Gate ISBT in Delhi to Narkanda. We had pre-booked the ticket from HPTDC site. And believe me I am wiser for it now. So my New Year commitment that I made myself is from next time whenever I’ll plan a trip, I’ll book my tickets online.

The ticket to Narkanda from Delhi costs 486 per person when booked online. A few bucks more than what you’ll otherwise have to shell out. The bus was scheduled to departure at 10 PM from ISBT and we reached Narkanda at around 11 AM. We got down to the point from where the road leads to Hatu Temple.

Famished as were, the first thing to do after disembarking from the bus was to settle down on the chairs of the dhaba that was around the corner there and had a hearty meal to replenish our energy for what was to come. In just 218 bucks we four had butter aloo paranthas and tea. It was delicious!

At the start of the climb a signboard greets you telling that the road is 6 kilometers long and that it is only suitable for cars, jeeps and gypsies.

Hatu Trek Photo by Nikhil Chandra

Beginning of the trail

But I tell you it lies. The road is perfectly suitable for wanderers and barefoot travelers like us. And you got to walk it to truly experience the bliss that it or for that matter most of the trails in Himalayas offer if you submit yourself to it.

After having filled our bellies, we hit the road and started to look for any trails that might enable us to leave the road well travel. We soon found one. The goat trail we took was densely forested and occasionally there were clearings or what they call Bugyals in Uttarakhand for grazing of herds.

Bugyal between trail to Hatu Peak in Narkanda: Photo by Nikhil Chandra

An opening encountered during Hatu Peak trek

Wherever the trail opened up to these pastures view were mesmerizing. Undulating Himalayas, lush coniferous forest, and wildflower conjured up the scene for which Himalayas in romanticized by so many. Here you take every other breath to keep it safe in your heart. To treasure it for times to come.

As we climbed on somewhere which I think should be midway we came across a mud hut, a frozen pond and loads of snow. It was a sight to behold. The people there come from the town every day to cater to the travelers who go to Hatu Peak. You could rest here, have tea and snacks and that wonderful thing that I absolutely love whenever I am footloose in Himalayas. It is called Maggi!

As we reached there, the fun started, we climbed the slopes with thick snow and did some sledging sans the sledge. Along with my companions I too become a child and did a lot of crazy adventure as if I were 5 years old and as if I had encountered snow for the first time.

Hatu Peak Trek: Photo by Nikhil Chandra

Frolic in Snow

That’s the best part of travelling I believe. It brings back the innocence in you. It is a return to innocence for me. I am completely there. I become for a few moments or days ‘I’. Not that I am escapist but I have this dream to live a nomadic life. Travelling around the world, taking a lot of photographs, partake in the local culture and collect a lot of memories 🙂

So after spending like half an hour or so and enjoying ourselves to the hilt and a crazy number of photographs, it was time to move on in was late in the afternoon and we had to return and look for a hotel too.

From Narkanda to Hatu Temple Trail

The snow white trail

Yes! You heard me right. You might be thinking we were crazy to go to Narkanda that too on Christmas long weekend and not pre-booking a hotel. As it turned out we made a mistake but that will come later 🙂

So off we go.

We started uphill climb. The entire trail till we reached the peak from here onward was carpeted with thick snow. The temple itself was not covered in snow but all around it, there was thick cover of snow, pure white!

Hatu Temple: Photo by Nikhil Chandra

Hatu Temple

The view from the top is worth all the effort you’ll have to make to reach the peak. Surprisingly, this is the only trail that I have undertook till now which didn’t even made me sweat or puff. Not for a single stretch did I feel any fatigue. The peak is situated at an altitude of 11,000 feet. It’s an elevation higher than Leh. Peaks visible from here include Hanuman Tibba, Shiri Khand Mahadev, Kailash & Paravatti and the Friendship Peak.

My Prashar Lake trek experience was agonizing and so was Triund Trek. Same happened when I did Deoriya Tal and Tungnath. The Nag Tibba was relatively less tiring but made me take a lots of break in between so did Dodital. Compared to them, trek to Hatu Peak was a cakewalk 🙂

Coming back to the view. An awesome sight greeted me at the top near Hatu Temple. The view is 360 is raw awesomeness! You could see miles stretching right beside your year in every direction. Sights of azure sky, towering mountain peaks, undulating valleys and lush pine and spruce forest and apple orchards will take your breath away.

Hatu Peak Trek: Photography by Nikhil Chandra

Views to Thrill

The temple itself looks majestic. It’s a beautifully carved temple which is held sacred by locals. Hatu Mata temple is dedicated to ‘Mandodari’ who was Ravana’s wife. Ravana is none other than the demon king of Lanka in Indian epic Ramayana who abducted Lord Rama’s wife Sita.

The craftsmanship in the wooden work which is intricate to say the least is impressive. I found this temple even more impressive that the Sage Prashar’s Temple or even the popular Hidimba Temple in Manali.

The current structure of Hatu Temple was built some 5 years ago after tearing down the original one. The architectural style used is traditional but the fine wooden carving work is mesmerizing.

On the first Sunday of Jyeshtha, the third month in the Hindu calendar, locals arrive here in large number for ritual in which goats are sacrificed near temple at the place where Pandava brothers of Mahabharata (yet another Indian epic) cooked their meal during ‘agyat vaas’ (Period of exile).

Agyaat Vaas: Photo by Nikhil Chandra

It was here that Pandavas stayed for a short time and cooked their food during their exile

There is a tourist house nearby the temple but I have heard it is seldom used by the authorities. The peak is inhabited and facilities as such were not available when we were there.

After spending an hour or so. It was time to walk back to Narkanda. For the descent, we took the road to save some time. To my surprise, it took longer to us to make the downhill climb. It was due to the snow that had hardened on the road. It had become very slippery. Each of us took a fall. But most of us fell just once and adapted quickly. It was Gaurav, one of my colleagues who had his bums sored even before we were a 1000 meters down.

Deepak came to his rescue and took his hand literally and helped him descend till the snow cover diminished. Soon the entire surrounding was shrouded in darkness and we were yet to reach the point from where the road bifurcated towards Hatu Peak.

It was around 5 PM that we reached the point from where it started and it was almost dark if not for some light provided by the stars and moon in the great firmament. Now was the time for panic as we couldn’t see any signs of human settlements.

What happens on hills is that road are sinuous enough and a village or town might be located just at the next roundabout and you wouldn’t know it. It is okay if it is daytime but when you have no conveyance and its dark and you don’t know if a bus would come or not and you are not finding any sign post on the road that could offer reassurance then it’s scary.

So I took the lead and started to jog along. Gaurav and one of our other companion were exhausted so they decided to take rest. But I couldn’t because we had to find the town as soon as possible. After some hours of frantic walk between which we tried to stop many vehicle which wouldn’t stop, finally I saw the lights.

Lights mean settlements and it was a relief to see the lights. Finally, we were in Narkanda. Now started the search for hotels. Oh boy how they fleece you when they know you don’t have much option.

As I said, it was a Christmas long weekend and we didn’t pre-book our accommodation which could have come as cheap as 800K per night.

But when we reached the hotel in Narkanda, it charged us 2.2K and there were no bargaining to be made. There were no other option. The room for which we paid 2.2K, I swear couldn’t have been worth more than 500 bucks.

But I let go. It was our fault that we didn’t pre-book.

Looking back, it was a great weekend break from Delhi. We enjoyed it till the hilt. It was a mix of pleasure and pain for some 🙂

Now for the facts:

Bus from Delhi to Narkanda: 486 per person (Online booking) Time taken: 12 Hours

Hotel in Narkanda: 2200 shared by 4 person

Bus from Narkanda to Kufri by Bus: 70 per person Time taken: 3 hrs

Bus Kufri to Shimla by Bus: 25 per person Time taken: 1 hrs

From Shimla to Kalka by Toy Train: 50 per person Time Taken 6 hrs approx.

From Kalka to Delhi by Kalka Mail: 105 per person Time Taken 6 hrs approx.

Of course, you could always choose bus for return journey which is more comfortable than the train journey which is mostly second class (passenger) wooden seat type. There are no reservation in Toy Trains and you have to run and literally capture seat for yourself.

Kalka Shimla Rail: Photo by Nikhil Chandra

A Rail Car at Shimla Railway Station

If you are used to travelling in Mumbai Local as am I, I guarantee you will find a seat in the Kalka Shimla Railway a.k.a. toy train. I even managed to reserve seat for my companions as I was the first one to get inside the train at Shimla.

From Kalka as well, the journey we undertook was in unreserved class. But I made good use of the sleeping bag that I was carrying and slept like a baby throughout the night making the most of the aisle space. Definitely not recommended if you are traveling with family or are a female.

Go for bus both side when making this trip. Of course I am assuming you are traveling on budget and not hiring or own a four wheeler.

But traveling on “Toy Train” the Shimla Kalka Narrow Gauge Railway which is a UNESCO World Heritage was a longtime dream of mine. That was the reason we decided for it. And it was a fun trip. It would have been even better had we travelled during day as I missed on the photo ops along the way.

Looking back; our weekend trip to Narkanda from Delhi was a great adventure. We covered three destinations that is Narkanda, Kufri, and Shimla and undertook a trek to Hatu Peak and travelled aboard World Heritage Kalka Shimla Railways.

To sum it up 3 days were well spent and the money well spent. It came to 1750 per person excluding the booze and fag. If not for the overpriced hotel or the fact that it was getting late in night we would have managed it under 1500 per person.

Now that is something you call travelling on a budget or traveling like a backpacker. You see I am getting better at it 🙂

And remember this saying from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, one of my favorite book “The only Zen you find on tops of mountains is the Zen you bring there.”

A few more pics:

Agyaat Vaas

Bugyal between trail to Hatu Peak in Narkanda: Photo by Nikhil Chandra

An opening encountered during Hatu Peak trek

On the Trail Yet Another Time to take a Nap

Hatu Peak Trek: Photography by Nikhil Chandra

Views to Thrill

What a View United we Stand

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