It has been fifteen months since I returned from my adventurous trek to the Bashal Peak but the memory of that adrenaline pumping but frightening journey is very vivid in my memory. It was one of my most satisfying backpacking journey. It is time to re-live the journey along with you, my dear reader.
On the night of 26th June 2014, Thursday, five strangers and I took an HPTDC bus to Shimla, from where we took a local bus to Rampur. The whole journey was quite arduous since we had booked ourselves in a local HPTDC bus. But in spite of the peak season of summers it wasn’t hot but pleasant. We were enjoying the journey. The only complainants were the road humps. After reaching Rampur, our bus took an hour long halt where we gorged on the local snacks. We reached Jeori at lunch time and proceeded towards Sarahan. The best thing about traveling in Himachal is that you are always accompanied by gorgeous rivers. In this case it was River Sutlej.
Let me be honest here, I had not heard about Sarahan before and that’s probably the reason why I enjoyed this trip so much. Sarahan is one of the lesser known non touristy places in Himachal Pradesh. It is the gateway to Kinnaur and the base for numerous treks. It is a place where spirituality, tranquility and natural beauty meet. Sarahan is an ideal destination for a long weekend break. It being non popular ads to its idyllic charm. And thank god for that. Mostly a transit destination on the Shimla – Sangla – Kinnaur – Spiti Valley Route, Sarahan is well connected by road and is surrounded by beautiful snow clad Himalayan Peaks.
The lone hotel at Sarahan, Hotel Shrikhand (HPTDC owned Guesthouse) was completely sold out so we had no other option but to stay at a local homestay, which wasn’t bad. The room was basic but neat and clean. Super tired after our 16 hours of journey, we hogged onto lunch at Hotel Shrikhand as if we had not had a meal in ages. The simple dal-roti seemed the tastiest meal in the world.
We then summoned our shutterbugs and mobile cameras to capture the scintillating beauty of this sleepy town. Our first pitstop was the revered Bhimakali temple, one of the Fifty One sacred Shakti peeths. The temple’s unusual architecture and unique carvings have made it a resplendent example of the 800 years old Indo-Tibetan art.
After marveling at the temple’s architecture for a while, we strolled on the Indo-Tibetan road for few hours. Once we were dead tired, we returned to our base and after an early dinner of thupka and veg thalli at a local dhaba, we called it a night to start early for our morning trek. We were waiting for the beautiful trek to reveal itself.
With stomach full with various kinds of paranthas, made with freshly plucked vegetables from the farm and packed lunches, we started our Bashal peak trek with two local guides at 6 am. As we ascended the Apple and Apricot Orchards gave way to slopes ridden with the deodhar trees. There were few huts of Gaddi Sherpas with their Shepherd dogs guarding their cattles. There was no marked trek route. During the trek our Guides told us that very few people trek this peak as it is not an easy trek and has many wild animals. It was an uphill trek and was becoming too taxing for many of our group members to continue. However, Prachi, the leader of our pack kept us motivated with her words. And as if the physical strain wasn’t enough, we got the first taste of fear when we saw few people carrying a dead body of a person who was killed by a bear last night. We shivered with fear but no one was ready to turn back. We continued our onward journey. During the trek we heard lot of wild animals. We were shit scared and tired as hell but determined not to give it up. At the midpoint of the trek, we reached “baba jee ki kutiya”. As If the wild animals weren’t a threat enough, the weather turned truant and cold. Baba jee was generous enough to treat us with hot tea and entertained us with his mystical stories for which Baba Jees are known.
After an hours’ break, we continued our trek as we wanted to be back before night. Finally around 5 pm we reached the Bashal Peak. We were tired but the view was breathtaking. On the Bashal peak there were trees of smooth birch and variety of wild flowers and rare medicinal herbs. The top of the peak was submerged in clouds and we were actually walking through giant clouds. While most of you were busy watching the Keanau Reeves starrer “walk in the clouds”, I was busy walking through them 🙂 Visibility was very low – not even 100 metres and it was getting darker.
Dark clouds started descending upon us. Even though we wanted to stay there for longer, we had no option but to descend. Since it was an area abound with wild animals we decided to stay together, irrespective of the individual speeds we were trekking with. As we were descending, it started pouring like cats and dogs. It was pitch dark and we were completely drenched, super tired because of the hike. There was no shelter and the slope became too slippery. Every one of us started falling one by one. Our torch lights died. We were breathless and our water had finished. There was a strong chance of encountering wild animals, snakes and leeches. In a nutshell we were in a soup. This wasn’t the kind of adventure we had imagined. On top of that some of the group members started getting too hyper and scared. We were all praying to reach home safely. There was absolutely no mobile connectivity so we could not even contact anyone for help. Thankfully our guides thought of a plan. They took a detour via their village, a cluster of 2-3 houses in the middle of nowhere. Although it increased our journey time by few hours, this path was relatively safer than the path we took during our ascent. We rested for a while at the village. We had water, much needed to pacify our fears and parched throats and then continued our downward journey. Our bodies had given up. Our feet were not ready to march ahead but we didn’t want to spend a night in the Jungle becoming the dinner of wild animals so we kept walking.
Around 10:30 pm we reached the upper part of the Sarahan town. Again, our guides came to our rescue, they called cars to fetch us and had woken up their family members to cook dinner for us. I am a big fan of Himachali people as they go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. And this incident wasn’t an exception. We would have not been able to have this amazing experience had these local guides not been there.
Next day, we were so tired with the day before adventure that instead of traveling back through local HPTDC bus, we decided to splurge and hire a Jeep to go to Shimla. As a token of gesture, our guides gave us loads of freshly plucked apricots (khumani). We enjoyed our trip stopping at multiple picturesque locations, clicking lot of pictures and buying local cherries and fruit.
We reached Shimla at around 5 pm and we had almost two hours to spend. Hence we decided to stroll on the Mall Road. But what a bad idea it turned out to be. There was a long queue at the lift that takes you to the Mall Road and then it started pouring. We took respite in an Italian place, Wake and Bake café, and had amazing pasta and Espresso Coffee. The long queue at the lift delayed our plans to catch our bus from the new bus stand. We were running against the time. We ran like Milka Singh to catch a local city bus, which would drop us to the new bus stand. We almost missed our bus. But God bless the driver who saw us running haplessly and he stopped the bus. We took a sigh of breath after catching it. We were just in time to catch our Volvo to Delhi!
This trip was one heck of an adventurous trip that I would never forget and what made it interesting was coming together of a very diverse group, a group of solo travelers traveling together for the first and (hopefully not) the last time.
- Sarahan is best visited between March – Nov. During Dec – Feb period it gets snowfall
- Book in advance as there is just one hotel – Shrikhand
- Either drive down to Sarahan or travel via Volvo till Shimla. Covering the entire journey in a local bus does get too tiring and consumes lot of time
- Trek only with local guides and try the local dhabba’s food
- From Sarahan, visit the following places
- Jeori: 20 kms away from Sarahan is famous for the Hot water springs that are believed to have medicinal powers
- Bhabha valley: the scenic valley extends along the Bhabha River. Which has beautiful landscape, reservoir lake, alpine meadows and is best famous for trek route to Pin Valley in Spiti
- Sangla Valley: a spell bounding valley spell that ensnares the visitor in her mesh with the scenic beauty of the surrounding apple orchards, flower filled meadows and towering mountains
- Kamru Fort: two km from Sangla the architecture of this fort is reminiscent of the Bhimakali temple complex in Sarahan
- Chitkul:The last village of the Sangla valley which is renowned for its saffron farms and the Baspa River’s rushing waters, an excellent place for trout fishing