27th November 2011, Sunday….Day(5) Chail Chowk-Shikari Devi-Badhoo 156 km
Night stay at forest rest house Chail Chowk, situated in the middle of a forest, was a like a dream. I was the sole residence of the place that night, the caretaker took good care of me.
Got up to a very refreshing morning among chirping of birds and fragrance of flowers. Bed tea served in gleaming cutlery that day, in that pristine surrounding is embedded forever in my memory.
Went for a walk in the nearby woods to unwind my body and soul. I love walking in the woods and it was heavenly on that morning. Came back, freshened up, cleaned off dirt from Lalpari and was ready for the day’s drive to Janjehli and Shikari Devi.
Janjehli is a small, picturesque place and a base for trekking to many places including Shikari devi, Karsog and Kamrunag.
Around 10 years ago, one of my bank colleagues, Mr Vijay Rampal had mentioned it to me while narrating his travel tale to Shikari devi in one of our meetings and thus planted a seed in my mind.
It had been on my mind ever since but never really got the opportunity due to bank and family commitments. After voluntary retirement from bank, I have been roaming about and going to places which I have been postponing so far. So here I was driving to Janjehli and Shikari devi, seeds of which were planted long ago in my mind by Mr Rampal.
Began the drive at around 11am from Chail Chowk. Took a little break at Kanda to enquire about the route. Kanda is a meeting point of roads from Pandoh (24 km) and Chail Chowk (24 km). Janjehli is further 32 km from Kanda.
Himachal is called Dev Bhumi because temples all around complement the natural surrounding. The number of temples present on the roads of Himachal add to its already pious surroundings. It gives immense pleasure and sense of security to the solo traveler like me. This little wooden temple alongside a little stream just before a bridge on the road was a very welcome sight.
Another pleasant feature of road travel in himachal is its local dhabas (food joints). They serve simple, local, sumptuous food at fixed rates. The lunch at Danchy dhaba, Bagsyad was a delight as is at any himachali dhaba. They served dal, curry, subzi, roti, rice with salad till you are done…for just Rs.40-
This massive rock (Pandav Shila) is associated with pandavas (of Mahabharata fame) and is said to be kept here by Bhima, one of the Pandavas, who are said to have arrived here during their exile. As per local information, one can move this massive rock only with a single finger.
The drive from Janjehli was very steep, 16 km scary drive on a narrow muddy road full of slush, passed through thick forest of Shikari Devi Wildlife Sanctuary. The last few kilometers of the drive were very steep ascent and were done mostly in first or second gear.
A leisure drive from Chail Chowk to Janjehli and a steep, narrow, slush filled, lonely drive through the forest, I reached a clearing where I saw few vehicles already parked.
On checking, found that, it was the last point till car could go. So left Lalpari there and started climbing steep steps through the middle of thick deodar forest. There were few other people too.
I was getting breathless and after every 10-15 stairs was stopping to get the breath back. Noticed I was not the only one getting breathless, most others were feeling the same too and were stopping to take breath back like me.
Still felt good keeping in mind that I was already 50 and did not have good lifestyle due to my profession and city life. And here I was driving solo and now climbing steep steps like everyone else.
After around 30 minutes of huffing and puffing over those 500 steep stairs….reached the temple area. The temple looked beautiful and unique. It was roofless and looked more open than most of the temples I had been to.
More so the panoramic view from the temple was just out of the world. The scenery around was just magnificent, 360 panoramic views of surrounding mountains and valleys were stunning.
Wind was blowing at a high velocity and it became difficult to stay at the temple for long. After spending an hour or so and having a good look at the area, I started back to Janjehli.
Evening was setting in but the surroundings were so charming that my heart was not willing to let it go so quickly. I was driving so slow and stopping after every few kilometers.
By the time I reached Chail Chowk it was pitch dark. Time was around 8pm and 8pm in these mountains was like 12pm in cities. I was not very sure where I was going to spend the night.
Luckily Pankaj met again. Pankaj is the same friend who had helped me the previous night in finding FRH at Chail Chowk. He suggested that Hotel Rama, at Badhoo on the way to Chindi was just an hours drive from Chail Chowk and was open 24 hour a day.
Thus assured I drove another 50 adventurous kilometers on an unknown lonely road in the middle of night. My only companions were hindi romantic songs playing on fm radio and headlights of Lalpari probing the road for wildlife.
The board mentioning Rama Hotel, was a very welcome sign.
Night was chilly and windy. Mist was playing hide and seek in the dark night. Hotel Rama was in the middle of a jungle and some distance away from any town. I was in bed dreaming about today’s drive and miles away from sleep. Suddenly I heard sounds of sweet songs from nearby. Came out of the room, walked up the balcony and saw some men drinking, singing passionately and dancing around bonfire.
It was an amazing. I was standing in the cold, on the first floor of the building, watching, listening and enjoying the whole atmosphere. Misty, chilly, dark night…….campfire and some lively people singing and dancing to the full, in middle of a jungle, so passionately.
What a luck I was having. Another Dream Come True.