2nd July 2017, Sunday………Day (3) Shangarh to Prashar Lake 198 km
Morning in Shanghar was fabulous.
Getting up and out of the car that morning felt like I was in heaven. The sky was partially overcast and romantic. The mountains far away were still laden with some snow and looked majestic. The clouds were floating high up in the skies, a part of it was jammed amongst dense tall deodars, presenting a very romantic look. The birds around were hoping, playing and singing. All in all it was a beautiful setting.
The setting was perfect for a memorable morning walk. After freshening up in a common bathroom of the guest house, I walked back and up on the wet main road and walked towards Shanghar meadow.
From a distance, the lush green Shanghar ground looked fabulous in the early morning hours. A part of snowclad mountains were visible too. There were very few people on the muddy path but whosoever met, met with warmth and greetings.
Men and women were working in the fields. Armed with rope and wood cutter, some of the women were heading towards jungle to collect fuel and fodder.
Shanghar is a large beautiful ground surrounded by tall deodar trees overlooking the GHNP mountains. The meadow dedicated to Shangchul Devta is seven kilometers rough drive from Ropa and has six villages in its Panchayat.
The nearest of these being ‘Maidan’ right at the entrance to the ground which has five-six shops, an ayurvedic dispensary, a school and a forest rest house.
Although I did not notice any home stays in the village ‘Maidan’ except the one where I stayed around half a kilometer up from the ground, yet I learn there are few homestays in the village without any name.
Like many places, this place too has a legend associated with Pandavas. It is said that Pandavas built this ground during their agyatvas so skillfully that there are no rocks in the whole ground.
A fair dedicated to Devta Shangchul is held every year during the month of February and June when a large number of people from the nearby areas visit the place.
There are three temples in the ground, one near the walking path, the other near the parking lot and the third one, right in the middle of the ground dedicated to Devta Shangchul Mahadev.
However, the main temple, newly built and more beautiful, where the devta resides, is in a small village near the ground.
By 9am I was back in the Divine Home Stay. Had a nice cup of tea with Ghungroo Mal and Ravi. Sun cam out and it started feeling bit hot. I thanked the father-son duo for all the help and left Shanghar for the next destination of the trip.
The seven kilometer road from Shanghar to Suchain (Ropa) was pretty bad, it had large creeks, potholed and muddy, still I found it easier getting down than going up. At Suchain the left road leads to Sainj and Larji while the right one leads to Neuli and then to Manu Rishi Temple at Shenshar.
The river Sainj looked so beautiful and tempting, could not resist turning right towards Neuli instead of Sainj and explore the area.
Neuli was hardly one kilometer from the place but even one kilometer drive from Suchain till Neuli was amazing. Due to recent rains the river was in full spate and its roar was both fearsome and magnificent at the same time.
Neuli bazar lined up with shops on both sides had a big parking space. Almost all the basic stuff including hot tea, momos and noodles were available.
I went inside a shop run by two women from Nepal and asked for kadak chai. It was undoubtedly the best tea I had in the trip. I wanted to drive all the way to Manu Rishi Temple at Shenshar but was advised against it as the road was in terrible condition.
The ten kilometer road from Neuli to Sainj was again quite bad yet much better than the seven kilometer Suchain-Shanghar stretch. Took a little break at Sainj, walked through its busy bazar and then drove out on the main road again.
Sainj to Larji, fourteen kilometer stretch along the Sainj River and beautiful landscape was a butter smooth road and a pleasure to drive.
The plan was to reach Prashar Lake by night. Since I was very close to Tirthan Valley and Jibhi Shoja and even though I had been to the area a number of times earlier as well still could not resist driving in the area one more time.
From Larji, instead of turning right towards Aut, turned left towards Banjar and drove along beautiful roaring Tirthan River till Gushaini. Unlike Larji-Shanghar stretch, there were many tourists, riverfront resorts, guest houses and camps in the whole stretch.
Although Tirthan River and the whole drive till Gushaini was beautiful, might be due hot weather and airconditioner of the car not working, I was not enjoying all that much. Did not stay for long in Gushaini, turned back and drove all the way to Jibhi.
Jibhi and surroundings however looked more serene and beautiful. The beautiful stream running through Jibhi looked so calm and tranquil in lush green surroundings.
It felt so good in Jibhi that at one time I thought of staying for the night at Jibhi. Somehow, as the time went by, my mood changed and I decided to stick with the original plan and drove towards Aut tunnel.
The drive till Aut tunnel was very good. At Aut tunnel, the Banjar road meets the more busy Mandi-Manali road, which was full with lousy traffic, all kind of honking, rash driving and what not. Reaching Bajaura was such a relief.
It was 5pm evening when I reached Bajaura. Although I drove to Prashar Lake solo earlier too in 2011 and knew there were sufficient places for stay and eat, yet I decided to stock some fruits in case I got late and everyone was closed.
From Bajaura, Prashar lake was 50 kilometers away. Even though I knew the road well, yet I took a wrong turn near a bend and ended up reaching a dead end at a small village high up on a mountain eight kilometers away, costing me 45 minutes to and fro.
Still the drive was enjoyable and the landscape just beautiful.
By the time I reached Kandi weather turned just amazing. The whole surrounding got engulfed in huge ball of clouds, cool wind started blowing and it became so beautiful and romantic. It was the very reason for which I had come all the way driving.
It was 7pm and Prashar Lake was still 30 kilometers away when I reached diversion for Prashar Lake on Bajaura-Mandi Road. For a moment I hesitated whether to continue and end up driving in the dark. Weather was like it would rain anytime.
I was also aware of my driving style and knew that I would not reach before 9pm.
Ever since I have started sleeping inside the car, it has given me lot of confidence. I thought I would sleep anywhere enroute wherever I felt like. Surprisingly, the road quality was very good, which was pretty bad when I drove on this road last time in 2011.
Moreover, there were lot of restaurants, guest houses, homestays, shops all the way to Prashar Lake. Number of vehicles bearing PB, HR, DL number plates crossing me made me feel comfortable, unlike the 2011 solo experience, this one was a piece of cake.
A thick blanket of mist had engulfed the whole of Prashar lake area when I reached there at 9pm. Suddenly all those PB, HR, DL vehicles vanished, nowhere to be seen. Instead there was hush of the night, darkness and thick mist all around.
I parked the car near the road and walked down to PWD rest house. Stumbling and walking through the mist, a torch in my hand, a scene from ‘Bees Saal Baad’ flashed into my mind.
The PWD rest house was locked and chained from inside. Light was off. It felt as if there was no one in the rest house and currently, not in operation. I walked back to the car and began driving further. I knew for sure the vehicles that crossed were somewhere their, parked.
Suddenly I noticed some movement on a side of the road. Some boys were camping. On asking they told me that it was their own tent and was not for rent and that I should drive a little further and might find some help.
Thus assured I drove a little further and found 3-4 vehicles parked on a side. Sound of some music was coming from one of those. On checking I found a taxi driver ‘Munna Bhai’ was trying to sleep inside the car. He told me to walk up a path towards the lake, where I might find some help.
The grassy path was wet and slippery. Although I had a bad experience of a fall while walking on a slippery path few years ago when I twisted my elbow in Khajjiar, still I gave it a try.
It was still the same though, dark and misty all around. All the shops near the lake were closed. The tents had no light. There was no sound as well. It felt as if it was midnight and everyone was fast asleep. And in the thick fog, lake was not visible as well.
Turned back and took out those juicy dussehri mangoes which I had bought from Bajaura. Sucked the juice from all of them, four in all and had my tummy full. Cleaned the stuff from the bed, slipped inside and went to sleep, first time inside the car at Prashar Lake, in a dreamy surroundings…………!!!