My Travels Throught the Himalayas – I (Simla to Kharapattar, Tattapani, Naldehra)

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Places Around Simla

Archana To Kharapatthar

My First Experience of snow!

Most Indians don’t get to see the snow on a regular basis and hence, they find the idea of snow exciting – just as the British find the idea of sun exciting! ūüôā Indians don’t like to be in the sun, because sun is so hot here.

In mountainous places like Himachal and Kashmir, Indians go to find a place where they can see, touch, feel and walk on the snow! Much of Himachal tourism is based on this.

I too had never seen the snow in my life and had a great desire¬†to experience it. There was another Research Associate called Dr. Ganesh¬†at the IIAS¬†from South India, who loved the snow and of course South India never gets a snowfall. A third woman Fellow was from Bengal, but she had lived in England during snowfall. I had been in England from April to August, so I hadn’t seen the snow there. So when we heard the news that there had been a snowfall at Kharapatthar¬†– a place about 1000 feet above Simla¬†(yes, in the mountains you measure distance in heights, not in Km lengths), three of us hired a car, wore enough woollens and drove towards Kharapatthar. Even before reaching there, we found snow on the slopes – the first time I saw it and we became ecstatic to see it. We came out of the car to run across the slopes covered with snow.

To Kharapatthar

So far, I didn’t know that before beginning to melt, snow solidifies into ice-like sheet which is very slippery. I saw such a sheet and wanted to test it. So I just touched it with my foot and I slipped. I began to slide down the steep slope on this ice sheet, with nothing to hold on to. Then, I found a small twig coming out of the snow. I held it – it was so strong that it didn’t break with my weight. The others came there and pulled me up. I thought I was going to die at that moment! This was my first lesson to first test the ground covered with snow before trying to walk on it. Fresh snow which looks like white sand is the best to walk on. But one should avoid solidified snow or ice sheets.

Tank Near The Goddess Temple, Giri Ganga, at Kharapatthar

We reached Kharapatthar around lunch time and had lunch at the Himachal Tourism Hotel there. Himachal Tourism is perhaps the best tourism department in India Рit has good facilities in remote areas of Himachal, with very cordial staff and the rates are affordable. The travellers in Himachal can safely rely on Himachal tourism services.

We were told that about 400 feet above there is a small stream – frozen now – called Giri Ganga which flows into the tank of an old Goddess Temple on the top of a hill. The snow was so thick on the ground that no vehicle could pass over it, especially because the road was basically mud-track, which might collapse under the weight of the vehicle as the mud had become softened with the melting snow. Hence, the only option was to walk up to this temple. We decided to walk up, guided by a local person who knew the place.

While walking up, I saw some footprints in the snow and asked our guide whose they could be. He looked at them and looked scared – leopards roam in these mountains freely. But, not to make us frightened, he told us it could be of any animal – even of a dog. We decided to stick together and not wander in the forest on out own.

Giri Ganga

Trudging through thick snow up the slopes, we finally reached the top near the temple and the tank beside it, where the stream Giri Ganga poured its water – the stream and the water in the tank were frozen. Sunlight had turned the snow in the tank into a sheet of ice.

It was an exhilerating experience to see so much of snow all around! Dr. Ganesh wanted to walk on the ice sheet in the tank, but I told him not to try this as the water underneath would be icy cold, hence it could be dangerous.

The priest told us the Goddess temple was very ancient. But looking at the architecture, I deduced it may not be older than 6th-7th century CE. It had the traditional Himachali style of stone blocks criss-crossed with local cedar wood, plastered with burnt mud and slanting roofs made of gray slate slabs. We were told the people from Kharapatthar bring food and worship materials for long winter months for the priest and he stays here through the cold winters when the roads get blocked because of snow and the temple gets cut off from the rest of the world. Snow is their only source of water during these winter months.

At Tattapani

On our way back, we diverted the car a little to go down from Simla¬†about a couple of hundred feet to a place called Tattapani¬†(i.e., “Hot Water”), where Sutlej River has made a deep gorge in the valley. Sulphur springs of hot water meet Sutlej at this point. Hence, it provides an ideal place to visit and enjoy, where on the banks you have hot, boiling water and if you dip your feet in the river, you’ll experience icy cold water! People come here to take a bath. They dig big bathing holes like small “swimming pools” in the sand on the bank of the river, where hot boiling water emerges from underground and the cold river water meets it to make the water lukewarm, ideal for bathing. On the hill top¬†there is a shrine for a folk Cobra deity (called Mau Nag), where local people go to worship. Each of the stones and the pebbles on the bank is unique in shape, size and colour. I particularly liked Tattapani¬†very much and went there several times, with different groups of Fellows and family. Winter months are the best time to go there, because the hot water springs make the place a little warm. There are some lodges on the bank, where foreigners come and stay in isolation of natural surroundings for months.

Tattapani during Summer

Usually, when going from Simla in early morning, one reaches Tattapani for breakfast, spends some time there and reaches Naldehra on the way back for lunch in the afternoon. Naldehra again has a Himachal Tourism Guest House and Restaurant. It used to be the place for the Golf Course for Lord Curzon, who was very fond of this place and named his daughter after this place Рin whose room I used to stay at the Viceregal Lodge. There is a pond here and a walk through the forest on the hill, which gives a beautiful view of the surroundings. After spending about a couple of hours here, we could always reach back to Simla by evening, have dinner and spend some time on the Mall before going back to the IIAS.

Driving from Tattapani to Naldehra in Monsoons

Naldehra Forest on the Hill

Come back for the next post РSimla to Renuka Lake



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9 Responses to “My Travels Throught the Himalayas – I (Simla to Kharapattar, Tattapani, Naldehra)”
  1. manchitra says:

    This post reminded me of my Kedar Badri trip where I also saw snow for the first time. When we went the ice was solidifying like you said…. I loved that experience and is still fresh in my memory

  2. Archana says:

    Thanks Chitra,
    You have even travelled to Kedar Badrinath! I hope to see a post on your blog about this trip. ūüôā

  3. manchitra says:

    Archana
    My first blog was on Kedar and Badri only. That only kindled my interest in visiting temples. See my first few posts in the month of July 09 when i started blogging.

  4. alok jha says:

    good learning experience for the first timers, who can get tempted to walk on snow.

  5. Archana says:

    Hi Chitra,
    Thanks, I’ll certainly see your post on Kedar and Badri.

    Alok,
    I’m glad to see you here! Keep on coming back, there is much more to come! ūüôā

    See other posts as well.

  6. Archana Ji , Good writeup & beautiful photographs >

    Thanx

  7. Archana says:

    Thanks, Vijayji.

  8. Kamal Thakur says:

    we get to experience the snowfall often bt it’s still exciting ūüėõ

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