By: Prasenjit Sen (LT MHPS)
When you know there is an extra-long weekend in the end of the year, you plan early for a holiday. This time we planned a winter trek in the Himalayas. Our destination was Dalhousie from where we trekked up to Kalatop and Khajjiar.
We boarded Uttar Sampark Kranti Express from Delhi which took us to Pathankot Cannt in the wee hours. From there we started for Dalhousie in a cab. After encountering narrow but smooth roads for two hours, we reached Dalhousie around seven in the morning. As soon as we alighted from the taxi, we started shivering in the bone chilling cold. We had booked this trek with Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI). Later, our camp leader told the temperature was -2 deg C in the morning!
After breakfast we went for an acclimatization walk (we covered five kilometers!) in the rounding alleys of the town. Dalhousie is a small cantonment area in Himachal Pradesh at a height of 2400m above sea level, develope
d by the British as their recreational area in the Himalayas. As there is a heavy presence of the army, there isn’t much private construction. The town offers a magnificent view of Dhawladhar Range of the Himalayas. We explored Mall Road and Tibetan Market, and bought essentials for the trek.
Today our trek began. We had to cover a distance of eleven kilometres to reach Kalatop (2768m). Kalatop is a mountain top situated in a reserve forest. We got ready by 8 a.m. with our rucksacks and started for Kalatop around 8:30 a.m. The day was sunny and beautiful. Two kilometres into our trek, we had our first encounter with snow on the side of the road. The joy felt at experiencing snow for the first time was amazing. Soon we realized that there was enough snow just waiting for us. We were scared now because the roads were very slippery and there was a great chance of falling down. It was fun to walk on the snowy roads with new friends. After eight kilometres of walking, we reached Lakkarmandi, the lunch place and also the entry point to the forest.
From this point, the jungle road towards Kalatop started. After lunch resumed our trek. The road was whitewashed by tons of snow! It was an unforgettable experience to walk in the white paradise. Soon, we were throwing snow at each other and sliding down the ice.
The jungle is dense at some places because of which it was really dark. After all the fun, we reached at Kalatop Forest rest house. It is beautifully located at the top of the mountain. From Kalatop, I enjoyed one of the best sunsets I have ever seen!
Today we were to trek up to Khajjiar. The road to Khajjiar has many ups and down and is through the jungle. As we started descending, the snow and ice disappeared. But there was a different charm of walking on a forest track. Your soul bonds with nature. Your mind is refreshed by the aroma of damp soil and the woods. We crossed many small hamlets before reaching the river. After having lunch in the lap of nature, we started climbing towards Khajjiar. The climb was a bit tough as we were not accustomed to this in our city life. After two hours, we reached our destination.
Khajjiar is a beautiful valley enveloped by lush greenery and surrounded by snow clad mighty Himalayas. The view was spectacular even from our hotel rooms. As we were pretty tired that day due to the steep ascent, we decided to enjoy the beauty from the room and postponed our exploring to the next morning.
As per plan, we set foot in Khajjiar valley in the morning, and found that it was white with frost. The ambience was calm and serene. There is a small lake in the middle. The only point of disturbance was some restaurants and hotels in the valley which kills the charm. Soon, sun rays start falling on the ground and the white frost disappeared to give way to green.
After spending an hour or so, we started our journey to Mangla, our last stop of the trek. Mangla is at a much lower elevation, compared to Dalhousie and Khajjiar. The descent was through small villages on the mountains. While walking though the villages, I was envious of the inhabitants for having a 24×7 view of Himalayas from their homes!
After continuous decent of around nine kilometers, we reached Mangla, which is a small village in Himachal. Chamba, a major town in Himachal, is only seven kilometer from this place. So, we all went to Chamba for some shopping and sight-seeing. A beautiful temple is also there in Chamba. We purchased some locally made shawls, topis, and himachali dresses and ate a local dish called Madhra.
This was the last day of the tour. It meant you return with loads of energy, innumerable moments that will remain with you forever. We made whole lot of friends, and enjoyed Himalayas to the fullest.
It had been a trek to remember!