I was Shimla bus stand at 4 in the morning. As it rained outside the bus stand, I was already down to two cups of tea and the third one was on its way. I was packed like a panda, wearing layers of clothing and yet couldn’t stop shivering. The first bus to Narkanda was at 5:30 and I had to stay awake to make sure that I don’t miss it.
When you are in a situation like this, the best thing is to find a television. The TV at my tea shop played ‘Kati Patang’ a popular Rajesh Khanna movie from the 70s. I heard someone shouting ‘Sangla, Sangla Sangla’.
The best way to reach Narkanda by bus is to catch a bus going to Sangla or Rekong Peo. Narkanda is the gateway to Kinnaur and Lahaul Spiti and all the buses stop en-route.
As per the traditions, the first HRTC ride always plays bhajans to ensure that the mountain gods protect them from ill fate. My bus moved toward the destination as ‘barasane wale radhey’ continued playing in a mellow tune.
I was worried that rain will spoil my plans. I was already ill equipped; I had no sleeping bag, hoping that someone will rent me one in Narkanda. I had no raincoat and now it rained. Somehow, I took it as a blessing, because the views outside because too good to be true. The clouds came down on the land and there were shades of green all over the place.
I reached Narkanda, first thing I did was find a hotel. I convinced the hotel guy to rent me the place for an hour so that I can freshen up for the trek. I got my room for 80 bucks. If it was Manali or even main Shimla, I would have ended up spending 200-300 bucks just to unwind my stomach.
I had a cup of tea, asked around for sleeping bags and raincoat, there was none. I shivered, more tea arrived, I stuffed my stomach on hot parathas, packed two for the trek, now waiting for the rain to stop. As per my calculation, I could climb the 3200 meters Hatu peak in 3 hours, spend an hour playing in the snow and return by afternoon in case I couldn’t find a place to stay.
After an hour, I was climbing the straight road to the Hatu temple. The road to Hatu Peak is a straight pathway where cars and bikes run easily. I almost felt like an idiot for walking on a straight trail that is accessible to everyone. Hatu Peak in Narkanda is known for its skiing and adventure center that bustles with tourists during the winters, however, I didn’t find anyone going towards or coming from that road.
When you are tired, sleepless and your face is freezing with the wind passing by your face, your mind starts to play tricks on you. I saw a shepherd coming from a broken muddy pathway and I decided to take that route. The snow trail hadn’t started yet and I was too eager to leave the road and walk uphill.
After walking for 15 minutes, I found myself in a field of snow. I was lost.
I was stranded in a forest of pine trees, snow as white as Dumbledore’s beard with not a single human in sight. I looked around, waited for someone to arrive but I knew it was futile.
Running around the snow, I head a faint noise of a human shouting and a dog barking. Unless my mind was playing tricks on me again, there was someone who could help me find my way. I started walking towards the noise, the sound started to get clear, after a walk of 10 more minute I found myself next to a small lake, a shepherd’s cottage and voila, I had found the road.
The shepherd told me that I could spend night inside that hut if I had sleeping bags.
The small pond of water is known as Hatu Lake, it is 4 kms away from the base and the Hatu Temple is 3 more kilometers away from this place. It would have been so easy to climb the route if I had not wasted my time and energy running around in useless directions.
I found snow.
The first snow of the season.
2016 has been so bad. The winters arrived only for 15 days. Himachal Pradesh didn’t receive any snow. I did the Prashar Lake trek in February, which was devoid of snow. I am just hoping that it doesn’t happen in the coming year.
I stood at the last point of the snow filled land. I could see the clear views of Pir Panjal range. The cloud played hide and seek, from one mountain peak to another. The villages looked like tiny boxes of matchsticks, for a while I forgot my travel voes. I was not tired at all (predictable, isn’t it?:P).
This particular area is known as Gujjar Kotha. The pond remains frozen after the snowfall starts, when you cross a section of pine trees, you’ll find yourself at an open spot giving you clear views of the higher Himalayan range.
I was running around in the snow when a bunch of bikers arrived. They parked their bikes, opened a bottle of Old Monk, turned on a loud music system and lighted some cigarettes. In a moment the serene spot turned into a local Delhi pub.
I decided to climb down.
I took the straight road, I was in Narkanda in an hour. I went to the same hotel, took a room for 120 bucks and passed off for the day.
Narkanda will happen again. If not anything, I’ll make sure that I get sleeping bags to spend the night in that hut.