If you dream about spending some time in peaceful Himalayan valleys, if you look for a road less traveled, if you want to experience an indefinable blend of myth and reality, fact and fiction, if ancient and towering temples, legends, charming architecture, and soaring mountains excite you, if trekking sets your pulse racing, if you plan your vacation in the scrutiny of picturesque hamlets, fruit-laden orchards, and if you want to experience a place where man and nature live on, Experience the bewitching spell of Pabbar valley.
Himachal has always been my favorite place to escape from the hustle bustle of city life. The fresh crisp air detoxing your body, the warmth of the locals and the starry sky always allure me. While I was thinking of going solo this time as Joban was quite busy when Paras, my colleague at the office asked me to take him along. So we chalked out a plan to explore the Pabbar valley, which is in Himachal’s southeast corner. We decided to hike till the source of river Giriganga and the temple complex. The base village to reach the river source is Kharapathar which is around 77 km from Shimla.
Day 1: 10.08.2018
We started our journey from Chandigarh at 11:39 PM. As I prefer to travel by HRTC buses I and Paras boarded the bus from sector 43 ISBT for Shimla. We reached Shimla at 5:15 AM in the morning. There was no bus available for Kharapathar at that time so we rested for some time. At about 7:15 AM we boarded an HRTC bus for Kharapathar. The journey was going on quite well until we reached a point 11 km before Kharapathar. The landslide had occurred and it blocked the entire route. We were literally struck for 2 hours. While traveling to Kharapathar one should be mentally prepared to be stuck in at least one roadblock. Seeing no hope we decided to cover the leftover stretch on foot. After walking a few meters we saw a beautiful waterfall. A beautiful serenity-pool at the bottom of the waterfall added to its natural elegance. It was veneer clear. It gave us hope that something really beautiful is waiting for us ahead.
After crossing the landslide portion we decided to hitch-hike and luckily we got some awesome people who dropped us at Kharapathar. We reached Kharapathar by 2:50 PM. Kharapathar is located quite scenically in a forest of Deodar trees and apple orchards at a height of about 2500 m. Wide views, excellent walk, and hike trails and the charm of apple orchards make this a perfect leisure destination. Lies at 77 km from Shimla, it is connected by regular Bus/Taxi services. Nearest Railway Station and Airport (108 km) is at Shimla.
The main attraction of the place is the 7 km trail that starts from the village and leads uphill to the source of the river Giriganga and a temple dedicated to Goddess Durga. There is a beautiful resort which is being run by Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC). The Hotel Giri Ganga Resort is a budget accommodation. This property offers its guest 24-hour front desk assistance. The Hotel has well-furnished rooms with basic amenities like a bedside table, night lamp, wardrobe, and telephone. Hotel Giri Ganga Resort offers additional facilities like breakfast, laundry, luggage storage, medical, newspaper, parking, and room service. The food, however, seemed to be much costlier as compared to other restaurants out there.
The hotel offers marvelous views of the surrounding hills. We got a room for Rs. 1524/- including 20% off-season discount. The Resort is designed to give every room a view of the magnificent valley and each room has a private balcony.
After having lunch and resting a while we took a leisure walk uphill till Chunjar Village. The view from the top was so picturesque. Lush green forests, fruit-laden orchards, misty cloud formations just enlivened us.
After having dinner we decided to do some astrophotography. Looking at the starry sky we thought to capture the milky way. We waited for the lights to get off to get a clear view and after some trial and error, we got some pretty good shots of the milky way. I was feeling so accomplished as it is very difficult to shoot the milky way in such light pollution. Such a dazzling sight that make you forget your worries and inspire you to dream.
Day 2: 11:08.2018
After getting a good sleep we woke up early set out to conquer the trail at 7:15 AM. The trail to Giri Ganga starts about 1 km west of the resort on the state highway to Rohru. It’s a dirt track pitched with rocky patches that fork right off the road. There are two concrete pillars, the entry gate is yet to be completed. The trail is wide with a very gradual gradient.
A vehicle can also be hired to reach Giriganga and back. The trail is beautiful with lush green deodar trees and lined with green meadows.
The hike was very easy, quite pleasant and not strenuous at all. En-route we took plenty of pictures of the prevalent flora and fauna. It was absolutely blissful.
There was no one on the trail and it was so peaceful. We found some rare fungi species known as yellow stagshorn, mushrooms, insects such as leeches, snails, beetles, etc.
After covering about 5 km we saw two huts. Families were staying there and they guided us to take a shorter route as the weather seemed to change to an overcast. This shorter route was the only portion of the trail which was a bit steep and lasted for only 10-15 minutes.
You won’t find any eatery in the entire trail. Finally, we reached Giriganga at 9:37 AM. The River Giriganga flows along the temple complex and is the only source of fresh water available there We saw some local children carrying cans filled water from the river itself.
The temple complex consists of a couple of unused, almost-in-ruins structures, a relatively newly built cottage, a traditional, stone-and-wood cottage with a thatched roof and three shrines. The main shrine faces the traditional cottage and is built on a stone foundation, which is in the center of a large sacred water pool. It’s a simple, square, stone structure with a curving, conical roof.
This shrine is dedicated to Goddess Durga. The interiors are dark except for the dim light of the diya that looks like it’s kept burning at all times. The other two shrines are placed above the pool, facing each other. One of them has the idols of Lord Ram, Laxman, and Sita, while the other has a large, marble Shiv-ling. We accepted the Prasad offered by the Panditji in the Durga temple and we then captured some shots of the temple complex.
There is also another temple uphill towards the west side of this temple complex.
We got some pictures of the goats kept by the locals. Few of them gave some poses too.
We then decided to call the day off an started our descent at 11:00 AM. We managed to get to the base of the trail at 12:48 PM.
We then had our lunch and boarded the bus to Shimla at around 2:15 PM. We reached Shimla at about 7:00 PM. We then boarded the bus to Chandigarh. The rain had started and it didn’t stop till Chandigarh. Finally we managed to reach our home by 12:45 AM and rested for the day.
Looking back, Giriganga is surely an offbeat destination and offers a lot to the nature lovers.