Its hard not to find any mythological connection to any Himalayan region you go. And for Hatu too, so it goes. According to the local legends, the Pandavas of Mahabharata spent a part of their incognito exile on this hill top. And to add to that the deity of the Hatu temple is Mandodari, Ravana’s wife from Ramayana. But why mandodari’s temple at a place where Pandavas spent time remained elusive to my mind.
Hatu peak, standing 3400m above sea level boasts the highest summit of Shimla-narkanda region. For quite some time I was ignoring the call of this place just because it has a motorable road leading all the way to the top. A motorable road not just takes away the virginity of the place or the thrill, but also irritates you to the core by frequent honking cars and polluting smoke. But I heard so much about the view that this peak offered that finally decided to give it a go. Plus it was a day hike which means no extra leaves from work which was impossible.
So, I and some of my crazy itchy-feet friends boarded a bus from Chandigarh to Shimla. At shilma we changed for Narkanda. That bus dropped us at Narkanda at 3 am in the morning and the whole place looked totally desolated as if some zombie town. Except for some stray dogs barking at us, not even a single life form was to be seen anywhere. There was a temple just off the road and surrounding that a market place and some hotels which gave no sign of being operative recently. While some of us took shelter inside an ATM counter to save ourselves from the chilly cold wind outside, rest started searching for a place to spent a few hours. Luckily just behind the temple, we found a signboard of “prem guest house” bearing phone number too. As we settled there for a short but tight nap, we kept on shivering and the snow patches outside our room perhaps smirked.
When we woke up it was sunny outside and to get rid of the cold as soon as we came out to the balcony the glorious higher Himalayan peaks left us awestruck. By that time the place had come to life erasing the stillness of the night. After a light good breakfast at a local dhaba, we set off for the trek through the road that goes to Thanedar. This road itself is beautiful enough with less traffic, a dense pine, fir and spruce growth and distant Himalayan peaks playing hide and seek through the trees.
After 1km of downhill walk, we came across an opening from where three roads were going to different directions. The right one goes to Thanedar, left one most probably goes to some village and the middle one which goes visibly uphill along a ridge is the trail to be followed to Hatu top.
From this place Hatu top is 6km away. As soon as we set off from that point the outstandingly long pines almost hid the sky from us but provocatively kept on opening just a bit for the white-washed peaks beyond the valley below.
As we came across the 5km milestone, we were greeted by a place with heavenly serenity all around it. It offered a astounding view of the valley bellow on the right and on the left, standing tall, was the Hatu peak. We could see the temple up above but it seemed so far away that we failed to understand how it was only 5 km! And we kept on walking past the 4km and 3km milestone trying to grab in all the beauty that this trail had to offer. Sometimes we looked into the canopied sky, sometimes to the valley and sometimes to the vast emptiness lying before the vast greatness of the Himalayan peaks.
After a while we came across another opening with a “Gujjar Kotha” or mud hut on our left selling some basic refreshments like maggi, cold drinks, water and biscuits. This place was beatified by the presence of a small water body overlooking the high peaks beyond the valley below. This also marked the starting point of icy and snowy slopes that would remain for the rest of the trek. And because of that this place was full of cars and bikes as beyond this point, the road, due to snow, was no more motorable. We did not spend more than few minutes there as it was too much crowded with honking cars playing high beat soundtrack and plenty irresponsible tourists throwing away plastic packets everywhere. I wonder how serene this place would look had there been no such disturbances!
As we crossed the mud hut and the 3km milestone, after a short walk, we came across a shortcut and could not resist the temptation of trying it. It was a steep climb and we loved the absence of the cars. Once we came up to the road again, the snowy patches started.
The snowy trail was fun to walk on. There were no cars, only walking people having fun on the snow. it was not much difficult but a pair of good trekking shoe and walking poles were of great help as at some places, it was too slippery. last two kilometers were full snow only. Finally we came across a steep staircase leading to the back of the temple directly. One can follow the road also but we took the stairs. As soon as we got up to the top, everyone of us lay down onto the benches and just breathed in the cold crisp and pure air and the breathtaking panoramic view. The temple looked to be under renovation but we did not even bother to check it out. Our temple was in front of us, with all its glory and heavenly presence, the view was just too vast to take in. By that time, we were all dead hungry and actually thought as there is a temple up there there would be something to eat also. But to much of our disappointment, we got nothing. But when we were interrogating some of the people, one good “human” being offered us a pack of biscuits and 7 of us shared that as a “prasad” or offering of the Hatu temple. Once again, contempt by whatever little we got to eat and more by the omnipresent vastness before us, we, 7 tiny creature of this tiny planet sat there silently looking through that vastness just to fathom how insignificantly tiny are we.
Coming down was a bit tricky as the trail was really slippery. and to add to that we got lost!
well, not really, but we took a trail while coming down which goes to another temple inside a forest. the path was so full of snow that we wondered for quite a few times whether we took a wrong turn or not. But while going up, as we did not see any other road bifurcating at any point we kept on walking. When we saw the temple that we did not see while coming up, we knew that we were lost. we came back through the same road but it took quite some time negotiating through that snow covered narrow trail. But we managed to come down to the mud hut just before sunset. rest of the path was plain and easy but it was already dark. So dark that could not even see the road properly. Starry sky peeking from the perforated canopy and an awesome view of the sunset was our additional gain from this walk in the dark.
After all these, the final 1km uphill walk to Narkanda was a bit tiring. After reaching narkanda, we ate to our fullest and after a few hours wait at the bus stop, got a direct bus for Chandigarh.