BAROT, an Unsung But Glorious Weekend Destination
in Himachal Pradesh
Trekking, Camping & More
I am sure that except for puritan
angling enthusiasts many seasoned travellers would struggle to geographically
place the Barot Valley in Himachal Pradesh. Well, Barot is a hamlet,
by the banks of river UHL, frozen in time which one can reach if
one travels in a time machine! The other way is to drive from Palampur-Joginder
Nagar towards Mandi and take a diversion from Ghatasani. A piece
of advice-GPS is not very successful in this area so donít shy away
from pestering passersby and helpful shopkeepers for directions.
After driving through lonely serpentine
narrow roads, disciplined terraced fields, and thick cedar forests
for 30 kms and crossing the most obscure villages like Jhatingri
and Tikkan, one reaches BAROT, a village at an altitude of 1819
metres, which lays forgotten in sands of time but have one of the
most unique pasts I have ever come across.
of the Barot County
Golden Wheat Crop Shines through the haze and green
BAROT has a PAST
Way back in
1925, British officer Colonel Betty saw hydroelectric potential
of the UHL river and thus came up the reservoir of the Shannon
Hydel Power Project, possibly one of the oldest in India.
In order to facilitate the transportation of the construction
material for the project a haulage trolley was set up to connect
Joginder Nagar from Barot. It also served the dual purpose
of transport for the local populace till 1975 as Barot didnít
had a road link.
The trolley has since fallen in bad times and is presently
non-functional. A pleasant walk along the river will take
you to the site of once magnificent haulage trolley track
which is now covered in flower beds. In fact, you can find
remnants of the track all around Barot. It is a marvel to
see the steep ascent of the trolley track and it really must
have been one hell of an adventure to ride atop it.
has also uploaded a haulage trolley video on
My Birthday Gift
Since both, my husband and
I are travel junkies, we often gift holidays to each other.
Barot was the result of my husbandís research for my birthday
falling in May. We started from our home in Dharamsala post
lunch and reached Barot by around 6 in the evening.
The roads are a little bumpy
but the scenic landscape all through more than makes up for
it. However, donít expect great dhabas or eating places on
the way. There are some basic tea shops catering to local
villagers. One exception was Trekkerís Nest (Restaurant
& Hotel) in Joginder Nagar, which also organizes treks
under the guidance of trained mountaineers from Joginder Nagar
to Barot, Bada Banghal, Kullu, and Manali. In fact, they have
a lovely camping site right next to Uhl river on the outskirts
Reaching Barot was like entering
a different time zone, maybe 1970s. The small shops, kuccha
roads, women collecting firewood, people dragging a drunk
family member home (a lovely saying for the hills is: Surya
Ast, Pahadi Mast), and the buzzing village square which
seemed to be the centre of activity.
are Homestays, Rest is Resthouses
The place has
4-5 simple, basic, affordable, homestays (from Rs. 600-900)
and some government accommodation (Forest Dept., Punjab Power
Dept., and PWD). It is difficult to get online bookings but
one can book homestays telephonically. For Government accommodation
one has to send prior request via fax. Alternatively, after
reaching Barot try to sweet-talk the caretaker. Room occupancy
status and your convincing skills may just fetch you a room
there (a bottle of booze for the caretaker might also tilt
the scales in your favour).
We stayed a
day in the KK Negi Homestay and shifted to the Forest Rest
House the next day. Negi Aunty (as she is popularly known
in the area) is a local politician and therefore highly informed
and resourceful. Just reach her and she will arrange your
accommodation, will tell you about the topography, what to
see, where to eat, and where to go for day treks. Interestingly,
the areas on either side of the river belong to two different
districts-Mandi and Kangra. So, we stayed in Mandi, and for
dinner walked over to Kangra crossing a rickety, wooden make-shift
bridge. We came back the same way and slept peacefully listening
to the soothing gurgling sound of the river barely 15 feet
the most glorious mornings you will ever experience. On a
clear day the river and valley just look resplendent. We took
a late morning walk at around 8 and it was nice to see people
going about their daily chores-children going to school, womenfolk
cleaning the houses, and men going for their work. You can
keep walking the riverside endlessly but our stomachs were
growling so we came back to Negis for a Maggi n Toast-Omelette
You Donít See Barot,
You Feel It
Morning Walk with my Hustand
the Road Ends, Start to Trek
When we asked Negi aunty over breakfast over where we can
go, she suggested that we could go for a day trek towards
Chhota Banghal, the last village to have road connectivity.
So, a lovely drive to Chhota Banghal ensued, full of roadside
streams and visuals to die for. How we wish we had a better
camera to capture all this.
The road keeps
getting narrower and you end up wishing that you donít cross
any four-wheeler which is bigger than a Maruti 800. The road
ends at Chhota Banghal village. We walked through the village
onto the hilly terrain to reach the lovely meadows which are
used by villagers to graze the cattle. A word of advice- carry
your food and water as it is not a ďtouristyĒ trail bedecked
with kiosks selling ďPepsi and MaggiĒ.
Me if You Can: If Wishes were Fishes
Off late, Barot has become
popular as an angling destination. There is a trout breeding
farm that releases fishes in the Uhl river. The Uhl river
is supposed to be teeming with trouts-both rainbow and brown.
Chhota Bhanghal is an
old-fashioned Hill Village
However, as ant fishing
enthusiast would know, angling is easier said than done.
Novices, if they wish to have a shot at trouts, should come
accompanied with somebody who has knowhow of the pursuit.
Also, please do get your own gear as there is only one local
shop that sells some very-very basic fishing gear and we
found it closed because the owner was attending a fellow
Barotians retirement party. In fact, the entire village
had congregated for the party making the environment festive.
Just like the old times! So, donít wait and do time travel
to BAROT and revel in nostalgia.
to Reach: Take a diversion on Palampur-Mandi
highway (NH 20) to Ghatasani, 14 km from Joginder Nagar
and 35 km from Mandi. Public buses ply from Mandi,
Jogindernagar and Palampur. Nearest railway station is at
Jogindernagar, terminus of the narrow gauge railway line
connecting Jogindernagar to Pathankot. Nearest airport is
at Gaggal, 15 kms from Dharamsala.
stay: 4-5 Homestays including Negiís , Sachinís. Government
Rest Houses on prior request
Where to eat: There are 3-4
basic restaurants. They offer trout in season and will not mind
cooking your catch of the day.
When to visit: Visit in summers
if you want respite from heat. Come in winters to enjoy snow.
Contributed By: Pallavi Khare,