Since 1987, we have been visiting Garhwal/Kumaon Himalaya every year either for trekking with my group or for pilgrimage with my family. I felt that a change of region for 1996 Himalayan trek was overdue and accordingly decided to undertake trek to Manimahesh Lake in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh clubbing with sight-seeing in Chamba, Bharmour, Dalhousie and Kajjiar. Although this trek can be done during June-October, taking into consideration the facilities (tented accommodation and dabhas/langars) that will be available during the Manimahesh fair held around Janmashtami, we decided to trek during August but after Janmashtami to avoid the pilgrim crowd.
Myself and my colleague Jambukeswaran ( other two friends dropped out of the trek) boarded Swaraj Express at Borivali and reached Chakki Bank the next day afternoon. The auto outside the railway station dropped us at Pathankot bus stand. Details of day to day schedule are as under :
Day-1 : Mumbai to Chakki Bank by Swaraj Express.
Day-2 : Chakki Bank-Pathankot (by auto)-Chamba (995m), 120 kms, 5 hours by bus.
Day-3 : Chamba to Bharmour (2195m), 65 kms, 4 hours by bus.
Trekked to Brahman Devi temple and back (3+3 kms).
Day-4 : Bharmour to Hadsar,12 kms by share jeep.
Hadsar to Dhancho (2490m), 7 kms. by trek. Overnight at Dhancho in Tent.
Day-5 : Dhancho to Manimahesh (4115m), 8 kms by trek . Stayed overnight in Tent.
Took bath in Manimahesh lake and spent most of the time in the tent as weather
was not conducive to stroll around Manimahesh lake.
Day-6 : Manimahesh-Dhancho, 8 kms by trek. Took lunch in a Langar.
Dhancho-Hadsar, 7 kms by trek.
Hadsar-Bharmour, 12 kms by share jeep.Visited Chourasi Temple Complex. Overnight
Day-7 :Bharmourr to Chamba, 65 kms by by bus. Visited Laxminarayan Temple Complex.
Overnight in Chamba.
Day-8 : Chamba to Dalhousie (2040m), 43 kms by bus. Local sight-seeing. Overnight at
Day-9 : Dalhousie-Kajjiar-Dalhousie day trip, 19+19 kms by bus. Spent 2 hours walking around
Day-10: Dalhousie to Pathankot, 80 kms by bus.
Chakki Bank - Borivali (Mumbai) by Swaraj Express.
The photo negatives of many pictures of this trek/trip have been damaged beyond redemption. I have uploaded here some pictures which I could retrieve which, in my view, give the glimpses of our trek and trip in Chamba region. Apart from the trek, our visits to Bharmour, Chamba and Kajjiar were the most rewarding ones and a revisit to these places is overdue.
View of Bharmour village from the ridge on way to Brahmani Mata temple. It is customary to visit Brahmani Mata temple, a 3 km trek with steep gradient from Bharmour with before visiting Manimahesh Lake.
View from the ridge on way to Brahmani Mata temple near Bharmour.
On way to Brahmani Mata temple, near Bharmour.
Brahmani Mata temple. It is customary to take bath in the pond (left) before embarking on pilgrimage to Manimahesh Lake. We, however, took a symbolic bath by sprinkling some water from the pond on our head.
A 12 km drive on a mud road brought us to Hadasr village , the starting point for trek to Manimahesh Lake and also to Kungti Pass.
View from the trekking path towards Dhancho
On way to Dhancho. Due to cloud burst sometime in early 90s, the swollen stream destroyed most of the well laid trekking path to Dhancho. Hence, most of our trekking path was strewn with rocks and stones. However, the climb to Dhancho was gradual.
On way to Dhancho. Eventhough it was rainy season, we did not encounter rains during our trek.
The gentleman on the right is the one who has been running the langar for many years in Dhancho.
Langar at Dhancho.
Boys outside a Dhaba near Dhancho.
Zig zag trekking path from Dhancho towards Manimahesh. After Dhancho, the vegetation becomes sparse. The altitude gain of about 1600m in 8 kms did create some breathing problem for me in the night at Manimahesh but in the morning, I was alright. Most of the pilgrims, therefore, make a day visit to Manimahesh from Dhancho.
Gourikund. The last 2 kms trek to Gourikund is very steep. Only ladies are permitted to take bath in this kund. It is customary for lady pilgrims to take bath in Gourikund before reaching Manimahesh which is one km further.
Manimahesh Kailash (5660m) at the base of Manimahesh Lake.
One of the temples in Chourasi (84) temple complex in Bharmour. The temples belong to 9th century. The temple complex is supposed to have 84 temples but we could see 4-5 large temples and some small temples. The main temples with rich carvings were Manimahesh, Lakshmi, Ganesh and Narasimha with Shikhara style architecture.
The dome of one of the main temples in Chourasi temple complex.
The close-up of the carvings on the dome of the temple.
Chourasi temple complex, Bharmour. The temple complex was very clean with good ambiance and scenic view of Dhauladar Himalaya. There were hardly any tourist other than some local people in the complex.
The Chougan ( meadow with four sides) is the hub of Chamba town.
Laksminarayan temple complex, Chamba. There were 5-6 temples in the complex which had been built in 10th century. All the temples are in Shikhara style architecture.
Lakshminarayan temple complex. The main temples are dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu.
The Shikhara style architecture with rich carvings on the temple walls.
Close-up of one of the stone carvings on the temple walls.
A bird's eye view of Dalhousie.
A hotel and restaurant in the midst of Kajjiar meadow.
It was a common sight to see cows and sheeps/goats grazing in the Kajjiar meadow.
Kajjiar is a beautiful place to chill out an entire day. The meadow is surrounded by dense pine, oak and cedar tree forest. While we had just time to walk around the meadow, a walk through the forest would have been more rewarding.
A lone house ( Forest Rest House?) at the extreme end of the Kajjiar meadow.
An unusual cedar tree with multiple trunks at Kajjiar.