Having written about 5 exciting treks near Shimla, I felt a little hypocritical that I hadn’t done any of them yet. So this Sunday, after a hectic week, I decided to go for the Hatu peak trek. Here’s my account of what turned out to be an amazing trip despite some bad luck.
Waiting for the bus at Narkanda, I looked up towards Hatu for one last time.
The sun was still shinning on top of the 3400 meter peak. I shivered, either because I imagined the cold wind that was blowing at the peak or because it was getting cold down in Narkanda which was now completely in shade. My legs were hurting and I was getting impatient so instead of focusing on when the bus would come I scrolled through the pictures I had taken and remembered the good part of my day.
I had reached Narkanda early and a shopkeeper had pointed me in the direction of the way to Hatu.
The start of the climb is about 1.5 km in, on the Thanadar road. A Hindi signboard welcomes you to Hatu temple as three roads diverge into the hills. One carries on to Baghi and Thanadar while a dirt link road leads to some remote village. The road in the middle climbs up the mountain and the board warns you that it’s only accessible to small vehicles.
I didn’t want to take the road so I looked for a hiking trail. There is no clear trail but if you start making your way up the side of the mountain you’ll manage to find broken trails along the way. You’ll meet the meandering road every now and then so have no fear of getting lost.
I climbed the steep slopes of the mountain without knowing exactly how far I had to go. I was surrounded by a dense forest of coniferous trees and little shrubs of wild flowers that were all but dead by this time of the year. Last little yellow flowers were scattered here and there among the dried up shrubs.
As I came around a turn, I saw for the first time the top of the mountain, intimidatingly high to the right. In the morning I had been too excited to notice but if you ever try this trek you can get your first view of Hatu right from Narkanda. If you are anything like me it’ll both scare and excite you.
About halfway, there is a huge mud hut made by Gujjar herders along with a small pond. It’s a nice place to rest and I had my breakfast there.
Two crows had followed me and I fed them some cake. I leaned against the mud wall and soaked up the sun while dreaming about what it would be like to be a nomad and live in a mud hut with no doors.
The overall climb was of moderate difficulty. Towards the end I used the road as the slope of the mountain got too steep and the trail got harder to find. Trekking towards the end of October meant that the temperature was low and I didn’t sweat a lot. But it was a strange situation where I felt hot with my jacket on and cold without it.
Once I reached the top though, I couldn’t take off my jacket because of the cold sharp wind that was coming down from snow covered mountains somewhere.
The view from the top is worth the 2 hour climb. Even with clouds around, I could see for miles in all directions.
The Hatu temple is a view to behold in itself.
The intricacy of the woodwork mesmerized me as I tried to take in the stories carved into the wood. This is a new temple that has been constructed recently and some construction is still going on. There are two more buildings to one side which seem to be guest houses of some kind although they were locked and I couldn’t be sure.
I sat down on a bench and took in the view and tried to just be still for a moment. But then my stomach growled and I had to acknowledge it with the lunch I had been carrying from Shimla.
As much as I wanted to stay on the top, I was also worried about getting a bus on time and so I decided to head back down in about an hour. The wind had also been constantly urging me to leave the holy place and head back down to civilization.
On the way down, I took the road most of the way as it seemed safer than the steep slopes. But taking the long way meant that getting down also took me about the same time as climbing up. The whole trek part had been just what I had hoped for. It would have been a pleasant weekend if only the buses hadn’t let me down.
Back in Narkanda, I looked at my watch and it had been almost 3 hours since I came down. No bus had come so far. The locals said this never happened and there must have been some problem in Rampur from where most of the buses come from.
I wondered how good and bad experiences can happen on the same day to us. I wanted to focus on the good but couldn’t help curse my bad luck. Just when I was about to write off the whole experience as terrible, the bus came and I somehow pushed my way in, despite the rush.
I reached back home tired and cranky but after a good night’s sleep I felt better. In the end it was all worth it. I have chosen to focus on the hiking part of my trip and the serenity of the forest, instead of the crowded bus that came 3 hours late.
If you live in Shimla, or are visiting Shimla, do plan a day for the Hatu peak trek. If you aren’t fond of walking you can even take a cab all the way to the top but for some reason I don’t think you’ll enjoy it as much, if you drive to the top.
For further reading: Hatu Peak’s account by Ravi.