Some times our plans of a good vacation go wreck because we make too much planning and the end result is a better place to go and roam around. And it was my turn to spoil the plans this time. I had planned everything for Mc’leodganj and was staying in Ludhiana to start next morning, May 7th but things changed and I was made to abandon the idea of Mc’leodganj. Now my plan was to go up from the Mandi-Kullu side cross Jalori pass and to come down from Narkanda - Shimla side. Tirthan valley is a typical place, what you call off-beat so I thought that starting from Kiratpur at 11-00 AM can be late and I rushed towards Aut (in my M-800). Around 3-30 I crossed Aut-Tunnel had to turn back as the way was just before the tunnel and I had to turn right there. Any way up to this, I was in time but no idea of the road conditions or any staying options ahead. The road was pretty OK till Ghiyagi, where I stayed for the night. There was no traffic, no tourists and no hotels visible along the road but we kept on noting the phone numbers of the hotels from the sign boards of a few hotels around Jhibhi, Banjar and Shoja, like Devganga (01903-227005, 9418154754, 9418893860), Shivani (01903-222276, 222719), Meena (01903-222258) and Haveli (9418803244), all scattered. Remember Shoja is not more than 45 kms beyond Aut Tunnel and is the last point where you can find accommodation to spend night. Raja guest house (09418550549) is right on the road and in my opinion they will always have a room for you. Along the way there are three-four home-stays/hotels and you are likely to find accommodation there also. The area is secluded, away from tourist rush and not townish at all. It is great for walks. There is a small brook along the road (not running adjacent) and at places it can be a good option for soaking in the sun and lazing around.
There is nothing much to see around. I stayed in Shringi Vatika, Ghiyagi (01903-227029). It was a good experience for the kids to spend night in a wooden room but when on a vacation you need something more comfortable. The place is given great reviews on a number of forums but I was disappointed. The food was not good at all. An elderly couple is running the place and I really appreciate their effort to keep an option available almost through out the year. The Vatika has small stream running through it and the location is very good. After Ghiyagi the road up to Jalori-Pass via Shoja is very steep and the condition of the road is very bad specially at the sharp and steep bends. Still any vehicle can do this if the ground clearance is more than M-800.
At Jalori-Pass you are in a different world altogether. You will find greenery all around and mountains below your feet. One walk from the top goes towards Saryolsar lake (5 kms) and other can take you to Raghupur Garh Meadows (2 kms). 2-3 small Dhabas remain operational here till snow fall starts but no staying options. The Aut side of Jalori-Pass is more beautiful than the Ani side and has better staying options. From Jalori-Pass, Narkanda is another 90 kms and is like a typical transit point in the tourist circuits.
Hatu peak around 8 kms from Narkanda is an xccellent place for views of the surrounding valleys and the green hills. The location of the PWD rest house at the peak needs special mention as I have never seen a place in India at such a beautiful location. Another thing about Narkanda is food that we had in hotel ‘The Himalaya’, excellent Dal Makhani, Shahi Paneer and Naan-Parantha.