Sometimes the unplanned trips are the best ones.
This line totally fits on my spontaneous road trip from Delhi to Chail and then Spiti Valley on public transport bus with my 4 other friends. When you don't plan too much for a trip and let the trip plan for you then it becomes more adventurous and fun. Before this trip some of us even didn't hear of Spiti Valley or where is it on the Himachal Pradesh map. But after this trip to Chail and Spiti Valley, we got to know what we were missing all this time and there is so much to explore in Himachal Pradesh.
It was yet another long weekend of 2014 with 15th August on Friday and Janmashtami on Monday so it was a perfect long weekend to get away from the chaos of Delhi.
Planning the road trip
It all started in the training room of our office where we had a meeting where we decided on the destination we are going on the road, what do we need to carry for the trip, how much money each of us should take with, from where we will be taking the buses and every other small detail.
So the plan was to get a bus to Shimla from Kashmiri Gate, New Delhi and then find something to get to Banjar from there.
Oops we forgot, it's a long weekend :(
We planned everything to the detail but forgot that its long weekend and it will be impossible to get a bus from New Delhi to Shimla. In every long weekend, it seems like the whole of Delhi city is going towards the mountains. And at this time all the buses are pre-booked a week before the long weekend. So the lesson is learned for the lifetime and an advice from my side to book your bus online in advance on the long weekends.
The best option is to book them from the official website of Himachal Road Transport Corporation from Delhi to just be sure that you are able to get out of the city on time without any chaos. In our case, we left together from office at around 3:30 pm on Thursday 14 August and reached ISBT Kashmiri Gate at around 5 pm. Looking at the situation in ISBT we realized that it's going to be difficult to get a bus. All the buses we pre-booked online with just on 2-3 seat left in them to any destination towards the Mountains.
At late in the evening, we booked a private deluxe bus from outside the ISBT but after looking at the situation of that deluxe bus we canceled the booking and got the money back. Then we planned to book a private cab to ISBT Chandigarh at around 11 pm and left for Chandigarh.
Change of plans - Delhi to Chandigarh
It was the first change of plan on our trip to go to Chandigarh. We reached Chandigarh early in the morning around 4 am on 15 August. But the situation was the same there as and no buses available.
But luckily in the morning around 6 or 7 am we saw a bus going almost half empty. We asked the conductor where it was going and he said Kandaghat or Chail, I don't remember clearly because at the time we didn't know where these places were. But the only thing I remember is we asked him "Is it going toward mountains?" and he said yes. We grabbed our backpacks and hopped on to that bus.
And then we were relaxed and finally we are leaving the city and moving towards mountains.
Kandaghat - Our first checkpoint of the road trip
Bus from Chandigarh took us to Kandaghat and took us around 3 hrs. Kandaghat is a small town in Solan district of Himachal Pradesh. Shimla is around 30 km from Kandaghat and from here you can also take a turn towards Chail. While going toward Kandaghat we decided to go to Chail and from there go to Banjar.
It was raining in the morning so the weather was amazing in Kandaghat. We had some time so we took a small walk toward Kandaghat Railway Station. This station comes under the Kalka-Shimla Rail route and is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At the railway station, everyone was preparing for hoisting the flag as it was Independence Day, so we joined them and sang the national anthem as well. After we had some chance of clicking some pictures at the station.
After all this fun it was time to say goodbye to this amazing place and start searching for our next ride toward Chail.
Kandaghat to Chail
We stayed at Kandaghat for just an hour but it was fun. We got a shared cab which took us to Chail which is more than an hour to reach the main bazaar of Chail. Because it was independence day so people were in a different kind of a mood. There was a small school function where we a Himachali kid performing a dance in front of everyone. Here is the video.
From the experience we had till now, Independence Day celebration in Himachal was totally different from how it's celebrated in Cities.
Our next mission to search for some good breakfast and then the hotel to stay for the night. There are some small dhabas made inside the home which provide delicious parathas with curd, achar and chai. After that, we found the cheapest hotel in Chail to stay, which felt like a mistake later because we were 5 guys in a single bed.
Exploring Chail on foot
After the check-in, we decided to take a walk and explore Chail in the afternoon. Chail is a good option for a holiday if you do not want the chaos of Shimla on a long weekend. Shimla is just 45 km from Chail, so it's quite easy to cover both places on a weekend.
Chail got some good options to explore like Chail Palace, Kali Temple, Chail Wildlife Sanctuary and many more. But one attraction which attracted us the most was Chail Cricket Ground, which is considered highest cricket ground in the world.
Walk to Chail Cricket Ground
Best way to reach Chail Cricket Ground is to take walk from the market and enjoy the surrounding in between. It might take around 30min to reach but it worth the effort. Because of the rain weather became a little cold and foggy, which is perfect for a hike.
A lot of the place above Chail market comes under army facilities. There was Army school as well called Rashtriya Army School (Chail).
When we reached the cricket ground, it was closed with a lock on the gate but we managed to sneak in because we didn't want to go back without going on the pitch. The cricket ground is located at the top of the hill and gives an amazing view of the surrounding mountain peaks.
We manage to make friends with some local school kids and played basketball and few cricket matches with them. It was fun to interact with the kids. They told us how all of them are from different part of the country because their parents are in India Army.
We stopped after a couple of matches because fog started to come from all directions as the ground was at the top of the hill. It felt like it was about to rain and we didn't want to stuck at this place so late in the evening so we said goodbye to the kinds started walking back to the hotel.
Sidh Baba Ka Mandir
While going back to Chail market some kids told us to go to Sidh Baba Ka Mandir which was close to the Chail cricket ground.
Sidh Baba Temple is a quite isolated place and is surrounded by the forest. The fog was all around us and it was making this place more beautiful.
Chail Gurudwara Sahib
Another place which you could visit while coming back to the market was Chail Gurudwara Sahib which is just before the Chail market.
After this, we straight away went to the hotel because we were too tired until this time. In the night we had our dinner in one the Hotel/Dhaba in Chail market. While in the market we gather some information about the morning bus from Chail to some random place and from their we were supposed to take another bus to Banjar. While going to sleep we planned to wake up early and take a walk to the surrounding forest.
But as expected no one woke up except Saurav and thanks to him we were able to see these amazing pictures.
After missing the opportunity to see this amazing view with own eyes we didn't want to miss the bus, so we packed everything. Around 10 am bus left and we said goodbye to Chail.
Bus Journey to Banjar... But we never reached!
Bus from Chail took us to Kufri and from their, we took another bus going toward Rampur and finally around 4 pm we got out at a point from where we could take another bus to Banjar. We waited for an hour but no luck to get any bus going toward Banjar.
It was almost getting dark and we knew we might not get any bus now. So we gathered some information from the locals and decided to go to Rampur on the next bus and take another bus in the morning from Rampur to Banjar.
The plan was perfect because we were already been to Rampur last year while going towards Kalpa and knew about a cheap place under the bus stand to stay as well. But that bus journey from that point to Rampur changed everything.
Will be posting another blog post about how everything changed, we stayed on road and travelled for next 26 hours and end up in Kaza, which is one of the most remote sides of Himachal Pradesh. Stay tuned...