#60DaysOfSummer Travelogues

Hike from Killar to Hudan: Paradise on the Edge

Jitaditya Narzary

Is a traveller disillusioned by the familiar and fascinated with the unknown... and of course the founder of this blog.

Hudan (12)

The bus was at 7.30 am as per the time table. However, I learnt at 7:25 that it had already left at 7 because that’s what they do in the summers. So began another one of my excruciating walks.

_______________

My final destination during the #60DaysOfSummer trip was Pangi which is as obscure a place as one can find in the 21st century. I have waited for last few months because I wasn’t sure if I should publicize it too much. A much abused and misused word “pristine” can be used for Pangi in its truest sense. So, I do not really want to see a tourism boom here. However, I cannot also hold back and not share at least a bit of what I have seen and trust me, you must see it to believe what I saw and these photographs are not doing full justice to the place.

I have already shared some snippets from Pangi earlier. Nevertheless, I am repeating the intro for the sake of convenience.

“It is practically the last frontier yet to be broken by the Himalayan tourism boom. In the olden days, it used to be a site for Kala Pani (exile) for criminals of Chamba Kingdom. Even now, at the expense of sounding like a self-righteous snob, I want these people to remain oblivious of those possibilities, and the resultant squalor, pollution, and degradation that accompanies the same. But I know, it is only a matter of time.

I have seen many maps and trekking guidebooks of Himachal that end exactly where the Pangi Valley should begin. This has remained invisible to most of them except one or two exceptions. And this invisibility is not a mythical or exotic one. It remains practically ignored for some inexplicable reasons.”

_________

A few years ago, I came across it accidentally and till this date people return expressions ranging from befuddled to sarcastic when I mention the place. In fact I also faced the same from many magazine editors who were not sure if I was pitching fact or fiction. It is hard to imagine a place this sensory yet this desolated in this day and age when most of the neighbouring areas beyond its hilly confines have been major tourist hubs for many decades.

I reached Killar, the only town in Pangi, after a precarious HRTC bus ride from Keylong through one of those killer roads. The road generally remained tolerable till the borders of Lahaul but as soon as it entered Pangi region, all pretense of civic infrastructure disappeared.

I saw exactly two hotels in Killar took a room in one of them called Hotel Chamunda. There were a few shops and restaurants of very basic nature, named after various names of the river Chandrabhaga.

Pangi Valley Primer:

Now, before going any further, let me explain a few things about the region. Pangi is actually not one valley but a combination of several sub valleys. These narrow sub valleys are nurtured by narrow hilly streams that eventually join the Chandrabhaga that cuts through rugged terrains of the valley.

Pangi Valley (3)

Sural, Hudan, Parmar, Saichu, etc are some of those sub valleys. Every sub valley has a series of villages leading up to the top (generally at altitudes in excess of 3000 metres). Interestingly, lower villages are generally Hindu villages but the last ones are Buddhist Villages called “Bhatoris” as they are inhabited by “Bhot”s or Tibetan Buddhists. So, at the end of Sural, there is a village called Sural Bhatori while at the end of Hudan there is one called Hudan Bhatori, and so on.

Pangi Valley (1)

Due to difficult terrains it takes several days to cover all of them. I barely had a couple of days to spare at the end of a very long trip. The first day I tried Sural but due to some misunderstanding I got down from the bus even before it reached the destination. I will return there next summer but today let me concentrate on Hudan, which I covered the next day.

Towards Hudan:


At Killar, I was glad to find a bus time table written on the wall but soon I realized that it is not that accurate. As mentioned already, I missed the bus. I asked a few local car drivers who quoted some exorbitant amounts. So, left with no other option, I packed two Bar One chocolates and half a bottle of water as emergency ration and started walking. It was around 12 kms away and it was still pretty early in the morning. So, I calculated that I can make it, explore the place and also return by the end of the day as the sun doesn’t set almost till 8pm in this season.

The first thing of note that I came across was the helipad. This might have looked inoccuous but during the winters, when all the approaches to the valley are blocked, this helipad can decide life or death of the Pangwals. It is seamlessly integrated with the road. So, one can also enjoy a very unique experience of crossing a smooth helipad on a rickety bus. As for myself, I just walked over it and continued my hike.

Hudan (1)

The initial parts of the trek were not much different from any other hikes. There are 2-3 small villages on these parts such as Tundroo and Takwas etc. As I crossed one by one, the road got narrower and I was beginning to feel that everything was even getting slightly tilted. The road was being intersected by smaller streams at regular intervals. I refilled my water bottle at one of them. A dog appeared from nowhere, and so did a rosefinch.

Hudan (7)

Hudan (9)

Hudan (3)

Eventually, I reached a point where the road takes a steep U turn. This is where I found the famous “swords” of Hudan. These are basically rocks, partially buried on the ground. There are some local legends flying pandits associated with them. Forgive me if this sounds interesting because I have no other details regarding this. This has been fleetingly mentioned in Minakshi Chaudhry’s Guide to Trekking in Himachal.

Hudan (11)

Anyway, I kept moving upwards and since I’d gained significant altitude by then, the views had gotten better. I struggled to find a horizontal portion throughout the entire valley. The villages are built on the steep inclines. They cultivate a limited variety of crops in these slopes, and even the kids play on such tilted fields. Eventually even the steep inclines also end and the ground nosedives almost perpendicularly to meet the lascivious stream.

Pangi Valley (6)

Hudan (13)

Hudan (14)

Hudan (6)

Hudan (17)

At Hudan Bhatori


After around 4 hours of hiking I finally arrived at the village. The bus I missed earlier was returning. But it was going to come back later, and I had to do explore the area in the meantime. I saw a few small stupas, thus convincing me that I am entering Buddhist territory.

Hudan (18)

Pangi Valley (12)

I could not see too many people, but the few I came across had the same question, what exactly was I doing there? The manner was not offensive but curious. No tourist comes here. There are no hotels or resorts and very few people even know about them. So, the stranger in the strange land indeed looked strange. This is also an indication of completely uncorrupted and insulated mindset of these people. They are not realizing their own potential and cannot even imagine that their villages can attract other visitors.

Hudan (44)

I moved on through the village. I wanted to visit the local monastery but somewhere I got distracted and confused and I started climbing the steep rolling hills above the village. My direction was wrong as it turned out, but I did not care about that. This was the peak of summer and everything was blooming and glowing. The cattle here do not graze but munch on pearls and rubies.

Chandrabhaga (330)

Hudan (40)

Pangi Valley (9)

I kept climbing upwards as far as possible, till the point I was exhausted. But still there were a few aerodynamically inefficient cows above me. It did not make me feel very good about myself but nevertheless, I’d had a long walk so I allowed myself some rest. A local woman tending to her herd came close and again inquired a few things about me. Finally she showed me the correct direction of the monastery but I was already satisfied and decided to just keep clicking the cows, goats, blue poppies, and butterflies.

Hudan (38)

Hudan (35)

Hudan (28)

Hudan (34)

Pangi Valley (10)

Pangi Valley (11)

Hudan (33)

Kungaram ji

After several hours, I figured that the return bus will arrive soon. So, climbed down and started walking back. This is when I met Kungaram Ji. It is not exactly the name I was expecting in a Buddhist village. But probably the culture is more composite in these regions as they live in close proximity with the Hindu villages. Anyway, he invited me for tea inside his house. Sadly, it was pitch dark inside so I could not return with any worthwhile images.

We started chatting. He claimed to be 80 years old but did not look a day older than 50. We discussed various things about life in those regions and he soon upgraded to offer for tea to local liquor and took out a bottle. I had to return soon, so I was a bit careful. Nevertheless, we downed a few pegs and continued the conversation in the very dim light penetrating through the crevices of the wall. I am not sure but probably this kind of structure saves them during the harsh winter.

The Return


Eventually it was time for the bus so I bad adieu and started walking back. The bus seemed late but I’d done the hardwork already and the downward walk was not something that frightened me. Also, the light was still good and so I got some more pictures. The butterflies were now settling down on the flowers at the end of hard day’s work and cattle were returning home too.

Hudan (42)

Hudan (43)

Hudan (45)

Hudan (47)

Hudan (46)

Hudan (49)

Hudan (51)

I’d walked close to 30 KMs by that time and was completely exhausted. But there was still no sign of the bus and I’d used up my ration too. Finally, when I again reached those aforementioned “swords”, I finally saw the bus coming. I did not mind it because it was just the perfect location to end the day with a perfect frame!

Pangi Valley (13)

31 Comments

  • 2016/11/02 - 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic man!! So makes me head to the mountains !!

  • 2016/11/02 - 7:52 pm | Permalink

    First thing’s first – I just have to mention here that I truly love your writing style. Reading your articles makes me think this is what travel writing should look like.

    I have been visiting India for the last 4 years and somehow I always fail to be in the country when it’s a good time to head up to the mountains. This definitely looks like something I’d want to visit, when I finally manage to haul my ass up to the north of the country.

    On a side note, I think it would be useful to have a quick recap on the practicalities of how to visit the place – getting there, sleeping, stages and the like. I know some of it is there in free form writing, but we readers are a spoilt bunch and it would complement the article perfectly if you sum up the how’s in the end point by point.

  • 2016/11/02 - 9:07 pm | Permalink

    I can understand your worry for a flood for toursits. It really looks like an amazing place.If you are lucky, then it is remote enough not to receive to many tourists. :)

  • 2016/11/02 - 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Just one word for this, EPIC.

    I hope the travel companies take note of this kind of true exploration and mention you in top 15-20 lists. Magnificent account Jitaditya, adrenaline rush after reading this.

  • 2016/11/02 - 10:41 pm | Permalink

    Man, I really envy your photography skills, you’ve got a great eye for a shot. I also really envy your productivity with your posts, I wish I could produce material as regularly as you do. Anyway, a really great part of the world that you did justice to. As the comment above me states, truly epic. Nice work

  • 2016/11/03 - 7:15 am | Permalink

    Hidden gem there!
    I just hope it doesn’t become a tourist mess. Each picture is so beautiful and the one with butterflies will make a perfect post card from there.

  • 2016/11/03 - 1:59 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful place and one I must admit I had no clue about. While according to you the photos won’t do justice to the place, they capture the beauty perfectly. Still in awe looking at the photos. Heaven on earth is what comes to mind and the fact that it still remains off the tourist track is a good thing.

  • 2016/11/03 - 3:56 pm | Permalink

    what an amazing place
    lovely clicks

    love the greens with hints of colour

  • 2016/11/03 - 4:40 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful place. I can definitely see why you don’t want to shout it out. I suppose all of us have a few “hidden places” that we wouldn’t want to share. Absolutely love your blog.

  • 2016/11/03 - 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Just Beautiful- the narrative as well as the images. Loved them..

  • 2016/11/04 - 11:44 am | Permalink

    Amazing clicks Man !
    just amazing !! I gazed for minutes to each of them.
    Thanks for sharing :)

  • 2016/11/04 - 10:02 pm | Permalink

    I loved this article. I feel like I could spend a lifetime here and still not get enough. Your photos are absolutely beautiful.

  • 2016/11/04 - 11:33 pm | Permalink

    I am a trekking enthusiast but have explored only western India. In North I have trekked only in Roopkund and few other, smaller ones. I hope to discover more and more now that I have shifted to Delhi. Blogs like these are really helpful for me to decide my next trek. Pangi seems like such a lovely place. Fab blog!

  • 2016/11/07 - 2:52 am | Permalink

    I love to hike too and that looks like a stunning part of the world to trek in. Amazing photos and a stunning landscape! Very jealous!!

  • 2016/11/07 - 2:55 am | Permalink

    Wow Pangi Valley is amazing! I could see why you would want to keep this majestic place to yourself. I tend to try and avoid the highly touristy areas for this reason. Its better to discover somewhere not many go. Thanks for sharing!

  • 2016/11/07 - 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Your posts make us think there is no dearth of heavenly places in India. We wonder how to find these spots we don’t get to read much. Pangi valley is beautiful, untouched and pristine. Definitely, cows must be grazing on gems :) We are fascinated by monasteries we would love to visit Hudan Bhatori.

  • Sudipto
    2016/11/08 - 10:30 am | Permalink

    Jitaditya, Awesome article mate along with the pictures. Why don’t you break up the article into smaller bits so that we can enjoy it in episodes. Did you try out any of the Himachali food??

  • 2016/11/08 - 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Jitaditya for bringing this place to light through your post. What a landscape! I’ve never really heard about this place and it comes to me as a surprise. Would love to go here and soak in the sights and the place. Your photos are awesome!

  • Shane Prather
    2016/11/09 - 4:46 am | Permalink

    I’ve honestly heard very little on this destination. The landscape looks so lush and green! I would love to see it up close and personal as I’m sure the pictures can’t do it justice.

  • 2016/11/09 - 7:16 am | Permalink

    What a great hiking adventure you got there. I’m into hiking as well, have you done this only for a day? Btw stunning captures there!

  • Nika
    2016/11/10 - 1:43 am | Permalink

    what a beautiful place for hike! It looks like humans have never yet been in this part of the world from your picture. Just a pure nature at its best. :) thanks for sharing this post with us!

  • Brown Gal Trekker
    2016/11/11 - 1:08 am | Permalink

    Beautiful place. There seems to be a lot of lesser known villages in that part of the country. It’s good to know there are still places without much crowd to contend with.

  • 2016/11/11 - 11:04 am | Permalink

    Great photos! Obviously you had an amazing trip! We recently trekked in Himachal Pradesh and your images revived some wonderful memories :)

  • 2016/11/11 - 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful place. Awesome pics.
    Thanks a lot for sharing.

  • 2017/02/23 - 8:46 pm | Permalink

    What an amazing adventure you had! It’s brave of you to hike for 14 km just because you missed the bus. I would have probably try to hitchhike if there was any car passing by or just wait for the bus to come back. Your photos are spectacular and I can see the valley between the valleys you talk about. They seem so steep!

  • 2017/02/23 - 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Such beautiful impressions! I must say, it even reminded me quite a lot to the mountains that we have in Switzerland here. Really interesting how you discovered such places where usually tourists are not seen that often, this is in my opinion usually the best kind of discovering places :)
    I really like your shots with these beautiful flowers, great eyes for detail.

  • 2017/02/23 - 9:53 pm | Permalink

    The views must be insanely beautiful! I love places that are not overcrowded with tourists :) Thanks for sharing!

  • 2017/02/23 - 10:05 pm | Permalink

    Pangi valley looks absolutely stunning and magical. And I totally agree with you on the valleys to remain untouched by the tourist boom, although I am highly tempted to plan my next trip here :). The entire post along with the beautiful captures got me completely hooked from the beginning. I just cant stop looking at the lush greenery and wondering how blissful the whole experience must have been for you. Great post Jitaditya :).

  • 2017/02/24 - 12:39 am | Permalink

    Wow this looks like a very interesting trip! I never considered it before traveling there. Thanks a lot for sharing

  • 2017/02/24 - 7:04 am | Permalink

    I have never been to India, unfortunately, but I would love to visit sometime soon. And I will keep this place in mind – I have never heard of it before, but of course India is a big country. Thank you for sharing!

  • 2017/02/25 - 6:54 am | Permalink

    I must say that the views are breathtaking! You captured the place so well! I don’t know if I can do the 4 hour hike but that view is really amazing! looks worth it huh?

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Show Buttons
    Hide Buttons
    Powered by: Wordpress