I have visited many towns and cities in hilly states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, but there was a desire to travel to a Himalayan village, an isolated place where life is not so fast-paced and where I can sit back and relax while being surrounded by hills. One of my friends had been to Barot and when he posted pictures of this small village, I was impressed by them. I wanted to visit this village then, but this place is difficult to reach in winters due to snowfall. We got to know from the villagers in Barot that snowfall continued till early may in Barot that year. Even this was a spontaneous plan made a day before the actual travel. After considering few places, we zeroed in on Barot.
|Way to Barot|
There are two popular routes to reach Barot. First is by bus via Mandi. Second is by bus via Joginder Nagar. Even while coming via railways from Pathankot station, one has to reach Joginder Nagar. From Mandi or Joginder Nagar, buses are available at regular intervals. On the Mandi-Joginder Nagar highway, there is a small diversion at Ghatasani for Barot. Barot is around 25 km from Ghatasani. Roads till Ghatasani were in a good condition, but after Ghatasani we saw typical Himalayan Roads : narrow, curvy, single lane although not one way. We crossed the Uhl river near Tikkan village. It took us little less than two hours to reach Barot from Joginder Nagar.
After reaching Barot, we got to know to our surprise that most of the good places to stay were already booked. We had in our mind a small village which would not be crowded by visitors and which was yet to become a popular tourist destination. We got a room at one River View home stay. In Barot there are many homestays, rooms that people spare from their daily usage during tourist season. Ours was in Multhan, a small village situated on the other side of the river, falling in district Kangra.
|Multhan village near Barot|
When we reached Barot, the weather was sunny and it was not particularly pleasant, but after a couple of hours, there were clouds and cool winds started blowing. It was nice to roam around in such a weather. The first place that we went to was Haulage Trolley. This trolley was built during British reign and was used to transport instruments and materials for building Shanan Dam and Reservoir. Currently, it is operated by Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB). This trolley was used for transportation till the 1970s when Barot was still not connected by a road.
When we looked from the start of trolley tracks to it going high and high towards the peak, the first thing that came to my mind was 'Stairway to Heaven' a famous song by Led Zeppelin, although in this case it was 'Railway to Heaven.' These tracks invited a visit and we accepted happily. The initial part of the tracks was not that steep and we had no problem but then it became very steep. So steep that we had to use all our limbs to reach beyond first of such steep parts. We stopped there to take rest. Then we met a resident of nearby village returning from school. Travelling 5 km to and fro for schooling was a tough task when it involved climbing hills also. While coming to Barot, we also saw very young children going to school, standing in a jam-packed bus, something we experienced while going to Kasauli as well. He told us that there were three such steep parts in trolley tracks and with this speed it would already be dark by the time we would return. Then started rains. We abandoned our plans to go to the other side of the hills with heavy heart as we had seen in pictures that the other side of the hill provided breathtaking views.
|River run-off in Barot|
We then went in the valley to be with river Uhl. The clean water moving with speed and small falls made that place a beautiful one. Next on our list was the Shanan Hydel Power Project. this hydel plant was built on Uhl river in 1932 during British Raj. It was the first Megawatt capacity hydropower plant in India. There were two diversions for stream which were used to send water to Shanan Powerhouse situated few kilometers downstream. There was also a water jet like structure sending water upwards, that was the attraction of the evening for us.
|With Uhl river in Barot|
We also went to the Trout Fishing area. One has to take a prior license for fishing. There we saw colorful fishes of different sizes. During the night, we wandered on the empty roads of Barot and Multhan. Times like this are the ideal setting for our bakaiti sessions. Next day we got up late in the morning and missed the first bus from Barot to Ghatasani. Next bus was after two hours. We went again to the Dam and in the mean time also tried hands on a sling-shot. Then the bus came and we left for our next destination, Kasol.