In Hang-Gliding Country: Jogindernagar to Bir

Easily accessible, Barot is located in the Nargu Wildlife Sanctuary, deep in the Valley of Uhl (a right bank tributary of the Beas River). Favoured by anglers, the Uhl and its tributary, the Lamadug, abound in rainbow trout. Barot is also the site of the intake reservoir of the Shannon Hydel Power Project, designed and executed by Colonel Betty in 1925. The hillsides are thickly forested with deodar, oak, blue pine and spruce. Small villages, located along fast-flowing mountain streams and tiny terraced fields, present a charming picture to the visitor. This is a four-day trek, which can be altered to suit one’s convenience. A two-day walk brings one to Barot, from where it is possible to take a bus/ taxi back to Jogindernagar. Extending one’s stay in Barot by a day or two makes it possible to explore the surrounding Chhota Bhangal region.


Uhl valley (photo by Rajesh)


Several one-day treks are also possible from Barot. You can visit the temple of Bardharni Devi, or trek to Billing, the hang glider’s paradise. You could also explore the villages of Polang, Bhujling, Kothi Kohr and Baragaon in the surrounding Chhota Bhangal region. It is also possible to take an easy walk up the pine slopes along the haulage trolley track. Other walks include visiting the villages of Baragaon (14 km) and Rajgunda (18 km), up the Uhl River, or Lohardi (6 km), Polang (13 km) and Bhujling (13 km), up the Lamadug stream. These villages retain the beautiful, traditional wooden houses of old, unlike the concrete monstrosities that have overrun more accessible areas. If you’re interested in more rigorous walking and some great views, it is possible to trek up to the base camps of the Thamsar and Makori passes that link Chhota and Bara Bhangal areas. Palachak, Panihardu and Bherpal Got en route to the Thamsar Pass, and Nanwani Got and Thangkar Got en route to the Makori Pass, are scenic pastures where one can set up camp.









Walk from Jogindernagar to Hara Bag (5 km) on National Highway 20, heading south to Mandi. Alternatively, take a bus to this small village with terraced fields. There is a tea-stall here, where one can have a decent breakfast before starting out on the trek. Seek directions from the villagers and follow a well-trodden path going north up to the Winch Camp (6 km). The path is moderately steep as it climbs in a series of zig-zags up the hill. Winch Camp (2,000m) offers panoramic views on the southern side, where small villages of Kangra and Mandi districts dot the Beas Valley below.


Jogindernagar (Photo by Rajesh)


The views towards the north are limited. From Winch Camp a level walk of 3 km runs parallel to the trolley track, to the left of the Ghoghar Dhar ridgeline. The northern Barot side is covered in a dense forest of deodar and oak. The trail goes down north-east through a mixed forest of deodar, oak and chir pine. It is a comfortable descent on a well-defined path into the Uhl Valley. Alternatively, one can choose to stay at the neck of the ridgeline. There are many places to pitch tents here.


From Jogindernagar, it is also possible to take a ride in the haulage trolley up to the neck (2,250m). Prior permission has to be obtained from the Resident Engineer (Jogindernagar Tel: +91-1908-222085) or Sr Engineer (Tel: +91-1908-222068) of the Shannon Project, at Jogindernagar. If you like, take in this thrilling ride. Photography is not allowed at the project sites and the rule applies to the trolley too. An additional day at the Barot PWD Rest House is highly recommended. You can take any of the lovely day hikes mentioned in the introduction above. Plus, the chowkidar is a great chef and his rajma, masala aloo curry and the locally available fresh trout are worth trying out.









Barot (Baraolt) [photo by Rokarudi]

Barot is located at the northern edge of Mandi District bordering the Chhota Bhangal region of Kangra just above the confluence of the Uhl with the Lamadug. The Lamadug divides the two districts at Barot with the Uhl at this point entirely in Kangra District. Across a bridge over the Lamadug, on a road heading north-west from Barot, is the Multhan Village in Kangra. There are a few offices and a Forest Rest House here. On the other side of Multhan flows the Uhl. Kothi Kohr Village, further north-west up the Uhl, is linked by a motor road that goes on to Baragaon (14 km). This road is a part of the Barot-Billing Road currently under construction. A walk along this road, which runs upstream through a thickly wooded conifer forest on the left bank of the Uhl, is truly superior to a vehicular journey on it. Kothi Kohr is a small village that has a couple of tea-stalls, which double up as provision stores. There is enough space to pitch tents here.









Billing (photo by Okorok)


Follow the road upstream along the River Uhl till Baragaon (6 km). The road ends at a point where the link to Rajgunda is still under construction. From Baragaon, a bridle path descends to the left to cross Uhl River, flowing down from the Thamsar Pass located far up to the right (north). After crossing a wooden bridge, the path turns left, leaves the Uhl below and climbs up to reach the sizeable village of Rajgunda (2,625m/ 3 km from Baragaon). From this village, the route follows the road track that heads south to Billing (2,800m) climbing gently high above the Uhl right bank till it reaches the Slater Ridge crossing into the Beas Valley. From here, a gentle descent takes one down to Billing. It takes about 2 hrs to cover this stretch through a mixed forest. Billing, a world-famous paragliding site, has a Forest Rest House with a commanding view. The surrounding green carpet-like grass is ideal for camping. There is no habitation at Billing, though seasonal tea shops/ dhabas come up in summer to cater to the itinerant traveller.









Paragliding in Bir (Photo by Himachal tourism)


There are two options to reach Bir, which sits on the edge of the Dhauladhar at 1,525m, rising up sharply from the road in from Baijnath.




Follow the motor road (14 km) southwest downhill. This is a leisurely walk with great views of the Kangra Valley.




The old route, a short-cut, is through a mixed forest and is very steep, cutting short the distance by about 6 km. To take the short-cut, follow the jeep road connecting Billing and Bir till the first turn from where the footpath drops down south. It is easily identifiable. The trek ends short of the market at Bir, meeting the jeep road. Bir is a Tibetan settlement with a monastery and bazaar, where Tibetan handicrafts are available. You’ll also find people from the Bara Bhangal area, as most of them migrate to Bir during the winter. It’s also known for its tea gardens and hang gliding. Stay overnight at Bir or head back to Mandi.




By Deepak Sanan and Minakshi Chaudhry


About the authors: Deepak Sanan is an IAS officer, Himachal Pradesh cadre, who has trekked extensively in the state. His writings include a book on exploring Kinnaur and Spiti, as well as numerous articles about Himachal in magazines and books.


Minakshi Chaudhry has trekked throughout Himachal over the last decade and authored two books: Exploring Pangi Himalaya: A World Beyonf Civillisation and A Guide to Trekking in Himachal. Her interest in studying nature and people’s lifestyle grew in Nigeria, West Africa, where sge spent her formative years. This was nurtured on her return to Himachal Pradesh where she travelled extensively as a correspondent of The Indian Express.