Solo winter ride to Kharapathar - Tiuni - Purola circuit

gauravtalan

Himalayan Monal
It was February 2020 and the coronavirus was something like China's problem and not ours. February is the perfect time to find some snow after just half a day's drive from Delhi. I was also looking for something like that. The plan was to see some snow, spend some time on a river's bank, visit some ancient Himalayan temple, and stay away from tourists. All of this except the last part was possible on a ride to Manali and beyond. But I really wanted to be at a place which is less crowded.

Initially, the plan was to go for a ride following this itinerary:
Day 1: Delhi - Yashwantnagar
Day 2: Yashwantnagar - Kharapathar - Tiuni - Chakrata
Day 3: Chakrata - Paonta Sahib - Delhi


However, my plan was flexible and it did change on the go. So the itinerary that I followed was this:
Day 1: Delhi - Summer Hill, Shimla
Day 2: Summer Hill - Kufri - Kharapathar - Tiuni - Hanol - Mori - Purola - Naugaon
Day 3: Naugaon - Mussourie - Dehradun - Delhi


Day 1: Delhi - Summer Hill, Shimla:

Usually, I leave pretty early around 5-ish in the morning when I go for my trips/rides. But not this day. It was the election day in Delhi and I really didn't want to be the irresponsible guy who leaves for a trip whenever there is a voting day. Well, I did leave for the trip, but only after casting my vote. I was ready with my bike topped up with petrol and all my riding gears. Even though I reached the voting center exactly on time the voting begins, there were still 5 people in the queue. I anxiously waited for my turn, did my duty, and straightaway hit the road at around 9:00 AM. Crossing Delhi was not a challenge as it was a holiday and then, I still had enough time to comfortably reach my destination in the daylight. Dominar has one of the best headlamps in its segment but I still prefer not to ride after its dark.
It was peak winters and quite chilly even in the afternoon. I underestimated how cold it could get riding on the highway. I was in only a t-shirt and a riders jacket on top of it. I did have another warm jacket in my luggage but it was so bulky that I could either wear that or my riders jacket. I preferred the riders jacket over the warm one since it has some inbuilt protection layers. I was wearing gloves but they were also ineffective in stopping the chilly wind hitting my fingers. I rode non stop till Chandigarh (barring hourly water breaks) and decided to have my lunch at a place called Namaste Chandigarh. It is right on the Ambala - Chandigarh highway, some 10 kms before the city, and hosts a variety of outlets like Haldiram's, Subway, Chaayos, and Nick Bakers. I had a plate of chole bhature from Haldiram's in my lunch. If you are wondering why would anyone have chole bhature on a ride, then let me tell you; I am wondering too as I am writing this blog.

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At Namaste Chandigarh. We usually stop here for lunch when driving on this highway.

While having lunch at Namaste Chandigarh, I was exploring some places to stay near Yashwantnagar but could not find any options. My wife helped me from home and suggested a good guest house in Summer Hill, Shimla. I immediately called the owner and booked it for the day. So, here shifts the plan to stay in Shimla and not Yashwantnagar.
As soon as I started riding again, I realized how cold it would be up there in hills. So, I bought an inner warmer from Zirakpur for some Rs 250 and decided to put it on right there. It actually worked wonder and I was not feeling cold anymore. Faith in inner warmers restored!
Even though most of the Kalka-Shimla highway is under construction and not really in a good shape, the stretch near Parwanu is really good. It is the section of the Himalayan Expressway which is now complete. Soon, we could see this expressway constructed till Shimla. But I am not too hopeful as I am seeing this construction on this highway since forever now!

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Himalayan Expressway

The traffic was less and I enjoyed the ride till Shimla to the fullest. There were a couple of traffic jams on the way till Solan, but then, jams are for cars! :p

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Shimla as seen from Kalka-Shimla highway (NH-5)

I reached Summer Hill, which is on the outskirts of Shimla at around 5:00 PM in the evening. It was cold and I could also spot some little snow in the corners. Looks like it snowed a week ago but melted now.

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Narrow-gauge tracks near Summer Hill

I checked into my hotel which was right beside the Summer Hill railway station. Being a train enthusiast, and having some pleasant memories from childhood of the Shimla toy train, I loved this location. The hotel owner offered me a warm wooden room which also had a big window with the sunset view. I was really a good deal for Rs 1000 per night. But I guess that was the off-season price.

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Summer Hill railway station. I sat here for a while looking for trains going towards Shimla which was the next station from here.

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Sunset from my room

Stay for the night:
City Inn Hotel,
Summer Hill, Shimla
Contact: +91 94184 87752

Watch this space for more....
Gaurav Talan
You can contact us on insta @himalayan_monal
Kanchan, Gaurav & Advika (@himalayan_monal) • Instagram photos and videos
 
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gauravtalan

Himalayan Monal
Day 2 (Part 1): Summer Hill - Kufri - Kharapathar - Tiuni:

The original plan was to cross into Uttarakhand through Tiuni and reach Chakrata by evening. I left at around 8:00 AM from Summer hill towards Shimla and then towards Theog. It was really cold and it seemed that the chilly wind was piercing through my fingers. I stopped and wore my gloves but no effect. It was so chilly that it felt like my fingers are burning in cold. I was afraid that continuing like this would lead to frostbite, and so I stopped quite often to rub my hands together and rode really slow in the morning. I was looking for breakfast options but everything was deserted in Shimla. I crossed the Auckland tunnel and was now again on the NH-5. As soon as I crossed the tunnel, I could increasingly see the snow on the pavement.

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Himalayan ranges as seen from Kufri

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Kufri-Fagu Road was full of snow and black ice. With stock tyres, I could not go further on this road and continued my journey towards Theog.

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Between Kufri and Theog

I reached Theog around 9:45 AM and left the NH-5 for the road going towards Rohru. I could finally find a breakfast joint called Mount View Restaurant open on this road. I ordered alu paratha, butter sandwich and hot coffee for breakfast. Nice food and all of this for Rs 140/-.

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View from the terrace of Mount View Restaurant. I could also spot the Churdhar peak from here.

I was starting to enjoy the ride now as there was very little traffic on this road and the temperature was also rising. It was still cold but the winds were not bothering my fingers anymore. Soon, the road was running parallel to a small river called Giri river that forms this valley.

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Somewhere near Kotkhai

The road started to climb up after Kotkhai for Kharapathar and it again started to get colder as I was gaining the altitude. The owner of the restaurant where I had my breakfast said that there are good chances of finding some snow at Kharapathar. Kharapathar was indeed full of fresh powdered snow.

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The road between Kotkhai and Kharapathar.

Both Kotkhai and Kharapathar justify their names. The distance between the two places is less than 20 km but the altitude gain is almost 900 meters.

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From Kharapathar

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Kharapathar Village

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I spent some time at Kharapathar enjoying the fresh snow and panoramic view from there

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A local mandi near Kharapathar

In my opinion, Kharapathar has everything that it takes for a Himalayan village to become a hill station. Its altitude is similar to Narkanda and it is covered in snow for most of the winter months. It offers a panoramic view of the Himalayan ranges and is easily accessible from both Shimla and Rohru side.
The road again started to descend from Kharapathar onwards. The road, however, is fully tarred and in quite good shape.

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Known as the Theog-Hatkoti-Rohru marg, it is the State Highway 10 of Himachal Pradesh

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Beautiful houses on the route

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Signboards in front of a shop. But isn't it banned to promote and advertise tobacco products in India? But they may be old signboards from when it was allowed.

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The road again starts running along a small rivulet that joins the Pabbar river at Hatkoti. Pabbar river originates from Chandranahan lake and a beautiful trek can lead you there.

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Surprised to see that destination on this Himachal state transport bus was displayed on this electronic board in all the 4 South Indian languages apart from Hindi and English.
From Hatkoti, the road bifurcates into the one leading towards Rohru and another towards Tiuni. My plan was to go to Chakrata and now I was riding on the road that runs along the Pabbar river towards Tiuni.

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Pabbar river

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The road between Hatkoti and Tiuni

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It was a narrow road, thankfully there was very little traffic on it.

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The signboard welcoming to Uttarakhand. I reached the Himachal-Uttarkhand border near Tiuni at around 1:30 PM. It was lunchtime but I decided to skip it as I had a pretty heavy and late breakfast near Theog.

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The valley opens up

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Even though I was officially in Uttarakhand now, the culture and lifestyle here and in the entire Jaunsar-Bawar region is closer to the Himachali culture (of Rohru area) than the Garhwali culture of Uttarakhand.

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Finally in Tiuni. Like Harthkoti, Tiuni is also located on a trijunction. One road leads to Hatkoti, another to Chakrata, and the third one to Mori via Hanol. Though I was supposed to take the road leading to Chakrata, I decided to visit the Mahasu Devta temple in Hanol. I had two options from here. Go to Hanol, come back to Tiuni, and ride to Chakrata. Second, go to Hanol, continue towards Mori, and then towards Purola and Naugaon. The second route is way longer and isolated than the first one. But it was only 2:15 PM and I still had some daylight with me. I continued towards Hanol and though that I will decide later on which route to take after visiting the temple.

Watch this space for more....
Gaurav Talan
You can contact us on insta @himalayan_monal
Kanchan, Gaurav & Advika (@himalayan_monal) • Instagram photos and videos
 
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gauravtalan

Himalayan Monal
Day 2 (Part 2): Tiuni - Hanol - Mori - Purola - Naugaon:

Tiuni is a small town on the confluence of Pabbar and Tons rivers. I was now moving forward on the road leading to Hanol that runs parallel to Tons river. This road connects Tiuni with Mori village on Purola - Sankri route. The road condition on this route was better than I expected. In fact, there was nothing to complain about.

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The scenery is entirely different in the Tons valley with a lot of open space along the river, and sparsely populated villages.

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Kedarkantha peak was visible from Tons valley. I remember climbing this peak with my wife in the winter of 2015. It is an easy peak to climb and is a hot favorite among the trekkers these days.
I reached Hanol at 2:40 PM. Hanol is famous for Mahasu Devta Temple on the river bank. It is a beautiful temple with wooden architecture.

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The road goes to Hanol village and further to Mori and Purola. Looking at the good road condition and this signboard saying 60 kms of Purola, I could not resist travelling further on it. So the decision was taken. Instead of going back to Tiuni and then to Chakrata, I decided to ride ahead on this road and explore the Tons valley.

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Mahasu Devta temple with Kedarkantha peak in the backdrop.

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Mahasu Devta temple

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It is explicitly written outside the temple that people of all religions, castes, and gender are welcome to visit the temple. Mahasu Devta ki Jai!

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A signboard saying Harkidun valley is only 69 km from here. I did Harkidun trek with my wife in December 2015. It was a beautiful trek but I remember that December was pretty cold for it.

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The road to Mori descends down to the woods along the river. With non-existent traffic, this was a pretty beautiful stretch all the way till Mori.

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Road to Mori along Tons river

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Tons river

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Mori village. I remember that in 2015, while coming back from the Kedarkantha trek, we pitched our tent around this very area.
I was riding really slow on this road to soak up the view and natural environment. I reached Mori at 4:20 PM and now was the time to look for a shelter for the day. I decided to ride to Purola and find a hotel there to stay in.

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After crossing Mori, I was on the Purola-Sankri road. Although this was my first time on the Tiuni-Mori road, this was my 5th visit to this road. Sankri area and Govind Pashu National Park hosts many beautiful treks. I have also done quite a few treks in this area including Ruinsara Gad, Kedarkantha peak, Rupin Pass, and Harkidun Valley. And I am definitely in for more in the future!

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The road from Mori to Purola climbs up to a place called Jarmola Dhar before it descends down to Purola. It was 4:50 PM and I was really tired by this point. Whenever we travel to Sankri, we usually stop here for tea. This time also, I stopped at Jarmola Dhar for some tea and pakora.

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The hills are covered with the tall deodar trees

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The road descends for Purola after Jarmola Dhar and the valley opens up again.

I reached Purola at 5:45 PM and started looking for a hotel to stay. But just then, a thought flashed into my mind. After such a long ride today, it will be really difficult to ride from Purola to Delhi the next day. So, I decided to skip Purola and ride till around 7:00 PM and stay wherever I reach by then. I was pretty familiar with this route and understood that if I continue to ride now, I could reach Naugaon before dark which was less than 20 km from Purola. My entire body was aching but I continued to ride to make things easier for the next day. I reached Naugaon before 7:00 PM and started looking for a hotel to stay for the night. Naugaon is a tri-junction on this route. One road leads to Purola and Sankri (I was coming from this one), another going up to Janki Chatti, and then turning into a trek to Yamunotri, and the third one going towards Mussourie and Dehradun. Since the Yatra season was off in the winters, I could easily find a good hotel for Rs 1000. Suddenly, I was not tired anymore and went for a little walk across the town. It was offseason, so I could not find a place to eat and ordered dinner from the hotel where I was staying.

Stay for the night:
Hotel Oak Cedar,
Barkot Road, Naugaon

Watch this space for more....
Gaurav Talan
You can contact us on insta @himalayan_monal
Kanchan, Gaurav & Advika (@himalayan_monal) • Instagram photos and videos
 
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gauravtalan

Himalayan Monal
Day 3: Naugaon - Mussourie - Dehradun - Delhi:

It was a long ride to Delhi from Naugaon. I started my ride from Naugaon at around 8:00 in the morning and planned to have my breakfast on the way. It was the same problem of chilly wind freezing my fingers in the morning and all I could do was ride slow. After riding for an hour or so, I could finally find a dhaba open for breakfast. Thankfully, it also had a small bonfire where a few people were warming themselves. I immediately joined them and ordered some alu paratha and tea for breakfast. That was the only option anyway.

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Breakfast time!

With my hands feeling better, I was in no hurry to ride and waited for some sunshine before I continued.

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I soon crossed from Uttarkashi district to Tehri district.

The first town in Tehri district on this road was Nainbagh. I stopped there for a while to look at the narrow road leading to Pantwari village. This is the village from where the Nag Tibba trek starts. I did this trek in monsoon 2011 from Pantwari and descended at Thathyur.
I was now riding along the Yamuna river. I had two options from here to reach Delhi. One goes through Vikasnagar and Herbertpur which was a bit shorter and the other one from Mussourie and Dehradun. I decided to take the Mussoorie road.

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Yamuna River

The road to Mussourie from Nainbagh is a bit steep and goes through Kempty falls.

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Kempty falls

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Kempty falls complex. It was morning time in off-season. Otherwise, this place is usually full of tourists.

After Kempty falls, I could again spot some snow in the corners. When approaching Mussourie, there was a thin layer of snow on the road and also some black ice to deal with. I saw a couple of other bikers there trying hard to ride on that patch. It was slippery indeed!

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A little before Mussourie

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Mussourie

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The mall road at Mussourie was pretty crowded. I decided to rest there for a while. I started from Mussourie at around 12:30 PM towards Dehradun. I bought a toy for my daughter in Dehradun and continued my journey for Delhi. The road from Dehradun to Muzzaffarnagar is new and a delight to ride on. But Muzzaffarnagar onwards is the same old highway with unruly traffic and frequent potholes. It was still fine till Meerut after which the real trouble starts. Bad roads and massive traffic jams at Modi Nagar and Murad Nagar. It got even worse when I entered Ghaziabad. I somehow missed the new Meerut Expressway and spent at least two hours stuck in another jam and struggling to find the correct way towards Delhi. I reached home at 7:40 PM.

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A total of 974.3 km clocked on this ride in 3 days

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The fuel consumption of 29 km/L is not bad since a lot of this ride was in hills

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Average trip speed: 42 km/h

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Route: Day 1

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Route: Day 2

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Route: Day 3

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Route: Trip

Brief Itinerary (with altitude in meters):
Day 1: Delhi (225 m) - Summer Hill, Shimla (2123 m)
Day 2: Summer Hill (2123 m) - Kufri (2557 m) - Kharapathar (2665 m) - Tiuni (933 m) - Hanol (1058 m) - Mori (1211 m) - Purola (1524 m) - Naugaon (1142 m)
Day 3: Naugaon (1142 m) - Mussourie (2005 m) - Dehradun (447 m) - Delhi
(225 m)

Thanks for reading!
Gaurav Talan
You can contact us on insta @himalayan_monal
Kanchan, Gaurav & Advika (@himalayan_monal) • Instagram photos and videos
 
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