This Himalayan trip was easily one of my best – a week in the astounding desert of Spiti and then over a month in Jibhi – a beautiful, lush green mountain town at 7,000 ft. The idea was simple, leave the metropolis madness called Mumbai behind and be closer to nature. And so it happened.
The Offbeat Shimla Manali Route via Seraj Valley and Jibhi
There are three Shimla to Manali routes – 1) the offbeat one via Seraj Valley, on which lies Jibhi, 2) the popular one via Mandi and 3) the longer one via Spiti valley.
There may also be a fourth route with a longer westwards circuit near Mandi.
Jibhi is off the usual Indian tourist route. But surprisingly it is very much on the Israeli tourist route. I found it surprising but probably the proximity to the popular Kasol valley is the reason. I chatted with three Israeli travellers in the Kshatra cafe of Jibhi and it was an eye opener. They told me that Israel has alway considered India a close ally and they love the culture not because it is cheap (inexpensive), but because it deeply resonates with them. Oh and two of them had come to spend their honeymoon in India – that shows how much they love this country! And both did Yoga. The third guy had done multiple vipassana programs. So… wow! Far cry from the stereotyped image of Israelis holed up in cheap room of an Indian town basically for the opium.
This trip to Jibhi was filled with interesting conversations and revelations. I made friendships that have lasted beyond the place and time. Still in touch with many of them, met a few later on elsewhere and looking forward to meeting them again!
(Some of these friends from Jibhi)
I think it was the fact that this place was off the beaten route, it changed the kind of people who visited it. The usual tourists were fewer (they were there but lesser in number), rather people who wanted to be in the quiet and unknown places were more. They all had interesting stories. And with these people it was much easier for me to connect. So I met some amazing people.
Some of the travellers found Jibhi too big. Because they came expecting a remote village, instead they found a main road filled with 10 hotels and home stays. (Blogs like this do contribute to this phenomenon :D) It dashed their expectations a bit, but finding those true blue Himachali villages is not very difficult here. Just walk a few miles off the main road, and you are in remote, Himalayan beauty.
For me this place worked really well, because I was working (I have a remote work project going on, yay!) and was there for a month. So, the bigger size meant that I got most of the amenities very easily, in fact, there was a kirana (grocery) store on the ground floor of the guest house I was staying in. It had groceries, vegetables, stationary and a variety of day to day stuff. There was also an ATM near this grocery store. The uncle Nareshji was a government vet, so he would often be out tending to the animals in the nearby villages while the kirana was managed by his wife (and sometimes kids when they were home from school). They also rent out rooms in their building called Shining Star. These rooms are like small studio apartments with a room, kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen has a stove and basic utensils for a person to manage their food.
Often I would sit on the terrace and work, and I cannot count how many times I was stunned by the lush greenery all around. I have very rarely seen such a vast expanse of trees all around…
I had a small, equipped kitchen in my room. So one meal would usually be khichdi with some vegetables. The local oil is sarson, a bit odd for me. Mom kept scaring me that it would be too hot for my system. Though I do like its tangy taste.
The second meal was usually in the Kshatra cafe next door at Dolli guesthouse. This was where I met all the interesting travellers. Bikers, martial artists, world champion fighters, the Israelis and many more eclectic people. This cafe is run by Senior Ranaji and his son Gudu bhaiyya. This Uncle Rana was my first contact in Jibhi. And it was through him that I got this apartment I was staying in.
Apart from the travellers, I also chatted with the locals and that really helped me get a deeper understanding and perspective of this place and its people 🙂
As with any Himalayan town there are some intriguing places to visit nearby. These places probably contribute to the few tourist types who land up here in Jibhi. Apart from these places there are always small trails that one can follow randomly.. leading to some quaint Himalayan villages with a spectacular view if nothing else 🙂
One of the first places I visited that can be considered on the tourist list is Serolsar Lake. It is a relaxed 2 – 3 hour trek from Jalori Pass (Jalori pass is at 10000 ft of mountain goodness). But on Uncle Rana’s recommendation, I took the bus till Shoja and walked from there. The 5 km walk from Shoja to Jalori is really tough. Jalori pass is considered one of the steepest passes in the world and it tells on the knees when you walk. Though it would also depend on how pro a hiker you are. Maybe some people will find it easy.
But it was fun cause as I walked from Shoja to Jalori, a lot of vehicles passed by.. and then when I was trekking from Jalori to Serolsar.. a lot of people recognized and me and were like “Ohh, you are the same girl. We saw you from our cars and you are here already! My god, you are so strong” or something like that. 😀 One lady even took a photo with me and said she will put it on Facebook.
And as usual a few questions about “You are alone!”
Ohh ya, this was also my first solo trek in the Himalayas 🙂
And then my more avid trekker friend tells me it is Bear infested territory. LOL. Only thing to do was to go for a more remote trek solo… which I did many days later 😀
Bahu & Gada Gushaini:
It had been suggested to me by 2 or 3 different people that to cycle I should probably not do Jibhi – Jalori, cause it is too steep. But rather the second road to Gada Gushaini. So that’s the road I took… but I found it very difficult. I realised that all the fitness built in 2016 during the Formosa 900 was now gone 😀
So I managed a not-bad 7 km to Bahu (and back). Later I found out that the altitude was about a 1000 ft which is considered a mountain even by definition 🙂
I took a detour a little before Bahu and visited another small village called Gadshaun. Very lovely and seemingly untouched by tourists. Ancient Lakshmi temple to be seen there. Met some lovely locals with whom I have been in touch even later on.
Nearby Cho (Waterfall):
There is a lovely waterfall just a 15 min walk from Jibhi. Apparently, it was better even before the government did some landscaping around it. But considering that I hadn’t seen the previous wild look, I still loved it. Though Uncle Rana has been heard saying he would like to personally demolish all construction there himself – he is a total nature lover 😀
Shringa Rishi Temple:
This is a very well known temple with two friendly dogs gamboling around there. This was another of my decent cycle rides. Jibhi to Shringa Rishi mandir and back. The road to Shringa Rishi is lovely, empty, with huge trees around. Can be a lovely walk too if you have the time.
Also, I found out later that this is not the only Shringa Rishi mandir, in fact it is not even the main one. But it’s a nice place to visit and a lot of these Himachali mandirs are tower-style. Which means great views 🙂
I didn’t go to Chehni Kothi another well known village above Shringa Rishi temple – in fact this and Raghupur Fort near Jalori were the two places on a tourist list which I couldn’t visit (I was exploring other places instead 😉 ).
The most enjoyable thing about this Himalayan town stay was walking (or cycling) any random trails off the main road. Sometimes these trails maybe smaller roads. Or usually they are steps upwards or down into the mountain and so you can’t really cycle there. Even main roads, aren’t necessarily bad, as long as there isn’t too much vehicle traffic. And with enough time in hand, it is possible to make some friends with the locals. And chat with them to know a new perspective of life.
Here are some glimpses of my month in Jibhi,