Khara Pathar is a tiny Himalayan village located deep within a dense forest area covered with Deodar trees and apple orchids in the Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh. Khara Pathar is situated at an altitude of around 8770 feet above sea -level (2500 metres). The village is also the base for the hike to the source of the River Giri Ganga.
The village of Khara Pathar is situated at a distance of around 77 km from the state capital of Shimla and the best way to reach the village is by hiring a private taxi, since the road conditions for the last 40 km which is through the forest area is horrible. Be prepared for an extremely bumpy ride which is similar to a roller coaster in an amusement park. After a point, there is no road but just a muddy unpaved dusty vehicle path.
Government buses also make this horrid journey from Shimla to Khara Pathar. Unless you are on a shoestring budget, taking the bus to Khara Pathar is a bad idea. While in the government bus, it is highly recommended to get a front seat to help neutralise the bumpy and rugged terrain. The journey by bus is much lighter on the pocket as compared to a private taxi. But it takes twice the time to cover the same distance.
While travelling to Khara Pathar, one should be mentally prepared to be stuck in at least one roadblock if not more. These roadblocks are caused by loose rocks and mud which keep sliding down with the vibrations caused by the moving vehicles. These roadblocks generally take around 10 to 20 minutes to get cleared.
At first glance, the village of Khara Pathar seems to be nothing but just a transit halt for a late-night stopover or if your vehicle has had a breakdown after the hammering it has got from riding the bumps to reach the top.
The main reason why there are only a couple of guest houses around the village is because of the source of the River Giri Ganga and the temple complex. Khara Pathar is the base village to reach the top.
There are two ways of reaching the river source – the first is a 6 km hike to the top and the second is to hire a private taxi to get there. The hike starts around 400 metres from the state-run hotel along the highway to Rohu. Along the hike, travellers will have to walk along narrow trails with huge Deodar trees on either side and apple plantation all around the slopes.
The hike to the top is more of a leisure walk amidst nature and it will take roughly around a couple of hours to reach the source of Giri Ganga. The trail is mostly muddy with a rocky phase covering the last 15% of the hike.
On reaching the top, travellers are greeted by the temple complex which consists of a couple of structures that are in ruins, a newly-built unfurnished cottage, a traditionally built stone and wood Dharamshala with a thatched roof and three shrines.
The main shrine faces the traditional cottage and is built on a stone platform, which is at the centre of a large water tank. The shrine is dedicated to Goddess Durga and is a simple, square, stone structure with a curving, conical roof. The interiors are dark except for the dim light of a diya, which is kept burning throughout the day.
Locals believe that by walking around the temple complex barefoot in the water will cleanse them of all their sins and wrongdoings. So it is a common sight to see at least a couple of locals taking a walk in the water tank around the shrine.
The other two shrines are placed above the water tank, facing each other. One of them has the idols of Lord Ram, Laxman and Sita; while the other has a large, marble Shiv Linga. The whole area around the temple complex is extremely beautiful with the river flowing on one side and huge pine trees on the other with the temple complex in the centre.
Accommodation options are limited to a couple of guest houses, one which is run by the state government and the other by the forest department. Both these guest houses are located in Khara Pathar and have rooms to meet the needs of all kinds of travellers, from basic rooms for the budget traveller to deluxe rooms for families.
Food options are limited again to just a couple of dhabas which serve regular vegetarian thali which consists of rajma dal (kidney beans), one vegetable and rice. One of the two dhabas also serves mutton thali which is a must-try for the meat-eaters.
The best time to visit Khara Pathar is during the summer months from the end of March to mid-June and from mid-September to mid-November. Light woollens are recommended even while travelling during summer since the place always has a drastic dip in temperature during the nights.
Khara Pathar is surely a place worth visiting while in Shimla. But the road conditions and lack of good accommodation and food, make the village still work in progress. For all those travelling to Pabbar Valley, this village is a must to stop by at and complete the hike to the source of the River Giri Ganga.
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