After spending a peaceful couple of days in a remote paradise close to Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) in Sainj Valley and attending the Deori village festival, I along with a friend wanted to explore a Sharchi village (Pronounced Sharchi, although the post office denotes it as Sarchi) which had eluded me 2 times on previous visits.
From the upper reaches of Sainj Valley, we hiked via the walking trail to reach the Sai Ropa GHNP Rest House on the Sainj-Neuli Road. Although, the easier option was to walk to the road head in Deori village from where we could have caught a bus but since it was early morning, Mahi suggested that its better that we go directly to Sai Ropa Guest House since more buses plied on that route.
It turned out to be a good idea, we hardly took 40 odd minutes to reach the road at Sai Ropa GHNP Rest House. The walk was totally downhill and we also crossed Neahi village on the way. We waited for a few minutes before a bus to Sainj came by. Then another bus from Sainj to Banjar which halted at numerous stops. At Banjar bus stand, we changed buses and got into a bus bound for Bathad village (Batahad) and got down at the bridge just before reaching Gushaini.
It was quite hot since it was May; especially at Banjar bus stand which is located at a much lower altitude. So we had left from the village in Sainj Valley at around 9 am, get a bus from Sai Ropa GHNP Rest House at around 10 am and then the bus rides etc mean we are at the bridge to Gushaini from where the road bifurcates to Sharchi village at around 1 pm.
There is a tea shop at the bifurcation now, the road to the left crossed the bridge and continued to Gushaini and Bathad while the road on the right side led to Bandal village and ended at the mystical Sharchi village. I had vivid memories of standing at this exact point near the bridge in 2016 & 2017 when I waited for a ride to Sharchi for more than 1 hour but the ride never came and I just ended up walking to the nearby Bandal Forest Rest House.
The Bandal Forest Rest House appeared old and someone at the site remarked that it was established by the British. It was quite picturesque surrounded by pretty yellow flowers. I thought then that I would love to stay there someday during the monsoon months when the rain would make the surroundings even more beautiful! On subsequent visits, the locals informed that apparently some movie stars own properties in the region (Sunny Deol, Neena Gupta etc) and one Rajput from Jodhpur (Rajasthan) also had some sort of Palace nearby.
We waited and said hello to the tea stall person who was chilling in his small hut. He confirmed that the timing of the daily bus to Sharchi was still 4 pm at the bridge, and it starts from Banjar Bus Stand. On my previous visits, I had thought that to cover the 15 odd kms to Sharchi on the not-so-great road would have taken a lot of time making it an unviable time to reach Sharchi and explore the village.
We jumped with joy when a Maruti Alto headed to Sharchi village came by! We jumped excitedly and asked him to take us to Sharchi. He was alone and was happy to drop us. The road for most of the route was in good condition and only around 3-4 kms before Sharchi the road became a stony road which made progress painfully slow while the landscapes kept getting better.
We reached Sharchi village when the car had to be parked just before reaching the actual village because the actual road was blocked to make sure traffic jams did not occur in the village. We thanked the guy profusely for bringing us to this beautiful village. The ascent to Sharchi village was gradual and lush green jungles and forests were visible on the other side.
The guy who dropped us had come to Sharchi to attend a temple festival that was being held today in Sharchi village. We enter Sharchi and are quite surprised to see a sizeable village. I estimate a rough guess of around 50 houses comprising the village of Sharchi. Snowy peaks in the background make Sharchi feel like a very picturesque village. There is lush greenery in whatever open spaces that we can see lending it a serene feel.
There is a tea shop right at the start of the Sharchi and they also have 1-2 rooms to give out as a homestay. They have an open air garden and sit-out too and we decide to keep in mind this place and keep walking farther in Sharchi village to try and find a homestay in the centre of the village.
The central point of Sharchi is the village temple that is located in one corner (left side centre of the village) and ground with pond completing the temple premises. Drums and musical instruments are kept on the ground in preparation for the temple ceremony and the festivities. There is also a feast in progress for food to be served to the locals.
Sharchi seems like a prosperous village; every home is nicely constructed and is quite big in size as compared to usual Himalayan villages in Tirthan Valley or the larger Kullu Valley. We cross the temple area and ask the locals for a homestay on the other side of the village. Someone makes us meet the homestay guy who shows nice wooden rooms for 400-500 Rupees for a night. We fix the rate including food to be 600 for us.
It is around 3-4 pm and there is a nice light falling on the fields and homes of Sharchi village. There are pretty paths through the village, cemented walkways interspersed with homes and fields in between. It is a nice mix of greenery and traditional Himachali houses. Fodder for animals has been kept in big 2 storey houses. Mostly wheat is being grown in the fields that shine a golden green when the light falls on them!
There are a few concrete homes being built as well. I spot a nicely carved door while roaming around in Sharchi; a few locals make conversations with us and the villagers seem fairly welcome. Except the people involved in the temple festival, everyone else has been cool in Sharchi. There is a signboard near the temple that indicates that outsiders may not step in the temple premises and the ground near the pond. Apparently the local deity is a brother of the Famous Jamlu Devta of Malana Village (in Parvati Valley.)
The facial features of the kids and locals of Sharchi seem a little different from the other villages like Gushaini etc. We are quite hungry having had no chance to eat any lunch because of the festival in the village. On our walk, we head to the other end of the village and see a majestic house being built; with big rooms and stunning open views of the valley with the pinnacle of the snow peaks!
Around 5 pm, the villagers gather for the pahari naati (traditional Himachali dance). There are around 50-60 men and women in a huge circle formation near the temple ground. Their hands are joined together and slowly their rhythmic dance starts as the music begins playing. The movements of pahari naati are slow at first, and then as the crescendo of music builds up the dance movements are a little faster; all the time with the hands joined and the circle formation in place.
Signboard of Jamlu Devta is in the vicinity and some locals instruct us to keep at a distance and watch the proceedings from a nearby place. The deity of Sharchi village is Jagdamba Rishi (according to the locals a relative of Jamlu Devta). They indicate a sitting space for us from where we can enjoy the pahadi naati dance. I take the gesture in a positive way since at least we won’t be bothered by strict villagers / drunk villagers.
Devtas have been decked and decorated on 3 palanquins in the temple meant for these festivals. Sharchi village has a very festive feel at this time and we are lucky to make a visit today. The pahari naati is really nice and I am glad to see it in the original form! There is also a feast arranged for the locals and food is being prepared in large pots and cauldrons. Our homestay guy tells us that we can have food there, but the other locals don’t seem so kind and since nobody invites us, we deem it better to stay away.
A few locals ask us where we are from, I reply Rajasthan – that reply usually gets me invited everywhere else in Himachal Pradesh but here it elicited no response. Some of the men are quite drunk and it is in our best interest to stay away! Haha. Around 5 pm, the pahari naati stops and a beautiful golden light blesses Sharchi village.
We go for another walk near the homestay. The homestay guy’s mom asks our preference for dinner, and we say that we will eat whatever vegetarian food that she is making. It is decided that the menu will be post Siddu (poppy seeds ground in Siddu) served with home made ghee. We admire the great views from the balcony area of the homestay.
The bathroom is accessed after climbing down the stairs and is neat and clean. There is also a dining area and a sitting room that makes life feel like a luxury right now! The bed is nice and cosy and the interiors have the aroma of deodhar wood. Nice breezy and nippy weather in Sharchi after sundown even in May since the village is located at a higher altitude.
The siddu(s) are super tasty and with the built up hunger of the day feel like a life saver! We thank the homestay guy and his mother and are very happy when the homestay guy decided to eat with us! A real homestay feeling is when the owner eat with the guests.
Sleep and wake up relaxed early next morning. The homestay owner is keen on showing us the pretty village of Jamala that is around 40 minutes hike away from Sharchi. The hike is ascending and crosses fields of the rastafarian delights. Jamala village is spectacularly located and has 9-10 homes. All of them are huge and have a courtyard. It really seems like an even more prosperous village than Sharchi too since all locals here own sheep, cows and buffaloes too.
Sharchi village looks beautiful from up here. Blue skies, and snow peaks even in May. Beyond Jamala, plain fields and a flat ground where youngsters of Sharchi chill, play cricket etc. Jamala is also the base camp for trek to Lambri Top and the ground is also used as a camping space. It is indeed a stunning place surrounded by trees. It is around 11 am and we lie down here and relax.
Lambri Top Trek is a scenic 2-3-4 day trek on a ridge that also connects to Jalori Pass. Jamala village has plentiful apple orchards, wheat fields and is insanely beautiful! I ask one of the home owners if they are planning to open a homestay in Jamala? I didn’t get a clear reply but I guess a local from Sharchi village might be able to arrange the same!
Our homestay owner had relatives there; they had more than 100 goats! The views get clearer as we climb higher. It is 12 noon now and even though Jamala village is very alluring; we decide to go back from the gorgeously green walking path back to Sharchi and pick up our bags.
On the way back, I wonder and decide to come back to Sharchi someday in the winter! I am sure the views will be stupendous with every inch covered in fresh white snow and unparalleled views of the jungles since the landscape is so undisturbed!
Till I come back again, bye Sharchi!