A particularly interesting trek involves the highest peak in the Shimla hills, known as Shali Tibba. Far enough to avoid the hungry eyes of the average tourist, yet near enough to be within relatively easy reach, it is a 35 km ramble through hill and dale. One gets to cross a river, walk through a forest, reach a peak and as a fringe benefit, trek through leopard and bear country. Shali Tibba is named after the local deity. There are numerous tales involving her, the temple and the forest, which the villagers are only too happy to share with anybody who would care to lend an ear. The temple, incidentally, is built right on the peak.
The actual trek begins from a village called Mashobra, about an hours ride from Shimla. There is a bus one can catch from Shimla, or one can start walking from the town itself. Again, there is a bus from Mashobra to one of the villages closer to the peak. The route along the way is an uphill as well as a downhill ride, into a valley and then out of it. It’s mostly forest, but with well defined trails. The route follows a lovely walk through forest, hitting quite a few villages on the way. Another option for those who might find the going rough, is to walk just halfway up till a village called Siri and then take the bus up to Gulthaini, which is just below Khatnol, the last village before the peak. The bus also heads straight up to Khatnol, but then it’s better to miss that than the whole point of the trip. Through orchards and scrub, one gets a glimpse of what the Himalayas could have been like if man had left the region untouched.
Gulthaini to Khatnol is an uphill climb, about four km of heavy walking through forest and scrub. It’s more important to ask for directions along this route. Khatnol has the distinction of having a forest rest house, which is the only place to stay, unless one is carrying tents along. One must plan on setting off by early morning, with water and food. It’s again an uphill climb to the peak, and afternoon temperatures advise against jaunts at that time of the day. There’s a pukka path, which leads right to the top, ask the locals point the way to it. Once on it, one can’t get lost. If one is lucky, one might get to see a bear. On reaching the temple, it all seems to be worth it as the view is magnificent. On a clear day, one can make out the snow-capped peaks of the northern ranges, and the eagle-eyed will be able to see the Doordarshan TV Tower in distant Shimla.
Shali Tibba can be approached from Shimla 35 km away by taking a bus till Mashobra and thereafter trek. Trekking arrangements can be made with the Himachal Tourism office on The Mall, Shimla. Khatnol has the distinction of having a guesthouse. Otherwise Mashobra can be made the base camp, which has a few cheap hotels.ï»¿