Apple Country
Duration 4 nights 5 days

Enjoy this long weekend at apple country of Thanedar. Thanedar (ahead of Shimla) is a lovely little hamlet where Mr. Stokes brought first apple sapling into India from Philadelphia. Today, it is a town full of cherry trees and apple orchards. We spend 4 fun filled days of exploring the orchards and forests and of leisurely walks, lazy evenings and sumptuous food and beautiful mountains views.

    Day 1: Chandigarh- Thanedar (7500ft.)- 195 kms/ 6 hrs

    Reach Chandigarh airport/ Chandigarh railway station around 1100 hrs. Meet rest of the team and drive on to Thanedar. We meet others in Chandigarh and carry on. Lunch en route to Thanedar. Drive to Thanedar via Barog, Shimla and Narkanda. Reach Thanedar in the evening. There is a very good possibility of seeing apples still on trees. Evening around bonfire. Night stay in Banjara Retreat.

    Day 2: Thanedar

    Saroga forest walk (2 hrs) and apple trail walk (2 hrs)- We go for a hike in Saroga forest before breakfast and take a walk around the orchard of Thanedar after breakfast. Rest of the afternoon at leisure. Evening around a bonfire.

    Saroga forest- This is one of the more popular walks with people who stay with us in our Thanedar Retreat. The trail through the forest introduces you to the rich flora of the inner Himalayas. The forest is full of Blue pine, Silver Spur, Christmas tree, Spruce, Oaks, Rhododendron and Taxus Himalayana (the tree from which Taxol is derived and used for curing cancer).

    Apple Trail- A walk around the town with Mr. Prakash Thakur who explains all about apple harvest. You might be able to pluck apples and also see the process of grading, packing.

    Day 3: Thanedar

    Hatu peak hike- 3-4 hrs hike and 45 mts drive- a good hike after breakfast with packed lunch at the top. Afternoon at leisure. Evening around a bonfire with barbecue.

    Hatu peak- The 3136 mt high Hatu Peak offers a panoramic view of the Pir Panjal and the Dhauladhar ranges of Himalayas. There are two ways of reaching the peak. The easier option is to drive towards Narkanda for 14 km and from there one can either drive or walk up the winding road through dense alpine forest for another 6 km. The conventional and more adventurous way of reaching the top is to drive to Sidhpur; 10 km from the Banjara Retreat and then climb up through the Conifer and Oak forests. The climb to the peak with a small break for a packed lunch, generally takes about 3 hours. The forest around Hatu is famous for its flora and fauna/ Avi-fauna. One can see Silver fir, Birch, Oaks, Himalayan Cedar, Himalayan Yew, Rhododendron, herbs and wild flowers. It is also rich in wildlife and if you are lucky you may see Leopards, Black Bear, Jungle Cats, Himalayan Weasel, Flaying Squirrel, Himalayan Pheasants like Monal- state bird of Himachal, Red Jungle Fowl, Magpie Robin, Laughing Thrush, Minivets and Whistling Thrush to name a few. The Hatu Mata Temple, located on the ridge of the top, is very popular with the locals during the local melas in September and October.

    Day 4: Thanedar

    Rappelling and walk to St. Mary’s church- 2-3 hrs in the morning and 1 hr walk late in the afternoon. Freshen up and join the locals for Himachali dance. Evening around a bonfire. Night stay in Banjara Orchard Retreat

    About St. Mary’s church While in the Apple country in Shimla Hills that is dominated by the Hindu community, the sight of a slightly built church in the neighbourhood of our retreat in Thanedar comes as quite a surprise. How the Church came about has an interesting history. In the year 1815, the rulers of this region invited the Britishers to fight the mighty Nepalese General Amar Singh Thapa who had annexed large parts of the Western Himalayas. The Britishers came and killed the General and captured his Gorkha soldiers. In lieu of services rendered, a large tract of land was gifted to them by the rulers of Kotgarh. A British garrison was established at Kotgarh in 1843, which was their last outpost beyond Shimla. In 1872, a pretty little wood and stone church was built, which today is the only living monument of that bygone era. An hour's walk to the church from the Retreat takes you through a typical Himachali village, apple orchards and conifer forests. On the way, one comes across the cave where once Samuel Stokes lived as a hermit. Rudyard Kipling once called Kotgarh 'The Mistress of the Northen Hills'. One of his stories-Lispeth- from the book 'Plain Tales from the Hills', is based on this church. The great Christian Sadhu missionary Sundar Singh was associated with this church for a long time. It was at Kotgarh that he had his first mystical experience which he mentions in his book 'Spiritual World'.

    Day 5: Drop at Chandigarh railway station/ airport- 6-7 hrs

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