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Soft Adventure 1: Hike from Bir to Ahju Fort / Aiju / Ahaju Garha
The fort built on the Sikander Ridge is strategically located on the border of Kangra and Mandi districts. The ridge offers a bird’s eye view of several villages, towns, and tourist places located in the districts. For example, you can spot Mohan Ghati, Baijnath, Dharamshala, Palpung Sherabling (Bhattu), Bir, Billing, Bada Bhangal, Bhader, Suja, and the Dhauladhar Range from the terrace of the temple and / or the ruins.
The fort complex at an altitude of about 1,482 meters (4,829 feet) houses a Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited’s (B.S.N.L.) tower, a few parts of the wall, and two new temples: Mata Maheshwari and Putreshwar temples.
Except a small part, the fort wall is veiled with moss. A new temple (Putreshwar Mahadev Temple) is being constructed within the ruins featuring an old bavadi and three wells. Bavadi is dry, but one of the wells still supplies water.
Mata Maheshwari Garhwali Temple has seven wells. Three have been closed and the remaining four are still in use. New white temple of Mata Maheshwari lacks aesthetic appeal but definitely epitomizes faith and civil engineering skills.
The narrow gauge train of Kangra Valley Railway (K.V.R.) chugs through the terraced fields in the neighboring villages. Panoramic views of the train passing through the villages can be captured from the ruins. Ahju is the highest point (1,290 meters / 4,257 feet) on K.V.R. track.
- At Chaugan Chowk (Lower Bir), a signboard indicates the way to Ahju Fort. Follow the arrows.
- Walk along the road until bus stand located near Ahju railway track. This road does not receive much traffic, so this is a pleasant walk, especially in early morning. Start around 6:00 AM.
- Behind the bus stand, you will find a steep cemented path that has a yellow arch on which name of the Mata Maheshwari Temple is inscribed. Follow the path.
- The path meanders through the village. Keep walking until the path merges into a road. Across the road, you will find white arch on which Ma Sherawali Mandir is written. From here, a well-marked, muddy, stony trail climbs through a lovely pine forest and ends at the temple.
- A short partly cemented, partly stony trail from the left of the temple leads to the ruins of the fort.
- There are no water points along the route. The Nullah along the trail amid the pine forest does not always have water. Carry some water. The hike is steep and moderate in parts.
If you walk at leisure pace, you can reach the temple within two hours.
Relatively easy descent requires less time.
Note: If you are short of time, travel by bus from Bir to the bus stop near Aiju Railway Station. From there, you can walk.
Soft Adventure 2: Bir – Billing Walk / Hike
Walking along the Bir-Billing road is an experience in itself. This 14-kilometer walk through forests does not require a guide. An adventure seeker can do it without any maps. The road starts from Tourist Information Center in Upper Bir. There are no water points along the route. Carry water and food.
Bir-Billing hike via shorter shepherd’s trails requires a local guide, as there are many routes.