Cradled by Himalayas

Cradled by Himalayas

Travel tales

Cradled by Himalayas

Some indulgences are worth the time and money spent. One such was our recent holiday to the Himachal. The beauty of the rugged mountains, fresh mountain air, charming lakes, the pompous Pine and Oak trees, the red flowering Rhododendrons and driving down the 1-foot-wide roads which hug the hills dare one to let go of urban inhibitions.

We encountered a minor accident on the way to Dharamsala and our arduous journey was delayed by 4 hours. A drizzle welcomed us at 2.30 am. A sleepy reluctant cab driver hurtling us on a rollercoaster drive on snakey roads drove us to our resort. Thankfully, we arrived in one piece. After resting, we toured Mcleodganj. By morning, the rains transformed the majestic Dhauladhara ranges into a dramatic Emerald paradise. This reach of the Kangra valley is a curious mix of Tibetan, Kashmiri and hill cultures harmoniously blending with Buddhist monks, back packers, American tourists and locals.

Our pit stop was at ‘Gytao’, a Tantric temple and monastery. We first visited the Chamunda Devi Temple situated on the banks of Banganga. We also visited Palampur and were taken aback that this region exported tea to Kolkata and overseas market for 100 years. The trout-filled streams feed river Beas.

The next day, we visited the Dalai Lama’s two-storied Tsuglha Khang Temple complex. It overlooked his residence and we also got a glimpse of His Holiness. We visited the Kalachakra Temple and the Namgyal Monastery. On the outskirts is the Church of St John. The quaint cemetery of the Viceroy Lord Elgin stands behind it. His name brought ‘Namma Bengaluru’’s Elgin Talkies and Elgin flour mill, that is today an apartment complex, to my mind. The curio shops are a shopper’s delight.

The Naddi view point afforded a panoramic view of the valley. The nearby Norbulingka Institute is a hub of Tibetan culture, with numerous craftsmen keeping alive the authentic Lhasa tradition.   
 
We also walked the entire length of the Kangra Fort which was invincible till Jehangir conquered it. The view from its ramparts was breath-taking as was the symphony of cicadas.

After a day’s rest we set off to Dalhousie. It has retained the colonial-era charm and is perched on 5 hills. The Dhauladhara ranges start here as a necklace and end near Badrinath. Its magnificence is best experienced at Kangra. Enroute to Khajjiar, we stopped by the Snowdon Residence where Tagore’s father resided. A marble inscription states that the environs here inspired Tagore to set up Shanthiniketan.  We also saw a British golf course which is now a picnic spot, surrounded by the lush Shivalik Range and Deodar forests. 

Further 25 km, overlooking river Ravi is Chamba. Here, we went in search of the artistic traditions of Rumals, hand crafted ‘chappals’ and chili pickle ‘Chukh’. In the central Chaugan market square, temperate fruits of peaches, pears, plums were on sale at Rs 30 per kilo. This area was a promenade for State ‘durbars’ and sports till 1890. At the large complex of the Lakshminarayan Temples, devotees offer their prayers to Shiva, Devi, Bansigopal and Radhakrishna.

Travelling along the NH 22, we reached Parwanoo, a former hill station and now, a bustling industrial town. Our resort was perched on the tip of a hill and the descent was by cable car. At times, I would feel that the gateway to heaven would open if I willed hard.

From here we visited Kasauli, with heritage upper and lower malls, and the famed Sanawar Lawrence School that interestingly had a memorial of their alumni who died in the Second World War besides a name plaque. From here one could gaze at the Punjab plains.

This potpourri of Himalayan experiences was indeed a challenge to the city pampered that rejuvenated the senses to take head on the pot-holed roads and traffic jams on our return.

How to get there

We flew by Indigo to Chandigarh. It cost   8, 318 for 2. From there, we went to Dharamshala by government bus, which came up to   977. The trip from Dharamshala to
Khajjiar, Chamba and back cost   7,560.

The taxi ride from Parwanoo to Kasauli came up to   2,400.

Places to stay

* The room tariff at Sterling Resort in Mcleodganj came up to  4,393 for a week.

* The Timber Trails Heights resort charges  15, 000 for 6 days for 2. 

(The author can be contacted  at githaub@yahoo.com)

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