BAROG- A perfect Leisure Destination

It was our maiden venture to the mountains on our own car. We were a group of eight- Me, Subhransu and our daughter Suchetana along with Subhransu’s office colleagues Alok, Shantanu, Daleep, his wife Shalini and their little son Saurya. We all planned to go to a place, with a pleasant weather, far from the madding crowd to beat the heat of Delhi in June 2011. After much research work, the place we opted was BAROG in Himachal Pradesh.

Very early morning at around 5 A.M. we started from Delhi in our Santro and Shantanu’s A Star. The drive was very smooth up to Pinjore as the road condition was excellent. The Himalayan driveway was under construction so we had to take the route through Kalka. Henceforth started our long wait as the road at Kalka was a bottleneck causing long stranding of traffic. After Kalka, the mountainous road began.We switched off our Ac and let the cool fresh air come in through our car windows.The meandering path through the hills,the dense vegetation of pine,oak,deodar,cedar,the little colorful dhabas beside the road all added to the charm of our journey.At around 1 P. M we reached Barog. The tranquil and solitary backdrop of Barog attracted us on its first sight.

Barog is a small hill station in the Solan district of Himachal Pradesh on the  Kalka-Shimla route i.e NH-22 at an altitude of 5120 ft, 60kms away from Chandigarh. Shimla is just 55 kms from Barog.

We got accomodation in Hotel Corrins,just opposite to HPTDC Delux Hotel,The Pinewood. Our hotel was moderately comfortable, but the best part of it was the huge terrace facing the green valley. Surrounded by pine and oak forests Barog has a commanding setting. The walk towards the Choordhar mountains leave one dumbstruck with the captivating view of the peak. Summers are pleasant and winters are chilly. There is a small market place with a handful of shops including local eateries at a stone’s throw distance from the hotel where we enjoyed our meals at a very moderate price. There are a few  deluxe hotels in and around Barog of which Barog Heights needs mention.

Solan-Glittering at night

In the evening, we drove through the picturesque road to Solan,just 8 kms from Barog. Solan is a big District Capital with all sorts of city amenities and luxuries. We spent the whole evening in a local fair at Solan and returned to our hotel, only to gossip in the terrace under the clear night sky and amidst total silence of the woods.

Next morning we drove to Dagshai cantonment, just 7 kms from Barog, at an altitude of 5968 ft. It is the oldest cantonment in the Solan district of Himachal Pradesh built by the East India Company in 1847. Built by the British as a sanatorium for Tuberculosis patients, it has a British era graveyard overlooking the valley. It is also a short drive from Dharampur, which leads the road to the most picturesque Kasauli. At present there is a very small civilian town, an Army unit, one residential Army school, a private school and an old church in this hilltop place of Dagshai. We all were enthralled by the absolute silence of the nature. The dense pine trees, the green valley, the chirping of the birds in the distant trees and the cool breeze of Dagshai would remain in my memory for years to come.

Dagshai
The deserted road- Dagshai
Dagshai School

In the afternoon we went to see the most interesting and beautiful place of Barog-the railway station. It is located deep down the road almost hidden by thick forests at a distance of 3 kms from Barog on the Kalka-Shimla Highway.We parked our cars on the road itself  and trekked through the jungle path to reach there.Built in Scottish style, Barog railway station is the most beautiful of all the stations in the Kalka-Shimla  narrow guage line. It has the longest tunnel of 1143.61 m in the 103 operational tunnels in the route. Barog station is immediately after the tunnel,the straightest tunnel in the world.Trains take 2.5 minutes to cross this tunnel at 25 kms per hour.

 There is an interesting historical fact behind the construction of this famous Barog tunnel which I like to share.Colonel Barog, an engineer was responsible for designing a tunnel near the railway station. He started digging the tunnel from both the sides of the mountain, which is quite apt as it speeds up the construction. However, he made mistakes in the calculation and while constructing the tunnel it was found that the two ends of the tunnel did not meet. Col Barog was fined an amount of Rupee 1 by the British Government. Unable to withstand the humiliation,Col Barog committed suicide. He was buried near the incomplete tunnel. From then onwards the place came to be known as BAROG. Locals believe that the ghost of Barog still hovers around the place.
The beautiful Barog Station
Barog Tunnel-the straightest tunnel in the world
The  tunnel at Barog Railway station
Barog Railway Station-Scottish architecture
Waiting for the Toy Train
View from the top- Barog Tunnel hidden by dense forests
View from Barog- Solan valley at night

Our visit to Barog came to an end.The mood all around was very poignant as we had to leave this beautiful small town but we promised to return again.

Friends,

You may have traveled many a times through the Kalka-Shimla route to distant places in Himachal Pradesh without giving much notice to this small town of Barog, but next time spend a day or  two in this densely forested hill station of Barog which will undoubtedly soothe your body, mind and soul.

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Chiliyanaula- A pristine weekend destination

Hairakhan temple at Chiliyanaula

Kumaon has many such hidden places which offer an unparallel beauty of the nature with a mystic charm- one such gem is CHILIYANAULA. Just 4 kms away from Ranikhet in the Almora district of Uttarakhand, this quaint little hamlet is worth of visit. It offers a 180 degree view of the snow clad Himalayan mountain peaks like Trishul, Chaukhamba, Panch chulli, Mrigathuni, Nandadevi etc. The meandering mountainous path amidst dense deodars, pines and oaks straight away leads you to the KMVN tourist bunglow-Himadri which provides a very comfortable stay.Otherwise accommodation is limited here in Chiliyanaula. Just beside the Tourist bunglow there is the famous Hairakhan temple complex which is a seat of learning and meditation to a huge number of foreigners. Every time we travel in the Himalayas, we look for places which are a bit far from the hustle and bustle of the city, where there are meager accommodation so that not many tourists can flock together and which can quench our thirst of gazing to the Himalayan splendor.

Bells of hope- Jhula Devi temple-Ranikhet

So Friends, Chiliyanaula can be your next destination which will undoubtedly rejuvenate your soul as well as your body and mind.Staying here you can enjoy a day’s trip to Ranikhet— chaubatiya gardens, golf course, Jhuladevi temple, military museum, kalika devi temple etc.

Himadri-set in a very idyllic location- Chiliyanaula
The Golf Course at Ranikhet

Wish you a happy soulsafar

And miles to go before I sleep
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SITALAKHET- Where only Tranquility prevails

The Hidden Treasure in Kumaon

It was our 2nd venture to Kumaon by our own car, the first being to Mukteswar and Naukuchiyatal. We always prefer to travel to serene places away from the tourist crowd and market places—hence the option was obvious-SITALAKHET.

We took the route from Delhi to Ramnagar – Corbett—Ranikhet—Sitalakhet. The road from Ramnagar through Corbett is a dream path amidst the green forests with frequent visitors like monkeys and langoors all over the jungle road. We even spotted an alligator which made an excellent camouflage with the metallic road. It took around 9-10 hrs to reach Sitalakhet, as we were enjoying every bit of our journey specially the 10 kms stretch from Kathpuriya to Sitalakhet through thick forest area.

Our Route through Corbett national Park


Next day early morning before sunrise we were again on the terrace to get some view of the sunrise. It was chilling cold outside and my daughter rushed inside the room and plunged into the bed, and preferred to have her second round of nap. I and Subhransu were waiting with our heart panting –it was utter silence as there were no other boarders in the rest house. Gradually the sky turned orange, then red and lastly crimson—the first glimpse of the rays of the sun peeped through the distant mountains and fell on the trees, I was breathless, slowly the sun started rising—a hot glow of fire emerged from the distant mountains and filled the entire sky with its spectrum of hues—we were mesmerized and totally dumbstruck. It was a life long experience—Sitalakhet gave us all that we cherished for.

The dry Ramganga river in Corbett
Panoramic view of Corbett national Park

We had earlier booked one room in the KMVN Tourist Rest House, the only accommodation here. It is located amidst thick forests and is indeed very comfortable. We settled ourselves in the room, ordered our lunch and behold! As I opened the exit door of the room I found myself on a huge terrace facing the front side of the Rest House. In front of us stood a 180 degree panoramic view of the snow clad peaks of the Himalayas. We never thought that Sitalakhet has such an enchanting beauty. The terrace was an awesome place and we decided to spend most of our time here in ultimate leisure, till then quite oblivious of the fact what is expecting us next.

KMVN Tourist Rest House-Sitalakhet

There is a temple of Syahi Devi where the locals offer their prayers. One has to trek through the forested road to reach there. We opted to stay in the rest house and have our last glimpse of the Himalayas before we move to our next destination of Binsar.

The Sun is rising

 

Friends,

Sitalakhet is a bliss for nature lovers where one’s soul will find peace within-miles away from the grandeur of city life and luxuries,this place is a paradise for the photographers.So next time you plan to rejuvenate yourself-there can be no other option than SITALAKHET-a nature’s paradise-a hidden treasure on the lap of the Himalayas.

Adieu  Sitalakhet
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RAMGARH (Uttarakhand)- A serene and blissful weekend destination

Ramgarh-Love at first sight!!

It was quite a few months we had not traveled to the mountains after Diwali, due to Rakhi’s exams. So as soon as it ended we were in search for a perfect time and a perfect place-a place away from the crowd with – charming beauty-Atlast we found it. It was RAMGARH in Nainital district-a perfect place to unwind oneself. There was an extended 3 days holiday with Good Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This time, we were a group of 11, with ages 2 to 70 along with the cute, adorable,  little dog Cheeni.

Our journey started through drizzle

We started at around 4:30 in the morning in 3 cars, with my Bro-in-law,Subhrashis, his wife Ranjini and little Hridhima in their brand new Eco sportz, his friend and colleague Ankaj,his wife Aparna, little Apple, cute Chini and their governess Bithika in their dashing new Ssangyong and we-Me, Subhransu, our daughter Suchetana and my mom as before in our most trusted Santro. Everything was fine except the rain which started from midnight and became our travel partner throughout the day. We took the well known Hapur-Gajraula-Moradabad-Rampur-Rudrapur-Bilaspur-Haldwani-Bhimtal-Bhowali-Ramgarh route. The road conditions are fine except the Rudrapur-Bilaspur stretch. The continuous drizzle slowed down our pace and we reached Ramgarh at around 1 p.m. It was Subhrashis and Ankaj’s maiden journey to the hills and they really loved driving through the winding hilly roads.

I did not expect something magnificient because we already had been to Mukteswar which is at a higher altitude than Ramgarh and at an idyllic location. But I was absolutely wrong. It was love at first sight with Ramgarh. Situated at a distance of 328 kms from New Delhi at an altitude of 1720 mts above the sea level in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand, Ramgarh is a heavenly hamlet. Away from the hustle and bustle of tourist crowd, this small hill town offers a pristine environment and gigantic view of the Himalayas.

The right hand side uphill road leads to Ramgarh TRH

We had our rooms booked in the KMVN Tourist rest house-it was my second surprise!!! Ideally built at the top with dense pine and fir trees all around and a magnificient front view of the Trishul, Chaukhamba, Panch Chulli in front, this beautiful, well maintained and indeed very comfortable Tourist Rest House is a worth visit to Ramgarh. Recently they have constructed two new buildings with quite a few number of rooms each with a balcony facing the Himalayas. We were quite hungry as we had only chicken sandwiches as breakfast in our journey which I had prepared. The courteous staff were very swift in preparing our lunch of simple rice, daal and sabji. After the lunch, all were too tired and plunged into the bed with blankets all around and soon fell fast asleep. Though I was also feelng too sleepy but the mountains could not make me sleep. I along with Subhransu headed towards the market, just 200 mts away from our place. The market is a small meeting place of locals with a handful of shops. We bought chicken from the only meat shop present there, had a nice cup of hot Nescafe and enjoyed the place taking a few snaps of the distant mountains, lush green valleys, apple orchards all around. This place boasts of a large number of orchards of apple, apricot, peach and plum. The trees were full with white blossoms as the fruits are yet to come. Slowly the sun set in, the entire place was covered with moonlight and the tall conifers in the backdrop of the mountains made an excellent sillhoute effect. Inside the kitchen I was absolutely busy cooking the chicken which we bought from the market. The staffs of the rest house were extremely helpful and jovial. Staying away from their families for most of the time in the year doing only their duties- serving the tourists, suddenly they found an elder sister in me and shared their stories, dreams and despairs with me.Meanwhile the entire gang were having a gala time with apple wine and absolute vodka.

Our four bedded Delux room in TRH -Ramgarh
View from the Market
Inside the rest house area-Ramgarh
One should spent a couple of days here!!
TRH-Ramgarh
Enchanting beauty from the rest house-Ramgarh

Next day we planned to go to Mukteswar just 25 kms from Ramgarh, but at a higher altitude. Before that we moved on to visit the Aurobindo ashram. After a tiring drive for 8kms downhill in the Talla area of Ramgarh we discovered the ashram, but to all our surprise it was closed and totally deserted. The place was indeed very calm and quiet, but one should take prior information before coming here. Next we moved on to Mukteswar. Although we had stayed here before for a couple of days, but still hills can never be old, everytime it has something new to offer. This time we re-visited the PWD bunglow where the famous Jim Corbett stayed, spent some time in the backyard lawn and then trekked a short 200 mts uphill through dense forest to have a glimpse of the distant peaks from Chauli-ki-jali. One could enjoy the sunset at its best from this place with a 270 degree angle of panoramic view of the noted himalayan peaks likeNandadevi, Chaukhamba, Trishul, Panch chulli etc. But it was day time, moreover flocked with tourists. We took some snaps from this breath takingly beautiful spot and returned to the KMVN Mukteswar dining room where we had placed our order for the lunch. It had been rightly said that “Hunger is the best sauce”, and believe me we ate gregariously with not a speck of food remaining on the plate. The two kids Hridhima and Apple were at their best of their moods and ofcourse above all sweet little Cheeni who was decked up with a red cardigan, blue shoes and a pendant.
None of us were religious minded people and hence cancelled the idea of visiting the Mukteswar temple, though we had been there earlier. Instead we chose to venture through the forest with our cars. After taking entry from the gate we entered the forest area which leads to Shitla. The entire Mukteswar hills is under the Veterinary Research Institute of India and hence much secluded. We slowly travelled through the forest amidst lots of green and green everywhere with a dash of red Rhododendron flowers blooming all around. The eerie silence with  continuous buzzing of the crickets made us enraptured to the tune of it, when suddenly a pair of Neelgai on the upper hilly part drew our attention. We were enjoying every bit of our ride. Passing through a handful of staff quarters of the Veterinary Research Institute in the forest area we suddenly came to an open land with vast stretches of orchards and Green house. The place was perfect for a leisurely nap, hence we all laid down on the green meadow and was bathing in the kissing sun rays. The air was cold and we were absolutely enthralled.

Atreyee,Suchetana and Hridhima
PWD Bunglow-Mukteswar
Rhododendron
More red blossoms all around
white blossoms
The vast open land in the forest-Mukteswar
Nature at its best-Mukteswar
View through the forest
The lone dilapidated well
Unparallel beauty-Mukteswar
The three cars in our journey

Slowly the day came to an end and we had to return back to the TRH at Ramgarh. On our way back again we purchased raw chicken, this time the menu was Chicken Manchurian and roti all cooked by me. Everybody was enjoying,but somehow I was feeling sad…sad to depart from this beautiful place called Ramgarh-sad to depart from the mountains where I can feel my soul and find innerpeace.

Next day after having a sumptuous breakfast with puri-sabzi and fried eggs we set off for Nainital, while Ankaj and his family headed straight towards Delhi. We reached Nainital soon and spent some time in the Naini Devi temple complex, did some shopping of the famous decorative candles, had lunch with chinese food–all nice but very uneventful. The crowd of Nainital, the hustle and bustle of the lake side destination had no impact on me-although I had been there before. It was already 2 P.M, we were getting late, so rushed out from there, took the Kaladhungi-Moradabad road and reached Delhi by 10 at night.

Nainital Lake

This trip to Ramgarh was a short one-but it was one of our best road trip. The salubrious cool weather of the mountains,the excellent Tourist Rest house of KMVN, the courteuos behaviour of the staffs Raju, Vipin and the manager Mr. Bhatt, the peeping sun glazed Trishul and Panch chulli, the apple orchards, the green valleys, the absolutely deserted hilly paths, the sudden precarious bends, the pines, the ferns, the chirping birds–and more and more captivated my mind, body and soul–it was a true SOUL SAFAR!!!

Absolute Bliss-Ramgarh
The sun-glazed peaks-Ramgarh
Hills are calling back!!!
Bid Adieu-Ramgarh
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The Saga of Rewalsar and Naggar- under the mystic spell of rain

Last August in 2014 when the entire nation was celebrating Independence day with pomp and gaiety, we chose to free our souls in the wilderness. We planned for a short four days trip,as usual to the mountains,to two lesser known destinations in Himachal Pradesh,Rewalsar and Naggar. This time we were a small group of six, we three and our family friend Jayanta Da, his wife Satarupa and their kid, sweet little Khusi.We started from Delhi at around 4 in the afternoon in our most reliable Santro and Jayanta Da in his grand Honda City for his maiden trip to the himalayas. It was planned that we would take a night halt at Kurukshetra and next day early morning would move towards Rewalsar. But terrible traffic jam in Delhi ruined all our plans and by the time we reached Kurukshetra, it was too late to check in to a hotel. So we decided to move on. Everything was fine and we reached smoothly to Swarghat via Chandigarh at the dawn hours enjoying a night long drive. But who could apprehend what was waiting for us. Two days of incessant rain caused landslides in places washing away half of the roads in the hills. As a result there was a huge traffic snarl. Thousands of vehicles were stranded on the road and we were a part of that never ending serpentile queue. Time passed on and we were inside our car, practically starving. By the time we reached Bilaspur it was almost 11 in the morning. We halted in the Lake View hotel of HPTDC for breakfast feeling relieved as only 65 kms were left to reach Rewalsar. The sky was more or less clear and we were really happy. But we were ill fated. No sooner we reached Mandi, rain started pouring in heavily. It was very tough for Subhransu to drive through the water logged hilly roads.Anyhow by God’s grace we could make to our destination. But like a silver lining to our ill fate we enjoyed the last lap of our journey,driving through narrow winding hilly roads with thick lush green vegetation. At one place we saw a gushing waterfalls at a stone’s throw and were enthusiastic enough to take some nice pictures of it.

This waterfall was  just beside the road

The road was very narrow and completely deserted.Jayanta Da was very scared and started to believe that we had been lost.Somehow we reached Rewalsar at last.It was almost afternoon and both Jayanta Da and Subhransu were on the verge of collapsing after driving 23 hours at a stretch.But as soon as we entered the hotel premises of Tourist Inn all our fatigue and desperation vanished.This HPTDC hotel complex is most strategically located just by the side of the holy Rewalsar lake with a beautiful colossal architecture.

 

This is Rewalsar

 

A part of the HPTDC “Tourist Inn” at Rewalsar

 

Rakhi infront of the Beautiful building of “Tourist Inn”

 

Rewalsar is a small holy tourist spot encompassing a beautiful lake.Rewalsar Lake, or Tso Pema Lotus Lake, is a mid-altitude lake located on a mountain spur in Mandi district, 22.5 km from Mandi at an altitude of 1306 mts from the sea level.

The lake is square shaped surrounded  with dense green woodland and high hills. It is held as a sacred spot for Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists with three Buddhist monasteries,  three Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Krishna,  Lord Shiva and to the sage Lomas.
Rewalsar is associated with the escape of ‘Pandavas’ from the burning palace of wax—an episode from the epic Mahabharata. It was from here that the great Indian teacher and `Tantric` Padmasambhava left for Tibet. There are islands of floating reed on Rewalsar lake and the spirit of Padmasambhava is said to reside in them.

The sacred Rewalsar lake

We checked in the hotel and at the first glance I liked it very much. Our room was on the first floor, a big cosy one with a spacious balcony facing the beautiful emerald lake with thick coat of greens all around. Just on the left hand side of our hotel was the old Buddhist monastery with a gigantic gorgeous statue of Guru Padmasambhava standing erect amidst the small residential buildings of the Buddhist monks. We were relentlessly tired and hungry too. So I first ordered for food. After a refreshing bath and modest but sumptuous meal of rice, dal and sabji plunged into the bed to compensate our night long sleep. How time ran out we hardly could realise but woke up with the mystic sound of the prayer bells from the  Buddhist monastery. I peeped through the window to have a look all around but hardly could see anything. It was pitch dark outside with very tiny pale lights flickering from the monasteries, temples and buildings placed all around the lake.Rakhi and Subhransu went out to visit the monastery while I opted to stay indoors.But they returned soon as rain had started. After a quick dinner with chicken chow mein we went to sleep. The noise of the raindrops rolling down the tin roof shades of our room,on the brimming lake,over the tree leaves near-by,were indeed very romantic but I could hardly relish those moments. I was rather very sad to apprehend what was waiting for us for the entire trip,specially was panicked to guess the road conditions which were already in a bad state.  Gradually the intensity of rain increased and went on and on. It seemed that a deluge would take place and I fantasised to take shelter in a Noah’s Arc.

The majestic statue of Guru Padmasambhava beside the lake

The next day morning we woke up at a sudden knock at our balcony door.I came out in the balcony and to my surprise discovered a monkey. But he was not alone,there were bunch of them all over the place rampaging everything. The sun was smiling everywhere. Rain had stopped and the sky was clear. I thanked God to be so merciful. We quickly got ready and stepped out of the hotel complex to explore this small but significant place.First we had breakfast from one of the Tibetian joints just outside our hotel beside the monastery. There were a few locals and a couple of foreigners at that hour in the morning. Then we visited the monastery, the temples and the Gurudwara one by one.
The beauty of the serene lake was mesmerising and we wished to stay a little longer here but had no options only to move on,as our itinerary was pre planned

Rakhi and Khusi at Rewalsar inside the tourist complex

We were all in high spirits as the sun was shining brightly and there were no traces of ominous clouds anywhere in the sky. But yesterday’s rain already had done a lot of damage to the roads. The shorter route from Rewalsar to Mandi was washed away in parts and so we had to take the same route to Mandi via Nerchowk. I noticed that by this time Jayanta Da had become more accustomed to uphill driving and he was practically enjoying every bit of his drive. Two of our cars ran through the hilly paths of Mandi full with potholes and mud. Just outside the town we again had to face a traffic jam, but this time a much smaller one. Slowly the nature started revealing its glory. I was not well since morning down with nausea and acidity.But the fresh cool air of the mountains relieved my problem quite a bit.The road was indeed very picturesque with river Beas dancing all along on one side and the mighty barren mountains standing high on the other. Suddenly at one point of the road we saw gallons of white foamy water gushing out of the mountain crevice falling from a great height to the river Beas .This magnificient anonymous waterfall on the roadside made us spellbound. We stopped to take some snaps

This massive outbursts of water was flowing down the river Beas

 

This was the anonymous gigantic waterfall on the way to Pandoh

 

Rakhi by the side of Beas on our way to Naggar

Subhransu was driving at a speed of nearly 60kms/hr in that hilly terrain. The weather was very pleasant and soon we crossed the historic Pandoh tunnel and reached Aut.From here We took the left hand road towards Kullu. The right hand road leads to the Tirthan Valley in Banjar, one of the most fascinating places in Himachal Pradesh. It was noon and all our stock of food including fresh oranges were finished. So we decided to have our lunch at a dhaba by the river side. The location of the dhaba was mind blowing but the food was horrible.Anyways food never seems to be my priority when I am in the mountains. I try to devour all the essence of the nature through my six senses. Gradually we crossed Bhuntar, passed by the small cute airport and soon entered the Kullu valley. The town was bubbling with local people , their rustic charm, their colorful dresses added extra fervour. Kullu also known as Valley of Gods is a district in Himachal Pradesh with number of important Government buildings,schools,offices,shops etc. On the contrary it still retains its past glory of the Rajas and their rule having a number of noted temples and the significant Dholpur ground where Dasshera is celebrated each year with enormous pomp. Satarupa was extremely eager to do some shopping from here specially the famous Kullu shawls but we promised her to halt while we return as we were already running out of time. We crossed the new bridge over the Beas river and left Kullu town and took the by – pass road. After travelling a few kilometers through the dusty hilly road we turned right and headed towards our next destination -Naggar. From here the road is extremely beautiful with the river Beas just by our side and acres of apple orchards on both sides of the valley. It was the month of August and so the trees were in full bloom with scarlet red and fluorescent green golden luscious  apples. We were jubilant and little Khusi was very eager to pluck a few but we cautioned her showing the big hound dogs keeping a constant vigil on the orchards.But truly speaking the child in me was also very much eager to pluck some of those red apples from the trees but could not.Within an hour we reached Naggar.

Picturesque road leading to Naggar

 

The dancing Beas on the way to Naggar

 

Apple orchards in Naggar with full bloom

Situated on the left bank of river Beas at an altitude of 1851m, Naggar is an ancient town commanding extensive views, especially to the North West of the valley. Naggar was the former capital of Kullu. It was founded by Raja Visudhpal and continued as a headquarters of the State until the capital was transferred to Sultanpur (Kullu) by Jagat Singh in 1460 A.D.
Located in Naggar Town, amidst breathtaking forested hills, the Naggar Castle is a magnificent historical edifice. This medieval wood and stone mansion with intricate designs is presently a heritage hotel of HPTDC and for the next two days we would be staying here.

This is Naggar-a small sleepy hilly hamlet

 

The Naggar castle can be viewed from here

The entrance of the hotel is just bang on the roadside with an ornately crafted wooden gate. We checked in the hotel room,ours being the River View Suite at the end of the long corridor facing the Beas valley. Each and every room has a suitable name and is refurbished accordingly. Our room was a big, cosy one with a royal feel and specially the bathroom needs a special mention, built in dark black marble with sparkling white toilet fittings. Rakhi and I decided to dress ourselves with regal touch to match with the flavour of the hotel. It was afternoon and we had some snacks in a shop just opposite to the Castle. The sun was setting and the air was cool. All the five of our group wanted to stroll in the uphill road while I came back to my hotel room.

The Naggar Castle

 

View of the Castle from the road

 

The Castle inside

 

The beautifully carved Entrance of the Castle

 

The Reception of the Castle straight ahead

 

The Centre of the Castle with the temple on the left

 

Silver Door handle of the Royal Era

 

The majestic corridor

 

Our suite in the castle

 

Inside our River View Suite

 

View of the valley from the balcony

 

Rakhi-the princess inside the Castle

The Naggar Castle was converted into a rest house, a hundred year back and in 1978 this ancient building was handed over to HPTDC to run as a heritage hotel. This medieval Castle was built by Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu around 1460 A.D. The hotel overlooks the Kullu Valley and apart from the spectacular view and superb location this has a flavour of authentic western Himalayan architecture. Here, a gallery houses the paintings of the Russian artist Nicholas Roerich.
I plunged into the king sized bed in our suite and soon fell asleep. After a short while they all returned exploring the place quite a bit. By then the sun had completely set in.I came out in the balcony to experience a magical scene.The distant valley was all covered with a thick blanket of darkness and the lights from the village houses far away were shining like stars. It was a mystic ambience and we wished to celebrate that moment.Subhransu and Jayanta Da arranged for drinks and snacks. Hours rolled on and we with scotch in our glasses were enraptured by the buzzing sound of the crickets from the near by trees amidst the eerie silence of the nature. The dim wall lamps under the ornate shades in the corridor added a hypnotic touch to that moment.Soon it was our dinner time, where another surprise was waiting for us. The dining room was on the upstairs of another portion of the castle facing a huge courtyard  with a lone ” Bottle Brush” tree at the centre. But the staffs of the castle had already arranged our food on the balcony outside the dining. Chandeliers of the bygone era were hanging from the wooden ceiling, candles burning on the walls, exquisitely beautiful mahogany chairs being well arranged and well ironed white table covers draping on the Sal tables…and we were greeted with a warm smile from the staffs of the castle. Food was served… Matar mushrooms,  Paneer Pasanda, Green salad and hot fulkas.The sight of the food was indeed very tempting.The balcony was facing the vast Kullu valley drenched in black with stars glittering all over. An awesome silence prevailed with only the rippling of the river Beas far at the valley piercing through our ears. We were speechless That night I had a blissful sleep.

The lone tree at the centre of the courtyard

 

The View from the upstairs of the Castle

 

Rakhi there

 

Subhransu inside the Castle

 

Looking at the greens all around the Castle

 

Royal Feeling inside the Castle

 

We at the courtyard

 

Smiling Khusi

 

Well maintained Castle
One part of the Castle with Subhransu

 

The rear view of the Castle

 

Our cars being parked outside the Castle
The Kullu valley at night seen from our balcony

Next day morning we woke up little late and was in a lackadaisical mood. After a heavy breakfast we all set out by foot to explore the Naggar valley.Rakhi and Khusi were at the best of their mood and were like free birds. First we sawthe JAGATIPATT TEMPLE inside the upper courtyard of the castle adjacent to our suite. Inside this small temple there is a small square structure which contains “Jagtipatt” a slab of stone measuring 5’x8’x6″ which is said to have been brought from a place near Vashisht by honey bee. This is also place for meeting of local deities of Kullu.

Jagatipatt temple inside the Castle

Then we went to TRIPURA SUNDRI TEMPLE situated in the upper part of the village.This is a pagoda shaped wooden temple with intricate wooden carvings. The deity inside is Tripura Sundari or Devi Durga.
Subhransu was busy with his camera capturing both the architecture of this small temple as well as the mischievousness of Rakhi and Khusi.

Tripura Sundari temple

 

Another view

 

Me at the entrance of this beautifully carved wood and stone temple

Next we walked through the narrow uphill road to visit the most important place of Naggar- NICHOLAS ROERICH’S ART GALLERY.About 2km above the castle is this famous Roerich Gallery , the former home of noted Russian painter, spiritualist, Inner Asian explorer Nikolai Roerich, who died in Naggar in 1947. His residence had been converted to an art gallery.The lower floors display some of Roerich’s surreally colourful landscapes, while the upper floors preserve the artist’s private rooms. The 1930 Dodge car of Roerich outside the house should not be missed.We were engrossed by the creation of this world renowned artist.Then walked deep down hill through dense woods to see his grave rested in utter silence and peace.A five minute walk uphill from the gallery is the Urusvati  Himalayan Folk & Art Museum which houses ethnological artefacts and photos of early days of the Himalayan Research Institute.

Rakhi at the entrance of  the Nicholas Roerich’s Art Gallery
We two infront of the gallery

 

The Art Gallery
JayantaDa.Rakhi and Khusi on the way to the grave of Roerich
The stone grave of Nicholas Roerich

It was late noon and we were severely hungry specially Khusi who wanted to taste authentic pizza from a near-by Italian restaurant. This place has a quite few  European food joints serving authentic foods as lots of foreigners often visit this beautiful hamlet called Naggar. They prefer to stay in the near by home stays and cottages.The restaurant was closed so we preferred to have Chinese in our lunch at another food joint

All girls in Naggar
Little Sonakshi-the daughter of the restauranter where we had lunch

Nowadays a lot of tourists flock in to Naggar, most of them are day visitors from Manali. For them the Naggar Castle charge an entry fee of meagre 30 rupees.The castle is itself a masterpiece of art and architecture with a museum in it.There is also a souvenir shop inside the castle with a decent collection of Kullu handicrafts and hand loom textiles. I was exploring each and every nook of the castle.The weather was perfect and there was a huge rush of visitors. Some of them even peeped through our suite unknowingly. It was a real fun to explain to them that these are rooms in the castle and they are trespassing our privacy.Slowly the day came to an end and we all were feeling sad. That night we again experienced the majestic dinner in the most fascinating surrounding. It was an unforgettable night.

The sun has set in Naggar

 

Illuminated hilly path infront of the Castle

Next day we had to leave. ..so quickly cleared the hotel bills and by 10 in the morning started from Naggar to reach Swarghat by day time where we would take a night halt and reach Delhi the day after.The wheels of our car started rolling on and I breathlessly gazed at the Castle for the last time, not to bid good bye but to promise myself to return back soon.Each and every moment spent here in this wood and stone mansion was whispering into my ears making me pensively joyous. Our cherished two days stay in this Naggar Castle would remain in my memory for years to come. It was a true Soul safar. ….

The Dining area where we had a magical experience

 

From our balcony

 

Intricately carved wood and stone mansion

 

We three infront of the castle

 

Our Gang in the Trip

 

Jayanta Da,Satarupa and little Khusi with their Honda City-Maiden drive to the Himalayas
Wish to come back here again!!!
The distant Kullu valley seen from the Castle-

Adieu Naggar

 

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A trip to Dhikala in Corbett National Park

Call of the Wild

Day-1

Our maruti gypsy was speeding through the forested Ramnagar-Ranikhet road piercing the darkness of the surrounding. Though it was the month of March but previous two days of heavy rain had drastically dropped the mercury and it was very chilly. We three of us were shivering as the icy cold wind lashed on us. It was 5 in the morning and we had just reached the Ramnagar station after an over night train journey in the Ranikhet Express. Our safari gypsy was waiting outside the station…All arrangements been made by Akram Khan,who provides assistance to the tourists in the Corbett Tiger Reserve.One can also hire maruti gypsy from the office of the Corbett Tiger Reserve at Ramnagar against the accomodation booking of any of the forest rest houses inside Corbett.A tall,young lanky guy with a grin in his face approached us and introduced himself as Jeeshan,  our driver for the entire jungle trip.The 18 km long drive ended soon and we reached the Dhangiri gate, the entry point to the Dhikala zone of the Corbett National Park.  At that dawn hours two more gypsies had already reached there and were waiting for the gate to be opened at 6.30 am.Subhransu quickly rushed to the office for identity verification and collecting the permit to enter inside the forest. Day safari is not permitted in this Dhikala zone except the Canter ride by the forest department. Only those tourists are let in through the Dhangiri gate who have atleast 1 night accomodation booking in any of the 4 forest rest houses in the Dhikala zone.At the very entrance of the gate there is a half bust statue of the famous hunter Jim Corbett and on the right hand side a little ahead is a museum with a vast collection of the jungle life.Soon Subhransu returned with the permit and Jeeshan was prompt to start his gypsy waisting no time at all. We took the straight road through the forest.
Our gypsy for the safari
The woods were dark and deep
The first glance of the Ramganga river

It was early dawn and the air was pristine.While Rakhi preferred to sit under the hood beside the driver we chose the rear seat to enjoy each and every moment of our safari. The forest was oak-brown and very primitive with sprawling trees standing erect like the silent sentinels of the grove.There were innumerable trees like Sal,Peepal,Amla, Jamun, Haldi, Rohini,Mango, different kinds of berries, and 488 species of plants and a diverse variety of fauna.This Corbett National Park, the oldest  in the country was established in the year 1936 as Hailey National Park to protect the endangered species of Bengal Tiger. Afterwards it was named Ramganga National Park and ultimately in 1955-56 it was renamed as Jim Corbett National Park after the noted author and wild life conservationist Jim Corbett.Nestled in the foothills of the Shivalik range of the Himalayas in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand,Corbett Tiger Reserve comprises 520 square kms area of sub Himalayan belts, marshy depressions, grasslands, riverine belts and a large lake.There is a diverse variety of flora and fauna along with 580 species of domestic as well as migratory birds and 25 reptile species.Gradually the sun was rising and the soft velvety rays peeped through the netted mesh of leaves and we were practically bathed by the kissing sun rays. The chirping of the birds amidst the absolute silence of the jungle enraptured us. Our gypsy was moving slowly, sometimes through the dense wooded forest of sky catching Sals, sometimes through the open glades with distant mountains covered with thick lush green vegetations, again the next moment we were crossing a dry monsoon river with ankle deep water flowing feebly over the pebbles. The roller coaster ride over the steep undulating paths often laden with boulders and pebbles made our digestive enzymes craving for food.We had to pacify our hunger with biscuits and muffins which were left with us.

The forest greeted us with a warm smile
The roads inside Corbett
We three,ready to explore the forest
The male spotted deer posing for photo

Suddenly Jeeshan stopped his gypsy and we got down from the vehicle. Walking a few steps we came to a spot known as the “crocodile point”. Far away we saw the Ramganga river with turquoise blue water flowing through the lush green mountains on one side and deep gorge on the other. Looking through the binoculars we spotted 2 large greyish  gharials lying stone dead on the wide sandy river beds with their sharp teethed jaws wide open to catch the prey. Far away in the water a stork was standing still with one leg. We were simply amazed. All of a sudden Jeeshan pointed to a frivolous , small animal known as Martin, squirmishly vanishing into the dense foliage. After clicking a few photos we again started moving on. The woody incense from the snapping branches crashing to the forest floor,the piles of pale yellowish dry leaves rotting silently and the mounds of soil heaped up by the white ants created an organic compost wave of miasma. We took the road leading to the Gairal forest rest house. Inside the Dhikala zone there are 4 such forest rest houses. First we came across the Sultan forest rest house just on the outskirt of the core forest area. Subhransu was continuously capturing the nature with his Sony Handycam and Rakhi was dozing as usual. All of a sudden we saw a peacock on the roadside roaming unperturbedly. The vivid graceful color of the peacock was really magnificient. Then we came to a watchtower just beside the river from where one can experience a bird’s eye view of the entire area. Jeeshan showed us the Rohini trees bearing small fruits which are favourites of the elephants. These fruits have a red powdery coating on outside which served the purpose of vermillion to the jungle folks.It has the power to cool the body and hence elephants love them.

Subhransu with our driver Jeeshan infront of our safari gypsy,Rakhi there in the front seat
For the first time we got down from our gypsy at Crocodile Point
Subhransu and Jeeshan trying to spot gharials and crocodiles at “Crocodile point”
The Gairal forest rest house is beautifully located amidst the dense green forests with the river Ramganga flowing in front of it. On one side stands the old forest rest house built in British architectural style with deep green thatched asbestos roofs and on the other is the new forest rest house building along with the kitchen and dining area. We ordered for aloo parathas and tea. There were other tourists including a foreigner couple, all loitering on the grassy lawn. There we met a Bengali photographer extremely lucky to site a tiger and capture it in his tele lens. After spending an hour at Gairal, we again set off for our maiden jungle safari, this time towards our destination, the Dhikala forest rest house.
The Gairal forest rest house complex in the Dhikala zone amidst wilderness
Infront of the reception at Gairal

The Old forest rest house at Gairal
The New forest rest hose building at Gairal
Subhransu sunbathing at Gairal rest house
As we ventured deeper into the tangled heart of the age old forest we hoped that it will reveal the dark secrets to us.On our way we saw a herd of spotted deer with the males having beautiful articulated horns busy in eating fruits from the ground which the black faced long tailed langur were throwing to them sitting high up in the trees. Soon we came to a vast open grassland dotted with mountain ranges far away followed by thick blanket of greens. The entire place was covered with long dry elephant grasses on both the sides with narrow dusty roads running criss-crossed at many points. As we approached the forest rest house, I noticed the board of Dhikala outside the rest house complex. I was exhilarated as it had been my long cherished dream to stay at Dhikala and soak in the wilderness. Our gypsy brisked through the fenced gate and positioned itself beside the other vehicles. But it was 10 in the morning and so we had to wait for another one hour to occupy our rooms. This young lad Jeeshan was such a nature and wild life lover that he insisted us not to waste an hour but to have one more round of the safari. Our exhaustion at once vanished and we jumped into the seats and our gypsy rolled on. We travelled through the open grasslands and through the forested roads flanked with thick shrubs, bushes and trees. The sun was shining brightly and the forest reeked of age. Suddenly we came across a stunning vista of hundreds of miles of open grassland bordered with chain of mountain ranges and in the middle stood a large lake formed by the backwaters of the Ramganga reservoir. The deep prussian blue water of the lake blended perfectly with the blue sky above. I was completely mesmerised. Hunderds of spotted, barking and hog deer were grazing on the field and a couple of wild boars also joined them. As our gypsy approached nearer, they hastily ran away, though our purpose was not to disturb them being trespassers in their natural habitat. Jeeshan was very excited to show and explain us everything and prove his efficiency as a wild life expert. Corbett park is a birds’ paradise. Within that short span of time we saw plenty of blue-whiskered bulbuls, black partridges, grey colored doves, green bee-eaters and different types of parakeets jumping on the twigs and grasses and busy in pecking food. I was extremely eager to get down from the vehicle and rush to the blue mystic lake. But Jeeshan stopped me as the forest department does not allow any tourists to walk in the forest. I was little upset by such stringent rule. Our gypsy was running fast and there at far away we saw an array of bare tree trunks standing erect on the open land. As we went closer we realized that they were completely burnt and dead, but anyways they exhibited a beautiful cluster of creativity. Time passed by quickly and we had to return to Dhikala forest rest house.
The open grassland  in Dhikala zone of Corbett Park
The dusty road leading to the Blue lake formed by the Ramganga reservoir
The maiden glance of the Lake
The soul soothing blue water of the lake with distant range of Shivalik mountains
The burnt dead tree trunks on the open grassland at Dhikala
We approaching the dead tree trunks
Just at the entrance of the complex stood the New forest rest house building with 4 rooms on the first floor and the reception and a huge spacious restaurant on the ground. Our booking was in this building and we checked into our room. A middle aged person quickly came and assisted us. His name was Ramesh bhai, an employee of the forest department and for the next 2 days he took utmost delight in giving us as much comfort as possible. We were amazed by his courteuos behaviour. Rakhi was totally exhausted and so she dived into the bed. Our room was a large one with minimal furniture and a large window with glass panes. Looking outside through the window I was elated. The same soul soothing picture perfect scene of the Ramganga reservoir with wide sandy river beds, distant range of mountains covered with thick greens followed by the dense forest just outside the fenced boundary of our rest house complex. One could easily spent a couple of days just sitting on the log chairs in the open grassy lawn gazing at the nature. We were about to freshen up when suddenly we heard a terrible news. There was no water, no electricity in the rest house from last night. Alas! What would we do? The fact was that the severe rain along with lightning and thunder for the last two days had badly damaged the water pump and had snapped the electricity wires. Repairing work was on progress since morning but of no use. We at once called Ramesh bhai for help and sooner he arrived with two buckets full of water, our quota for the entire day. Anyhow we managed brushing away the idea of having a fresh bath. Everywhere there was a hue and cry for water and all the staffs were running with buckets full of water to pacify the tourists. We came out of our room to have our lunch and then to explore the place.Instead of heading to the restaurant downstairs we went to the adjacent canteen which serves food mainly to the staffs of the rest house. A fixed menu of rice, dal, one sabji and roti along with pickles and onion comprises the lunch thali at 150 rupees. Non vegetarian food is strictly prohibited in all the rest houses inside the Corbett National Park. We were severely hungry and so the humble food tasted divine.Moreover the warmth of the young lad Prakash serving food to us was indeed very brotherly. It was 1.30 p.m and we had an hour left for our afternoon safari.
The convoy of gypsies inside Dhikala forest rest house
There stands the New Forest rest house in Dhikala complex
Our room in the New forest Rest house,Rakhi taking rest
The spectacular view through the window of our room

The first thing one would notice after entering the Dhikala complex was the gang of red faced monkeys rampaging everywhere. These young and old, male and female, fat and feeble berserkers were a threat specially to the kitchen staffs. They stole whatever eatables they found in the kitchen. Later we heard that a few days ago one such notorious was caught red handed dragging a heavy packet of 10 kilograms of atta from the store room. So we were very cautious not to lure them with any food. The Dhikala forest rest house is located 30 kms from the Dhangiri gate deep inside the core area of the Corbett Tiger Reserve. The sprawling Dhikala complex has different types of accommodations like double bed occupancy in the New forest rest house, Hutments, Cabins, Annexe and dormitories in the Loghuts.But the magnificent building of the Old forest rest house standing amidst the green carpetted lawn is a pride of Dhikala. This prestigious,heritage building built 100 years back by the British, now caters to the VIP guests only. Besides there is a small library with a decent collection of wild life books and magazines, a small canteen, an amphitheatre and the staff quarters. The three domestic elephants which take tourists for the jungle safari every morning and afternoon stay at the backside of the complex. We came to the rear side of the New forest rest house to take some rest in the lawn and imbibe in the essence of the forest. Far at the river bed three gharials were sunbathing, a bevy of white cranes flew away very close to the blue lake, a solitary song bird was singing at a distant Jamun tree. I was drenched in the sweet fragrance of the forest.

The sprawling Dhikala complex with Annexe buildings seen there
At the entrance of Dhikala
Well maintained Dhikala forest rest house complex
The other side of the New Forest rest house with the restaurant downstairs
The Annexe building amidst all shades of green
The prestigious Old Forest Rest house in Dhikala- only for the VIP’s
The pillars of  reminiscence–Old Forest Rest house in Dhikala
As seen from Dhikala forest rest house
The library
The restaurant
Rakhi and Subhransu inside the restaurant waiting for coffee

Jeeshan wanted to take the Sambar road, the  left hand narrow road just a little away from the Dhikala forest rest house, but it was closed due to water logging in patches. Here in this Corbett Tiger Reserve, all the roads are beautifully named like Sambar road, Ramsingh road, Kamarpetta road, Thandi road etc. So we drove straight near the lake. The rippling blue water of the lake was shining like silvery cascades and herds of deer were resting on the yellow, withered grasses, ready to be burnt. Keeping the lake on our right we took the left hand road. A watchful eagle was sitting high up on a dead tree trunk, waiting to plunge on its prey, a jungle cat shambled to the bush near-by. Soon we came to a little wide area where a gigantic, hollow tree trunk, half broken was standing just in the middle of the road. It was completely burnt out and greyish in color. Jeeshan told that it was the widest Sal tree in the entire forest but got burnt due to lightning, hence the place is called “Mota Sal”. We were in awe to witness such a tree with huge diameter and its ultimate fate.Leaving behind the lone dead warrior we chose the uphill road through dense forest. Shuffling noises could be heard from deep interior, deadened by the intricately woven web of leaves. A stout red jungle fowl was unflinchingly roaming inside the bushes and a huge tan-brown sambar peeped from the road side. Our gypsy was running smoothly. I was in love with this green, spacious, macho car, a sturdy four wheel drive with nylon tyres to access in all possible terrains.

The Sambar road was closed
We came to the open grassland with the mystic lake
The withered ” Mota Sal”
Presently Jeeshan was keen to spot a tiger, the hero of Corbett. He explained to us how they identify the “alarm call” raised by the deer who had seen the predator near by and run in that direction to spot one. Furthermore one has to be alert and patient enough and lastly it is sheer luck to sight a tiger in the wild. The tigers generally do not move in the day time. Being a member of the cat family they are basically lazy but super agile. They prefer to move after the sun sets so as to make its” kill” easily. Throughout the day they camouflage themselves with the colors of the leaves and when darkness approaches they search for prey. Jeeshan was giving a first hand knowledge to us about this endangered species as we waited silently in our jeep on the roadside. Fleets of jeep with tourists were plying up and down, each keeping a vigil. And whenever any two drivers were meeting on the road only they had one single question to ask,”Mila…kuch mila?”and undoubtedly they referred to a tiger. I was greatly amused by their earnest effort to please the tourists. My travel to the forest was not merely to sight a tiger and win the “rat race” but to indulge in all possible flavors of the wild, get seduced by the comforting melody of the woods, the birds, the insects, the air and taste the bit of apprehensive danger in the unknown wild. Hours rolled on but neither the tiger came out from his hiding nor any deer gave his clarion call. Time passed by very quickly. The sun was about to cast its last spell.Just 5 minutes were left to strike 6.Leaving all hope for the tiger to come out Jeeshan drove fierce fully back into the rest house, he had to reach there anyhow by 6 p.m, otherwise he would be penalized. The strict rules and guidelines imposed by the forest department is surely praiseworthy as they had taken every measure to protect the wild life. On our way back we spotted a cute baby deer, just a couple of days old all alone in the grassland. My mind trembled in apprehensive fear of the fate of that lost baby in the unknown dark.
We waiting in our Gypsy for sighting wild animal
The Hog Deer
The solitary song bird high up in the netted branches

Our jeep was the last to enter through the fenced gate of Dhikala which were all electrically charged to keep the wild animals away. There was a gathering of tourists outside the lawn. Some were sharing their experiences. A tiger sighting board was placed on the lawn outside the reception. The luckier ones who could spot a tiger mentioned the place and time with their names on that blackboard. An old gentleman was enthusiastically writing about his”magnanimous victory” to spot a tiger cub from a very close distance and was relishing his pride. Sun had completely set in and suddenly darkness grasped the entire area. The ore gold moon was hanging quite at a distance casting a honeyed sheen on the leaves. The lights of the rest houses were glowing feebly under the bespeckled sky. Cold breeze was blowing and so we hurriedly rushed into the restaurant for some hot cup of tea. The restaurant was a large, spacious one with a strip of balcony. There were some nice pictures of the wild life of Corbett framed on the walls. That night we dined there. The food was buffet style with vegetable soup, pasta, dal, mushroom matar, kadai paneer, salad, rice, roti and custard for 270 rupees each. The food was elaborate and we enjoyed it. Rakhi was terribly tired and so were we and our body needed rest. Moreover we had to wake up early morning the next day, as I had booked for the morning elephant safari. So we plunged into the bed to have a peaceful sleep but were super excited to apprehend what was waiting for us the next day. ……

Sun is setting in Dhikala
Darkness approaching
The illuminated Old forest rest house
                                                                                        to be continued……….
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Kalpa- the land of fantasies and fairies

'On our way to Kalpa'

We were traveling in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh—me,my husband and daughter in an Indica with Sanjay- our travel guide and partner. After spending 2 nights in the enchanting valley of Sangla we moved ahead to our next destination KALPA. I was truly awaiting for some more surprises. The journey till Recong Peo, the district headquarter of Kinnaur was through mountains and gorges with the river by our side. But as we crossed Recong Peo, suddenly the nature revealed all its beauty The meandering mountainous pathway through thick forests of pine, Deodhar and fir and glimpses of the snow-clad mountain peaks was indeed the most beautiful part of our journey. After about 3 hrs we reached Kalpa—the most beautiful village in the entire Kinnaur district.
Located at a height of nearly 9711 ft, at a distance of 265 kms from Shimla and 50 kms from Sangla at the base of the snow-capped Kinnaur-Kailash range, Kalpa stands apart with its apple orchards, walnut and pine-nut forests and the majestic Shivling peak.
We had already booked our rooms in Kinner Villa, one of the few hotels located here. It was a nice and comfortable one with apple orchards and facing the majestic Kinnaur-Kailash peak. Next morning the spectacular sight of the rising sun over the Kinnaur Kailash peak and the spectrum of colors in the sky left us dumb-struck The crimson and the golden lights of the sun all across the sky and over the grand Shivling peak was a heavenly delight. We were really enjoying our morning cup of tea on the terrace watching the morning sky, shivering in cold .As we went in the month of October, the Royal red apples and the Golden apples were in full bloom everywhere. We were in the middle of an apple land—apples everywhere—in the trees, on the paths, on the terrace-Kalpa was red with apples. I had never tasted such sweet, juicy and delicious apples ever.The last surprise we received was from our hotel manager who gifted us a plate full of red apples at our dinner–a very noble gesture indeed!
Next day we set off for discovering Kalpa It is a small village with a small market having handful of shops and a monastery. Little far away there is a small village called Roghi where lies the Narain-Nagini temple with its Kinnauri architecture.
After staying there for 2 days we left Kalpa with a heavy heart and promised to return again.
Friends, Kalpa does not have the luxuries of a city life,it will not greet you with its delicacies,it is unable to satisfy our earthly pleasures—but Kalpa is Heaven—a solitude amidst grandeur—the grandeur of the nature and our soul.

Kalpa is a land of fantasy-a land of fairies and a land of apples- and moreover a land of heavenly peace—totally away from the chaos of city life-where one can find peace within…

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