Fragments of chilled winds broke down on my face as I continued to look out of the window, unbothered by the threat of the wind, pregnant with rain droplets. The car housing me drifted its way down the Serpentine roads which were flanked by deodar trees on one side and a roughly cut terrain of a rocky mountain on the other. Limbs of the roads extended into vast swathes of countryside. A dewy shrubbery, glistening roads, and an endless array of deodar trees. That’s what led us to the tiny, sleepy and cold town of Khajjiar, Himachal Pradesh, India.
Also conferred with the title, ‘Switzerland of India’, Khajjiar is located at an altitude of about 6300 ft from the sea level ensuring pleasant, rather romantic weather throughout the year. Of course, winters are an exception, since it snows heavily in these months and the entire place is blanketed with snow. I was looking forward to seeing this Indian Switzerland, as the European one is obviously, an expensive dream for an average salaried, IT employee like me. Well, the Indian version does not disappoint either. Khajjiar might be the smallest piece of hilly land you see, but it definitely won’t be your usual affair. The place wore the most beautiful shade of green, I have ever visualized. A vast expanse of green meadow, sprawling all over a hill, cradling a tiny lake, right in the middle of it. Towards the end of the meadows, lay a thick cover of deodar forests, probably the darkest and definitely dense than others you have seen earlier. The meadow is sparsely dotted with a few houses with slopy rooves, truly creating an impression of an actual doppelganger of original Switzerland.
Usually, tourists prefer to stay in Dalhousie and travel to Khajjiar for a peaceful day out at the meadows. But, we chose to stay at one of the few hotels, located close to the meadows, since the sunsets and the sunrises were what we basically traveled up to those hills for. And Boy, were we right? The most spectacular sunrises can be found upon the highest peaks. But, who would know that beyond a green meadow, when the sun rises, its one of the most profound sights which stays with you for a long, long time.
But, this side of the majestic Himachal is not confined to just Khajjiar or Dalhousie, as the saying goes, hidden places have much more to offer than you can take. The 16 km road from Dalhousie to Khajjiar is something you cannot just miss. It’s a blend of adventure, peace, and beauty. Adventure stands for the meandering stretches of slender roads that run along a well-cut mountain. Beauty represents the thick green cover you see on the journey and to understand the word peace, well, you need to be there and if you happen to be there, just stop your car at a spot, step out of it and look out towards the valley and up towards snow peaks hidden among the tufts of cloud. You will understand where I come from.
Just about 4kms from Dalhousie, towards Khajjiar, a fork on the road takes you to one of the most beautiful places in that region – Kalatop wildlife sanctuary. Yes, It is a sanctuary but not just for wildlife.It is a sanctuary for beauty and peace. Or a sanctorium, if I must word it perfectly. As we entered through the gates of the green haven, a hundred deodar trees welcomed us in unison. Well, a hundred was what my eyes could see. More followed as we moved forward and what followed was a never-ending aura of deodar cover which gave a tough fight to the struggling sun rays trying to peek through the trees.
One interesting fact about Kalatop – The Ranbir Singh starrer Bollywood flick Lootera was shot in the icy December month at this place. So, now when you happen to watch it again, you would know where and when you can find that beautiful powder white cover of snow
Its hard to believe how a green shade changes color to white with a change in season. The cold in that summer month was too much for us to bear. I cannot imagine the plight of winter travelers in the icy month of december. But well, changes are meant to be for good. And A sudden change in weather is anyway one of the distinct features of this mountaneous terrain. We had started to enjoy the cool breeze, when suddenly, dark clouds floated and a drizzle followed. Or maybe, the downpour seemed like a drizzle as the raindrops pierced their way through the thick cover of deodar. We seated ourselves at a cafe which was set up on an roofy terrace. The verendah was on the third floor of a dilapidated building which gave us a fantastic view of a plethora of dark clouds and a hundred outlines of distant mountains. The clouds started getting darker and the mountains were enveloped in a thin cover of mist. We sat there facing the shyly disappearing mountains of Himachal and circling hot mugs of cardamom tea in our hands, which came straight from the kitchen of the couple selling tea and fritters. A bite of hot, crispy onion fritters and a sip of hot tea, an endless scenery to lookout. Perhaps, this might be what pulls travelers away from their abodes and into the lap of nature.
Perhaps, this is the other name for Nirvana.
Usually, Simla and Manali are the two popular places where tourists prefer to throng in the name of finding Himachal but Dalhousie and Khajjiar are two less explored, hidden treasures of intense beauty and scenery. Next time, when you plan a trip to North India, try to squeeze in a few days to visit Dalhousie and trust me, you won’t regret losing yourself to this bountiful side of mother nature.
P.S. – This was the first time I could not precisely word my thoughts in the blog. As difficult as it is to describe the profound beauty of places as these, I made minimal efforts to preserve the beauty in my words and not make it banal by over describing it. Some places are better explored on your own than through the words of a blogger