Day 3 – In & around Dalhousie – 28th April 2018
Next day started with a clumsy morning where the grey clouds deliberated over how and when they should make their way to an already cold land. The intentions could clearly be fathomed as there was no air, no wind and no thunder happening. Just a dark sheet of depressed white color painted over the sky that slyly drizzled at times to play around with our plans. Was it a signal or a threat, I can’t say! But adamant as we were, we set out on our excursion for the day which covered Daindkund trek, Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary, and the beautiful Khajiar in the quaint town of Dalhousie. We had already spoken to the chauffeur who drove us to Mcleodganj the previous day and have also developed a comfort level with him. He turned up way before the stipulated time as he stayed at a relative’s place last night to be right on time the next day.
We were impressed with him when he told that he had cleaned the car and the same is being parked on the road just above the hotel premises. Unlike the last day, we had enough time for breakfast and ate well before heading out. We were so accustomed to cruising long distances, given our trip to Mcleodganj a day before, that the idea of roaming in an around Dalhousie didn’t seem too difficult with our tummies full. 10 AM, we got on our journey meandering through the stunning landscapes and well-built roads of Dalhousie town. A few cemented and tilted huts could be seen at a distance and I fell for the inexplicable beauty all over again. God knows my adulation for mountains and I am always astonished at the fact as to how they, (every time) so magnetically, suck every bit of the soul inside my being.
We went passed the school lanes just a kilometer ahead, surpassing Dalhousie Public school and Dalhousie cantonment. In a matter of 12 odd kilometers, which seemed like a cakewalk to us, we stood at the entry gate of Daindkund that further led to Pohlani Mata Temple at a height of 2600 meters. Mr. A, R and me were fully charged for the upcoming trek of 3.5 km and which was also too steep to be done in one go. Like how seasoned trekkers do, we pulled up our socks and set on the first few meters of the gravel path that mostly comprised a lot of stairs. We were panting like one hungry wolf in no time and that is when N decided to stay down only as she wasn’t too comfortable with the heights and felt light-headed.
Reet was the one with maximum zest amongst all of us and I learned a lot from this tiny tot of 5 years. She trekked like a pro, giving us major trekking goals. I kept borrowing his envious sprightliness all the way long. The first 1 kilometer was an absolute lung puffing exercise with a thin but well-constructed cement path, often showing up with a bunch of stairs in between. We also came across a few villagers, most of whom were fairly aged and who got past us like an arrow released from a bow. Yes, they were that fast and we couldn’t help but admire them. We could see the temple inching nearer and a red flag poled over its top, pulling us with all its valor. The emerald meadows kept making up for the lost energies and reposed their confidence in us. This trek is highly recommended for beginners.
To read more about trekking, read my blog here
We soaked in the greenery of the region and off-white mountains with silver sprinkled atop, in the backdrop. Silver or sparkling grey – I really couldn’t make out the exact shade. After an upright trek of one kilometer, the remaining 2 kilometers were a plain walk and could easily be covered. However, that too demanded a whole lot of precaution as the path was thin with no fencing on either side. It looked straight & deep into an abyss. We reached the temple in almost an hour and half and the found out that it was worth the pains so taken.
The glaze of spotless sunlight over the red walls and white floors of the temple swept off every bit of exhaustion inside me and I drooled in the comforting ambits of the mountain peak I stood at. I loved the amalgamation of my fears coupled with an ever protective shield of my mountains. I loved the feeling that brewed inside me. Paying my respects to the mountain God and Mother Nature, we headed for a round of teas and snacks to refuel ourselves while Reet, being her sprightly self, hopped from one staircase to another. After a spending good half an hour at the temple, we headed back well in time to catch up with N, who sat there battling fireflies and bees. Descending back took us less than half the time. But I always scare trekking down more than up, given the magnetic gravity that tends to pull you without an effort and is more prone to fatal accidents.
Next on the list was Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary, which was less a sanctuary and more a vacant thick forest with a few shops and pretty huts popped right in the middle. Kalatop is a place that runs parallel to River Ravi and a chortling water sounds could be heard through the jungle that separated the sanctuary and the water stream. Not being able to spot a speck of wildlife in this very famous sanctuary of Dalhousie, we had to make peace with the lush green valley views and Maggi – the National food of Mountains. The walk through the woods though was immensely satisfying. A vast green canopy overlooked us from above, sieving sunlight that scattered all over our bodies like beaming pearls.
Contrary to the weather in the morning, the sun shone bright and we were not too worried for our trip further to Khajiar, not anticipating what lied in store for us next. Khajiar was 22 km from Kalatop and the air turned colder as we stepped out to enter this massive piece of park-like area emitting a shade of gentle green, much soothing to eyes. The sun in Dalhousie seemed to have gone for an extended lunch and a nap thereafter as it was nowhere to be found post 12 noon. We thought we’d enjoy the cold breeze but unfortunately, the degree kept falling and as usual, we had nothing to protect ourselves. To top it all, a skimpy net of water showed up every 5 minutes, thickening its pace occasionally.
About Khajiar, I don’t think I can do justice to the place with my words. You would have to visit it yourself to be able to witness what it holds in its core. Something so pious and virgin that we did nothing than just sitting in awe of this natural vast land, snuggled amid a twirled hedge of Pine and deodars. Miraculously Magnificent! A few swings for children which attracted more adults than kids could be seen along with a bunch of vendors selling all kinds of chats, fruits, and candy floss right in the middle; locals who offered their Angora rabbits to be clicked along with people; some adventure sports happening at one corner and us – sitting in another corner with bodies curled up like folded mats, trying to ditch the cold and devouring on chicken soups to infuse some warmth inside. It was challenging but content. Dalhousie is unpredictable and so are many other highlands.
I sometimes relied on R’s only woolen jacket that he had brought along and sometimes on a thin stole that precariously hung around my neck. But the fuzzy climate showed its tantrums and soon it started raining heavily. We sat inside the little shack we had our lunch in and waited for the torrent to slow down. After a few minutes, we got into our car and proceeded back to the hotel by around 4 pm. But the ride back home was much more adventurous than we expected for first, R caught up cold and was constantly sneezing and coughing and I knew we were in a fix, and secondly – the traffic jam that ensued thereafter with continuous bombarding of hailstones on the car roof. It rained cats and dogs and our patience went for a toss when the jam didn’t seem to end. Nevertheless, we persisted.
After two long hours of drive, which otherwise wouldn’t have lasted more than 45 minutes, we reached our hotel and thanked Kishen for his impeccable sense of driving and tearing through the blocked roads. The much exhausted and a few exhilarated people could be seen preparing for the last party that evening but I doubted if we would be attending it, given R’s condition. He had temperature and rested after gulping down a few pills. We decided to go downstairs late evening for some time and to come back soon post dinner. The party was more or less the same as previous days with couple and group dances being a part of the schedule that night. Needless to say how exciting and high on pomp it was. With colleagues raising toasts to another successful trip and making merry, dancing and eating, the vigor was longed more than they had planned.
Being the last night, many chose to stay over late while I and R came back to our room to retire for the day. Next evening was our train back to Delhi and we had to travel to Pathankot Cantt. Railway station. We goofed around the Dalhousie mall road and shops the next day and bought souvenirs for friends and family. R felt better and we took a long stroll through the markets of Dalhousie with Mr A, R & N. Not hopping much, we saved our energy for the last mountain drive of 3 hours and came back to the hotel for lunch and wrapped up to head back home. We were to leave at 3 PM and Mr. A being the coordinator, had to supervise all the arrangements. It was 4 pm when almost everyone left and Mr. A and we were the last group to leave.
To our dismay, our ride wasn’t that hunky dory and the vehicle we clambered in, posed problems and made sounds while on road. The driver told us how the car had been put to rough conditions in past two days having been driven to the much treacherous Sela Pass. We were in a state of shock. When our co-travelers must have been halfway through the journey, here we were sitting and waiting for another cab to arrive for us. It was 5.30 and we had to reach the station at 8 at any cost to catch the train at 9. Thankfully, the replaced car came sooner than we expected and we were on our way to the destination again and arrived at the station well in time.
After a quick dinner at a nearby restaurant, we boarded our train back to Delhi and without further ado, slept – until in the midnight, my left ear started aching badly. That was some insanely gruesome pain I had experienced in a long time. It might sound like one normal thing but trust me it killed my innards. I was clueless and numb for some time until I realized it to be one of the side effects that happens when there is a sudden change in the altitude. Only I know how I spent that night curled up in myself on that dreaded berth. The pain persisted for good one week and it took me another 3 weeks to completely get over it. But my repertoire of fond memories from the trip was hardly affected and I came back with yet another extremely satisfying rendezvous with the mountains. My Himalayas!!!
(Read Day 1 of this trip here)