Narcissistic Narkanda

20th Jun 2014

Breathtaking view of the Himalayas from Hatu Peak, Narkanda

Photo of Narcissistic Narkanda by suparnakalra

The most beautiful journeys are always unplanned. Obsessed with this idea and with a deep desire to lose myself in nature’s lap, I head out on a journey, where all I had was a date to leave and a date to be back, and of course, my back-pack.

Day 1

There is a deep and pining love in my heart for hills; one which keeps me awake some nights just reminiscing moments of peace from the cozy lap of mountains. Evidently, this grand escape from the rush of city life was to the hush of hills; to be there amidst any mountain, finding a moment’s peace in the chilly hilly air searing past me. So here I was en-route to a hill-station; or may be more than one with a friend. There is something about travelling in a pair which makes it so comfortable yet not too crowded.

We started our journey on a bus ride to Simla, the queen of all hill stations & reached there to a crisp bright morning with fresh alpine air tickling our senses. The sun was quite sharp for 7 am, but the heat was pleasant on our skin, sending off a radiance of purity. Simla was going to be our base, with an overnight stay, to rest and head off to our next stop. But as destiny would have it, Simla was packed and over an hour of walking yielded no results. We didn’t complain, I mean who doesn’t like an early morning walk in fresh air. Walking off towards the Mall Road; and looking for a place to freshen up; we stopped by at the Kalibari, a Kali temple in the heart of Simla. Amongst other things, there were monkeys having water from taps, just like humans do, and they shut the taps as well. Phew! Oddly satisfying, I must say.

Day 2

Kalibari Simla

Photo of Kali Bari Road, P&T Colony, The Mall, Simla, Himachal Pradesh, India by suparnakalra


Photo of Simla, Himachal Pradesh, India by suparnakalra

Not finding a place to stay turned out well. With no hotels to stop over at; we hopped on to the next available bus. It was headed to Narkanda, a quaint little town in the upper reaches of Himachal. At last we had sprung towards our first destination. The rocky ride on a local bus lasted about a couple of hours. A little bruised with the bumps and jumps, we crossed many-a-valleys, looking at apple orchards, village folk doing their daily chores and goats running around.

Narkanda Road

Photo of Narkanda Road, Sungri, Himachal Pradesh, India by suparnakalra

As we stepped off the bus, the cold buzz in the air felt a few notches higher than Simla. We started looking for a place to stay. Well, even though it wasn’t a popular tourist destination; the handful of hotels which were there; were already full. After a lot of walking around we finally stepped into a suite of a small hotel, Mahamaya Palace, at about two in the afternoon. It was cute and comfortable with a living area, a lounge and a double bedroom with large windows opening to a parapet with a serene view of the valley.

There was exhaustion to some extent, but we certainly didn’t have those butterflies of hoping everything would go as per plan. Lesson learnt – No Plan = No Nervousness. Honestly, that remained to be seen. But in that moment, with the warmth of the retreating sun crawling in through the windows and warming our comfortable rested feet on the sill, we didn’t care about the lack of a plan. It felt good, not knowing what we needed to do next, not relying on calendars, alarms, reminders; not being on auto pilot.

With a lazy rug thrown over our knees, I think we must’ve napped for some time before our room service brought in the overcooked hill tea with fresh cardamom. Our holiday felt so much better.

Feeling restful and revived with the tea, we were ready to explore the streets of Narkanda. To our amusement there were loud noises, like that of a celebration, people clamoring, singing and dancing to local tunes. We stepped out and par-took the whole experience. It was an annual religious festival where the locals prayed to the goddess and took out a procession to a nearby hill-temple. Once the flurry was over; we headed off to Hatu Peak, which is one of the highest peaks in Simla, almost over 3000m from sea level. Even though we were not expecting much, it made an interesting ride in a small hatchback to the peak, crossing extremely narrow hairpin turns which required constant maneuvering of the vehicle back and forth, albeit, without falling off the cliff. Dear Lord.

Hatu Road

Photo of Hatu Road, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India by suparnakalra

The thrilling ride ended in a breathtaking and peaceful view of the Himalayas where dew-ey clouds passed through my hair leaving a misty feel in them. We visited the famous Hatu temple on the peak. . Essentially an old holy shrine, the temple had been beautifully and recently renovated. In-fact the finishing work was still on at that time. It had that pretty hilly pagoda like roof; with the structure itself rising from a podium of steps. As we paid a visit to the temple, it felt surreal to be a part of the level of dedication with which the whole prayer service was performed in the bone chilling windy climate. It was all nothing short of a miracle.

Hatu Temple at Hatu Peak

Photo of Hatu Temple, Narkand, Himachal Pradesh, India by suparnakalra
Photo of Hatu Peak, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India by suparnakalra

We were super hungry without any food stall in sight anywhere around us. We made up our minds to enjoy the mountains and the breeze for a while and then heading back off to the market area near our hotel. We stood at the edge of the hill looming stories in clouds and just lazily looking around when suddenly we saw some folks from a slope a few yards below the temple waving vigorously at us. At first we didn’t understand what was going on. However, the waving was persistent. We decided to walk over and see what was happening. As we trekked down the slope and it started to drizzle. A few steps down we could see smoke coming off from a wooden fire stove which had something cooking in huge pots. We hurried and took shelter under a tin roof near the fire where they were cooking and ate the warm and delicious prasad rice. There is little in life that compares to the joy of having hot steaming food on a rainy day. We were utterly grateful and warmed in our hearts for this hill hospitality and the simple beauty of it all.

As the rain subsided we climbed back to the top and watched horses grazing lazily on the side of the peak which extended into a deep valley. Much later and far more reluctantly we made our way to the car.

The Wilderness, Narkanda

Photo of The Wilderness, Narkand, Himachal Pradesh, India by suparnakalra
Photo of The Wilderness, Narkand, Himachal Pradesh, India by suparnakalra

We stopped over at the apple orchards on our way back to the hotel and sat in the lawn of a resort taking in the repleting beauty of an overcast sky sprawling over the Himalayas.

On the drive back the rain got heavier and we convinced our driver to get us some old monk to keep company on a rainy-winter-y evening in June. At last we ended our day with hot samosas and steaming chai in the small restaurant across the street from our hotel as we talked about potential adventures which the next day had in store for us. But more about that later! For then we curled up in our blankets at the hotel with some rum warming our soul.

Photo of Mahamaya Palace, Narkand, Himachal Pradesh, India by suparnakalra