It was another hot evening in Delhi. I came back from work, bogged down by life’s everyday struggles of beating the traffic, crowd, weather, pollution and the list is endless…
A little bit of inspiration and a stillness of time is all I needed to pen down my thoughts and experiences.
So, how did we end up in Palampur? The commercialized and the popular well known hill stations were straightaway crossed out from my list. There was this one homestay which particularly caught my attention while browsing the internet for some good options. It was ‘the lodge at Wah’ which is 5 kms from Palampur. The good reviews on Tripadvisor enticed me further to book this property .
Palampur is a hill station in Himachal Pradesh, sitting prettily at the foothillls of the Dhauladhar range and adorned with tea gardens. It is 30 kms from the popular hill station, Dharamshala. With just the weekend at hand, I was looking out for a place exactly like this, where I am sitting and writing in utmost tranquility and of course, a beautiful retreat in nature is something which I always find hard to resist. What I wasn’t aware of was that there was much more this place had to offer apart from it’s scenic landscapes.
We booked a direct HPTRC volvo bus from New delhi to Palampur as it looked convenient in terms of timings and no interchange in between.
As we were approaching our destination, the first glance of the stunning Himalayas covered with snow made my heart leap with joy and I felt that I could give away anything to be here. The tiring bus journey was no more a hindrance to my charged up energy levels and enthusiasm to explore a new destination.
The bus station of Palampur where we got down is the most scenic bus station with the backdrop of majestic snow capped mountains.
We took an auto to our accommodation which was not very far from the main bus station. The entrance to the Homestay ‘The lodge at Wah’ was followed by a beautiful garden sprawling with a variety of plants and blooming gorgeous flowers which was a sight to behold. When we went further ahead, the huge hut like cottages amidst so much beauty around was a treat to the eyes.
We were welcomed by Upasna and her mother who greeted us with warm smiles and a fresh locally made ice tea. The lovely family were the owners of the surrounding tea estate and the homestay.
Later, we checked in to our cottage and were awestruck by its artsy look and the creativity with which the interiors of the cottage had been designed. Especially, the slate used in the huge washroom was the most unique and amazing way of designing a place.
The wooden trunk of a tree on one corner of the bed was one of the other remarkable feature of this rustic old world yet luxurious cottage. The cosy study table with nicely arranged books was my favorite corner of the cottage which I instantly fell in love with.
I would let the pictures do rest of the talking.
The Tea gardens
After having a delicious Himachali thali made from the locally grown and organic fresh vegetables and oil, We went out to explore the surrounding tea estate which began with a tea tour.
We met our cheerful and friendly guide who led us through the lush green tea estate and gave an informative introduction about the history of the tea estate followed by a visit to the factory inside where he explained the entire process from plucking the tea leaves till they are packed and loaded in trucks. It was interesting to watch how it is done in real. \
We enjoyed the walk around the tea estate with a couple of foreigners as we wanted to explore the surrounding nature trails in the estate.
A particular incident which amazed me was a girl from Paris who was dressed up in a more Indian manner than any of us and who also knew more about the variety of plants grown here!
After walking our way back to the cottage, we rested for some time before leaving for the sunset point which was quite close and was again a part of the huge spectacular tea estate. The view of the lush green tea estate with the snow capped Himalayas was just breathtaking.
With hardly any people around, the peace and quietness this place offered was a luxury which is hard to afford these days. We walked ahead and relished the view of the scenic mountains in the peaceful surroundings.
The fresh air turning slightly cold made the pleasant weather just perfect to savour this moment of joy and happiness.
A home away from home
I spent some time reading one of the books I had picked up from the study table. What a joyous experience of reading a good book in an oasis of serenity!
Later we headed out to have dinner and took our places on the dinner table joined by some other guests soon. Today’ specialty was Kangra Dham with all the dishes cooked in mustard oil from home grown seeds and vegetables.
Kangra Dham is like a traditional thaali served during the festive season. Upasna was kind enough to explain us about each of the dishes and gave us a background about the gatherings where this traditional meal is served.
While relishing the healthy and tasty food, we also had a time interacting with the other guests especially with a cute little kid stealing the show with his innocence and mischief. We had a lovely chit chat with Upasna which prolonged even after we finished eating. It felt like home even though we were with people we had just met. Aunty was generous enough to remind us and offer a hat whenever we used to go out in the day as the sun used to be strong. It was a heart warming gesture which was one of the many instances of making us feel at home.
Also, the interesting conversations we had over chai with uncle, the owner of the property and the Upasna’s father made me feel like one of those evenings at home with my family . This was our best experience ever despite staying in so many hotels, resorts and Airbnb’s before.
A stunning hike
The next day we decided to do a hike with a company specialized in adventure activities: ‘Exsul travel’. We have done a couple of hikes before, mostly on our own but this one was special.
We did not have much time at hand since we were leaving the same day in the evening. So, we booked an open jeep safari followed by a hike to the top of a mountain. We were picked up from our accommodation at 9:00 AM.
After a while, the owner of the company Harmit joined us. With a brief round of introductions, we started off again. It was truly amazing to have him around. We had great time chit chatting ,getting along with him and having interesting conversations.
As we were climbing up the hill with Harmit being an expert in knowing his ways through the mountains, we stopped in between to admire the beautiful Himalayas . The views of the charming town painted with red and green houses and the winding roads of the hills filled us with wonder.
The sound of the ‘Neugal’ river flowing nearby was like a melody adding sweetness to the blissful state we were in. I was even more overjoyed by the fact that it was just us and no one around to make my rendezvous with nature just perfect.
The hike was a bit steep through the rocks but we finally made it to the summit after having one hell of an experience.
The views of the Himalayas, which we had been drooling over since the beginning of the trip, was spectacular here. Paused for a moment here to admire the dazzling mountains and the greenery all around (and also to catch my breath after the hike). It was one of the most beautiful hikes with wonderful company.
The run till the temple
It gets even more interesting from here. We were supposed to take the jeep to the temple while Harmit wanted to complete his last stretch of workout. But, we instead tagged along with him to do a run as well. I tried to catch up with the guys but realized the need to work more on my fitness levels. Nevertheless, I managed reaching the meeting point near the temple while enjoying the views and savoring the pure sweet water of the stream on the way.
The jeep took us through a dark tunnel whose other side opened into a hidden world of tranquility with deep blue sky and refreshing cool air. The overlooking Himalayas appeared like a crown’s jewel shining in between the sparkling flora and fauna around.
Further ahead, there were cute adorable sheeps waiting to welcome us (though they were mostly shying away from us).
The temples in the hills always feel more authentic than the one’s in cities. Here, I could experience the divine feeling of peace within myself. Hardly any visitors here again made this place one of a kind.
The usual scenic trees and the mountains looked absolutely breathtaking. It is a bit strange but as soon as I saw the tree with beautiful red flowers and the green hills behind the temple, I had drawn some kind of a heavenly image in my mind with the reflection of a huge water body casting its shadow over the hills.
After looking at the view again, I realized that they were the just the hills and the trees but with some mystic appearance. We went down to dip our feet in the cold stream of water flowing from a waterfall.
The water looked crystal clear and was so fresh and cold that it felt like a beautiful spark awakening our minds and body. Also, I made a lovely friend here who had joined us. We were excited to discover that we almost share the same birthdate and became friends in no matter of time.
We had a delicious lunch at Cliffy’s cafe. The cafe looked really cute in between the green surroundings. We relished the keema dosa here before bidding goodbye to our friends and returning back to our homestay.
A gift to myself
Before leaving, we went back to the sunset point. I sat on a rock to have one last look at the glorious mountains and to fill my lungs with fresh air in tranquility before heading back to the hustle and roar of citylife.