When the hills whispered..
The hills whispered, mostly hidden in the fog or wet from a recent moving cloud. They had things to say, things that made me feel fascinating and alive and wanted, as if I belonged there, after days of displacement, it was home, soothing and serene, at peace. The air was refreshingly calm and the dominant shades of green painted a picture that expressed a thousand emotions within the observer. Mother Nature at her best. Everywhere the coniferous trees loomed, large and beautiful. The winding roads with a curvaceous bends led us to our destination, higher and higher and we climbed the hills to reach a forested area. They say, in places like these where nature called it home, you never arrive, the destination is only the moment, the adrenaline rush.It was a weekend getaway to mountains, briefly stopping by at Naldehra, Himachal Pradesh, and a drive around in the mountainous state.
We started out from New Delhi at the break of dawn; it was still dark and we drove with the headlights on. Soon enough I could see the birds flying across the morning sky greeting sunrise! Despite the early hours, there were quite a few vehicles on the highway. We drove across the states of Haryana and Punjab, passing through towns and villages, leaving trails of moments in a rush, over the plains, and even got a ticket for speeding! While in Punjab we stopped by at one of the dhabas, a traditional roadside Indian restaurant, for breakfast, surrounded by green mustard fields before the yellow bloom, and relished on paranthas, the Indian chapati stuffed with mashed potatoes, a local delicacy!
As we entered the state of Himachal Pradesh, the air changed, so did the topography and suddenly we were ascending on mountainous roads, following winding curves and bends. With the air so refreshingly calm, a break from the city’s pollution, we rolled down our windows and felt the breeze on our skin. Outside the sight was one to behold; valleys and gorges became deeper and wider, and we even saw a hotel that took their guests in through a ropeway! Soon we reached Solan, an industrial town, and there the houses had an interesting pattern with bright colours. A few more hours to reach Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh, but we weren’t staying there. We drove an hour further to arrive at a place called Naldehra and put up at one of the log cabins there, a courtesy of Himachal Pradesh tourism. Naldehra was mesmerizingly green, famed for the highest golf course in the country established by Lord Curzon, the British Viceroy.
Surrounded by hill ranges and a pristine wild, Naldehra was so serene that in the night one could hear one’s own thoughts. Since it was summer and the onset of monsoon, it started raining; the clouds weren’t static but floated on, and once in a while would bring in rain that lasted for minutes. But it was eerily foggy and that added an element of mystery and I could hear the hills whisper amidst the haze.
We trekked along the area surrounding the vicinity of the golf course. Along the way, we were surprised to find small eateries that sold ‘fruit chaat’, ‘chai’ and cold drinks amidst the wild. It was a trail route, where guides took tourists on horseback as part of sightseeing, but it was nonetheless better on foot on our own. In the periphery of the golf field was a temple dedicated to the ‘snake goddess’ – ‘nag devta’, and the locales attributed the origin of the name, Naldehra, after it; but the Colonial records had a different account that of the area being named after Lord Curzon’s daughter Naldera.
As we drove down the National Highway – 22 also known as the Hindustan-Tibet highway, all along the roads that made us twist and turn in our seats, were hills with coniferous vegetation and orchards. Clouds the shape of cotton wool hung over the valleys resembling a kingdom of white! We visited some small nearby towns, namely, Narkanda and Mashobra, and in the latter there was a botanical house with varieties of apple plantation.
After two nights in the mountain air, we drove back to New Delhi via Shimla. Shimla can be best described as an amalgamation of hills and houses, clouds and colours. What seemed like doll houses with colored roofs, red being a dominant shade, added an amimated glory to the hill station with the prettiest of streets and a church that hid in the fog which stood centerfold in the overtly packed mall road.
The sun shone as we retreated and we tried to take in the feel of the mountains invariably. I felt a melancholy tinge of leaving behind a beloved territory and the conclusion to the roadtrip came with the beautiful sunset across the mountain top leaving orange trails as we left.