Dalhousie of Dreaming Clouds
Drowned in clouds, supported by trees, and floating in thoughts…
Dalhousie, a celebrated tourist place dwells midst the mountains and clouds. Situated in Himachal Pradesh, the western Himalayas, this town was founded in 1850’s by Lord Dalhousie, and still holds the architecture of the past.
You should know that we had it all planned – all the days, the places, the timings…everything sorted!
Then…the reality patted us softly and we fell into a trance…
The Beginning, Day – 1
Our Hotel (Hotel Crags), in the heart of Dalhousie, was 3 buses and 12.5 hours away.
Our bus route went like this:
- Kashmiri Gate (Delhi) – Pathankot (Punjab): 490 km, 8 hours 30 minutes (direct buses to Dalhousie or Chamba weren’t regular, but buses to Pathankot run hourly).
- Pathankot – Banikhet (Himachal Pradesh): 73.8 km, 3 hours 30 minutes.
- Banikhet – Dalhousie (Himachal Pradesh): 6.3 km, 20 minutes.
We left Delhi around 12:30 AM and reached Dalhousie around 1:30 PM.
We reached and got mesmerised…
Then we rested, ate food and fell asleep to wake up at 8:30 PM!!
While some of us went on to explore Shubhash Chawk and Gandhi Chawk – the shopping attractions of Dalhousie.
Others collected some information:
The Cab Union of Dalhousie
Booking cabs are the only option to travel here, as the roads are narrow and buses or travellers can’t run there.
The cab union has good connections with the hotels and the drivers try to grasp the first chance to lure you to book their cab. There is no doubt about the existence of the usual competition to get the clients.
We met one who kept calling and then met us at the hotel.
The tour they present looks like this:
The package has all the days well planned and the driver would take and bring you back with no delay.
The confident cab driver applied all his strategies to make us accept his “best offer”. But the package seemed expensive, so, we decided to take some time. Although he said that we won’t get a cheaper choice, we did.
Suggestion – If you encounter such cab drivers, don’t book the cab instantly, because much cheaper options are available. We booked our cab at Subhash Chawk on the spot and paid 2700/- for visiting 4 places in two days, instead of 5000/- for 5 places, which we were originally told. We saved 2,300/-.
Our meeting with greenery, Day – 2,
The relaxing day 1 charged us. Next morning, the very first thing we saw was the St. Francis Church.
This church built in 1894, is located at Subhash Chawk. There are beautiful flowers on the outside and peaceful aura inside. We spend some time talking to ourselves in the quite of this old church; then, had a little breakfast at Shubash Chawk and booked a cab for our first stop.
Khajjiar, aka the mini Switzerland of India, is a meadow in the middle of a cedar forest, like a light green heart of a dark jungle. Cows, horses, and sheep accompany you throughout with only one drawback – too much cow dung everywhere.
In the middle of this grassland is a small lake. We stood under one of the two sheds when some tiny fishes appeared amongst the ripples of the rain and took us by surprise!
A Tone of Sadness
The lake appeared a little unmaintained until I read a board under the shed that informs that this lake is sacred and mistaken as dirty water; visitors pollute it further.
Since Khajjiar is famous for its beauty, people probably overlook that it is a religious place. Known or not, it somehow seems epically strange that people would be attracted to its beauty and then ruin it.
It’s a sad reality that people have to be requested to not pollute a place, be it religious or general.
I wonder if these people do the same in their homes. Is it that strenuous to respect? or do we just don’t care?
Khajjiar, a temple of a snake, has a story too.
Get to know about the birth of Khajjiar. (upcoming article)
The mystery of the snake god inhibiting the lake is intriguing and makes me think how it would feel to witness the snake. The mysterious story of the temple’s existence has the power to make us see a normal place with a different and curious perspective; how incredible is that!
- Khajjiar is 23 km (45 minutes) away from Dalhousie and 26 km from Chamba.
- You can go to the temples, do horse riding or zorbing.
- A footpath on the periphery is especially helpful during rain as the ground is wet.
The temple of Pohlani (goddess), situated at the top of the highest peak of Dalhousie – was next.
- Dainkund is 2745-meter-high and 10 km away from Dalhousie.
- The defence area starts right after the entrance and a board stands with clear instruction “trespassers will be shot”. But this has nothing to do with the temple, just follow the path.
- The whole pathway is well cemented. It becomes raw as the height increases, but the way is safe to use.
It drizzled quietly. The mountains were mostly hidden amongst the clouds accompanied by tall trees, greenery, and beautiful tiny white flowers. There are sheds and benches on the way to rest. It is when we took shelter under one of these sheds, I saw Dante with Gunjan for the first time.
The small shop before the temple is a bliss in disguise! The coffee warmed our cold bodies and some snacks provided energy.
The idol of the deity is exactly at the peak of the mountain, and the temple below it. There are hundreds of trishools (the weapon of the goddess) on each side of the temple offered by the devotees.
I remember how happy I felt, standing outside the temple, when the sun revealed itself for a little while and the clouds bowed in respect. For a moment it felt like a king or God himself had stepped forward to bless us. (I am not a religious person, but the aura of the place pushed me to imagine this.)
Read about the temple. (upcoming article)
Our meet with water, Day 3,
We were supposed to visit Panchpula early in the morning. When I woke, around 6 AM, it was raining softly and everyone else was still asleep. I went back to sleep as the rain sang me a lullaby.
We betrayed Panchpula for Chamera Lake, a regretted decision.
There is a small waterfall with its water flowing into the Chamera Lake. You can climb down and see the internal flow of the water and let the blowing wind sooth you.
Chamera Lake –
Honestly, we were disappointed. It was below our expectation and the boating was expensive.
- The lake is 25 km away from Dalhousie and 40 km from Chamba and has been created by the damming of River Ravi.
- Two kinds of boating services available – motor boating and speed boating (30 minutes). The motorboat takes you on the tour of one side of the lake and speedboat to the other. We only saw one side.
We had some momos, from a stall at the entrance of the lake and got to know Usha.
The Rock Garden –
While going back, we were advised by the cab driver to visit ‘The Rock Garden’. The crowd was missing. The steam of the river flowed over the giant rocks and the water was clean and cold.
You can sit on a rock as the nature blankets you with its serenity or do rock climbing!
On returning, we tasted the Himachali food and started an interesting conversation about Ghosts.
Some of us had felt a strange vibe during a stroll on a dark road, others heard drums beating somewhere far away at midnight. We caught hold of the cook of the hotel to know more. This started a new trail in my head.
Unwanted return, Day 4,
We left for Delhi around 4:30 pm and reached by 6 am.
Back to the terrible honking for mostly no reason and bikes that roar louder that lions because we want to prove something futile and have fun that is superficial.
Visiting Dalhousie during monsoon (offseason) had a charm of its own.
The Best thing about being in Dalhousie at this time is that you can relax for a long while and see the weather play with your vision. The scenery is incredibly peaceful and mysterious. It feels like you have been sent to a kingdom of clouds with less crowd due to offseason, the trees and mountains play hide and seek among the clouds and the sun peeks every now and then. The weather is very unpredictable and can surprise you. If you love the rain and need to spend some quality time with yourself, then this is the right time for you to visit Dalhousie.
If you are an adventurous beast and love hiking and trekking, then try to go on a drier season. During monsoon, the trekking can be risky as the tracks are swampy and slippery. Although this didn’t completely stop us from trekking, there were some places we could not visit due to the rain.
A lingering thought
This trip taught us things useful for the next one.
Unfortunately, due to ill health, we missed some important things, but the next trip will be much more effective and meaningful.