A summer holiday in Himachal Pradesh -Simla- Sarhan- Sangla- Chitkul- Kalpa

"We are off, going on a summer holiday to make our dream come true..."  the famous quote from Cliff Richard's song. This summer we went to Simla. We were a mixed group of seventeen directed by two teachers and of course the tour guide.

We boarded the up-Kalka-Mail at Howrah station. All arrangements were made in a meticulous way. We occupied our appointed seats. The train started a little late. Gradually we were introduced to each other by the tour operator. Our co-passengers seemed to be very pleasant. We became friendly very soon. One lady who worked with Geological Survey of India drew our attention. She was a national champion in Carom of all games! I had never met anyone of her stature before.

We reached Chandigarh on time. The journey was pretty smooth. A chartered bus was waiting and we occupied our allotted seats. Then we advanced towards Simla - the hill station in Himachal Pradesh. The journey was more or less pleasant barring some hiccups due to bad condition of the mountainous roads at some places. The weather was pleasantly nice and moderately cold. We checked into a standard hotel.

In the evening, we went to a nearby Kali temple and watched the arati amid much fanfare and then strolled towards the Mall. Some function was being held by the army. Some men were playing the drum and bugle and the sound filled the air enthusing a patriotic feeling in all and sundry. A very nice evening spent in Simla.

Next day we were on the road to Sarhan. Window seats were allotted by rotation and I got one this time to stare into the spiralling roads and slopes of the mountain. I felt very excited and enthralled. I was enjoying the breathtaking beauty of the snow-capped peaks in the Kunnur district of Himachal Pradesh. Since it was end of May, apple orchards, cherry trees were in view almost all over the mountain slopes. I noticed one new thing. Most of the trees were covered with a certain net resembling the mosquito net. We learnt that these were meant to prevent intrusion of birds and monkeys since the trees had just started to blossom. Not much flower was seen around except some violet ones which resembled Krishnachura. A few unknown trees were covered with bright red flowers. The blue sky, huge mountainous slopes with motif of different hues, snow-capped peaks appearing at places - made me feel like I was in the ninth heaven.

We reached Sarhan after 4-5 hours' journey. We were accommodated in a rest house adjacent to the Vimakali temple. Of the two temples in the same area, one was built in the 17th century. Lots of legends were there about this temple which the local people narrated with much enthusiasm. Both of those were built in pagoda style and offered architectural grandeur. Intricate designs in wood carving were observed too.

The following day we proceeded to Sangla valley. Sangla looked striking at the backdrop of the Kumaon range with almost 360 degree view. We stayed there for two nights because we visited Chitkul for a full day. We loved Chitkul too, mainly because of the river Bapsa flowing along the valley. One could relax on the huge boulders scattered all along the river, wade in the nice cool water and watch the breathtaking beauty of the mountains at the same time. We saw farmers ploughing in the primitive way with the help of two bullocks. In a newly built school the children were sitting outside in the natural surrounding with their books. It was an enviable way of studying no doubt about that! We left the place before it got dark because driving in the night along those treacherous roads is always best avoided.

Next day we were a little tensed because of the strenuous journey ahead. From Sangla to Kalpa - the roads were not at all good; rather it was very appalling due to the frequent landslides. News reached that we might have to take a different road to the top of the mountain and then go down via another route to Kalpa. Naturally it would take more time than usual and the journey would be tiresome. In between we stretched our legs and had some refreshments. We were served appetizing packed lunch. Although the journey was not smooth we felt like we were into some adventure and buckled up our spirit. Then suddenly our bus stopped altogether. There was a sharp bend ahead and because it rained the night before the road was muddy, slippery and dangerous as well.

We all climbed down in case the bus turned turtle. There was a dam under construction and some dredgers were operational. We took their help to mend the road somehow. We waited for almost an hour before it was repaired. They deployed two dredgers for the job. It was a mixed and rare experience for us to watch them repair and witness how things work. Anyway once it was over we were relieved and after that everything went smoothly again.

We reached Kalpa very exhausted. But the next morning we were invigorated by the picturesque glory of the sunrise. In front of us, in the first rays of the sun, Kinnaur Kailash was glistening while gradually the sun was revealing its full brightness. Due to the floating clouds it was playing hide and seek for a little while. It was a very bright sunny day and our rest day too. So we enjoyed everything at a leisurely pace - ate good food, strolled in the mountainous alleys, watched ravens on the apple trees...

Then the day came for us to leave the beautiful place and go to Kalka to board the train for our return journey.

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