Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Visit to Chakrata - Up In the Hills

One day I set out to check out the places around Dehradun and inadvertently got sucked into a long drive up in the mountains to Chakrata. Now this is a pretty high spot in the hills and is stationed about 7000 ft over sea level which makes for some dizzying drives up narrow mountain roads that wind so often that you feel your mind in one direction, your body in another and your insides completely in another. Now after a few moments of this you are likely to feel like throwing up which is probably simpler than merely living with the feeling that you may throw up sometime. Anyway, the ride started off from the plains, through a lovely army base lined with the tallest trees I have seen in a long time. I got my first sighting of the Himalayan ranges and they are so massive and so many in number that its just awesome to watch. We started the wind up the narrow rod which was being repaired in many spots where there had been landslides and wound our way from one mountain range to another. The one thing that totally overpowers your consciousness is the amount of greenery, of trees, of crops, water, blue skies, fresh air.
Going up into the mountains, crossing a dry nala

The villages that dot the valleys are really quaint with some beautiful houses, little crops in front. Some hillsides are almost entirely cultivated or so it seems and almost all hillsides have these crisscross paths for people to walk down. Mini buses carry loads far in excess of their capacity as they head into the faraway villages. Work goes on as normal, school kids walk along with their bags trudging probably miles up and down the mountain roads to their schools, people are crowded around shops to have a glimpse of the cricket matches, chai is being drunk. All is well in the valley.
View from Chakrata, the snow capped mountains are merged in the clouds

On the way to Chakrata we pass the village Kalsi. Someone tells me that the population of Chakrata has always remained constant for many years. As we get closer to Chakrata which is a cantonment town, we notice that access is restricted and foreigners are not allowed to go up to the town. I also hear that there is a village near Chakrata called Devan, which is apparently the only place in India from where one can see the Great Wall of China on a clear day. Unfortunately I heard this piece of information after we descended back into the plains. There is a Tibetan unit of the Indian army up there, which our driver revealed rather secretively. He did not seem to like the Tibetans much for some reason.
Same view, with evidence

Up in Chakrata the breeze was so pure and fresh and cool that you feel purified almost instantly. That is how good, how pure the good God must have made this air that we breathe in. And it took me 40 plus years to discover that. It was amazing just breathing in that air. And to top it all i got the first sighting of the distant snow capped mountain ranges of the Himalayas, an awesome sight for the sheer grandeur, size and beauty. The little hotels on the hillside all have views overlooking the mountain ranges where one can sit and enjoy the meal or beverage while looking at the scenery. I soaked in the sun, had a nice hot chai, ate some biscuits, drank in as much of the scenery as I could, gulped in as much of the mountain air as I could and started the descent. Aaaaah!
 Now for the long winding ride down as we crunch gravel on the edges of the road on the steep side of the mountain!

No comments: