Kasauli trip 2017

The past couple of months passed in a blur. There was so much work to do, I had no time to unwind. My work pressure lessened towards the end of August. Towards the end of September, it was Durga pujo this year. Living outside Bengal has its disadvantages. I no longer get caught up in pre-pujo shopping, dressing up in my finest, going pandal hopping or binge eating.

As people say, you can take a Bengali out of Bengal, but you cannot take Bengal out of the Bengali. I pine for the festivities back home, but it has not always been possible to go back during the time. Even though I am far from home, my heart is joyous and brain goes on a holiday mode, preventing me from concentrating on the work at hand. So, these past few years I made it a point to travel to the Himalayas and spend a couple of days relaxing and rejuvenating in the quiet solitude.

This year was no different as I went to Kasauli, a small town in the district of Solan, in Himachal Pradesh (India). With an extended weekend at hand, I made the best I could of the time.

With a couple of friends, early one morning, we set off to refresh our otherwise stressful lives. The best part of living in the capital city of India is that the hill stations are so close. Extended weekends are perfect for getaways.

We reached Kalka by train, from where Kasauli is a 2-3-hour drive.

Five minutes into our journey, we caught the first glimpse of the hills in the distant horizon.

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Kalka station
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On the way to Kasauli

 

 

As we drove up the air turned considerably cooler and the weather pleasant. Soon the oppressive heat of the plains became a thing in the past.

We had booked a service apartment which was to be our home for the next couple of days. The apartment was very tastefully done and attention was given to even the minutest detail. The view from the balcony was breath-taking.

We reached around 3 in the afternoon and were famished. A quick lunch and the soft beds were on the itinerary for the day. In the evening, we sat on the balcony and sipped tea, looking out in the vast expanse of darkness.

On the second day, we visited Christ Church, the oldest church in Himachal Pradesh. Dedicated to St. Francis and St. Barnabas, the Anglican church was in 1853. There was an ancient sundial within the church premise. The atmosphere was calm and serene. Benches were set amidst pine trees for people to sit and enjoy the peace. We roamed aimlessly the in small mall of Kasauli and in the afternoon returned to our apartment. Later we enjoyed the sunset from the comfort of our home.

 

The next day, we did not plan anything and spent the day at home, cooking, chatting and making the most of the time in hand. In the afternoon, we walked to the local market. The day being Dusshera, there was a small fair and people from far-off places had come; all dressed in their best. It was a nice experience to see the local people celebrating a festival. There were a few shops selling sweetmeats and everyone was buying sweets that day. We, too, bought jalebis on the way back. Although there was not much to do in the evenings, we enjoyed because that was what we wanted; to be away from work, daily responsibilities and the stress of city life.

The following day was our last. A long walk in the morning marked the start of the day. A quick breakfast and an even quicker lunch later, we checked out and started our journey to Kalka. We boarded the train that took us back to the daily grind.

We reached home late at night, and we were tired but happy and refreshed, knowing that we could go back any time we wanted to.

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Our trip to McLeodganj

October 2014: It was time. I boarded the flight to New Delhi from where I would begin my journey to McLeodganj with new friends. I was very excited and had started packing weeks ago. Once, twice, thrice…I lost count of the number of times I packed and unpacked my luggage. Tried on my clothes several times and kept replacing one apparel for another. I could hardly make up my mind.

Once I landed in Delhi, I met up briefly with my brother and his fiancé (now wife) who were on their way to Kolkata. Though I was happy to see them, I could not wait to meet up with my friends. I took the metro to Chandi Chowk from where I walked to the Old Delhi Railway Station. My friends asked me to wait at the McDonalds outlet inside the station area. While I waited, I could feel the butterflies in my stomach struggling to get out. I was so excited that I began to feel dizzy. Who doesn’t, when you get to see your boyfriend after three months? I waited impatiently for them to arrive, calling him up every three minutes until he threatened to switch off his cell phone. They soon arrived and greetings were exchanged. I was introduced to a colleague of which who is more than family to us now. Initially we all did take some time to warm up to each other but later it was one crazy family.

We took an overnight train to Pathankot from where we took the toy train. Very soon we realized it was not what it seemed. The train was crowded and we could only manage to get into the guard’s coach. The guard soon asked us to get into a passenger coach. But it was impossible for us. The guard then suggested we get down at Nurpur and take a cab to McLeodganj. That was the best decision ever. We booked a cab, loaded all our luggage and finally began the ascent to McLeodganj. Soon we left the plains and were driving along the mountainous roads. The scenery changed. The houses became fewer and far in-between. With green mountains on either side and the river flowing through them, it was a relaxing sight for the eyes. The peace and quiet of my surroundings calmed my agitated soul and soothed my ears.

The drive to McLeodganj took around two hours. Once we reached the McLeodganj crossroads, the cacophony of the town brought me back to my senses. A precarious flight of stairs led us to our hotel. The hotel looked no different from other hotels in hill stations but the view from the balcony was breath-taking. As far as the eye could see, there were only clouds, green mountains and in the distance, mountains with snowy peaks. We quickly freshened up and ordered lunch. After a big lunch, I was in no position to move. We were all tired and decided to give our bodies some time to recover. The evening descended quickly and we realized there was no way we could go out then. I dreaded the thought of having to take the steep flight of stairs again. Even though, it was our sole mode that connected us to the outside world. The weather was pleasant and we were wearing light woollens to keep us warm. An early dinner and we retired quickly as we planned to start early the following day.

Early morning sun shone through our window and filled the room with light. I opened the door that led to the balcony and saw the sun rise over the Dhauladhar range. A heavy breakfast of Tibetan cuisine and we were ready to take on the world. We walked aimlessly along the roads of the small town. We visited the Namgyal Monastery which also houses the official residence of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. We were fortunate to catch a glimpse of the Dalai Lama as he left his residence. At the temple complex, lunch was being served to visitors and we decided to take the opportunity. Post lunch, we visited the Tibetan Museum locate within the temple complex. The museum has a collection of Tibetan art, pottery, handicrafts, and art. It also had the history of Tibet documented in the form of pictures.

The next day we set out early to visit the Bhagsu Falls. Located at 2 kms from McLeodganj amidst dreamy scenery and lush green mountains, the waterfall was breathtakingly beautiful. We also visited the Bhagsunath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple, built by King Bhagsu, is at a height of 1770 m above sea level.

After returning from the temple, we decided to visit the church of St John in the Wilderness. A beautiful quaint church in the forest. It was such a picturesque vision. The peace and quiet around the church transported me to another world. The moss-covered graves, tall pine trees, and the fog flowing in and out created an eerie atmosphere but it was not hostile at all. It was something where one could completely lose oneself, lose track of time and be lost in some 19th century countryside. The church left a deep impact on my mind and I want to go back there again and again.

Soon it was time to go back to the grind. As all good things must, so did our wonderful trip. come to an end. We met as strangers and left as family. Till we meet again, memories will keep us going.