There’s something about the Mountains….
Something that draws my soul to them repeatedly….
There’s a life lesson in the Mountains, the higher we travel, the sounds and sights get more magical… its almost like they are telling you- ‘Make the effort to know me and you will experience the ethereal’…
My quest to be in the mountains has taken me across some of the most marvelous vistas of India… Himachal, Uttarakhand, Kashmir, in the North, the Western Ghats in Maharashtra and Kerala, the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu and more recently, the eastern Himalayas in Sikkim. Just like ocean lovers will vouch that there is a uniqueness to each ocean and sea and even different beaches along the same coastline, each Mountain is amazingly distinct and every town, village and pitstop along the ascents and descents, has a view, breeze, ambience that’s its own…
When I ventured to travel solo for the first time, I opted for Khajjiar, a tiny Hamlet nestled in the Dhauladhar Mountain Range in Himachal Pradesh, 25 kms from Dalhousie. A friend suggested the place and I was drawn from that moment onward.
Referred to as Mini Switzerland, there’s a signboard in the picturesque Khajjiar meadow ( where innumerable Bollywood films have been shot) showing the distance from Khajjiar to the Swiss capital, Berne- 6194 kms..
Most travelers on the tourist trail tend to stay at Dalhousie and opt for a mandatory sight-seeing day sojourn to Khajjiar….A gross injustice to oneself, rather than to the location… Experiencing Khajjiar up close by living within its folds, was for me, far more enriching, amazing and uplifting than the time I spent in Dalhousie..
My journey to Khajjiar began with a flight to Chandigarh and then a road journey to Khajjiar.. Had a comfortable vehicle waiting for me at Chandigarh airport that I had pre booked… Since I was travelling by myself, the owner of Saini travels, Kiran Pal Singh ( 9815925310) who has a fleet of vehicles for Corporates and individual travelers, was thoughtful to the extent of joining the driver and me for the 8 hour journey to Khajiiar.. The journey went off comfortably and in a spirit of camaraderie.. ( the shorter route to Khajjiar is by flying to Amritsar and driving down from there via Pathankot).
For the discerning traveler ( that I am) Khajjiar offers a lone and thankfully one of the best accommodation facilities, in the Deodar Manor Heritage Bungalow. A fairy tale manor set in the midst of breathtaking topography, the centenarian bungalow is owned by the family of Sardar Hanut Singh Bal.
I enjoyed the best of both worlds at the Manor, with a luxury style Room and Bath (they have five rooms with different names based on the view from the room) that opened onto a spacious verandah opening into a sight for tired city eyes.. The warmth of Room service and homely meals cooked in the Manor kitchen made the experience altogether delectable. To my good fortune, I was the lone guest at that time and no intruders to my time with myself..
The lush Khajjiar Meadow is a short descending walk from the Manor… ringed by a circular pathway to amble on, Having taken a half circle of the meadow, I went on to sink my feet into the grass to walk across the meadow.. The Khajjiar lake is right in the centre of the meadow.. Depending on the time of the year that you visit, the lake can be smaller or fuller…There are benches to sit on and breathe in the silence, bird song, and the overall marvel of Khajjiar.. As long as I was in the meadow, tourist cars kept driving into the periphery to offload tourists and take them back to Dalhousie.. It was July and offseason so blissfully not as many people and as noisy as it could have been. But yes, I need to visit Khajjiar once again in winter to experience the snow carpeted views and feel..
Just off the meadow is a temple with a 85 metre towering, beautifully carved statue of Lord Shiva.. Whether you stand at its feet or take in its beauty as you walk through the multiple trekking routes around, or have a one of its kind view from atop as your paraglider soars over, the statue apparently has been spreading its bliss and peace into the surroundings…
One of the most memorable experiences of Khajjiar was going on a trek with a local guide arranged by the Manor staff, taking a rustic, jungle route, off the beaten path… just the sound of our muffled footsteps in the grass and bramble, occasional birds, the wind as we climbed higher, a few cows and goats here and there…. And the green mountain range and blue sky dotted with pristine white clouds…. We climbed till we got a sort of small flat plateau at around 12000 feet and there were the paragliding team waiting… We waited a short while for the right wind speed and direction.. Then I was strapped… and off we soared….. High above the mountain range, the meadow, the tiny homes, the imposing statue… literally getting a birds eye view…. it was a superlative feeling… and then the safe landing in an open grassy area… Wow! An experience I relive many times over and will always remain treasured..
To those with a passion for the mountains, a discretion for the ‘different’, a yearning for basking in the lap of Nature, in one of its multifarious attractions… I would sincerely recommend a trip to Khajjiar as a standalone destination..