I half-heartedly boarded the train to Amritsar after the sojourn in Patnitop. My ‘never say no’ attitude towards travel made me agree to my friend’s decision of visiting Golden Temple and Wagah Border. But, as I sat by the window watching the snow-capped mountains pass by, a mere thought of leaving them and going back to the mundane (plains) instilled a sense of fear in me. As if, I would never be able to visit the Himalayas again! All my lies and struggle to take leave from the office seemed less fruitful.
Read: Pie in the sky: Patnitop
A research from the internet revealed that Dalhousie and Dharamshala were close to Pathankot. My love for the Himalayas made me convince my friend to get down at Pathankot and how merrily I hopped on the bus to Dalhousie! The sun was setting with its stark orange rays separating the valley from the horizon as we reached Dalhousie in the dusk hours.
To be honest, the town of Dalhousie was a letdown after breathtakingly beautiful Patnitop. Though the streets and the houses were well planned there was garbage all over the hill slopes. The taxi charged exuberant rates for sightseeing activities and people were happy enough to shop at costly Tibetan market and eat their way in one of the many mall roads in India.
The next morning was leisurely spent by sitting on the balcony, soaking in the sun and listening to the chirping birds that followed by multiple cups of tea. The sun was shining brightly after a very long time and all we could do is getting pampered by the love of the weather Gods!
It was already noon, when we stepped out of our hotel room, not knowing which road to take. The roads leading to Kalatop and Khajjiar were closed due to snowfall and hence we were frequently suggested by the locals to visit Panchpula which was 5kms away. Taxi charged Rs.400 for the round trip. My friend gave up to the idea as he was neither interested in visiting the sight nor had the interest to walk the distance and so I continued on my journey alone.
Read: Tosh in monsoon
The sight was nothing more than a chaos with the number of shops and eateries by the waterfall and people taking selfies, buzzing here and there like bees disturbing the peace of the mountains. The waterfall, on the other hand, did not deserve the crowd it had attracted. At least in winters, it was not worth it. I thanked my stars when I refused to take a taxi and decided to walk instead.
While clicking pictures and wandering around, my ever searching eyes caught attention to a narrow lane leading up the hill. On querying, I found that the path leads to the Ganji Pahadi. And there I was, spreading the wings of my dream, flying above the human settlement with a view of the valley and the alluring hills; there I was in the dense jungle satisfying my itchy feet. There were patches of snow on the way that was yet to melt signifying that the snowfall had just stopped in this part of the Himalayas. As I rose above the tree line, the view opened up from the dense jungle to the open skies and I came across the only house that seemed abandoned. A few minutes later, I could see the cluster of similar houses which made me realize that I had already entered a village. The houses were made up of mud and had traditional slate roofs. Each house had a terrace farm with mustard flowers swaying in the cold winds. The village was surrounded by the towering snow clad mountains from all 4 sides which added to the surreal landscape. Such beautiful sight to behold but there was not a single soul around. The skies were gloomy, signaling the onset of rain/snow at any given moment. Mixed emotions ran within as I continued my trek. To add to this feeling, the deafening silence made me listen to my own heartbeats and my breaths increased rapidly with each step uphill.
The otherwise beautiful landscape was now turning to be a frightening sight. I decided to halt near one of the houses and sat there trying to calm my breathing. I could not fathom the reason why the village was abandoned until I gave up to the restlessness and tried to peak in few of the houses. Sharp senses in such situations and the silence up there helped me listen to a distant murmuring voice. Upon following it, I found two locals in one of the houses who invited me for a cup of tea. My pulses began to become normal as I sat by the bonfire, sipping tea followed with warm-hearted conversation. It was a much-needed respite in teeth tattering cold evening. I enjoyed the camaraderie and they enlightened me about the life in the mountains.
After a long break, I bid goodbye to them and continued my journey which was not too far from here.
Within 15 minutes, I reached the first phase of the top which had a seating made up of stones that provided the view of the valley.
After soaking the peace and saturating my eyes with the view, I followed the track that further lead to the open temple dedicated to a female deity (do not remember the name of the deity) which marks the end of the trek.
Though the town of Dalhousie failed to leave a lasting impression, I realized that if one is willing to take a plunge and walk for the long distance, the places one will see is far rewarding than the town of Dalhousie.
I returned to the base within 30 minutes with the views and the stories I was longing for. A further 5km walk up to my hotel didn’t feel exhausting. Though the legs were tired, it was the mind that was fresh and rejuvenated and in no mood to listen to the body.
There is a strange feeling of happiness and contentment (along with anxiety sometimes) to arrive at an unfamiliar place only to realize that we are all the same, united with the mutual bondage of love and trust. Isn’t it?