First look of Khajjiar lake—a spot of Kashmir in Himachal
After we had our bird’s eyes views from the road above Khajjiar, the car came down negotiating gentle turns and straightened out on the final stretch. Through the dense tall trees on the right of the road we had glimpses of the soft green grass of a large ground. The fragmented scene couldn’t make any significant impression on our mind.
“That’s Khajjiar lake”, confirmed my friend. The road continued straight and was lost from view a little ahead. We stopped by the side of the road and got down. A few stone steps went down from the road towards the trees down below on the right. My friend led the way. We followed. I understood it to be a backdoor approach with the intention of inspecting our staying place for the night. It was a narrow path through large trees all around. Two cottages lay in front. My friend approached the right one. The cottage on the left could be seen occupied.
It was mostly a wooden structure with the usual sloping roof. In Bhutan recently and in other high altitude villages and tourist locations earlier, I always found the roof of the smaller buildings sloping. Flat rooftop cannot withstand the weight of snow during winter—I was told. It made sense to me though I missed standing on the roof and enjoying unhindered scenic beauty from a high perch.
“Oh it’s locked, the caretaker must be in his office now,” exclaimed my friend. Not a serious problem at all, we were in no hurry to unpack and get freshened up. Turning back we came up the stone steps to the road. The small red car started again. Now we would turn right for going into the Khajjiar ground, I thought. As I guessed, the road branched and turned right in a smooth curve. The main road carried on straight. “We will take that road tomorrow,” informed my friend. Turning right from one corner of the ground, we could now see the Khajjiar ground end to end. I decided to get down with Tukai and enter the vast ground. My friend maneuvered the car slowly to park it below the cottage we inspected and joined us after parking it.
Three of us stood together watching the scene. At first I couldn’t comprehend clearly what I saw.
Breathtaking Khajjiar lake
Not often a natural scene takes my breath away! The expanse so vast, the carpet of short soft grass so inviting, the soft curves all around so soothing! The light green of the grass merged nearly at the horizon with the dark green wall of deodar trees. Slowly I could make out the objects—the lambs grazing at short focus to slowly diminishing size of human or other figures at longer focus. Ah, if only I could capture the splendor of the scene somehow in one shot! I did the next best thing—turning left I started to capture views from the left corner of the velvety glade to the diagonally opposite corner of the long grass field piece by piece.
Action area, Khajjiar lake ground
At the left corner across the width of the ground lay a clutch of multi-colored buildings. Many cars were parked there. Those must be the day tourists. They would have come from Chamba or Dalhousie for spending the day on the lovely glade and returning home at dusk.
“We would take our lunch there. Those are hotels. The office is behind the hotels,” informed my friend. “But where is the second ground? An hour back we saw from the road above two grounds separated by these buildings.” I wondered aloud. “That should be the golf course you saw. Khajjiar has a full-fledged golf course for golf lovers,” explained my friend, “It is hidden behind the rise towards the hotels and by the trees. From here you won’t see it. You have to cross the tree line behind the hotels to step onto the other ground.”
I shifted my attention a little to the right.
Grazing livestock, Khajjiar lake
A narrow road spanned nearly three fourth of the length of the glade, after which progress had to be on foot. Later I came to know, a walk around the whole vast Khajjiar ground would be five km long. Though my heart told me, come let us circle the ground, my mind was more cautious. It knew that to circle the ground once, an hour would pass by easily. I had never seen such a vast ground one and half km long and one km wide.
Far ahead, I could now make out the small dots to be the figures of grazing cows. Must be from neighboring villages, I thought. Well, in a way we also are grazing—not much different—I smiled in my mind.
Turning further right, the sacred lake came into view. I was looking now diagonally from one corner towards the opposite corner, length-wise.
Sacred lake, Khajjiar
From all sides the ground sloped gently towards the center where the small lake lay cozily. Six months had passed since the end of the last rainy season. Still the lake had a good amount of water in it. Underground springs must be feeding the lake to keep it from drying up towards summer.
Sparkling lime-green grass bordered the water. The grass border was ringed around further outwards by grey colored wet looking patch. Later when I tried to step on such a grey patch, I found my feet sinking quickly.
“This is a sacred lake. People revere it here,” told my friend. Surely they should, I thought—at this altitude of 6500 feet, smack at the center of this great ground gently sloping inwards, such a lake is unquestionably mother nature’s hand-crafted art and a small miracle in its own right.
Further ahead sprinkling dark dots of cows grazed. Still further away stood the sentinel trees so thick that even during high noon sun rays could scarcely enter it. The hills covered with the tall trees gently rose in waves. All curves were gentle here. Deeply calming.
Far away to the right I could barely see some kind of round objects. To whet my curiosity, I looked closer through the lenses.
Giant rolling balls, Khajjiar lake
Now I could see the mysterious objects clearly. I had never seen anything like these before. “What are those?” I asked. “Those are rolling balls made of hard but pliable plastic. Inside it there is a chair to which a fun loving tourist is securely strapped and then the man owning the ball game gives it a hard push and it starts rolling with the passenger inside it,” explained my friend, “You could find such balls in Kashmir also.”
A group of people clustered near the giant balls that were much taller than them. The humans looked like tiny toy figures. I tried to imagine the trajectory of my body strapped inside such a rolling ball and didn’t like the thought at all.
Faint trails inside the bordering forest could be seen. A few persons were on the trails. “There are many small villages spread around this area. Some of those paths through the forest lead to the villages,” said my friend.
Leaving the round wonders, I focused on the dreamy and cute cottage at the other corner of the glade. “So beautiful it looks. Can’t we stay there tonight?” For a moment I really wanted to.
“Now with tourists around in bright sunny daylight it looks so good, but it is a little isolated, you know. When night falls, it would be somewhat lonely there. Also…,” my friend paused slightly, “local people tell stories about the cottage.” “Haunted?” I caught the hint. He nodded, “This cottage is run now by Himachal Pradesh Tourism and you can’t get a room easily there. Honeymooners like it.” So true. When the shroud of darkness would drop on the now beautiful bright vast ground a few hours from now, all the tourists would have left by then; the cottage would be absolutely isolated and lonely. It would be still better during nights of heavy downpour or snowing with wind blowing through the dense foliage singing high pitched songs. How romantic, I thought.
Now it was still a bright sunny day. I looked away.
As I turned round from the lonely cottage, barely I managed to catch a beautiful paraglide floating fast down towards the ground. Now we knew for sure that Khajjiar ground is the landing site for the paragliders.
First paraglider, Khajjiar lake
“Let us now go for the lunch,” my friend interrupted our aimless fun, “I have already talked to the caretaker. We would collect the keys of the rest house after lunch. Let’s go.”