Exploring Dalhousie—a jewel in the Himachal hills
It took all of half an hour to 45 minutes at most for the early morning to be over. When we left the valley scene below us, half the valley was still in the shadows of our own hill. It would take some more time for the sun to reach our hotel and the tree-lined avenue running in front of it.
We retired to our rooms after knocking at the restaurant for breakfast. We felt the day started quite well and wanted to make the most of it. The brightness of sunshine outside had elevated our spirits greatly.
Usually breakfast in modest hotels and guest houses in the northern parts of this country comes in three or four standard options. Bread, butter and milk with omelette is the most common option, followed by Aloo Parantha and Dahi, Puri and Bhaji or Cornflakes and milk. Both of us settled for the first option. It would be filling and acceptably tasty at most places. Aloo Parantha would have been a bit risky in a cold place like this, we felt. When properly made, a crisp and soft Aloo Parantha with Dahi and a pinch of salt tastes heavenly. But it is a delicate dish. Slight undercooking or overcooking may leave you highly dissatisfied. Specially when you know how good it could taste. It is all about expectations, I guess.
A short flight of stairs took us to the road. It was nearly 9 and the valley fully lighted up. Sun had risen high enough now to reach our road and the faraway snow peaks on the east nearly invisible in slight haze.
Dalhousie valley smiling bright in the morning sun
We decided to explore first our part of this small world. Subhas Chowk, the main junction of two circles of 8, lay behind us. We went forward.
Yesterday was our first day and we had reached late in the day. We couldn’t perceive the grandeur of the surroundings fully. Now in bright daylight a narrow winding road lay invitingly in front of us. Tall trees flanked the road.
Tree lined avenue upper Dalhousie
The hill sloped gently upwards on the left and when we looked closely, we could detect wire fences going up—these were occupied territory. The narrow road curved on the left and we could just see a viewpoint at the turn of the hill road.
Viewpoint on the Viewpoint avenue
This viewpoint commanded the west valley view of Dalhousie and looked very inviting. “Imagine how good that would be if it were heavily snowing or raining now.” I told Tukai. He smiled, “But it is a bright day and April. Would you like to sit for a moment?” I smiled back. He knew very well I don’t like to stop when roaming unless dead tired.
As we looked on the right, dense tree cover greeted us. It was just like a forest. But when we looked closer we could detect signs of houses nearly hidden away behind the trees.
Dense tree covered hillside upper Dalhousie
Our progress was very slow. There was no time or destination target for us. The varieties of trees stopped us every now and then. We marveled at the beauty of the trees on this stretch of road.
Fascinatingly tall trees
The more we went forward the trees looked to be older and more densely formed. After crossing the viewpoint the road curved left and then right. A number of old trees with specially thick trunks adorned the right flank of the road.
This was a stretch with particularly heavy shades. Every stretch on such a hill road has its own character. For a brief period the shady area was liked. A flock of jet black mountain crows kept Tukai occupied for some time and I searched for interesting breaks through the trees. By and by in due course of events we went ahead leaving the shade behind and reached the place that turned out to be the most interesting and attractive to both of us in Dalhousie.
Multi-layered attractive place
In no time we noticed the sign of Sacred Heart. This is a very old school and this sign was for its junior wing with a West Valley view we presumed. The whole place was deserted, the trees were of all types a few of them old guards and most interestingly we could savor roads at more than three levels within a very short space.
A place we liked
Everything in the scene in front of us was in place, right where it should be. The only thing lacking was a living moving human being.
All four levels of road visible now
The Sacred Heart entrance on the right was nearly hidden from view. The main road veered right and then took a turn left. Hill stations, specially 150 year old hill stations like Dalhousie still holds some mysteries for its suitor.
Before leaving the place I couldn’t resist to have a quick look towards east through the trees.
Snow peaks hidden by clouds now
Clouds had risen from their sleep in the valley below and gathered over the hills. Those were the last of the clouds, non-threatening, harmless—now only ornamental to the sky.
I looked nearby. Creepers engulfed the whole broad trunk of a giant tree nearby and reached its branches.
Throughout the morning we noticed splashes of red amongst the trees. A few trees were full of the red flowers and attracted immediate attention. We didn’t know the name of the flower, but appreciated its bright red color.
Splash of red
The road finally moved left and around the hill—we reached the other side of the hill. This was the other arm of the smaller circle of 8.
Hill on the other side
The hill opposite was with good tree cover and also showed modern constructions. Civilization had spread over the hills all around.
My friend mentioned about this street. Shops, banks, post office lined up the street—this was the Shopping Street. Not good to look at but necessary. A number of shops carried the old colonial ambiance by their quaint looks.
Company on the deserted road
We quickly completed the round and returned back to our valley side arm of the road. Two ladies walked fast towards us on an otherwise empty road. It was noon, not very hot, but still lunchtime.
I asked Tukai, “Go in?” “A few minutes more.” Tukai was not fully satiated. I also had in mind the empty road going downhill that we met earlier. This special road we had met after crossing out hotel.
Come explore me
This road branched out from the main road and went downhill. It feels good to get on to such unexpected pathways. I noticed the tree a little ahead full of red flowers. Going down looking sideways at first I couldn’t recognize our hotels. These hotels were built from rocks below up to five stories high to reach the upper level of the main road.
An unusual view
The sun was now high overhead. No shadow of the hill on the valley below. With dense tree cover all around them, the colorful little houses lay supremely peaceful under the sun. The whole world was so beautiful.
Peaceful Dalhousie lying under the sun
We turned back. A memorable sunlit morning lay behind us.