Its been quite a while that I wanted to write on this thing, but kept postponing the same for reasons unknown. Now I think is a very good time to do it, considering that it is raining heavily outside and I have got actually nothing to do for today!!!
I had the chance to visit Chambha for a project for a small hydel plant across a rivulet of Raavi. The trip started on 14th June 2010, when I left Bangalore to Mumbai and stayed at Mumbai overnight at our standard issue hotel – Solitaire on Airport road. The evening was very humid and it was very stuffy all the way till the room. Once in the room I jumped on to my bed and relaxed a while, took a hot shower and called upon my friend Ketan who was to join me from Mumbai for the next phase of journey. Part two was the flight from Mumbai to Jammu via Delhi. With me was my friend Ketan where we talked about a lot, specially his sons antics at home, the boy’s tricks to get a PSP for himself and all. Oh yes just to mention it was a Spicejet flight and boy, was hell as the flight is a hopper and no food being served on board. Well, somehow survived till Delhi!!
Ankush joined us at Delhi for the second leg of the journey. In the meanwhile, a very oversmart cleaning staff cleaned off my seat where I had my book and the boarding cards. So had quite an anrguemnt to get those things back to me and we were all grounded for a while as a result. So we reached Jammu!!!
The airport is literally a fort!!! I have never seen an airport with so much for security!! we finally cleared it, but it was a pain to push and pull the bags till the car waiting outside. Boy again!! it was a good sturdy Mahindra Xylo just the kind suited for a long drive.
Enroute we had lunch just after we crossed into Himachal after crossing the Punjab border. I must say it was one of the most delicious food I ever had, soft rotis, hot dal, bhendi fry, chole, aalu palak and sweet lassi!!!.
Once we were through from here, we passed through Dalhousie – a quiet hill station in Himachal Pradesh, built on and around five interconnected hills, being Kathlog, Potreyn, Tehra, Bakrota and Balun. Of them Bakrota is th highest point of Dalhousie. It is located on the western edge of the snow capped Dhauladhar mountain range of the Himalayas with thick forests of pine, oak, rhododendrons and deodar trees and the River Ravi flowing below in the valley.
Dalhousie was named after Governor Dalhousie of East India Company and is the Gateway to the beautiful Chamba Valley of Himacahl Pradesh. The past of the town dominated by Britishers, who ruled India before independnce is evident in the Colonial Style Architecture of various builldings like churches, estates, borading schools etc.
However, there is plenty to do and see here. Old world Victorian charm and architecture, beautiful mountains trails, and trekking paths are some of the highlights. In addition, there is also a Tibetan community in Dalhousie. Their places of worship and eateries add further colour to Dalhousie. From Dalhousie one can visit the Kalatope Sanctuary, which is home of the ghorals and Himalayan black bear.
We stopped here to have a cup of tea. We had tea at the iconic Cafe Dalhousie, which is as old as the town. Then to take a stroll in the town. The beauty of this town is that it if you are to walk the town ends even before you start walking across. It was bright when we reached, yet in few minutes it started raining. One iconic place worth visiting at Dalhousie is the tibetan market. This place a so called hub for the settlers from Tibet,actually sells nothing from Tibet. The entire market reeks of chinese products – PSPs, Mobile Phones, LED lights, bags, shoes, toys – you name anything in chinese you get it there.
The next stop was Khajjiar – a small picturesque saucer-shaped plateau surrounded by dense pine and deodar forests, is one of the 160 places throughout the world to have been designated “Mini Switzerland”. Yes, this is Khajjiar, a tiny tourist resort in Chamba about 24 kms from Dalhousie; at an altitude of 6,500 ft. above sea level. The moment one enters the picturesque Khajjiar, one is welcomed by a yellow Swiss sign for ‘hiking path’ which reads “Mini Switzerland.
It was bright and sunny when we reached Khajjiar, and in no matter of time the weather turned cold and it started to rain. I have the pictures which gives the detail of this change. Though we also wanted to indulge in riding the hot air baloon that day, we could not as the government released a bad weather notice suspending all such activities. So with no other option we started our final leg of journey to Chambha and reached at around 730 PM and decided to call it a day after having a quick dinner.
The next day upon realising that my room had a beautiful park as a view, decided to take a walk early in the morning. So when I got up at 530 that I was thinking that I would have the street dogs for company while taking walk, but to my surprise there was a huge crowd and I was surprised further to know that the town actually wakes up at the same time. After an hour’s walk/jog and run and while on my way back to the hotel I noted school children leaving homes to school. There is a cozy nice corner in the park where there is a nice restaurant called Ravi View Cafe. In the mornings it is frequented to have hot coffee and tea and in the evenings it is full of couples who wish to sneak a nice quite dinner. We had a traditional Himachal vegetarian lunch comprising Marda, roti and chole.
We took off early next morning to do our job. The job was to visit a dam across Baleni Ka Nala a small perennial tributary of Raavi. My first glimpse of the rivulet was amazing and absolutely fantastic.
After crossing this point it is a very steep drive up the hill on a single cart track where there is a sheet rock wall on the left side and deep gorges on the right. We even had an ocassional tractor crossing our path.
This is how the rad looks from the top. The road which we took off is seen on the right corner. It seemed a difficult terrain when we were inside, but once we stepped out we realised how dangerous it was for us to drive in that road. You will understand in this picture. You can make the rivulet on the floor of the gorge.
Once we were done for the day, we wanted to go for a road trip. Now this was another experience as we actually forgot how long it took us in the job, added to that was a long wait in the traffic as a result of a small landslide due to the rains. The river turned muddy due to sudden burst of rain.
Once we were clear of the traffic, we kept driving, sighting an accident where a jeep slid on the muddy track and fell into the raging river below and got carried away. We finally stopped at a place which had a significance due to 1) the view 2) the place marks the border of the town and 3) most importantly it was already late. It does not appear in the pictures but believe me these were taken around 7.45-8.00 PM in the evening.
This picture marked the end of our trip and the next morning we had to leave. I carried a lot of nice memories and feelings of this amazing place called Chambha and I said to myself that I am going to visit the place again with a lot of leisure.
We started off very early at 5.30 the next morning as we had to catch the flight at Jammu at 1.30 to New Delhi. Also knowing that the road after Pathankhot to Jammu is under construction and for its traffic jams and also that there is a lot of security at Jammu airport. However the camera enthusiast in me prevented to stop at this place to see the Chambha Hydro Electric Project and of course the purpose was to buy some fresh peaches and plums. These were some of the freshest and sweetest peaches and plums I ever had!!!
We finally reached Jammu and amidst all the issues and funny things about not allowing hard hats and PPE on board we took the flight from Jammu to New Delhi carrying a load of memories and feelings!!
Lots of other photos to soon follow!!!