Himachal Pradesh: Travelling like a local (Day1)
January 1, 1970
As the sun was still high and mighty in New Delhi‘s October sky last year, I decided to take a short trip to Himachal Pradesh.I have been to Himachal innumerable times but never explored the place much. This trip changed that and made me realise how much remains unseen and unexplored in the state I call my birthplace.
Situated in North India, Himachal Pradesh is one of the most important tourist destinations in India. The peak season sees tourists from not just India but all over the world. Though people generally come here during the summer months to beat the heat, the popularity of the beautiful place has spiked over the last few years. Now the popular tourist destination sees an influx of people throughout the year.
What’s in the name?
The word Himachal literally translates to “in the lap of the Himalayas”.The state was named by one of the most eminent scholars of Sanskrit, Acharya Diwakar Datt Sharma. The word ‘Him’ in Sanskrit means snow.
The morning of the first day of my trip was a warm one. The weather in mountains is unpredictable and can change without a moment’s notice. So, it is always advisable to be careful always. After having a hearty breakfast, we were ready for the day. The destination of the day was Jana Waterfall or Jana falls as it is popularly called by the locals.
We had a driver in my cousin as he is a local and experienced in driving on mountainous terrain. Thus, we stashed our car with light woollens (just in case), snacks and water, and we were good to go. As we made our way out of Kullu main city, the receding number of houses, shops or construction of any kind evoked a sigh of relief from me.
The drive was an uphill one literally as the waterfall is situated in the Naggar region, Himachal Pradesh. Since Kullu is a valley, Naggar is at a higher altitude than Kullu. The picturesque surroundings took my breath away and also tempted me to force my cousin to stop the car. The car was promptly parked and we just sat there for a while, taking in the beauty so carelessly splashed all around.
The next stop was at a Gompa in Naggar region. Gompas are Tibetan monasteries. Buddhism is one of the major religions in Himachal Pradesh and there are many monasteries here. Since I had never been to a Gompa hitherto,I was not expecting the beautiful, rich,vibrant and yet serene interiors. It was like a spell was cast upon us and it was impossible to look away or to not to experience the sense of calm that washed over.
One can simply sit and experience the calm or can walk around to have a closer look at the enchanting interiors of the Gompa. You can also interact with the bhikkhus (ordained male monastics in Buddhism) or the bhikkhunis (ordained female monastics in Buddhism) present there.
Hunger is an emotion
We headed to a small noodles joint next as we were famished by now. The food was lip smacking yet inexpensive. Moreover, you get complimentary unlimited soup at any restaurant you eat in Kullu.Yum! After stuffing our faces with momos, noodles, thukpas and free soup, we were charged and raring to go. We finally made our way to Jana Waterfall.
To Trek or to Drive?
The drive in the Himalayas is always the best part about the journey. This one was no exception. Jana Waterfall, which is situated deep in the deodar/pine woods boasts of some of the most scenic roads. One can take a bus, hitchhike, drive or trek to the place. We chose to drive till the waterfall but used to occasionally stop to take a break at the famed apple orchards and also near the water flowing down the mountain, coming from the waterfall.
Jana waterfall finally!
We reached Jana Waterfall late in the afternoon. The temperature was decreasing; and the air got increasingly chilly because of the altitude and also due to the cold water of the waterfall. The main point of the waterfall is a tourist spot, replete with honeymooners and tourists. The point is aptly named as Lover’s Point. Moreover, there are even adventure sports on offer here.
Lover’s Point is a beautiful place but was not our destination. Without wasting much time there, we started our trek to a ‘secret’ place that my cousin knew of (Perks of having a local as your guide!). It was a small-ish place, domed by huge mountain rocks. The ‘secret’ place was not that secret, at least not for the locals. There were already a few people present and even a maggi corner was there. In spite of all that, it is a beautiful, cosy nook, away from the crowded Lover’s Point. The perfect spot to provide you with the serenity and calm to contemplate divinity and infinity over plates and plates of maggi, supplied by the maggi corner. After spending better part of our afternoon at the beautiful Jana Waterfall, it was time to move on.
Witnessing the sunset
It was already late in the evening when we stopped to witness the sunset at a particularly picturesque spot. It was a sight to behold and one that I would remember for a long time. Sunsets and mountains make for a breathtaking view and almost a surreal experience.
We made our last stop at Naggar Castle in the Naggar region. Naggar Castle, built by Raja (King) Sidh Singh of Kullu is an example of authentic western Himalayan architecture. It is situated at a beautiful point, overlooking the Kullu Valley. Moreover, it has now been converted into a heritage hotel. So, the next time you visit Himachal Pradesh, you can actually stay where once the Raja( King) of Kullu resided.
Drive back to Kullu
By the time we were done exploring Naggar Castle, it was quite dark. Driving in the mountains at night is risky because of low visibility. Only experienced drivers can navigate the blind turns at ridiculously low visibility. So, it is always advisable to hire a local cab or driver, whatever suitable. Our driver was adept at navigating the blind turns at low visibility, making it possible for us to return safely.