By Anavil Jaiswal:
We toil the year long to earn our livelihood, trying to give our best performances. It brings us fatigue and a dying need for revival arises in the heart. What’s better than to leave for a reinvigorating vacation far away from the world you dwell in and that too when the summers are on and the rainless firmament pours fire. A trip to a splendid hill station lets you pamper yourself to your heart’s content. So, hurry up, pack up your bags and accompany me to some of the most alluring destinations in India. Don’t forget your camera. Are you ready? Here we go.
Sonamarg (Jammu & Kashmir) – Let’s start the journey with the state of Jammu and Kashmir nestled in the majestic Himalayas which are the crown and produce fostering rivers flowing like veins through the body of our country. In Ganderbal district stands a hill station Sonamarg which means’Meadow of Gold’. The name alone fills one’s heart with ecstasy. It was a gateway on the ancient Silk Road. The lush green meadows and snow clad peaks against a cerulean sky along with the meandering Sindh river provide a breathtaking view. The picturesque and serene place wears a bracing climate, a foredeal to the trekkers, abounds with a good number of waterfalls and lakes. Also, you can reach Zozi La, one of the highest passes for road transport, which is nearby and on its foot lays the valley of Baltal, a base camp for the sacred Amarnath yatra. The starkly splendid roof-top of the world, Leh can also be reached by surmounting over the Zoji La pass.
Sangla Valley, Kinnaur (Himachal Pradesh) – Now, we are heading towards the state of Himachal Pradesh, whose name itself means the land of snow. It is blessed with some of the most awe-inspiring and panoramic beauty. Come winters, the state goes for a complete white-out while peaks at higher altitudes like in Kinnaur district, drape a thick white blanket of pristine snow which leaves you spellbound. In summers too, the average temperature does not exceed by 22 degree C. The Sangla valley there is surrounded by forested slopes adorned with pine nut orchards, chilgoza (chestnut), Royal red apples, cherry trees, and glacial streams with trout. The entrancing Kinnaur Kailash peak soaring higher than 21000 ft is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva. When you cover the 17000 ft high Charang Pass, it is a steep run down through slithery scree slopes to Chitkul, the last inhabited village near the Indo-Tibet border, which is known for its cold and windy lay of the land. A serene and a sleepy hamlet, Kalpa offers an untouched enthralling beauty which impels you to settle down there for the rest of the life.
Auli (Uttarakhand) – For an explorer and traveller, the state of Uttarakhand (The Land of Gods) is such that it is renowned for its numerous virgin destinations with a peaceful ambiance, salubrious environment and a variety of euphoric relaxation activities. The aromatic pine trees among the verdant valleys crisscrossed by rivers, act as a balm for your mind and senses. In the district Chamoli, a celestial delight Auli with divinity galore is famous for its thrilling slopes covered with oak and coniferous trees. It lies on the way to Badrinath, with nearby places as Joshimath, Vishnu Prayag and Tapovan. Though the month of June is the hottest, the mercury just touches 20 degree C. For sightseeing, skiing, trekking and visiting nearby attractions, summers are the ideal time. The blissful place boasts the highest man-made lake on the planet as well as the Asia’s longest (4 km) cable car. You can delight in a 270 degree view of the lofty peaks like Kamet, Mana, Neelkanth and the highest of all, Nanda Devi which is regarded as the patron-goddess of the Uttarakhand Himalaya. The reflection of the setting sun on the canvas of snow seems to bring the time to a still. Perhaps the reason why the saints reside in the Himalayas for meditation is brought home. The sounds of silence can be heard, while the enchanting surroundings give a feeling of solitude which brings you closer to God and fills your mind with eternal peace and harmony. Om Shanti!
Matheran (Maharashtra) – I know right now you are feeling being at Auli and I would not like to interfere, however let’s savour some more delicacies that Mother Nature has bestowed on us. While, travelling away from the north, we land at Raigad district in the state of Maharashtra. If peace and tranquillity prevails in the same domain then it must be at Matheran, the smallest hill station in India. The typical name means forest on the head (top of the mountain). The land brimmed with verdure is supported with a prohibition of vehicles, in lieu of which an enticing toy train service awaits. Amidst more than 35 points of interest, the Panorama Point provides a jaw-dropping 360 degree view. Mischievous pranks of monkeys add to the amusement at the Monkey Point. To enjoy a bird’s view of an adjoining town Neral, you may walk for a short distance of 5 kms to find Mount Berry. The Charlotte Lake is surrounded by an ancient Pisarnath Temple as well as by Louisa and Echo point. A swashbuckling activity like valley crossing by a rope can be dared against at Honeymoon Point. Overall, the place offers much within a small area.
Ootacamund/Ooty (Tamil Nadu) – We are in the state of Tamil Nadu now, where we discover the wonders that Ootacamund (Ooty) has in store for us. Ooty sits in the lap of Nilgiri Hills, where the mercury could never surpass the 25 degree C mark till date. The 42 kms journey from Coimbatore to Ooty via Nilgiri Mountain Railway, with the steepest track in Asia, covers 208 curves, 16 tunnels and 250 bridges. The famous song “Chaiyya Chaiyya” of the film ‘Dil Se…” was shot on a moving train in this mountainous terrain. The highest peak in the Nilgiris is the Doddabetta Peak with flourishing forests and grasslands ornamented by vibrant flowers. Ooty is famous for its tea estates, fruit orchards and placid lakes. Wax World, a museum displays life-size wax statues of personalities of Indian history. Pykara falls, Wenlock downs, Kamaraj Sagar dam, Mudumalai and Mukurthi national parks are the attractions which add to the splendour of Ooty.
I had always wondered why painters or photographers or for that matter poets are so obsessed with hills and snow. I got my answers the first time I witnessed the treasures of nature. I hope you would have felt better being on this virtual journey and would love to experience the same or more in reality. So, get set, go!