By Bitan Bhadra:
It was 5 in the morning at Kalka rail terminus, and one can catch a glimpse of the silhouette of Himalayas at twilight in the backdrop as the sun cast its first rays across the heavens. The toy-train spiraled its way through the Himalayas, upwards into the pine forests, past chirping birds and monkeys crouched alongside the tracks taking their early morning breakfast of wild nuts and fruits. Within hours, past a hundred tunnels and few bridges, we reached the queen of hill stations, Shimla as we know it. As you gaze across the Himalayas, you cannot but wonder the grandeur and majesty of these mountains, towering into the sky across the horizons until you see only bluish outlines in the distant. The pine forests, summer hill and the Shimla mall have always enticed tourists. Each of them offers a charm of their own.
After a day of exploring Shimla, we decided to set out for our real destination, Sarahan. We booked a cab, tucked in our luggage, and bid adieu to Shimla. The cab made its way across the Himachal, circulating and spiraling into the higher altitudes. It winded by the Sutlej River and past notable towns like Narkanda, Rampur, and Jeori etc.
Past jeori, we could feel the air growing thinner and temperatures dropping. Here, we drove past apple orchards and pine, oak and deodar forests encompassed by towering rocky cliffs flanked by numerous snow capped ranges. The contrast of green valley below and white peaks above you is a very unique feature of this region. As you drive through the narrow road upwards, you are advised not to look down into the valley below. The steep cliff of hundreds of meters is bound to send shivers down the spine of even the strongest of hearts. Local farmers are very hospitable and will occasionally offer you fresh apples. I can bet they are the juiciest and tastiest apples that you have ever tried.
After hours of drive, finally we reach Sarahan. Sarahan is a small village perched into the slopes of these mountains at an altitude of 2165m. Surrounded by green forests, with a handful of slate roofed houses and shops, it contains the famous Bhimkali temple in the centre of the town and Sarahan palace at its extreme end. This place is known for its numerous legends. These mountains are believed to be one of the abodes of lord Shiva. The Bhimkali temple is one of the fifty one sacred Shaktipeethhs. The temple’s unusual architecture and beautiful carvings is an example of what is loosely called the Indo-Tibetan style. The temple stands tall among the little huts and hotels that have grown around it with time. Across the open expanse before us, we could see numerous snow-capped peaks and among them stood Mt. Srikhand, the highest peak in these ranges. There is an eerie quietness in the village and you can occasionally hear birds and monkeys calling out. The green forests, snow capped peaks, chilling breeze, and the legends all together beckons your inner spirit like never before. Many trek routes commence from this village and hence is a trekkers paradise.
The sunrise every morning is worth mentioning. The early sun casts its first rays across the cliffs shadowing the village and slowly lightens up the village amidst calls of birds and wild animals. One unique bird found in this village is the Sarahan pheasant, you may often find one squatting on the roofs of the village huts. One can climb up nearby hills to find better view of the village and the mountains or may go wandering into the forest trails. All in all, it’s the perfect place for someone looking for serenity and short escapades far from the throng and din of cities.