Delicate pink touch on snow top—early morning at Dalhousie—a jewel in the Himachal hills
Yesterday evening again we went out for a short after-dinner walk along the Viewpoint Avenue. In a way the avenue, arguably the best walking stretch in Dalhousie, lay across our doorstep. It was so convenient! I came to know later that the hillock around which our road turned round was called Portreyn Hill. Consequently we could have called our Viewpoint Avenue as the Portreyn Avenue also. But for me, convenience in a name was of utmost importance, and so it would be Viewpoint Avenue for us.
It was about 8.30 in the evening. The street lights customarily dim. Dots of lights spread all over the hillsides below, above and front. Only in the night, if you look from the top, you can get an idea of the true extent and spread of civilization. Oh, the lights even had spread to the sky! The stars twinkling through the thick foliage of the old trees made us happy. We could still make out hints of dark grey smudges of remnants of clouds. But the sky was clearing up, no doubt.
Before we started the trip I had asked my friend, how to go about covering the city of Dalhousie as a tourist—can he tell me where I can get a Dalhousie City map? He was very amused but answered with his characteristic seriousness, “No tension. Dalhousie main city roads form the shape of a large 8. Your hotel is on the smaller circle of the 8. Subhas Chowk is at the junction of the two circles of the 8 and Gandhi Chowk is at the outer tip of the larger circle of 8. You can walk on and on, round and round, and cover most of the important points of interest without ever getting lost.” We later found the idea of 8 to be the best and smallest city map of Dalhousie.
It just so happened that our hotel was located near the midway point of valley facing arm of the smaller circle of the 8. This part of the road we named our Viewpoint Road. Many places on this road had old metal railings where you could rest your elbows and look down to the valley below. On your far right, you could make out parts of the Pir Panjal range far away. The jagged barren peaks would move from right to left unceasingly for some time. Directly straight opposite stood a large hill rising so high that it had got crowned by a nice patch of pure white snow last winter. From this hilltop the range continuously lost height towards left and merged with the plains—how, we had seen on our way up here.
But that was yesterday. Today we woke up suitably early. Quickly we put on our clothes and came up to occupy a vantage point of observation. This was on the rooftop of another hotel at road level with railings towards the valley. We stood facing the valley with no obstruction in front. The sun had risen only a few minutes. A delicate touch of pink painted the snow top of the large hill straight across the valley.
First light on the snow cap of the large hill
The whole of the valley and our side of the hill, all were dark without sunshine yet. The sun had risen behind the hillock at our level on our right. I couldn’t resist the temptation to have a closer look to the dimpled pink snow patch. It was cute with soft inviting curves.
Inviting pink snow bed
It seemed to be permanent snow but I had doubts. Compared to other temporary snows it might last longer, but it should also disappear by a month at most I guessed.
I panned my take from left to right with the same middle distance zoom. As we turned our head right, we would approach the sunrise area, and the pink tinge would disappear in increasing white glare.
Light not yet on other peaks
The pink-top hill was barely in view far left as we had moved our field of view to the right quite a bit. Nearby below us lower parts of Dalhousie were still in the shadow zone. Not only the larger peak but a few smaller peaks also got a touch of first sun.
A few more pink touches at the top
This time we had turned our view right slightly, not much. The pink-top was still visible at the far left corner, but only a small part. On the Valley below, a distinctive orange colored two storied smart looking house had entered the frame far right.
Waiting for light
The orange-colored house had now moved on the left of the field of view. There was little to identify amongst the jagged edges of the cliffs on the horizon. But one thing was sure—practically no peak had any light on them. The ridge at the back had started showing ice on their peaks.
Signs of perennial snow peaks
The line of the trees below curved upwards indicating that we approached the higher level hill that actually blocked the sunrays. On the horizon now the real snow peaks were on view. None had any light on them except a rounded domelike one. This was the ridge farthest back.
Tinged real snow peaks
Not a great change. The four storied green topped white house had shifted left along with the dome-like pink-tinged snow peak. A portion of the railing on the rooftop balcony the photographers stood on showed up—we had nearly reached the end. Still there was no light on the snow peaks except on the white dome on the far left. But these were the real snow peaks with permanent ice and were part of the Pir Panjal range. And it occurred to me from last evening’s memories—we would get a good sunset view today—the sun would set far left of the frame and would color the snow ranges on the far right very comfortably.
Jagged line of peaks of Pir Panjal
This had been our last and rightmost shot of the panned series. Still the jagged peaks of Pir Panjal at the horizon were without light. When light would come, it would come in color white.
Hillock behind which sun rose
This had been the hillock further right at the upper road level that blocked the sun all this time. The hillside at this level was more densely inhabited. Tree covers had not been cleared but modern colorful buildings at various levels had come up within the trees. Road surfaces were not visible, but with high zoom those also came into view. On the whole, Dalhousie habitation nestled on densely wooded hillsides almost wholly covered by thick greeneries.
It was April, the dusty period. The greens turned into grey this time. I could imagine how beautiful it would look just after the rainy season, all freshly washed sparkling green. But again, with a delay of two more months, we would have clear cold days interspersed with snows.
By now the sunrays had come down from the pink top and covered half of the valley below. The other half was still in the shadow of our own hillock only, I suddenly realized.
Half the valley sun-drenched
Now the sun was up drenching half the valley in clear bright light. The shadow retreated towards us but slowly. It was the shadow of our own hillock.
Dawn on the horizon
Looking wide and far in front the pink haze near the horizon heralded breaking of the day. The ridge lost height on the left, gradually fading away. Somewhere on the left large water bodies lay.
That was the way river Ravi went down. That way we came. While coming up, we didn’t see the large lakes. Only now we got a hint just on the edge far left.
Large water bodies ahead
Sporadic large water bodies indicated large lakes, but as the whole area lay on the path of Ravi we couldn’t be sure that those were not fragments of the flow of Ravi itself.
All along, the red roofed house attracted our attention. Though it was some distance away from us towards left, its location was great and it stood alone. It was prominently visible from all over the hillside.
Picturesque building, Dalhouse
It was shaded by thick woods on three sides. No other habitation nearby—quite secluded with only trees as company. Farther away the hill fell away to the Ravi valley below. What a place for meditation!
Later in the day we identified the attractive building for what it was.
Straight view, Dalhousie
By then the sunlit zone had advanced quite a bit towards us. From the level we stood, the woods were thick going down. After a gradual slope the land flattened out and stretched forward. The green cover disappeared gradually. We could identify some important buildings in this area by their size and construction.
Densely wooded area
But on another part, the stretch near the drop to the gorge below was still found to be wooded. From the looks of it, this was not an official area. The orange house caught our attention from this moment on.
A rare cluster of houses
Usually houses didn’t crowd on each other in this area. Higher up on the upper levels, clusters might be common, but not here. Nevertheless some clusters were inevitable, even on this woody stretch.
The orange house
The orange house looked like a toy house, but it was very attractive. On the whole expanse there was not any other construction half as eye-catching. Now in bright sunlight we could see signs of further habitation on the second rise further away.
A village at Dalhousie
We turned our attention to a less inhabited area. We could spot terraced cultivation for the first time here. That must be a modern Dalhousie village around the cultivated fields. A few clusters of houses still appeared on view frame.
Dense healthy woods
I wanted to see the woods in full glory. These were middle altitude trees and seemed to be much younger than most of the trees lining up our Viewpoint Avenue. My initial assumption was perhaps wrong—the trees were cut away alright. But replanting and caring for the trees started since at least fifty years had passed.
I looked at my watch. It was just about 7 am. “Let’s go inside,” Tukai echoed my thoughts.
We went down a few steps to our hotel room, sated. Enormous stretches of beautiful scenes merged together in a uniform pleasurable sensation.