On the way to Khajjiar—a spot of Kashmir in Himachal
While making plans for the days of our stay at Jammu, my friend offered, “First it would be Dalhousie for you. A few days later I will join you there. From Dalhousie we would drive to Khajjiar for one night’s stay. We would then return to Jammu via Jot pass. Later we would go to Dharamshala and Patnitop.”
I didn’t like the sound of the name, “What a name—Khajjiar! Nothing sweet or beautiful in it.” He smiled patiently, “We call it mini-Kashmir here. You will like it.” I have no special fascination for Kashmir or any other so-called most beautiful tourist place. Anywhere. For me a span of wilderness with deep green cover may be a source of deep pleasure. Nothing very organized or ordered I consider natural. Again, this was an unplanned relaxed trip—anything would go here. Awkward sounding but Kashmir-like Khajjiar! No problem, let it be Khajjiar then, at the least it would surely be quite soothing to the eyes.
As planned it was first Dalhousie. Now our stay at Dalhousie over, it was time to move on.
Morning still young, my friend arrived right on time in his small red car. “Let’s take a quick breakfast and start,” he set the tone of the day. I finished my breakfast early and took the last shot of Dalhousie from the open balcony of our hotel.
Last morning at Dalhousie
“We would reach Khajjiar within two hours. It is about 22 kms or so from here.” He informed. “Let’s start,” I said. Mornings usually begin with me all eagerness.
The wheels started rolling.
To my satisfaction, I found the winding road covered with tall old trees of high altitude varieties. These trees, mostly Deodars, also known as Cedars elsewhere, rise straight up aspiring to touch the sky. Tall and slim has a certain beauty.
Taking a bend we saw a rather large group of people doing something on the stretch ahead. “Accident?” I wondered aloud. Then I noticed the snow. It was just one lone drift of snow coming down on to the road. The only patch of snow still not melted away. The men and women got the news of this great novelty and had come possibly from Dalhousie to get a feel of this wonderful rare thing.
April snow on the way to Khajjiar
We got down for a few minutes to capture the snow loving group of people looking out of place amidst the steep green hills. It is but natural for us people living in India to get attracted to rare snow near at hand in April. Work done we moved ahead leaving them behind.
In a short while I noticed through the tall trees on the left a large hill rising like a dome. A few sloping roof building structures on the top looked small and cute from the distance. Apart from a few bare patches the houses were surrounded by thick forest even at the top. “That should be Kalatop.” My friend muttered. “This is the Kalatop forest reserve.” “Nice. It would be good to stay at the top.” I said. Snow must be accumulating on the bare patches during winter, I thought.
Kalatop through tall Deodars
At the base of the large hill, forest ceased, a wide expanse cleared away for terrace cultivation and oh, a modern multi-storied building! That should be a part of Khajjiar and the tall building must be a hotel, I thought. I had heard about Kalatop from my friend.
Spread-out Khajjiar nestling
We had stopped the car by the side of the road and soaked in the surroundings. The trees were tall and had thick foliage—all deodar with one or two pines. These trees can rise up to great heights if allowed to. Horizontal spread not much and the overall shape conical. Perhaps this shape enables these great trees to carry the load of heavy snow during winter.
They jostled together densely to create a dark green hue. I looked closer at the large hilltop.
Close view of Kalatop
Light green terraced fields look so nice. A number of terrace patches amidst the dense forest. The soil must be fertile here with no landslides like Sikkim. The dense tree cover must be contributing to the firmness of the soil. A steeply rising series of terraces through the trees caught my attention.
I turned a little and had a last look at Kalatop through tall trees.
Kalatop through the trees
The road ahead veered left and vanished around a bend on the right. We had still some distance to go.
The road vanishes round the bend
Tukai took up the camera from me and focused nearer. That is his mark. Occasional unheralded wayside flower, an unsuspecting beetle or a butterfly sitting peacefully on a flower—Tukai’s favorites.
Unheralded wayside flower
“Let’s start. Still some way to go,” said my friend. We got into the car.
This is what I like most—gliding along a winding tree covered hill road, stopping wherever fancy strikes, unhurriedly roaming around absorbing the scenes and then moving forward again.
Within a short while another halt—the view on the left too attractive to pass by. Far ahead and at a lower altitude we could see an elongated grassy clearing with dense walls of dark green trees all around. A few low buildings looked very small from this far.
Khajjiar lake far away
“That is Khajjiar Lake. We are going there,” said my friend. I looked closer and found no trace of any lake. “But where is the lake?” I asked. “Chalo na, we will search it out,” replied my friend with a smile.
Khajjiar lake, closer
He had stayed earlier in Dalhousie for two years on work and must have had to visit Khajjiar a number of times before.
Suddenly a floating speck against the backdrop of green hills caught my eyes. It was moving fast down the left. Looking closer I could make out a human form hanging from a large chute. “Oh that’s a paraglide.” I and Tukai both looked at the fast vanishing paraglide with wonder. We had never seen anything like it before. How can a man or woman dare to hang so precariously high above the ground and float serenely down towards a small landing area! If the glide somehow misses the clearing and hits the trees—nah, it is beyond me. I can’t do it. Those must be very brave people—I decided.
The paraglider vanished below behind the trees. We looked ahead. The road took a hairpin turn left and dipped.
A short straight run and then the road turned right and moved upwards. After quite a while now we had some company on the road. Traffic is sparse in this area. At least during this time.
Traffic on the lonely mountain road
I was looking down and didn’t notice the snow range on the horizon till Tukai pointed it to me. That is high Himalayas—perhaps Dhauladhar mountains, and not near enough to perceive its majesty.
Snow peaks far away
We allowed both the small car and the bus to pass by and then started to roll again. But only for a short while. A second paraglide came into view. We stopped the car. I was determined to capture its glide this time.
Zooming in, its dark blue stood out. No doubt it’s beautiful.
Dark blue speck
I followed its path carefully. The blue floating speck smoothly glided down towards the clearing of Khajjiar lake. That must be its landing area.
After a few dipping turns we halted for the last time to take a grandstand view of Khajjiar lake. “We are nearly there,” told my friend.
Being nearer, we couldn’t see the full stretch of the clearing unhindered.
Separated from the clearing of the lake, another clearing could be seen on the right amidst the dense surrounding forest. A few building structures and even a telecom tower could be made out.
Though the average altitude of Dalhousie and Khajjiar are nearly same, the road to Khajjiar rise and then dip towards the Khajjiar lake moving through the tall deodar trees rising from both sides of the hills. The short journey was exquisitely beautiful.