Patnitop first day—A short trip from Jammu
Thirty five years ago a group of us friends had the occasion to stay in Delhi area for a few months. During the period, a few of the friends made a quick getaway to Kalpa in Himachal Pradesh. I went to a different destination and couldn’t go with the group. Till today I remember the excitement of my friends when they recounted their Kalpa experience—the soft green valley, the clear view of the gradually rising snow peaks of the Kinnar Kailash range of the Himalayas and specially the vineyards and the orchards.
They were overwhelmed by the beauty of the young hill maidens with fresh rosy cheeks who plucked, of all things, ripe apples from an orchard and offered them. My friends were young. I shared their joy. And I never could forget that Himachal Pradesh held something special for the lover of natural beauty.
Now when opportunity came my way for a stay with my new friend at Jammu for a few days I asked him, “What will you show me? Can I visit a few of the beautiful hilly places around?” My friend stayed in Himachal for many years. It didn’t take long to make a plan perfectly suited to our taste and convenience.
We decided—no Kashmir this time. We will go for Himachal. Perhaps old memories pulled me to Himachal. Within the limited number of days the plan was to cover Dalhousie first. From Dalhousie my friend would pick us up and we would next stop at Khajjiar, the mini-Kashmir of Himachal. From Khajjiar we would take a long route to Jammu.
"That's all?" I asked. My friend added, "We have Patnitop not far from Jammu. You may perhaps like a short trip to Patnitop after a break at Jammu." I liked the idea. Though Patnitop belonged to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, it would provide a nice little topping to the gorgeous Dalhousie Khajjiar treat, we decided. We were not wrong.
Patnitop—the summer hill resort
I had never heard of Patnitop before. For that matter, if I stop to think, I haven’t heard about many of the nicest places around the globe. The earth holds so much beauty and so many places where you can enjoy nature to your heart’s content!
It turned out that Patnitop is one of the favorite week-end destinations for the Jammu folks. Situated within a distance of only about 110 kms from Jammu by road at an altitude of about 6500 ft above sea level, surrounded by sloping valleys and hills clad in Chinar, Pine and Deodar forests, Patnitop has a special beauty that could be reached only within two hours from Jammu.
Naturally it gained the status of a prime tourist destination from Jammu. Our plan was to start in the morning of day one, stay for the night, move around the place and return for Jammu on the second day end.
It was April. As planned we started at around 7 in the morning. The road rose slowly winding upwards hugging the hillside.
The mountain road
The hillside here is not like Garhwal Himalayas, rather it reminded me of the Kumaons. The open view of gentle rolling hills clad in chinar, deoadar, pine and willows was soothing to the eyes. When you looked down from the moving car, you could see through the thinning trees far away and might spot the sloping tiled roof of a house in a small village snuggling on a relatively flat place on the hillside.
These trees rose straight to a fairly good height and branches being nearly non-existent do not pose any barrier to the view. I noticed the small girth of the trunks—old trees had much thicker trunks. Most of them had been cut away.
We reached Patnitop gloomy with clouds and winds whistling through the trees. This is the usual weather this time of the year. The time of unbroken clear skies was over. It was cold though rains won’t come we felt.
True to its name, on the top of a hill a relatively flat area had been chosen to set up the beautiful green topped staying places with a wide open space in front followed by down sloping hills again.
There was no other tourist around. We had the place all to ourselves. Dumping the luggage in the allotted rooms, we came out again.
Patnitop guest house
On the way we had breakfast and some time still left before we would have a late lunch. In no time Tukai spotted a stretch of small multicolored flowers that lay like a colored cover on the ground.
Wherever there is a multitude of people or flowers for that matter, you would always find one that stands apart. Tukai turned his attention to the special one.
Like me and Tukai the flowers attracted others also. We can only enjoy the beauty of a flower or pluck it, but the honeybee does what nature ordained it to do to a flower. Without a bee a flower is never complete.
Flower and the bee
We turned from the flower bed and returned to the wide compound. A well-made path skirted around the oval shaped compound. Old quaint metal benches invited one.
A quiet rest
The occasional garbage bins were like bright red strawberries and looked good with the overall design.
A cute little hut stood alone at the edge of the clearing. Its two tiers of sloping green roof merged with the greens around.
Leaving the clearing we moved to the back of the compound exploring and were greeted with a view of snow peaks far away. Heat had started melting the snow in patches. These peaks were not very high for the snow to withstand the effect of oncoming summer.
Snow view from Patnitop
When we looked around, a bare hill top with a small white patch of snow caught our eyes. We had seen snow peaks many times, but never such a hill top with a melting snow hat. A few months ago, the hill must have been firmly covered in snow. Now it is losing the snow cover fast. My friend told me, “We would visit a place near that hill tomorrow. We would touch snow.” Tukai welcomed the news. He never had touched snow before.
The wind blew harder and light faded. We called it a day. Tomorrow we would start early, spend a few hours in the place where snow came down to the road and then would start on our way back to Jammu for a late lunch.