Our first morning in Dalhousie started amidst sips of hot mugs of tea as we mentally scanned our to do list and planned the day's itinary while gazing at the sun rising from behind the Pir Panjal range (our room did have the best view with its French Windows). A quick breakfast n we climbed into our taxi and headed to Kalatop Wild Life Sanctuary. Wonder why it's known as Kalatop (nothing Kala abt it- its all shades of green but no black). Well! a 45 minute long rickety drive spiraling up the mountain, we came to the sanctuary gate selling entry tickets. The journey from the gate was a quite one, probably because we were awestruck as we gaped at the dense dark cedar forests menacingly slanting and closing in on us from one side of the kaccha Rasta while the other side had the deep valley with the gurgling Ravi hurriedly flowing through its course. Clearing through the forest we reached the famed Forest Rest house- a Wooden Cottage (often shown in films) nestled amidst lush green meadows with an even more forebodingly wild jungle backdrop.
The sanctuary is hardly a 31 sq km area forest with bear and mountain animals living in it. The Forest Rest house despite its fresh paint and repairs looked like it had stories to tell from the Raj era with all the forest legends. Walking away from the forest Rest house, towards the edge of the mountain as the sunlight brightened the lushness of the meadows with tinges of yellows here and there enhancing the Cottage's thatched roof; I realized that this was the perfect postcard picture setting which must surely look equally enthralling during snow clad winters. The more time, we spent here, the more addicted we became to the view and surroundings as though living a page or a story out of an Enid Blyton book. We had to tear ourselves away from the place and leave for Khajjiar.
It was afternoon by the time we reached Khajjiar which is nothing more than "lush green pastures n meadows dotted with small water bodies and brigdes" lined with thick cedar forests on one side; and small dhabas, insistent and persistent horse riders (kicking up brown dust and dirtying the pristineness of the green pasture) and trinket sellers on the other. Fat fluffy and furry sheep grazed here flitting in and out of the forest and drinking from the ponds as vendors walked around selling pink cotton candies to children.
I realized that It is Khajjiar, whose photos are mostly put up in Dalhousie's tourism sites- it indeed looked like Europe from far as we relished the view binging on hot Maggie and washing it down with lassi in one of the dhabas. The ride and snakey roads of the mountain along with the dust was now making us drowsy, moreover, clouds were deciding to settle down on the roads; so we decided to head back and stroll through the quite hill road behind our hotel before retiring for the day.
Walking through the quite mystical hills while lofty clouds crammed the roads n lanes; I felt like I was walking thru some sort of an Avalonian land (wudnt be surprised if suddenly Merlin wud hve burst out of the trees accompanied by an entourage of fairies -Dunno why they call this Switzerland of India, it shud be called Avalon).. well, after all that walking thru a Fairytaley Overcast ambience, didnt have the heart ro cram my tummy with Shere Punjab's Masaledar khana (Shere Punjab is supposed to be the best restaurant there).. besides, we searched high n low for Himachali local Dham n Madra but looks like it's food is as elusive as Fairies n Merlin, except for appearances in Langars n Poojas. Gliding thru meadows n jungle we again landed up in the Mall Road when the clouds (settled in the roads n lanes) finaly decided to burst...Stranded in a light drizzle watching the Olive Green trees turn to lush green after being bathed by the rain, we decided enuough of treat to the eyes, now its time to do some Pet Pooja n chose to eat at Dalhousie Cafe- a cafe that has survived since the British Raj.... The entrance of the cafe greeted us with a Victorian Knocker.
The interiors hve been kept simple with Victorian wooden furnitures that still have the aura of the Raj times... The walls are lined with nostalgic Black n White photos of Dalhousie's Monumental places from the British times.. I felt like I hve travelled back in time to some other world.
We enjoyed our meal while watching the drizzle intensify into a proper rain now thoroughly washing thru the Hillside jungles n listening to the rains tap dancing on the cafe's glass windows.. Must say, a perfect dream like end to yet another dreamlike day in Dalhousie.