If we were doomed to live forever, we would scarcely be aware of the beauty around us ~ Peter Matthiessen
14th August 2015, at the wee hours of dark, when clock struck half past eleven in the night, the family of yours truly along with the Tyagi’s marched towards GT Karnal road from Gurgaon on a Toyota Innova to celebrate the extended holiday, thanx to our independence day, which luckily fallen this year on Saturday!
In the period of Monsoon, whether we should go to the hills or not, was the major consideration between the two families as a couple of days prior to our departure, the incident of cloud burst in the Mandi region of Himachal was the top news of all the news channels, which caused massive loss to the lives of the people and properties in and around the vicinity of the area. But when, one has already made up one’s mind and determined on it, then there are a few chances to abandon the programme and moreover our destination was not on a very high altitude. So, finally bruising all the doubts and fears kept aside, the two families left their homes and soon hit the GT road. Yes, this time, we made a minor change and instead of taking our own vehicles, we hire a Cab from a well reputed travel agency in Gurgaon “Ajay Tour and Travels”, with a driver who was the native of such hilly areas and has a good command over the steering.
Plying on the GT road on these odd hours to travel with the families and that too on the occasion of celebrating the anniversary of our independence and thinking that you are the only ingenious guy in the town to encash the opportunity, you got a great jolter soon, when you encountered numerous vehicles rushing on the road, and the kind of crowd sitting in it and the luggage they carry with themselves was enough to insinuate that majority of them are the tourists like us, who wanted to utilise the opportunity. The kind of work culture, which has attracted many youngsters to leave their homes for working in the NCR region, brought a tremendous change in the mind set of the larger section of the society, where weekends are not just for relaxing at home, instead they provide opportunity to move outside, fully utilized these two days and rejuvenate yourselves for the challenges coming next week. Perception of Gen X is changing and so is the travel industry. Now they focus more on these two days of the week and make their packages accordingly to lure and attract these city birds and the rest of the days are kept for the serious kind of travellers.
GT road is in good condition to travel even in the nights, as it offers you enough lightening and crowd of vehicles that you cannot feel yourself alone.
Since we left our homes after dinner, so it was a great relief for the senior folks not to waste their time on a road side eateries, so we took a great relief of sigh when we left behind a huge lot of cars at Sukhdev’s Dhaba and not any among the three kids showed any excitement towards its paranthas!
On a long travelling journey, the music is an integral part and we are no exceptions to it. The Innova had an inbuilt music system, and we had a countless number of songs to play from the sixties’s Bollywood songs to the present genre of Ankit tiwari to Arijit, from Gulam Ali and Jagjit Singh’s to Nusrat, But alas! All the stuff was in our respective mobiles but the Aux wire was not working! So after half an hours’s R&D in the moving car, Tushar, our connoisseurs, put off his efforts after reducing to fragments. And now, we were on the mercy of the MP3 CD’s available in the deck of the vehicle and we all know the choice of songs they offer! Thank God, FM channels gave good companionship and we prefer to indulge in some gossip to kill the time and to keep a vigil on to the driver. After all it was a night and there are lots and lots of incidents on the Indian roads where the person behind the steering took a nap and… the rest people read on the next day’s newspaper!
After all a journey is a continuous process of evolving oneself. It’s a combination of both body and soul. Physically, its a body which gets transported from one place to another but at the same time the journey of soul also happens, whether you are conscious about it or not. Believe or not, the journey of the soul is more important and fruitful than the physical one. Why? The answere is quite simple— the one gives you happiness but the another provides “mindfulness” and the later consists a long lasting effects.
The road was clean, the weather was cool outside and the AC was so efficient that we had to give children a shawl rather to keep them warm and energetic. In such perfect conditions, when suddenly you saw a signboard and then wondered, Great! we have covered nearly 240 Kms uninterrupted, found themselves riding on the bridge of Ambala Cantt, bypassing the dense populated area aside. Thankfully, I got it recognize at the right moment, after all Ambala is my birthplace and it will always keep a special place in my heart. My wife too had lots of sweet memories associated with this place as the city is the home of her maternal uncles and they spent quite a time during their long summer holidays. These are the reasons enough to bring a satisfactorily smile on our faces. Remembering that period of time, with some teasing on each other we crossed the city and found a road side dhabba near Dera Bassi.
It was about three O’clock in the morning, but we were not the only ones to stop there for sipping a hot cup of tea. Many cars were already parked having families in it. The place was well lit up and had clean toilets. The ambience was totally Punjabi as the place was very near to the Punjab border. The King size poster of highly acclaimed animated movie, “Chaar Sahibzaade” i.e. four sons, based on the sacrifice of two innocent and minor kids of Guru Gobind Singh Ji was on one of the wall, a hall of fame galaxy of famous stars of Hindi and Punjabi Industry on an another wall, of-course Dhram Pahji was the shining star and got special status among them (Plz excuse for the poor quality of pics, as they were taken by a cell phone in dim light conditions). Apart from the ambience, the tea offered by the Dhaba was a superb one having the strong flavour of ginger and other dry herbs, which clearly reflected the quality of milk of the area. Along with the tea, we prefer to take some farsans(Gujrati snacks), which my wife Jatinder had brought from the city of Rajkot in Gujarat, while returning from there on her official visit, which ended on our scheduled day of departure. All in all, a comfortable place to spend half an hour or so to relax and prepare ourselves for the next phase of journey.
Now our next target was Panchkula and we, once again aboard on our vehicle and from there, we would take the road towards Shimla, until we reached KandaGhat. Journey was on, covering one milestone after another, leaving behind villages, towns, signboards… first Pachkula then Parvanoo, next Solan and when the first ray of sun hit the horizon, we landed at Kandhaghat. Ravi’s initial plan was to take some shots of sunrise at the place, after all sun rise and sunset are the two vital times of the day which always fascinates the photographers, and pose new challenges even to the pro’s so why not the kids take it as an opportunity! But a thick layer of clouds forced him to abandon his long awaited wish and with a heavy heart he dismantled the lens and kept the camera in the bag!
From Kandhaghat, we had to make call to the manager of the camp, as there are two to three diversions taking place from here. Our destination compelled us to take a left turn towards SadhuPul. Incidentally the main Pul(Bridge) had been badly damaged in this mansoon season, so the army which has a base camp in Chail made a temporarily bridge across the river which is serving well for the army itself and the local public of the area. This place is around one km prior to the original location of the bridge. You cross the bridge to find many tourists vehicle standing in the vicinity of the river, as the place has many camps here and there and you would often saw some tourists giving some poses on the banks of this mountain river.
Early hours of the day, and finally you are at the verge of your dreamed destination, The camp Chrysalid!
Wait! Till now you do not know anything about the place where this camp is situated, So, let’s peep something towards this beautiful small town Junga, which lies in God’s own country Himachal. They say, centuries before, a few members of Sen dynesty fled from Bengal because of volatile conditions in their kingdom and took refuse in the isolated region of this area. In due course of time, they established their independent states which in the present time known to us as Junga, Mandi, Suket and Sirmore.
Now Junga is a tehsil, situated at the height of nearly 5000 ft. River Ashvini flows near to it. The important thing about Junga is that it lies somewhere midway( around 20 and 28 km each) between the two very famous places of Himachal, Shimla and Chail. The summer capital of pre independent India Shimla is famous for its scenic beauties and favourite destination in summers among the domestic tourists while Chail is also a well known place for its majestic snow-capped Shivalik peaks, beautiful orchards, Chail Palace and Cricket ground and the royal palace of the Maharaja to name a few.
Still, Junga is less explored than the other tourist destinations of the region, so you can enjoy the lush green vegetation and fill your lungs with oxygen rich non polluted air. The place consists of many small villages on the hills. The main occupation of the people here is agriculture and you can see, small farms cultivating green vegetables. If you know Himachal for only its apples, tomatoes and bell peppers, then you will be surprised to know that they grow almost all the crops and vegetables in their fields. The natives of the region are simple and helpful and speak in Dogri, which has a similar tone and many words of Punjabi itself.
Now, move forward and after covering 2-3 km, there comes a village Mahesu, in which our camp was located. The road to the camp is not a smooth one. The road is all Katcha and has some steep ups and downs, You need a perfection on the steering on such paths otherwise better to contact to the camp people for arranging a local driver for this final stretch. This final leg of your journey makes you thrilled as well as ignites more excitement and curiosity about your next few days in the camp.
The good part is that the vehicle gets you to just in front of the camp. Now just you have to come down and enter in the camp area. They have enough staff, which will carry your luggage and other stuffs into your allotted tents.
Mr Maninder Sen(belonging to the same Sens’ of Bengal), welcomes you at the entrance of the camp with a very cheerful smile. He is accompanied with some dogs too, which you normally see in most of the camps and they are trained enough to give you company and take care of your kids. After a whole night’s journey, which also consists of a considerable part on hilly tracks, the one thing you might desire is a nice and hot cup of tea, which can instantly charge you and bring back you into your senses.
At 7 a.m. the sunlight is out but the yellow orb is still behind the thick layers of clouds, the air has some nip, morning freshness of the hills greets you from all over your surroundings and now you experiencing all this with a cup of tea holding with both your hands, in the semi open dining area of the camp, surrounded with lush green trees and chirping of some familiar and most of unfamiliar birds, gives you sense of pride that you picked a right place for your hard earned vacations. Not uncommon for us to analyse and compare this camp, with our earlier visited camps which have some amazing memories in our hearts. Meanwhile, the Kids found the trees of Peaches and pears, and kept themselves busy tried to pluck the garden fresh fruits and here,as we finished our tea, Mr Sen was showing us our tents, A printed list of some do’s and don’ts, how to get hot water from the solar plant placed in the camp etc etc the same kind of rituals……
Now, it’s the time to unpack your luggage’s as you have at least two full hours to refresh yourself till the time breakfast is served in the dining area. At, 9 am, the attendant informed us the breakfast is laid in the dining area. Since we all have dressed up till now, so we marched towards there. Hot Aloo pranthas with butter and curd, bread, jam, eggs etc with tea, coffee, tetra packed fruit juices, milk and bournvita, a nice blend to cater the needs and requirements of different age group people . You appreciate the maker of the menu and the staff too, whom are responsible for arranging all these things here, as the camp is miles away from the main market of the area.
The freshness of the morning, cool breeze, moderate temperature and above all a heavy breakfast reminds you that you have not slept even for a second for the past twenty four hours and one by one all the members of our troop, the driver too, prefer to retire into their tents for a nap of few hours until the staff would inform us that the lunch has been laid in the dining area…. Continuandum