Dalhousie: The Underrated Paradise of Himachal Pradesh
Why did I pack my bag for Dalhousie?
Being stuck during the last two years due to COVID restrictions, gave the most valid reason for me to pack my bags and set off travelling. For the destination I chose to travel after a long break, not only did I pack my essentials, but I also packed my courage. That’s because I chose to go on an adventure of a lifetime, where one mistake could cost me MY OWN LIFE! This was: To finally go paragliding, to visit Mini Switzerland of India ~ of course, until I can afford to visit the real thing ~ and to see what else Dalhousie has to offer.
Getting to Dalhousie
I boarded the Dhauladhar Express at 11 p.m. from Delhi, and deboarded at 9 in the morning at Pathankot station. I’d already reserved a taxi for the rest of the tour, but little did I know that I would also be meeting a local driver, who would later take me to the best scenic views, waterfalls that slaked my parched mind, helped me strike the best bargains, eat at the best and most affordable restaurants and, most importantly, ensured that I managed my time in the most effective way. It took me two hours to reach the hotel I had booked prior to leaving Pathankot.
Hotel Gitanjali, read the board and it was far from the luxury resorts, which offer shiny interiors, sparkling pools and giant lounges. This hotel reflected the character of mountain life ~ what the locals follow and what is sustainable and adaptive to the mountains. The manager narrated how this hotel was from India’s pre-Independence era, that it once housed Britishers and their families as guests and, finally, the effort of the Himachal Pradesh state government to maintain it the way it was. The hotel was made of wood, the doors were old, the room had wooden walls and a window that showed the clouds floating between the mountains. The ceiling had no fans and there was a table and chair, where one could imagine an author sitting down writing. The room featured two complementary colors: wooden brown and cream white. A sturdy vintage bed completed the picture of a period far removed from the pace of this age.
Switzerland of India
My friendly taxi driver was waiting for me next morning and for two hours I was on the road, taking in the views, giving meaning to Lucky Ali’s voice and lyrics of all the travel songs I could hear on my playlist. Soon I was at Khajjiar ~ the Mini Switzerland of India. The sky was decorated with parachutes and I felt my blood rushing through my veins. I negotiated and then signed the consent form for paragliding. Then I trekked to the top of the hill, leaving me breathing heavily, taking the deepest breaths I’d ever taken in the previous 22 years. Since I was not carrying my water bottle, I enjoyed the cool water coming off the mountain sides in miniature falls. Finally I reached the top of the mountain, from where I took off, or simply began my paragliding. The four minutes in the sky were chilling and freezing but not scary. It felt like having wings for real. I landed and then explored Khajjiar ~ a landscape with a mini lake, tall trees, cattle grazing, and a landscape waiting for Yashraj Productions to shoot one of their films.