Few days of Delhi's June scorching summer month was enough to make us sluggish, listless and irritable. Sustained 45°C day temperature can significantly influence the individual's peaceful DNA. Therefore, compelled by the harsh unrelenting sun, we decided to chill out in the cooler climes of Himachal.
Himachal looked to be the paradise as the monsoon clouds had just opened up there, blessing the region with even more greenery. The right location to get rejuvenated.
So a quick holiday from Delhi was the need of the hour and was agreed to by all.
Obviously it is not easy to to spurn the allure of the mist clad mountains! The hill stations of Himachal Pradesh become very romantic when it rains, as the clouds play hide and seek with the peaks and the trees.
Shimla (6890 feet), the Queen of the Hills as it was known during the British Raj, was our first destination. It had to be, being the nearest main town in Himachal to Delhi (342 km). Old Shimla is gracefully perched on the Shimla Ridge, but today the capital is a big sprawl downwards from the ridge.
It is possible to spot some of the famous buildings of Shimla as you drive up to Shimla. Christ Church, located on the mall road is easy to spot. The Municipal building of the colonial era, located on the mall road, is said to be amongst the most elegant buildings in India.
All the heritage buildings in Shimla had a shine of fresh wash, due to the recent rains. The old and elegant Gaiety Theatre, restored to its original glory, was a welcome sight. Light weight monsoon clouds hovered around here and there, making the hills look like as if they wore a light veil.
Shimla's mall road during the monsoons is often mist clad, thus mysterious, offering many wondrous opportunities to photograph.
A popular sightseeing event in Shimla is to witness the sunset at Scandal Point, yet another location to take lovely photographs.
As the evening approached, the Municipal Building was lit up, and with the mist occasionally shrouding it, there was a magic all around. Hot bhuttas on the mall road looked very inviting, and we had a fill of it.
But with the quick advent of darkness, us Delhi wallahs felt the chill getting injected into our bones. During the day it was a delicious cool breeze. Brrrrr ... Time to crash into our beds. We were extremely tired as well.
Next day we had to start early as the plan was to drive to Manali/Kullu Valley. The road from Shimla to Manali meanders through many lovely emerald coloured vistas. On the way is expansive Pandoh dam as well as the deep gorge of the Beas River. Both are stunning to look at and one must spend some time here. Here, it is also the time to do some heavy lifting, i.e. photograph taking.
After dumping our bags at our hotel in Manali, we decided to explore our neighbourhood, in the rain, delightfully capturing images of the hills.
Hadimba Devi temple (made of wood and slate like the neighbouring homes) and the Buddhist Nyingma monastery were photographed from all possible angles. A slow-paced trip through the stalls selling colourful souvenirs in the Tibetan market made the women in our group moan oohs and aahs.
About an hour's drive away from Kullu is a small village called Naggar. It is particularly known for its famous wooden castle. The young and bubbly Beas River is once again crossed, to reach this quiet oasis. Thick cedar wood is the primary building material in this area.
This wood and stone, richly carved castle is built in the traditional Kullu style of architecture. There is a wraparound balcony from which stunning views of the Beas Valley are to be had.
Naggar is well known as well for the Russian painter Roerich. There is a museum that displays his paintings. It is believed that Roerich left clues hidden in his paintings to the path to Shambhala, the land of plenty and health as believed by the Tibetans.
This short trip was enough to recharge us. The journey back, while long, felt not so long as our memories of the short trip were fresh enough for us to ignore the heat of the plains.
Kullu Valley hosts many festivals, but we didn't get to see any one of them. Perhaps our timing was not right. But it was right as we felt as we have drunk on elixir.