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Heavenly Himachal

By Roopak Khandekar



Waiting for hours to ski and play in the snow at Rohtang Pass, and a few more hours when your return journey is delayed due to a landslide; visiting spots like the Hidimba temple; feeling the warmth and enjoying the pleasant ambience of British-era hotels; wearing a nice sweater you successfully bargained for in one of those jam-packed woolen clothes sales; or relishing some plums you picked off a tree… it’s heavenly, it’s Himachal. The state of Himachal Pradesh, located in the upper Himalayas, is a great place to escape the scorching Indian summer. Be it tourist destinations, scenic views, adventure sports, handicrafts…this little state has it all.
The Toy Train to Shimla passes through dozens of tunnels and takes sharp curves and steep gradients in its (in some people’s view, boring) 6-hour, 90-odd km journey from Kalka. If you are being driven round in Dalhousie, your driver suddenly takes a sharp turn and you find yourself going along a street you could not imagine existing in the location where it actually does. On at least one occasion, your vehicle will be crossing a fully-packed HPRTC bus on a narrow bridge. You look down from your window and see your vehicle perilously on the edge of the bridge…your heart skips a beat. Another heart-stopping experience is that of being tossed around violently while you cling to the ropes on your raft in the rapids of the Beas (wearing your precious helmets and life-jackets, of course). Or, you can join your feathered friends, though only for a few minutes, as you para-glide in the skies, seeing Himachal as the birds see it. And I’d strongly suggest NOT doing what I did en route to Rohtang Pass: falling asleep.
You’ll probably have some eatery within your reach whenever your stomach rumbles. Paranthas with generous amounts of stuffing and ghee make for a great start of the day. For people who eat meat, the Himachali trout (a type of freshwater fish) is definitely worth a try. If not, then there is Himachali pulao. Higher up in the mountains you can relish hot momos (not of Himachali origin, but certainly delightful in the cold mountain air). I remember some shop in Shimla which sold pickles of almost anything that can be made into a pickle. And, just in case you aren’t in the mood to experiment, there is always all that routine stuff like paneer bhurji or stuffed tomatoes or the locally quite popular rajma or some other item you’ll find on any menu card. Also quite common in the state are outlets of Himachal Agro Products selling jams, syrups etc. of a large variety of fruits.
Large crowds throng the markets at all major hill stations in Himachal Pradesh. There are plenty of handicrafts, woolen articles etc., for sale. There is something for everyone to take back as a souvenir of their journey to this wonderful place.
Losing yourself in the lush green environs of Khajjiar lake, or pampering your eyes with all sorts of flowers in all sorts of colours in Shimla’s Horticulture Centre, or letting all your worries be washed away in a sip of apple cider or hot tea while staring at the snow-clad peaks of the Himalayas… it’s heavenly, it’s Himachal.


 

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