This is kind of like a diary entry which I typed long ago for my school magazine.
Dalhousie is a beautiful, quiet little hill station in the state of Himachal Pradesh surrounded by five hills. Established in 1854 by the erstwhile British Empire in India as a summer retreat for its troops, prisoners and bureaucrats, the town was named after the viceroy in India at that time. It is located on the western edge of the Dhauladhar mountain range of the Himalayas at a height of 6,400 meters above sea level.
Well, that's where we went for camping in the summer of 2009. All of us were excited about the prospect of living together in alpine tents, and seeing the wonders that the place holds. After more than thirty hours of traveling, we finally reached our campsite, which was on the hillside, opposite and roughly three kilometers from the town, deliberately not supplied with electricity and away from civilization.
And what we saw there was truly breathtaking. The magnificent view of the Chamba Valley and the inspiring snow-clad peaks filled the entire horizon there, presenting panoramic views of the plains. The hills around us were populated with tall pine and cedar trees and displayed a bountiful variety of shrubbery, with a thick growth of oak trees, flowering rhododendron and daisies by the dozen. And oh, the sunset just made you wish you lived there for eternity!
But sightseeing wasn't the sole purpose of going till there. Activities like trekking, bird-watching, tree-identification, rappelling, river-crossing and camp fires were scheduled, intended and designed by the organizers to develop the physical and mental strength of us youngsters. We, along with students from Ahmedabad at the camp first went for a long walk into the valley, echoing with the sound of little waterfalls and brooks to have a splash. After our frigid bath, the walk back to our campsite was as steep as it was slippery, and as long as it was tricky. We were again dead tired, sweaty and frustrated. It’s worth noting the irony that Dalhousie is really a perfect place where you can retreat, relax, and rejuvenate physically and spiritually if you cut out the treks. And this little excursion was nothing compared to what was yet to come, but fortunately it helped us acclimatize and increased our stamina.
Obviously, we used to get hungry after all this walking. The food at the campsite was fresh, nutritious and delicious, much to our joy and surprise. We were supposed to wash our own utensils, which some of us urban-dwellers weren't used to. Food was not to be wasted and there were concrete rules to preserve the natural beauty of the place by not littering around with non-biodegradable items. The organizers, they were strict, and had to be, as they were responsible for our safety.
Over the next week, we trekked almost forty kilometers climbing up and down and going round wooded hills walking more and more with each progressive day. Yes, forty! Our legs were inflamed and it took us all our willpower to refrain from moaning about the next day’s longer trek. But the sights we saw were totally worth it. The forest trails overlooked gorgeous vistas and picturesque landscapes. The view from atop Ganjipahadi was something we felt we were one of the very few lucky ones to see.
On the penultimate day of the camp, we hiked for a total of eleven kilometers in under seven hours to visit Khajjiyar, also called mini-Switzerland. It was the only patch of plain land in the whole area. It was the ultimate test of our willpower and we felt supremely satisfied after having successfully reached over there. It was hard to imagine that we had really walked that much.
After a bit of rest, we played cricket and soccer, some did horse-riding; some sat, chatted and enjoyed their closeness with nature while some did some fun zorbing. While going back to the campsite, the sunset, the winding roads and the cool atmosphere was enjoyed much. On the last day, we finally went to the town for some shopping and ate some restaurant food. Being a sport fanatic and a Facebook addict, I couldn't resist hopping into a cyber-cafe to be updated with my cricketing and social worlds.
Next dawn, it was time to go. We weren’t ready. Bags were being packed slowly. Time had flown while we had enjoyed ourselves. The place had been a home away from home. The simplicity of life here, the place’s beauty, the surrounding serenity and tranquility, all had been very endearing. The time spent here had taught us so many things like being independent, appreciating nature, accomplishing what we set our minds to, seeking adventure, exercising regularly and what not.
With one last, parting look, we boarded our bus and it sped off, taking our lives to its normalcy, its monotony.