A wobbly bus and a dubious driver drop us at the secluded Jalandhar bypass at 3 am. Insanely curvy roads and a driver who loves chatting about the health benefits of wine is going to drive us to Chamba which is supposed to be our first stop. In spite of being thoroughly exhausted from the journey so far, none of us dare blink until the dawn breaks, and finally, the beautiful valley, the Ravi and the mountains come into full view.
Chamba is a small town set in the lap of the Dhauladhar range famous for its embroidery, temples and Manimahesh Trek, among others. There are a number of fascinating stories attached with the place that you learn from the locals. The Chamba valley was really hot this time of the year, but luckily we chose to stay a little away from the clamour of the town.
I had an idea that it was going to include a trek, but I had no idea it was going to be like this! As we trek up, plums lie on the narrow paths like a red carpet. And fresh apricots! Vegetables picked from their own farm and water from the stream flowing by.
I am overwhelmed with everything this place is when I get there. It is the perfect amount of rustic and artistic, isolated yet well-equipped and the family is warm and chatty yet respectful of your privacy. A loving grand mom and a grand dad who is the town’s encyclopaedia; siblings who were brought up by the mountains, their spouses and two of the cutest kids I’ve ever met; And a dog who wags his way to your room as you sip your morning coffee. How much more perfect can a family get?
Mornings are spent legs on the table, coffee on the pane and Midnight’s Children in hand. Afternoons we get to taste some great local delicacies which our host would cook up enthusiastically and I’d later retreat to the company of all the interesting books of the family library. Evenings.. ah! Evenings are a setting sun, evenings are long talks, evening is music and poetry, evening is rambling around the estate and relishing apricots and making rock towers. Or cairns, excuse me 😉
One day we decide to descend from our abode and go see the town. The Chamunda temple is a beautiful, quiet place that overlooks Chamba. There is also an interesting story associated with why a church bell hangs outside a temple. The Laxminarayan group of temples is abounding with beautiful architecture and a small museum. Tiny shops selling antiques and embroidery are lined in its narrow lanes. The Bhuri Singh museum has an amazing collection of miniature Pahari paintings and inscriptions! You can comfortably roam around Chamba town and check out all these places in a day. 65 km from Chamba lies Bharmour, between the Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges. Bharmour is also famous for its temples. Beyond Bharmour goes the route to Manimahesh via Hadsar and Dhancho.
For someone who is either turbo or off, it took me no time to hibernate. Maybe I was a little restless sometimes, with a weak network connection. I’m not addicted but I like to have my options 😛 Then I finally got to writing, something I had been putting off. Turns out the setting was perfect after all. Chamba was the ideal start I could’ve hoped for. Because for the coming days, I would be spending each night at a different place! We just had to see everything we could in this trip and sadly we didn’t have much time. More of that in the next post though. 🙂