It's still pristine
It's another place associated with five little hills ... Dalhousie's charm rests in its still undiscovered quality, writes P. KARR.
Green meadows amidst distant mountains.
DALHOUSIE, a quiet hill station, named after the British Governor General of India Lord Dalhousie, nestles in the Dhaula Dhar ranges of the Indian Himalayas. Built upon five little hills, covered with a thick growth of oak, spruce, fir, rhododendron and pines, Dalhousie is the ideal place for either a quick getaway or an extended stay for health, recuperation and long, peaceful walks. This is in fact how Lord Dalhousie used it when he came to the place in 1850 and stayed on to establish it as a "hill station". Within eight years it was fully functional with British style huts and bungalows and serving the administrators of the Raj.
Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore spent some time here with his father as a child. So did Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose who spent several months recuperating here. Recently while reading a biography of the British naturalist, the late Gerald Durrell, I was pleasantly surprised to find that his father spent his last days in a nursing home in Dalhousie and is buried there.
Today, Dalhousie retains many of those charming bungalows along with some that have been added over the years. The roads are very good and on a clear day one can see the snow capped mountains of the Dhania Dhar range. There are many public schools here and school children in brightly coloured uniforms can be seen walking single file along the mountain roads.
A little known fact is that the Tibetans were first settled in Dalhousie before they moved to Dharamsala. The place still has a fairly large Tibetan community. There is a craft centre which sells exquisite Tibetan crafts and a few small restaurants catering to the local population.
There are several places one can trek to from Dalhousie. It is possible to rent a car and drive through the mountains to Khajiar and Chamba. Khajiar, also named the mini Switzerland of India is an unusual meadow tucked away in the middle of hills. There is a lake in the centre of the meadow with an island made of an unusual weed. There is a pony track around the meadow and for Rs. 50, a local villager who doubles as your guide will take you around the meadow and quite happily click a few snaps of you and the bewildered pony.
I trekked from Dalhousie to the Kalatop wildlife sanctuary an extremely serene and peaceful walk through a mountain pathway. The Forest Rest House built in 1925 is a very charming place to stay for a few days. The chowkidar took me out early in the morning to spot wildlife and we saw some beautiful birds and wild deer. If one is lucky it is possible to see the great Himalayan bear and an occasional tiger. There are mountain pathways from here through which one can trek to Khanjur and onwards to Chamba town known for its famed temples.
Dalhousie's charm rests in its still undiscovered quality. It is a "hill station" which yields its secrets slowly.
Trains: There are trains running to Pathankot from Delhi. From Pathankot there are regular bus services that ply to Dalhousie. The trip takes about four hours.
Road: Dalhousie can be reached by car/taxi or bus from Delhi. There are regular buses to and from Shimla, Manali, Kangra and Chamba.
Tourism information centres: Himachal Pradesh Tourism Information Centre, Dalhousie. Ph: 01899-42136
H.P. Tourism Information Centre, Delhi. Ph: 011-3325320, 3324764.
Rest houses/hotels: There are many affordable places available. There is also a reduction in room rents during offpeak season. Himachal Pradesh Tourism Information Centre in Delhi has a list of all hotels.
Climate: Best months to visit are May to August. It is advisable to always carry woollens and some rain gear.
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