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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Holidays in Chamba : The dominion of clouds - 1

Chamba, belongs to Uttaranchal state and located at High up in the Tehri Hills at 6,500 ft, Chamba is a steep 59-km climb from Rishikesh, 55 km from Mussoorie and 283 km N of Delhi.

Route from Delhi NH58 to Rishikesh via Haridwar; state highway to Chamba via Narendranagar.

One moment we were on a hilltop, the next on a cloud. A wispy caravan lifted up almost from nowhere and all too suddenly, and then we were adrift in a world all our own, astride a cold cloud. The transport from the real to the magical was quite as sudden and startling as Harry Potter crashing into that brick wall on Platform 93/4 to enter the world of Hogwarts: the cloud swept up the hill and past the hilltop and transformed everything. Suddenly, the sky had vanished and the hills all around were gone.

The little town and its people and its twisting lanes and distant lights had all disappeared. And all there was was a translucent cotton-wool jungle drowning in its own silence.

Someone switched on the sodium vapour lamps on the winding drive up to the resort: they looked like blurred blossoms popping in a dream. Then Sadhuram emerged from the mists bearing a tray of cosied tea and said this is what Chamba is like most evenings and nights - the dominion of clouds.

We were inside the mammoth glasshouse they have erected on a promontory overlooking the merging valleys cut by the Bhagirathi and the Alaknanda. Suddenly, enveloped by nothing but floating cloud and sodium lights twinkling in thick dew, it was like being on deck chairs in a skyship. It is like no place you might expect within seven hours of Delhi.

Why isn't Uttaranchal's Chamba as celebrated or as well known as Himachal's? Perhaps only because this is a new state and they haven't worked too hard on publicising it. At times you are almost thankful they haven't. Lack of exposure has kept in Chamba what most hill stations have lost or are fast losing the air of remoteness, of being somewhere else, somewhere special.

Chamba is a getaway in a very real sense. When you get to Chamba, you have got away from most of the things that you want to get away from in a metropolis - crowds, traffic, pollution, decibels, treadmill pace, routine.

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