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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Things to see and do at Chamba - 2

About the best thing about getting away to a place like Chamba is that there are no existing prescriptions on places to see or things to do. Do nothing and you'll have done what you came here to do. And for eager beavers in the poor habit of making a holiday more of a rush about than the city, there are walks - endless prospects of meandering in thick cedar and pine forests and little hill trails to traipse.

Chamba is not much of a town, more a junction en route to higher and better known destinations in the Tehri Hills. Gangotri, Yamunotri, the ancient and vanishing town of Tehri itself. But then, you don't go to Chamba to pitch up in the middle of town. You look for higher, quieter nooks in the surrounding hills.

A cosy nook:

You will find none better than the Classic Hilltop Resort, which, as its name suggests, is located on a hilltop directly above the town. Spiral steeply up 1,000 km and you are on what is perhaps nature's favoured piece of masonry in these parts - a spacious summit that enjoys a 360° panorama. The resort spreads itself leisurely all over the top and the slopes. A health spa and Kerala massage centre to one side; a pet pen full of wild hares and honking geese to the other. Rolling botanical gardens, a gym, a children's park with swings and slides and merry-go-rounds... even a swimming pool, for heaven's sake!

Langtang leching:

On clear mornings, the Langtang Range lies burnished on the northern skyline snow capped Himalayan peaks etched on the horizon like some overdone painting.

Stay out on a moonlit night, which is rare because of Chamba's daily twilight trysts with clouds: but the skies are sometimes so clear and low, you'd think you could pluck the stars. The peaks of Lang-tang by lunar light appear like another over-the-top madness from a tripping painter.

Kanatal:

Some of the best walks roll out of Kanatal, whose pine and deodar forests can take you into quite another world, where nothing but nature lives.

About 15 km down the twirling road from Chamba to Mussoorie is this cameo of a spot abutting a little lake from which the place gets its name. But Kanatal has suffered natural reverses and the lake doesn't hold enough water to qualify for that title these days. Even so, Kanatal is enchanting for its dark and deep woods and the proliferation of moss and lichen.

Step off the road and you are in the middle of forests so thick, sunlight barely gets through. In the summers and monsoons, you will find any number of brooks and streams springing and prancing. You will find a richness of birds and butterflies and an abundance of silence. Should you wish to stay overnight in Kanatal, The Hermitage (Tel: 01376-283014; Tariff: Rs. 1,400 - 1,600) is a fine option. The hotel has a restaurant offering views of the forest, through which they arrange guided treks.

But even if you do not intend stopping, it is a very good idea to return to Delhi from Chamba via Kanatal, Dhanaulti, Mussoorie and Dehra Dun. The hill stretch is longer and you, therefore, extend your stay in a world slightly above the one you mostly inhabit.

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