It was not exactly a part of the plan. I was planning for GHNP but I was told that I could enjoy hospitality for a couple of days if I enter Kangra (No, it was not a FAM invite from some resort, just a bed to sleep). Nevertheless, I did take the opportunity, expecting to spend a clue of relaxing days without doing anything. However, there was more to the place, so much so that now I am having to divide it into two different posts because I have too many pictures. The primary attraction includes the sheer green pastures, a small, nameless trek to the higher villages up the hills, and a visit to the Norbulignka Institute, a centre for Tibetan arts and culture. I will describe the trek and Norbulingka in the next post, but for the time being, let me just get back to the fields.
So, the guy who facilitated my trip had already started calling this place Zen Valley. As a matter of fact, it is just a piece of agricultural land behind the residential colonies and Tibetan monasteries of Sidhpur, a suburb of Dharamshala that is around 15 Kms from Mcleodganj.
In many ways, I found Sidhpur to be the anti-Maclo. The populated settlements of Dharamshala can be seen in the horizon but is a far different world. Not too many tourists can be seen here and nor are the roads overflowing with touristy shops, hotels, and restaurants. However, it does not mean that it is a godforsaken locality. It has everything that is required, just in the right proportions, without desecrating the natural aura of the location.
The next morning we decided to take a short hike. However, to reach the steeper hills, we had to pass through the so called Zen Valley and for the rest of this post I will only focus on it, saving the actual hike for the next post.
Spring comes to the Himalayas in phases, depending mostly on the altitude. The higher areas remain covered in snow till as late as May. However, the lower valleys such as this one tend to end their hibernation by March. So, the spring was already in full bloom as we started our hike.
I have said it before when I was in Lahaul last year, but I will say it again. There is no sight more erotic than a fecund plot of agricultural land, especially with snow-capped peaks in the background. This plot of land was a vast expanse covered with mostly wheat, and a certain type of grass grown as cattle food with the Dhauladhars looming behind them. Plum, peach, and apricot trees dot the fields and as you might have guessed it already, it was the flowering season for them too.
The trek got delayed because I was stuck are for more than an hour, taking photographs of the fields, and the locals. We even came across a Tibetan Buddhist Nunnery in the middle of nowhere. Mostly local women seemed to be working in the field. Do the men just go out to the town looking for work?
Anyway, my obsession with this plot of land did not end there. We moved on and did a short hike and came back. I was planning to shoot the sunset from the same location later on. However, as we were brewing coffee and relaxing, we realized that a hailstorm was also brewing. There was no sign of it when were outside but suddenly everything became dark and it started raining. I know a lot of people who are afraid of rains and storms but there is another set of people who find the sound of hailstones falling on the roof insanely arousing. I won’t tell you which category I belong to but I went out and took photographs of the green lawn that had turned white within 5 minutes.
Anyway, the storm departed as it arrived, swiftly and suddenly. It was around 6 PM and the time was right for the sunset. However, the clock did not prepare us for what we were about to see. The partially cloudy sky left behind by the storm was displaying all sorts of hues. I know the word “surreal” is misused a lot nowadays but I will use it now because those colours were certainly not real (and I don’t use Photoshop in case anybody is wondering).
So, the day was threatened by the storm but eventually it ended well. Rarely do I have a day in my life that surpasses expectations. There was more to this day and I will be back with the rest of the details.