If you hate crowds and love nature, this is the place to be.
When my friend asked me to pack my bags and get ready to go to a hill station, I wasn’t as excited as I should have been. Actually, the words ‘hill station’ had thrown me off a little, because we usually never travelled to clichéd touristy places and preferred destinations that were lesser-known and solitary. Even if we chose regular places, we went there during off-season so we could truly immerse in nature, away from the buzz of the city. Yet, the element of spontaneity lured me in and we embarked on another one of our impromptu adventures.
Tucked away in the hills of Uttarakhand, Chakrata is a cantonment town in Dehradun, situated 100 kms away from the railway station. We were staying in cute little huts at the Ramtal Resort. It’s humble ambience and simple amenities suited us perfectly. The crowd had started decreasing as the season inched closer to an end.
Nature works magic on your senses. Chakrata’s vast meadows and lush green pastures, surrounded by undulating hills with rounded off tops rejuvenated us. We took respite in the fresh air and serene surroundings, venturing out for long walks. The air here was so clean and pure that we didn’t feel tired or breathless even after we trekked for hours through the craggy and rough paths cutting through the mountains. Deprived of these little treasures in the city we tried to make the most of every single minute, loitering outside for hours, soaking in the greenery.
This is all we could see from our resort. Image courtesy: Sudipto Chatterjee
Our resort had none of the pampering that comes with a 5-star, but our rooms were tidy, the staff was hospitable and quick on their feet, lugging buckets of hot water in minutes for the guests. The view outside was mesmerizing and made up for whatever little shortcomings the resort may have had. After relaxing in our rooms we rented a car to get around and decided to visit a temple. Personally, I enjoy visiting temples for their peaceful atmosphere. It also allowed me to interact with the locals and find out about their intriguing lives that are so different from ours.
A partial view of Lakha Mandal temple
The first temple we visited was Lakha Mandal. It was unlike any other I have been to. Stripped off the usual glitz that is characteristic of a temple, Lakha Mandal is merely a large area, housing over a lakh Shiva Murtis. Initially an excavation site, it was elevated to the position of a holy temple after Shivlings were unearthed here. These Shivlings have been preserved naturally over the years and the place holds a lot of importance for the locals. We booked a guide who took us on a tour, pointing out the idols, subsumed in the quietude of the temple. The temple has great historical relevance too, as it is supposedly one of the many temples that had been destroyed by Mughal invaders.
Shivling. Image courtesy: Sudipto Chatterjee
One particular Shivling we came across was different from the others. Shivlings are hard, opaque black stones yet, when I poured water over it, sticking to the ritual, I was flabbergasted to see my own reflection in it. I don’t know if it was my mind playing trick on me or something that really happened but, I felt something shift inside me in that moment. I’ll always remember it as one of those spiritual moments that happen to you once in a lifetime.
Our next destination was Budher. We trekked our way up through nearly 300 steps. The path was ancient and made of crumbling rocks and slippery stones, which made our journey risky but adventurous at the same time. By the time we reached the top, we were exhausted as it was impossible to stop or rest midway. However, the view from the zenith was breathtaking and looking down at this beautiful hamlet from that height made all the effort worth it as it looked like something straight out of a postcard. We went back to our resort content with the day’s exploits and turned out the lights. I lay in anticipation for moments before I slipped into a deep sleep.
Water falling at break-neck speed
The following day we set out to discover Chakrata’s famous Tiger Nest falls. After a long trek down a steep array of steps we arrived at a landing. Fresh water gushed down with unstoppable gusto; tourists were frolicking and rejoicing in the clean pool formed at the bottom of the waterfall. There were changing rooms available for people who wanted to get into the pool. I preferred to enjoy the view from a distance. I perched myself on a rock a little further away and watched the attacking water create havoc on the rocks as the sound of the gushing pool below calmed my senses. Before we could drive back to the resort, we made a pit stop to grab a cup of tea and relax in the pleasant weather.
As our trip came to an end we decided to celebrate. We spent our last night drinking beer and grooving to classic rock songs. It was our way of saying goodbye to this little slice of heaven and getting ready for the chaos of the city.
1. You can reach Chakrata by train (Dehradun last station), direct bus or by road
2. The closest petrol pump is in Vikasnagar so top up your tank if you're travelling by car
3. On the east of Chakrata is Mussorie and on the west Kinnaur
4. 16kms from the city is Mundali where you can ski
5. If resorts are not your thing there are many homestays you can book via Couchsurfing websites
6. Carry shoes, extra batteries for trekking at night and mosquito repellent
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Pooja Bhatia
Photographs by Pooja Bhatia