We woke up to the sound of the misty clouds of Dalhousie on a beautiful Wednesday morning with a flask of garam chai by our bedside. It had just rained the night before and there was a still chillness that made us want to sleep in all day. You know the kind of weather you want to just read in bed and cuddle in? Yeah, that.
Prarthna NEVER woke up for chai but after a lot of beckoning, she zombie walked into the bathroom while I headed out to have delicious aloo parathas with achar (pickle) and dahi (yogurt) for breakfast! I said it once and I'm saying it again, we were treated to the best food at our homestay, Birds N' Chirps.
On our second day trek, we headed back to Kalatope via Lakkadmandi as Ravindra ji told us about a beautiful waterfall that is completely secluded and hidden in the forest. The trek was about 6 kilometers one way with a lot of uphill, downhill and some crawling too.
We met Ravindra Ji at Thakur Tea stall where we were served by a lovely Himachali boy who remembered us from the day before. We ate some delicious butter buns, drank chai and bought some water for the journey.
The trek started out great, with beautiful canopy trees covering us above and a paved trek route that was heading into the forest. We met this shy girl while running down slopes and eating wild strawberries.
Within a span of 20 minutes, we were walking through a dense forest area and could barely see an inch of the sky over us. Little did we see or feel the droplets that were trickling down until it started heavily thundering and pouring. That was the first day of the heavy monsoon in Dalhousie. The petrichor that rose from the forest mud was like perfume to me. The strong smell from the Deodhar trees amplified my senses as I became aware of everything I was surrounded by - the evergreen trees and their wet leaves trickled down rain water on the marshy soil below my feet.
All we heard was the shuffling of the trees as they swayed to the chill winds that came our way and raindrops glistening like diamonds as beams of sunlight reached the leaves and warmed our hands.
We had to hide under the tall trees for some shade because as smart as I thought I was, my jacket wasn't a windcheater but a workout pullover and I was soaked before I knew it! The Deodhar trees were the kind that had branches growing only in one direction. Ravindra ji questioned our General Knowledge, asked us if we knew why and kept us guessing for over an hour. He eventually told us they were trees that only grew in the direction of the sun.
After 2 hours, all we wanted was to reach the damn waterfall. We kept asking Ravindra ji "how far, how long?" - and he patiently dealt with our impatience as we got exhausted without any food to munch on. As we walked on, we were met with slippery downward slopes and changing landscapes. The trees were suddenly a myriad of shades - some deep red, sunny orange and vibrant yellow. He told us we were now seeing Pine trees as we kicked around some massive pine cones that were lying on the path.
At a distance, we watched in blissful awe, the beautiful snow capped mountains of The Dauladhar Range and it was nothing short of magical.
The Whistling Thrush sang to Ravindra Ji's rhythmic tune, as he asked us to make a noise to ward off forest animals like the Black Bear or Leopards. After 3 and a half hours of walking, we finally heard thrashing sounds of water as we approached the waterfall.
Now we were expecting (atleast) a 100 foot waterfall, because that's something worth trekking through the rain, struggling to climb uphill, crawling under trees and almost falling downhill for, right?
Wellllll. This was it.
Prarthna and I gave each other sarcastic stares but laughed at how badly our expectations were dashed. We climbed over big rocks and balanced off each other as Ravindra Ji paved way for us to sit on a big rock in the middle of the rocks.
The water was freezing, our feet was numb from all the trekking and our shoes were soaking wet from the rain. But I cannot tell you how much we enjoyed being there. More than anything else, we were glad we made it.
The walk back was tiring as hell. I was in so much pain walking uphill when something pretty amazing happened. While Prarthna was walking ahead of me, we were all silent trying to get through the uphill sections as quickly as we could. Just as we crawled under a tree, I saw a beautiful Black Bear eating wild grass and making its way to the source of water. I obviously wasn't calm. All I said was, "Shit, shit, shit." Prarthna came running back to me and the bear ran away! As mad as she was that I freaked out, I would like to pat myself on the back for nearly saving us from a confrontation with the animal!
We finally reached Lakkadmandi again at 8 pm. As I tearfully parted ways with my trekking stick, we went back to Thakur Tea Stall for some much needed maggi and chai.
We bid goodbye to Ravindra Ji and thanked him a million times. He showed us everything we wished to see and we couldn't have asked for a better experience. We headed back to our homestay and took forever, a piece of the forest back with us that night!
At dinner that night, we met Dr & Mrs. Bhalla's two daughters, who were the best company and eventually travelled with us for the beginning of the next part of our trip :) The following morning, we bid farewell to our hosts and were so thankful for the amazing time we had at Dalhousie.
Next stop, McLoed Ganj :)