Being a shutterbug, I have a tendency to go on a clicking spree every time I discover a picturesque location. However, over the last year of extensive travelling, I have experienced a few places, so overwhelming, that they leave you numb and energetic at the same time. The dichotomy of the situation manifests in the form of total surrender, when I keep my camera aside and just feel the ambience of the scenery. Let me share one such experience with you, which happened in Chail.
Chail is a quaint hill station, located in Himachal Pradesh, about 50 kms away from Shimla. Predominantly famous for the Chail Palace and the highest cricket ground, this place is one of the lesser explored summer getaways in the north. The idyllic beauty of Chail lies in the fact that it doesn’t bombard you with a list of must visit attractions or must try activities. The stereotypical selfie crazy tourists may find this place a tad bit boring. But if you give Chail a chance, its tranquility will grow on you and become a part of your being.
No itinerary? No problem!
My friends and I went to Chail during the summer months of 2017. We had two days to spend and no solid itinerary. We could have easily spent time cherishing the view of the mountains from the balcony of our homestay. However, our host insisted that we discover Himachal like a local, walking through the many trails, finding our own treasures. He also mentioned a bird sanctuary, which was located on a mountain just opposite to our place of stay. Upon interacting with a few shopkeepers, we learnt that the sanctuary has been shut down. However, we decided to take our chances and begin our hike.
On our way, I would pause after every few minutes to take a picture of the wild flowers, the pine trees, and the sunlight pouring in from different cracks of the forest. My friends kept urging me to hurry up since we had a long way to go. After walking for about an hour, with no visible signs of a sanctuary around us, we decided to enquire from the locals. None of them could give us a concrete answer about its location. One kind man offered to give us a lift in his van, till a certain point. He insisted that the sanctuary was at a walk able distance from there.
In search of a mythical sanctuary
The point where this man dropped us was a fork. On one side, there was a road that led to a nearby town. The other side was a rugged trail that went upwards, surrounded by pine trees on both sides. We decided to resort to GPS, which indicated that we follow the trail. The path was desolate and narrow. One could hear the constant chirping of birds and the occasional buzzing of some insect. We were slightly apprehensive since there were no other tourists to be found on this path. However, the appeal of the narrow winding lanes was far too tempting to deter us from finishing the hike.
After another hour of walking, with intermittent breaks for taking pictures, we reached the so called bird sanctuary. Much to our disappointment, it was shut down. There was not another living soul, to be seen anywhere near us. We were about to commence our return journey, when one of my friend found another trail, snaking its way around the sanctuary. To say that this trail was narrow would be an understatement. It was steep, about a foot wide, and disappeared onto the other side of the mountain. There was no way of knowing where it led to; except, if one decided to walk along the path.
Chail is full of surpises
We decided to follow our instincts and climb up this path. Before I knew it, I was standing on the edge of a mountain, overlooking the entire valley. The houses, the trees, the vehicles – everything looked like a miniature painting in nature’s own canvas. After taking a few quick pictures of the valley, I kept my camera aside, sat on the edge and cherished the view. The crisp air was brushing against my cheeks. The birds were still chirping. All my exhaustion, disappointment and fear had been washed away by the serenity of this place. Ditching the idea of a pre-planned itinerary had been rewarding indeed.