The sun is burning a hole in your soul; odd or even, the dust and pollution is choking your lungs; the stress of the work place is driving you mad. This is the plight of every office going individual in Delhi. What we need is an escape; a place where we can be one with nature and all her glory. My wife and I decided to hit the escape button and head off to Chail, the quaint and quiet hill station in Himachal Pradesh. What I loved most about Chail was its small town sleepy demeanor and lush greenery.
Our journey began at 7:40 AM at platform number two of the New Delhi railway station as we boarded the Kalka Shatabdi. I believe that any vacation isn’t just about the destination but the journey as well. The scenic route through Punjab has left a pleasant photo album in my memory. What’s nice to see is the effort the Indian Railway has been putting in to get its game straight. The air-conditioning was good, the basic hygiene was there (except in the loos). The food was also surprisingly edible. The journey from Delhi to Kalka took about four hours and was rather comfortable. I would highly recommend the train route to reach Himachal.
Well technically we were still in Haryana. For those of you who haven’t arranged for a cab in advance, I’d suggest avoiding the taxi stand right outside the station. The cost for an Innova from Kalka to Chail works up to 3500- daylight robbery if you ask me. We ventured out further and took a cab from the town and that cost us a mere 2500.
Usually all this haggling would bring me down, but Kalka’s small town feel and the mountains in the background kept my spirits up. As we climbed up the winding roads, the weather changed to a pleasant cloudy shade. The air filled up with the smell of the pine trees, as if our host was preparing for our arrival, putting out the best cutlery and wearing her favourite perfume.
We had our first Himachali meal at Rasteych hotel. The food was average at best. Sadly this was the score card for the food for the entire trip. The meals lacked emotion. It seemed that they were being prepared for the heck of it. And this was very disappointing for the foodie in me. But the view compensated extremely well for what lacked in the food. The beautiful mountain ranges and the misty weather made me feel like a part of some romantic novel. The pleasure of witnessing such magnificent natural beauty with your loved one is unlike anything. The roads are lined with pine trees that seem to cheer you on, as if welcoming their hero’s on their home coming. The winding roads seem flirtatious in nature like those girls who’d have a secret crush on their hero.
Our driver told us an interesting anecdote about a twenty year old baba, who had the power to cure cancer. He’s known to cure cases where even the doctors have given up. Aptly, the turn is known as baba mod. I’m not very sure if he’s dependable or not, but the huge crowd seemed to believe in him.
With a one hour stop over for lunch, we reached our destination around five in the evening. I remember being physically tired but the promise of spending four lovely days in this beautiful hill station kept me going. We were staying at the Chail Palace log huts. The thing I loved most about these huts was their proximity with nature along with basic creature comforts.
We had a regular room which had a double bed, a tv with cable connection, running hot water and tea on call service. But the basic hygiene seemed missing. The room felt untidy and unclean. Again the spectacular view came to our rescue. I guess it wouldn’t hurt for the Himachal Pradesh tourism board to clean the water jugs or perhaps buy new towels; our read 2007! The cost of a regular log hut is around Rs. 2700 plus taxes.
Staying at the log huts meant you didn’t have to pay the tour charges for the palace tour. All the huts came with their own outside seating. I can recall fond memories of sitting outside my hut with my wife discussing sweet nothing’s over a cup of masala chai.
The place is ideal for catching up with oneself. Instead of the usual badminton and table tennis routine, it offers an opportunity to indulge in trekking, meditation and pranayama. Chail offers an opportunity to look at life with a fresh perspective. Recharge your battery to the fullest. Words of advice though: if you plan on taking along your elderly family members, do make sure you have some transportation arrangement. The palace is about a kilometer away from the hut and breakfast and lunch are served only at the palace. Only dinner is delivered at the huts.
But I guess that’s the beauty of Chail, even a folly becomes a fantasy. The route between the huts and the palace is absolutely mesmerizing. But do carry a good pair of running shoes.
Breakfast at Chail palace is again standard. In fact, when it came to food, I couldn’t find anything spectacular even at the palace. The main palace lawn however was spectacular and offered the perfect opportunity for us to test out our selfie-stick.
Chail to me was the anti-Shimla; it was what a hill station should be. Most hill stations seem exploited. Chail seems to have maintained its sanctity. I wish more hill stations could maintain their virginity. Chail doesn’t boast of a huge mall road or a lake. It does have a cricket ground, a palace and a few temples. But what it does have is nature in its raw beauty. It has the perfect sunrise and a magical sunset. It has the fresh air that we city dwellers long for. It offers sanity and serenity. All these have higher priority to a Cafe Coffee Day in my book.