Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nature Watch in Himachal Pradesh

Last week, I returned from a 9 day holiday to various parts of Himachal Pradesh with my family. An account of this trip can be found here. HP is a naturalist's paradise, and more so for the simple reason that its distinct climate gives it a completely different set of flora and fauna as compared to what one is used to in the tropics, for example, Mumbai and its surroundings, from where I hail. I had carried with me my Canon DSLR, and went near-mad shooting birds, animals and flora of all kinds. However, this post is not just about photography or an egoistic display of my photos. I wish to declare to the world that HP is a must visit state for all nature-lovers. Even if they are on a budget holiday and have to stay in imperfect conditions, one should keep this state on one's wish list if one wishes to see God's Mother Nature in its full beauty.

What did I see? I saw the magnificent plain at Khajjiar, a place that has been equated with the best in the world (Khajjiar means "meadow" in Gaddi language, and this place is called the Mini-Switzerland of India). The place has been unduly commercialised, I think, what with horse-riding, zorbing, para-gliding and the inevitable children's play equipment (the inflatable chutes and what not). In spite of this, we had a glimpse of what the plains must have been like before the commercialisation happened. We saw several sheep and cattle grazing on the small blades of grass with an air of complete indifference.

Next, the walk up a string of hills to reach a Shiv temple at Dainkund, popularly known as the Valley of Flowers of HP (there is another, more famous Valley of Flowers in Uttaranchal). This walk, which was completely unexpected insofar as we weren't aware it would be a very loooong one,  revealed Nature in all its Glory. The weather was cool, and as we walked on and on, climbing one hill after another, we saw vistas of Nature that thrilled us no end. The landscaped were amazing, with the snow-capped hills in the distant background, and the hills and dales undulating up and down right up to where we stood. Occasionally, we stopped to admire the distant views, but more frequently, we paused to see an unusually coloured moth or butterfly; to see grazing cattle or sheep with unusual skin/wool patterns; to see a flitting dragonfly or a smartly flying Red Kite; to watch a floral inflorescence that we had never seen before, or admire a tree that looked unique; to breathe in the breeze arising up from the valley below; to feel upon us, the drops of rain that seemed to materialise suddenly from a cloud that had just made its appearance above us; to soak in the rays of the sun as it continued its inexorable march across the heavens; to realise that the sand underneath us was indeed close in rewsemblance to the sand on a beach, thereby proving that the Himalayas arose from the sea in ancient times; to see an expanse of white, small flowers that grew all around us, and gave the place its name ... and many more things besides.

I must mention here that all along the highways that we travelled, the land patterns, the greenery and the obvious intrusion of Nature into Human settlements kept us pre-occupied and happy. However, there is one thing that I must make a special mention of. Water.

While the Ravi river stayed alongside most of the roads we travelled while in the Chamba valley, the Kullu valley saw us being a constant companion of the Beas. Both rivers made road travelling a pleasure. It was, for the most part, possible to stop the car, get down, walk a little to the bank of the river, and soak our feet in at any place of our choice, except when we were in the ghats.There were places where the rivers were torrential, and places where they were calm, but they were always interesting and always soothing for the body and the mind.

Finally, I must mention that it was in HP that I saw several unique birds ... I have put up the pictures of these here. Do check them out.

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