February 2016 – first week
Two months into the wedding, and my husband has gone to States. It was all of a sudden, so it was not like I could tag along last minute. I was down and out. Too soon to be separated, don’t you agree? I have always lived in a joint family, and post marriage that’s totally changed. I am home alone most of the time, and Delhi is somewhat new new to me even now.
To make matters worse, the hubby left just two days before our second month anniversary. I mean talk about bad timing. So to cheer me up, my mum in law decided to fly down from Kolkata to keep me company. It was super sweet of her to come by last minute, and we quickly sat down to make plans for the week. If the boy can go and have fun, so can I 😛
Delhi still had the winter chill, so we knew for a fact that up north would definitely be cold and fun. After some conversation, we decided to pay a visit to our relatives in Dehradun and from there on decide where to go for a day’s trip.
Dehradun happens to be a 7 hour road journey…the road is pretty awesome, with clear highways and forests welcoming you to the capital city of Uttarakhand. But nonetheless, its quite tiring. We knew we needed to halt the night and then move to our destination the next morning.
Of all the places on my radar, Chakrata had always been my number one option. I had heard so much about this place from my hubby and even my in laws…everyone always went ga-ga about this place. So when the time came to pick a location, I just knew there would be nothing better.
Luckily for me, everyone was equally psyched about the idea of visiting this old cantonment town which once upon a time used to be the cantonment of the British Indian Army. Fancy no? We left for Dehradun early morning and reached our destination by 4pm. It was really cold. If I am not wrong it was somewhere in single degree temperature. I knew the next day is going to be bone chilling as Chakrata happened to be at a height of ~7500 feet!!
After all my wedding expeditions in Uttarakhand, I knew what winters could do to a human being if not gone well prepared. That + I had just the other day watched Everest (the movie) so I was all the more alert about packing right. A little birdie told us that just two days back, it had snowed in the hills and may be if we were in luck, we might be able to witness some of it. On the day of our travel to dehradun, it just rained out of nowhere, so we knew that it could be possible that it might have snowed up north…
I was over the moon and how ! I have never seen snow in my life and the idea of having that slight chance to see natures miracle got me super excited. It was reason enough to wake up early next morning and be on the road ! Ohh and I forgot to mention…it was going to be an all girls trip…woohhooo… me, my mum in law, maasi and my two adorable sis-in laws…I couldn’t wait for the madness to begin.
The next morning, we were up by 8 and got our breakfast done. The minute we stepped out of the house, we saw that it was bright sunshine outside. * Heart melted* That’s not going to be good, but nevertheless our spirits were up…it was super pleasant and the drive was going to be perfect. I just knew it.
Chakrata happens to be a 2 hour (100km) journey from Dehradun. The roads are pretty neat, no bumps anywhere and is surrounded by lush green forest hills all around. The sight is breathtakingly beautiful. One has to see it to believe it. Its almost therapeutic in a way.
There is only one route which one can take, and the common mid point happens to be Saiyaa which lies at the bottom of the valley. This is where nomads come down to collect food supplies and other necessities. Its a complete town in itself and no matter what time you reach this location, you will always find hustle-bustle all around. Its a good place to reload on all the chips, and pakodas for the remaining journey. My mum in-law on the other hand told me that the place has the best rajma available. So we stocked up quite a bit to take back home with us.
I have been to Saiyaa twice so far, only because the road to Haja is also through Saiyaa. Both the times the journey before reaching the location and after has baffled me. The road to reach Saiyaa goes through really steep hills upwards for almost say 2 hours or so, and yet the minute you reach Saiyaa, you are on ground zero. Even though we are at an elevated height, everything around still looks like on ground floor. And then, the minute you are again off to say Chakrata or Haja, you’re again back on the hills, going up and up…till you reach the absolute hill top. There is no stopping in between.
Its quite an extraordinary journey. The part which I loved about this entire trip was that Chakrata still happens to be quite an unexplored destination and so its practically retained the way it has always been. The locals definitely have a different say, but to an outsider like me, the place still looks untouched.
There are quite a few noteworthy facts about Chakrata that one must know of.
- You can see the Himalayas from here.
- Its on China border, therefore you can see China too from where you stand..hehe…
- I was told that if China ever wants to attack, this is the first location they would always think of targeting, and so the area is quite restricted to outsiders. Foreigners are not allowed in the entire area, leaving tourism to suffer quite a bit.
- An elite special frontier force (two-two) which is the fierce (only) ethnic tibetian unit of the Indian Army is based out of Chakrata. So in many places you will see their traditional colourful prayer flags all along the way.
The drive towards Chakrata was nothing short of a dream. With fitoor playing on repeat mode, I was in the best mood possible. With silly banter, singing out loud on the hills and posing on the middle of the roads every now and then…it was definitely a fun day.
We reached our destination somewhere around noon. Our car approached the main gates opening to Chakrata and we were abruptly stopped. It was a busy corner, and one of the locals walked over and had one look at us, and said, outsiders not allowed. I was quite taken aback. But then my mum-in law retaliated and told the boy that this was not our first trip. But he still wouldn’t budge, and they refused to open the gates. The only way we could get in was when my mum in law started talking in the local language and you should have seen the look on the boys face. It was priceless. 😆 Without muttering another word, he let us in.
That little episode made me realize just how difficult it can be for outsiders, not just locals to get into the area. The only other way to enter the premises was to pay up. I am not really sure of the amount though. Anyhow, we got in and there was an entire city on that hill. I did not expect it at all. From a distance you can’t really see how spread out it is…its not all that big either, but habitation in remote hilly areas itself is a wonderful thing to see.
Little houses with tiny windows, little porches opening up to post card hills and clouds engulfing them…it was a sight worth seeing. We got out of the car and started walking this beautiful place that I was fortunate enough to visit with my folks. Its amazing the places we have here within our country which are so beautiful.
One can still see a lot of British influence in some of the infrastructures around. What’s amazing is how well maintained all of it is…and I guess its all thanks to the locals and the army. They truly have done a marvelous job in maintaining the culture and the towns heritage in place. I was not allowed to click pictures of the buildings, as its under army supervision. So no pics. Sorry folks.
We quickly asked around if there was any snow anywhere and unfortunately, because of the sun…we were told we would have to travel additional 10+ kms. We had to get back to Dehradun the same evening, and hills post sunset is a scary experience, so instead we decided to enjoy the view in and around the town. Not a bad decision I can tell you that !
My mum in law did her schooling here, so it was super cute to see her relive her childhood days. We visited her school, which in the olden days used to be a jail! I mean really…nowadays who really has such fascinating childhood…I mean my school was just a school…boring… but a jail turned into school….you sense the irony right, haha!
If any of you are twilight fans, like not Edward…but the locations n stuff, then Chakrata was like the set of twilight what with deodar trees all around. Its crazy gorgeous. That + the entire town apparently is known to be haunted. They say you can still hear horse hoof beats post sunset if you walk down the old roads. There were other haunted stories too from the Britishers days…they occupied this area for a long time during their days.
After a brief visit to the school and the residences, markets nearby we moved to Chir-miri which is like walking distance. And this is the gorgeousness that unfolded ➡
It was really cold and the air was gloomy. All thanks to the haunted stories that I heard sometime back on the way to Chir-miri, I now started imagining how this place might feel after sunset…it really gives goosebumps, the breeze, birds chirping somewhere far away, and the slight hissing noise that the trees make…its all very spooky…but that in no way deterred us from clicking pics and hearing our own voice echo through the woods. It was definitely one of the better parts of the trip.
It was time to head back. By the time we were done goofing around in Chir-miri it was close to 4pm. We wanted to get back to Dehradun before the sunset…as driving in the hills gets quite notorious in the dark. But we were famished. Since breakfast in the morning, we hadn’t had anything to eat at all.
My folks knew a place…Mehta restaurant…and so without looking for options we headed straight to it. There were a couple of things on the menu, but we ordered for momos and chowmein which was their specialty. Not bad at all. For the price, the quantity was enormous. It was good stuff.
We quickly finished and were back in our car. But the trip was not over. On the way to Chakrata we came across a resort which had beautiful blue tents all around. It looked quite inviting. So we had decided, we would at least stop by to check it out on our way back. The place is just on the outskirts of Chakrata and is perfect for travellers to spend a night or two.
The place is called Blue Canvas Resort. The minute we walked in, we saw tents of several sizes, from couple tents, to family tents and even dorms. It was perfect for people to come in groups or even solo…Inside, they also had recreational facilities like TT, carrom for those who want to enjoy…Source – Thrillophilia
The room rates for couple tent was 4500 a night which I guess is decent if you are looking for a camping night or two in the midst of Uttarakhand hills. What I liked about the place was that they plan your entire itinerary depending on your stay. From taking you sight seeing to trekking, everything is planned out which is quite a convenience.
But the thing that I loved about Blue Canvas Resort was a little cafe they had on the first floor, and I tell you…its the cutest thing you will find in the remote hills. From carefully chosen quirky furnitures, to wood flooring and mountain pictures and paintings all over the walls, its really a go to place for sure if you’re visiting the area.
We left from the place around 5ish sometime to head back to our base at Dehradun. The journey back was so calm and soothing…watching over the winter sunset while sipping on coffee…it was definitely one of the better evenings I had in awhile.
I knew this was not my last trip to Chakrata. What I saw was just a glimpse in an ocean of scenaries and beauty around. I knew I had to come back for more. Next time with the hubby for sure, and I am definitely staying overnight in this town 😀 Who knows, may be interact with some ancient British army officer and hear his stories 😈