To reiterate my theme for the A to Z Challenge,it is to be our travel stories within India. Today it is the turn for letter "W" to tell it's tale. There are a couple of places with this letter that we have been to like Wellington and Wular Lake. The former, I've more or less covered in one of my previous posts and the latter was a very short yet fulfilling visit to this lake in Bandipore. But I so wanted to tell you our story about Chail that I took the liberty. I do hope my readers will understand and forgive me.
We were driving down from Delhi after picking up the kids from the school, with the rain splashing on the windshield. By the time we reached Chandigarh it was evening and we called it a day. Our idea was to take a break and not do long stretches of driving. Early next morning we kicked off from Chandigarh to follow the Pinjore, Kalka, Solan road to Chail. At Kandaghat the road bifurcates with one arm taking you to Shimla and the other towards Chail. We of course took the latter which is not a national Highway but nevertheless it had it's own charm. Our first "Oh!" moment was Sadhupul where the river Ashwini gurgled under an ancient iron bridge. There are a couple of restaurants that make arrangements for the traveller to sit in the middle of stream to enjoy a couple of drinks and snacks. It's a good place to take a break from the long drive.
We were soon back on the track and climbing to Chail. Clouds were playing peekaboo with the sun. At many places the dense forest cover of fragrant pines and deodars hardly let the daylight trickle in. The crisp hill air was already working on soothing our nerves. I made a mental note of picking up some of those tantalising ferns of different kinds on my way back. We were accommodated in an old bunglow, erstwhile guest house, that had wooden floors, wooden staircase, a piano room and a terrace that looked out at the surrounding hills.
Our first port of call here was the Chail palace. There is an interesting and colourful story of Chail's spot of prominence. Bhupinder Singh, the Maharajah of Patiala was exiled from Shimla by the British for his alleged dilly dallying with the daughter of the British Commander-in-chief. So he went exploring the neighbourhood of Shimla for a spot that was on higher grounds than the British summer capital. The palace, turned into a heritage hotel now, has a few antique furniture collection and artifacts. It has a sprawling ground edged with forest. There is a " Mowgli Trail" that takes you around the hill on which this palace is built.
What I loved the most here was the walk around "Lover's Hill" that had log cabins and cottages for the tourists. The lane along this hill took you to glades with beautiful views. You can explore these trails, break off and walk down some slopes to reach open spaces sprouting toadstools and wild flowers. I would suggest you carry a picnic basket and find your own spot to relax.
We were staying in the Rashtriya Military School campus that is the proud host of the highest cricket ground in the world. It was the rainy season, the cricket ground was at it's romantic best covered in mist silhouetting the trees. We managed to have a peep through the locked gates.
|Chail Cricket Ground|
Our next stop was the Siddh Baba Temple that is reached climbing the stairs up the hill. Since we were not in a hurry and also that there were three kids in tow, we took our own time reaching this place. There is another interesting story behind this temple as is wont in hill stations. Initially Bhupinder Singh, smarting from the insult by the British, had chosen this site to build his palace. Soon after construction began, the project was seized by a series of mishaps like built portions falling off or snakes attacking the labourers. It was then that Siddh Baba, a hermit and said to be the protector of Chail, appeared in his dreams and said that this was the place where he had meditated and that his peace should not be disturbed. Bhupinder Singh got a temple built here and took his project to another location ( which was almost hundred meters higher than Shimla).
It was difficult to bid adieu to Chail. It had given us tranquility, little surprises like the toadstools and the rainbow that spread in the evening sky. Yes, I did come back with a collection of ferns hoping to grow them in Delhi to remind me of this lovely weekend trip. I leave you with these snaps now which I look at often when the going gets tough.