Patnitop day one - the beautiful Himachal – part 1

#1 Feb 28th, 2014, 08:00
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Patnitop first day - Jammu to Himachal

Thirty five years ago a group of us friends had the occasion to stay in Delhi area for a few months. During the period, a few of the friends made a quick getaway to Kalpa in Himachal Pradesh. I went to a different destination and couldn’t be a part of the group. Till today I remember the excitement of my friends when they recounted their Kalpa experience—the soft green valley, the clear view of the gradually rising snow peaks of the Kinnar Kailash range of the Himalayas and specially the vineyards and the orchards.
They were overwhelmed by the beauty of the young hill maidens with fresh rosy cheeks who plucked, of all things, ripe apples from an orchard and offered them. My friends were young. I shared their joy. And I never could forget that Himachal Pradesh held something special for the lover of natural beauty.
Now when opportunity came my way for a stay with my new friend at Jammu for a few days I asked him, “What will you show me? Can I visit a few of the beautiful hilly places around?” My friend stayed in Himachal for many years. It didn’t take long to make a plan perfectly suited to our taste and convenience.
We decided—no Kashmir this time. We will go for Himachal. Perhaps old memories pulled me to Himachal.


Patnitop – the summer hill resort

I had never heard of Patnitop before. For that matter, if I stop to think, I haven’t heard about many of the nicest places around the globe. The earth holds so much beauty and so many places where you can enjoy nature to your heart’s content.
It turned out that Patnitop is one of the favorite week-end destinations for the Jammu folks. Situated within a distance of only about 110 kms from Jammu by road at an altitude of about 6500 ft above sea level, surrounded by sloping valleys and hills clad in Chinar and Deodar forests, Patnitop has a special beauty that could be reached only within two hours from Jammu. Naturally it gained the status of a prime tourist destination from Jammu.
Our plan was to start in the morning of day one, stay for the night, move around the place and return for Jammu on the second day end.
It was April. As planned we started at around 7 in the morning. The road rose slowly winding upwards hugging the hillside.



The mountain road

The hillside here is not like Garhwal Himalayas, rather it reminded me of the Kumaons. The open view of gentle rolling hills clad in chinar, deoadar, willows was soothing to the eyes. When you looked down from the moving car, you could see through the thinning trees far away and might spot the sloping tiled roof of a house in a small village snuggling on a relatively flat place on the hillside.



Rolling hillside

These trees rose straight to a fairly good height and branches being nearly non-existent do not pose any barrier to the view. I noticed the small girth of the trunks—old trees had much thicker trunks. Most of them had been cut away.


Tall trees

We reached Patnitop gloomy with clouds and winds whistling through the trees. This is the usual weather this time of the year. The time of unbroken clear skies was over. It was cold though rains won’t come we felt.
True to its name, on the top of a hill a relatively flat area had been chosen to set up the beautiful green topped staying places with a wide open space in front followed by down sloping hills again.


Patnitop compound

There was no other tourist around. We had the place all to ourselves. Dumping the luggage in the allotted rooms, we came out again.


Patnitop rest house

On the way we had breakfast and some time still left before we would have a late lunch. In no time Tukai spotted a stretch of small multicolored flowers that lay like a colored cover on the ground.


Flower bed

Wherever there is a multitude of people or flowers for that matter, you would always find one that stands apart. Tukai turned his attention to the special one.


The One

Like me and Tukai the flowers attracted others also. We can only enjoy the beauty of a flower or pluck it, but the honeybee does what nature ordained it to do to a flower. Without a bee a flower is never complete.


Flower and the bee

We turned from the flower bed and returned to the wide compound. A well-made path skirted around the oval shaped compound. Old quaint metal benches invited one.



A quiet rest


The occasional garbage bins were like bright red strawberries and looked good with the overall design.


Strawberry bin

A cute little hut stood alone at the edge of the clearing. Its two tiers of sloping green roof merged with the greens around.


Green roofed hut

Leaving the clearing we moved at the back of the compound exploring and were greeted with a view of snow peaks far away. Heat had started melting the snow in patches. These peaks were not very high to withstand the effect of oncoming summer.



Snow view



When we looked around, a bare hill top with a small white patch of snow caught our eyes. We had seen snow peaks many times, but never such a hill top with a melting snow hat. A few months ago, the hill must have been firmly covered in snow. Now it is losing the snow cover fast. My friend told me, “We would visit a place near that hill tomorrow. We would touch snow.” Tukai welcomed the news. He never had touched snow before.


Snow topped hill

The wind blew harder and light faded. We called it a day. Tomorrow we would start early, spend a few hours in the place where snow came down to the road and then would start on our way back to Jammu for a late lunch.
#2 Feb 28th, 2014, 10:27
Enthralled by this land's beauty
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Nice. Waiting for your Himachal details...
#3 Feb 28th, 2014, 14:58
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@quasar23

Nice TR with photographs. This reminds me of our trip to Patni Top. We could not see any trace of snow at Patnitop or its surrounding hills. We visited during September and most probably the accumulated snow has completely melt out by then.

“We would visit a place near that hill tomorrow. We would touch snow.” I'm curious to know the place which your friend was referring to and how to reach there from Patni Top.

Another thing: You have posted your TR at J & K Forum. But it seemed to me that the central theme of your travelogue would be Himachal Pradesh and if that be the case, it will be appropriate if you transfer the Himachal part of your story to Himachal Pradesh Forum.

Thanks for sharing your story with us.
#4 Mar 2nd, 2014, 11:10
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Patnitop second morning – the beautiful Himachal part 2

Leaving Patnitop towards snow point—Jammu to Himachal

Last evening was windy and cloudy. Wind blew whistling through the whole night. In a new place that too at a good altitude I feel uncomfortable. I couldn’t sleep well. It was the first night. I take a little time to adjust. At Patnitop it was our only night.
When we came out in the open next morning, we found the sky still cloud covered but much brighter. Tukai and I went round the area exploring. The flowerbed attracted us first. A bunch of pink-tinged white flowers proudly raised their head at our feet.


Patnitop flowers - pink white bunch

Around the pink whites stood a circle of bluebells. I don’t know its actual name, but it was blue and had bells hanging.


The bluebells

Usually when you walk you won’t notice the small flowers that look up to you when you pass by. If you stoop down you might find abundant beauty in them. For quite some time I had seen Tukai specially interested in the small flowers, insects and even pieces of dead wood that lie at his feet.

When we looked up and ahead, we spotted a blue bird sitting on the flower bed. We didn’t know its name then, but now I guess it was a blue whistling thrush. The yellow beaked blue bird sat still—around it was a sprinkling of pink white flowers against a backdrop of green grass.


Blue bird

Himachal is rich in natural beauty with a lot of green cover. We expected accordingly an abundance of birds. We looked at each other with sparkling eyes—at least one showed up!
In a few minutes our blue bird flew away leaving us to our aimless wanderings. When he looked at the green young plants with buds waiting to bloom, I had to admit that Tukai had the ability to spot future possibilities.


For some months this green faced me as the wallpaper on my desktop—its green soothing me.
I love trees and soon the majestic tree attracted me. I pointed it out to Tukai. The Patnitop compound is old as old are the few remaining large trees. Over the last forty years from the time I first went into a forest I had seen many trees—large and tall with thick trunks and wide spreading branches, but never before I met with a tree like this.


Near the giant of a tree stood another tall one bedecked in creepers—as if it said—don’t you find my guest beautiful?
I thought—only the gracefully aged can collect a guest like this.


Guest of the gracefully aged

This backside we found the trees to be gracefully aged in their own ways. The group of trees extending their branches touching each other looked like a group of dancers suddenly going still.


Looking through the branches the hillside just opposite was bathed in soft light now. Layer after layer of tall trees rose to stop at a large bald patch on the hillside. Rows of tree at the top looked like hairs standing on a bald head.


Looking through

Turning around a bit we were greeted with far away white dots of houses at a thin spread all over a valley. A bird could have flown straight down to land on a roof top in five minutes it seemed. We liked the view and spent a few minutes looking at the far away signs of civilization.


Open hillsides at this altitude in Kumaon or Himachal always enchant me. The trees rise straight with spread out branches. Undergrowth non-existent—you can unroll your mat and sit on the far away slopes under the trees wherever you wish. The slopes are so gentle.


My friend called—breakfast is ready. After breakfast we would leave for the snow point. We looked at our far away destination. The hill top lost much of its winter snow cover, but still some snow was left for us we felt.


Losing snow

After a quick breakfast we loaded our already packed luggage in the car and started for the day. It would be near evening when we would reach back to Jammu, but now snow point was our destination. With a slightly heavy heart we bade a silent good bye to Patnitop—we never knew you were there, but we liked you. We would come back again. Perhaps.

quasar23
(C) Atanu
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#5 Mar 2nd, 2014, 11:12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by asishdas View Post @quasar23

Nice TR with photographs. This reminds me of our trip to Patni Top. We could not see any trace of snow at Patnitop or its surrounding hills. We visited during September and most probably the accumulated snow has completely melt out by then.

“We would visit a place near that hill tomorrow. We would touch snow.” I'm curious to know the place which your friend was referring to and how to reach there from Patni Top.

Another thing: You have posted your TR at J & K Forum. But it seemed to me that the central theme of your travelogue would be Himachal Pradesh and if that be the case, it will be appropriate if you transfer the Himachal part of your story to Himachal Pradesh Forum.

Thanks for sharing your story with us.
Yes, I would have liked to post this in Himachal, but the Forum Leader, has been sending me messages to post similar threads as a reply.

quasar23
www.travelnatureus.com
#6 Mar 7th, 2014, 10:36
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Snowball fight at snow point, Patnitop—a short trip from Jammu


After leaving the rest house, the road went down a bit and then leveled up still turning around in gentle curves. The snow point was not really a village or a specific place where establishments existed—it was just a stretch on the winding road where the low hillsides rose on the left and went down below on the right, both covered with patchy layers of snow. We came to know about this stretch from the locals at Patnitop rest house and decided to include it in our itinerary. To touch snow we must go to this place—we were told. Though I was not greatly interested, my companions were.

The snow point being within an hour’s distance, our plan was to spend a few hours playing with snow (not me, no, I was sensitive to cold, and perhaps old!) before turning back towards Jammu. Without any halt in between we should be reaching our house to take a late lunch by 4.

Patnitop is not very high in altitude, but during winter, areas around it get thick snow covers. Some hotels and resorts even offer snow gliding during winter. When summer comes these snow covers gradually melt away leaving the ground vegetation and the lone trees breathing again.
Snow line is low here compared to the central or eastern Himalayas. In this country it is never easy to reach snow in the mountains. In central and eastern Himalayas, to touch or walk on snow in April, you may have to go up to 14000 or 15000 feet altitude. Casual tourists like us cannot easily access those places. Here at Patnitop we had the chance of a snow walk in April just like that, without any pre-thought, without any preparation or special efforts. My friend asked, “Do you want to walk on snow?” We said, “Yes.” That simple. The excitement of Tukai and my friends I could well understand.
The snow point was about a thousand feet higher than Patnitop—the rise was gradual and the road almost flat. Even bends around the hillside were gradual. Occasionally the road straightened. On such a stretch we stopped the car. The flock of sheep grazing down the vale looked cute like moving toys.



Sheep grazing

Hillsides here were not rocky or devoid of vegetation. There was something for the sheep. The slopes were here gentle and inviting. You could easily go down these soft curvy slopes. I wanted to.
Wherever sheep graze there must be human habitation nearby. The view of the village sprinkled across the valley below was not breathtaking but inviting.



Village on the valley


After a short while we stopped at a midway viewpoint. These viewpoint are always chosen to offer an open view up to a long distance. Whenever amongst hills, I look for these viewpoints and never like to miss one.


Clouds were still there with us. Rolling hills merged with the clouds at the horizon. I admired the view and tried to imagine how good it would look in on a bright sunny day.


Not in every part of the mighty Himalayan range could you see such an open view. High mountains tend to wall you in. Patnitop being situated on a plateau and the surrounding hills not very high, one can enjoy the openness to quite a far distance. I yearned for good sunlight.
The trees around the place were nicely dense and were of all varieties that occur at this comfortable altitude. A row of young willows looked like beauties lined up for a fashion parade.



A young one of different variety looked like a christmas tree.
Patnitop, Jammu Himalayas, a beautiful tree in pose
In pose


I went close to a weeping willow. That’s the name by which I know it. Though these trees are supposed to appear only in the mountains, I had occasionally seen this variety even in plains in a tasteful garden. As a wallpaper of my laptop screen this would do well, I decided.

Tukai spotted a dark colored bird that we couldn’t recognize. It could be a hill crow I thought.


While Tukai liked the birds, I liked light shining through a curtain of leaves.
Patnitop mountains, Jammu Himalayas, play of light and shadow through curtain of leaves
Curtain of leaves


Time to start for the main attraction. Our car started again. The road rose slowly for some time and suddenly there was a shout from my friend. The car stopped. We had reached the snow. It was only a small patch of snow coming down the low hill side. This was our snow point.


The car was parked at a convenient point. There was a large group of other tourists making lots of noise and throwing snowballs round a bend. We chose an unoccupied stretch of the road and got down. All around us lay the much coveted snow, albeit in patches.

The road in front first veered right, then after a brief left turn took a wide roundish right turn. The hill on the left of the road was low and snow cover thicker.
The thickness of the snow cover was about 4 to 5 inches. It came down up to the road. Roads were cleared up for cars to move freely. On the right snow flowed down the hill all the while losing cover and thickness.


Snow view


We moved closer to the snow, touched it and though I wanted to taste it, my friend said, “No. Don’t.”

So this is what snow looks like!
I saw ice before but not 4-5 inches of snow that melts away. Tukai had never seen snow or ice except in a deep freezer. Just a while ago we saw the group around the bend ahead romping like a group of children. We all have children in us, I decided.
Being a man of advanced age, I couldn’t easily let go, but not my friend. He had tremendous reservoir of energy and enthusiasm and obviously a playful child in him. Tukai was also in teens, and eager. It was great fun.

My friend took the offense while Tukai was on the defense. I was the referee counting the strikes. It went on with lots of laughter. I joined but passively, I must admit.
Game stopped. Players took rest.

I have an explorer in me and so somehow clambered up the hill on the left. It was laborious and difficult, but after a brief ungainly struggle the 30 feet peak was conquered. I stood triumphantly at the top waving my hand at the puny little figures far below.
Rejoining again we went sightseeing.
Looking closer through the zoom, the snow on the hill ahead did not look very nice. The view was somewhat saved by the beautiful green frills of leaves in front.


But when I turned on my right, I liked the view facing me. Encroachment of snow ended a short way to the right and below. The hill went down gently and then up again. Signs of human habitation could be seen on the face of the far side hill.

Looking closer, the high tower carrying electric power long distance looked tiny and out of place. Small huts or cabins look fine but not power towers.

A particular tree caught my attention. While rising, midway it had lost all its branches and green leaves then ended with a tuft. It reminded me of sheep partially shorn of wool.


I was quite taken aback when I noticed the very small cottages at on the left of the head of the tree far away. Looking closer, the cottages looked beautiful. I was still more surprised and asked my friend about the name of the place. He could only say, “It is a private resort.”

Great location, I thought, and must be costly. I tried to google the place later; possibly this was the place near Nag temple.
Moving my view a little, now it was green more than patchy white. Now I can accept the snow. The trees stood tall with dwindling patches of snow lying at their feet. In a few weeks or days time the snow will melt away completely.
I noticed that there were practically no trees at the places of snow cover. Perhaps every year snow flows down the same areas killing the trees in the process.

Looking up and closer, the snow streaked hilltop got framed.


Still closer, the frame looked nicer. This was one of the hilltops we saw yesterday from our rest house.

My friend had to interrupt us in our reverie. It was time to go. We felt sated. The car started again. Now it would be to Jammu with no further identified targets in between.
Altitude decreased quickly. It warmed up noticeably. We were near Jammu when Tukai spotted a representative of our possible ancestors resting with a thoughtful face on a tree fork.

Even the two small ones crossing the road at a fast roll couldn’t escape Tukai’s eyes and finger reflex.

A few minutes later my friend pointed his finger forward. The palace looked like a picture postcard.

My friend informed me that this is called the Amar Mahal Palace or Dogra Palace in Jammu. This was built by Raja Amar Singh in the nineteenth century and later was donated by Dr. Karan Singh for turning it into a museum.
Our home at Jammu was not far away.

Author’s Note: This was a trip from Kolkata to Jammu where we had about 12 days. We went from Jammu by car to Dalhousie first. That was our prime destination. From Dalhousie my friend picked us up for Khajjiar for a one night halt. From Khajjiar we returned back to Jammu via Jyot.
Later we made a short visit to Dharamsala and then ended the whole trip with Patnitop. Except Patnitop all the places were in beautiful Himachal.
Memories of those days come back to me vividly with scenes of tall mountains covered with high altitude trees, winding ghat roads along the hillside, down below occasional thin silver streak of a river flowing through the green valleys and glimpses of majestic Himalayan snow peaks.

(C) Atanu
for more beautiful pictures visit - www.travelnatureus.com
quasar23
www.travelnatureus.com - Himalayas - The Gateway to Heaven
#7 Mar 8th, 2014, 00:06
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Great narration, Atanu! Loved every bit of it.

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