In a country where the sun shines almost 11 months a year, please excuse me if I don’t appreciate it as much. I loathe it, on the other hand, I love the clouds! Damp, gray, dull weather for me any day over the sunny days. Unfortunately we barely have that sort of weather at best for 1-2 months a year. So it is very important for me to make the most of it when that weather lasts!
Since three years now, I have been driving to the Himalayas from my hometown in Gujarat, this honestly is the best time to take a road trip in India! Entire India is beautiful during this time of the year, all those dusty towns in Haryana, those dry deserted rocks in Rajasthan, the dry north Gujarat, everything springs to life, suddenly there are more lakes, the greenery seems to have taken over, there is a vibrant coat that all trees are wearing, this dusty country suddenly has a green sheen to it and it looks amazingly pretty. Especially when the clouds descend in various shades of gray, innumerable small waterfalls begin trickling down slopes thanks to the clouds drooling drops of rain on the earth and mist floating around, the whole image is impossible to capture in a photograph, but you all surely have seen it haven’t you?
Trust me, if you haven’t you are wasting your life, go out and see the Indian countryside in the rains, its simply as good as any place on earth during this time.
Since I am a more greedy person than normal, I can’t make do with just the normal pretty Indian countryside, I prefer to travel to the Himalaya’s! Three consecutive years, end of July I am going to the Himalayas and take it from me, it is a super time to go there. The weather is not unbelievably cold, infact its quite friendly unless you are opting for a very high altitude, secondly, there are no crowds, thirdly the mountains are hibernating, the trees have been washed, the leaves are sprouting, the valleys are full of flowers, at times at certain places I remember it was difficult to walk without trampling flowers! Can you imagine that? On some trails at certain times, it is a problem, you cannot walk unless you put your feet on flowers! Coz the floor is that full with flowers! There isn’t just one valley of flowers, yes that is a famous one, thankfully, it keeps people from going everywhere! There are quite a few valleys that bloom and they are a sight!
Please do not let people deter you by saying landslides happen and all that crap, enough accidents happen on roads in cities. If we are sensible and prudent, accidents mostly like will be avoided, yes you might get stuck in a place for a day or two longer, but that’s about the worst it can get. Come to think of it, getting stuck on a holiday is the best thing that can happen to you! You can always tell your boss, sorry but road closed, I couldn’t come back and enjoy!
The monsoon in the Himalaya’s is quite spectacular, the water usually at most places is quite pristine and clean and clear, no brown falls here (largely) secondly, the breeding season of birds, so lots will be about with worms in their bills feeding, without worrying how close you are getting to them, thirdly, apple, peach, plum, pear season, pluck them and eat them! The freshness and the juiciness will blow away your mind! You might even not eat fruits any longer once back thinking, this is no way the same fruit that grows on trees! Take my word on this one too! The mountains near to you are lush green, the ones further away from you seem a lighter shade of green and eventually become blue, the clouds flirt with not just the mountain peaks, but they come down, settle down in the valleys, they flirt with the trees and even you! Yes, go walk in the clouds, you can also sing “aaj main upar” for many times the clouds will actually be in the valley below you!
The places are empty, the popular tourist sites, which are pretty, but usually made places to ignore because of the crowds are empty, the hotels are empty, you get loads of discounts, if you stay there they treat you like royalty, there are many local village deity festivals, if you can befriend locals you can have a ball visiting these villages during festival days, the people are generally in a good mood and relaxing.
Talking of festivals, I remember one afternoon we stumbled into a stranger called Rajinder in Buhad village in Parvati Valley, when he learnt we were from Gujarat and that we had come to see their local customs, he invited us home for tea, we tried to ignore but he insisted, we eventually went for tea to his home, in the middle of an apple orchard at around 5pm. That tea was followed by Bhatture Chhole, Fruits, Salad, Kingfisher Beer, Bholebaba Prasad, Chicken, Naan and by the time we left his place at 11.30 in the night, we were happy high, belly filled and stoned! Today that stranger Rajinder is a friend, we also meet for treks and I hope someday he will visit Bharuch and maybe I can reciprocate his kindness in some way!
Encounters like this do not happen in summer season or diwali season, the locals are also busy at that time! Its during rains that everything takes a back seat in the Himalaya’s. The atmosphere tells you not to work, to sit back, relax, gaze, sigh, soak in fresh air into those lungs of yours!
This year we headed for Kumaon, opting for the small corners in Naintal hills and Almora hills, we visited Nathuakhan, Sattal and Dhamas. We stayed in two places that are sort of hotels where we were the only guests, the cooks would ask us what we’d like to eat and cook, it was good to have their undivided attention and having everything cooked as per our whims and flavours and at times we wanted to! In Dhamas, we took up a house in the middle of nowhere, to get milk we had to drive about 10 mins after walking to the car for another 5 mins and to get proper vegetables or butter or bread, we had to drive 13 kms one way! The place though, had only three kinds of sounds, birds, cicada’s and crickets and rains pattering on our roof! The villa was secluded, very well equipped, with a view so good, for two days we plonked our asses on the bean bags in its balcony and read books, drank cups of tea, drank the other drinks, did the things and everytime we looked up from the books the view was to die for. We didn’t feel like moving, we didn’t feel like coming back, it was the ideal sort of house that I’d love to have some day in the hills. I’ll leave you with a few pictures and I hope it inspires you to take a monsoon road trip to some place if not the Himalayas!