We pulled into Naggar in style. The four of us rented a car and driver to make the five-hour journey further into the mountains. Gerard and I were here four years ago and anxious to return; our enthusiasm obviously spread to Varun and Megan. Himachal Pradesh is such a beautiful state. We had just enjoyed a week and a half in a hilly countryside setting and now we’re up here – snow-capped mountains to the north, east and west of us. Being lowlanders we’re fascinated by how the mountains are constantly changing depending on the light. The Kullu Valley below twinkles at night, as do the stars overhead; the air is so clear.
The town itself is small and attracts mostly day-trippers from Manali. But in the evening when the sun goes down, it becomes very quiet. Only the occasional barking dog in the distance.
I wake early while it’s still dark, anxiously awaiting first light. A single bird sings while others join in as the sun hits the snow on the mountains directly out our windows.
One of the big draws for Gerard is the indigenous architecture, the wooden balconied houses with stone roofs. Even though there are fewer of these homes than there were four years ago, there’s still plenty to see walking through the twisting and winding paths of the village. There are signs of restoration on some of the older buildings up to 500 years old, but as a man on the street explained to us, sadly there is no new construction in the old style because it costs twice as much as concrete. And as we know, with any old building there’s continual maintenance.
Another draw is the numerous walks through apple orchards and dense forest within minutes of the town. Varun and Megan go foraging for fiddleheads and stinging nettles that the friendly cook at our very basic restaurant happily cooks up for us. One day walking through the village we find the house where four years ago we were invited into the courtyard and given tea and biscuits.
The woman of this wonderful old house claimed to remember and again invited us in.
We were so surprised to learn that her husband is the cook who, with the help of his two sweet daughters ,prepares and serves our food three times a day!
The subject of the mountain top temple, Bijli Mahadev, had come up a number of times. So again the four of us decided to rent a car and driver (there’s no other way to get there). Driving back down the valley to Kullu, then turning north and climbing 15 kms through wonderfully picturesque mountainside, we finally came to the end of the road and had to continue on foot for another 3 km. Now 3 km may not sound much of a hike, but considering that where the car stopped it was already 6500 feet high, the additional 1500 to the mountaintop was all that Gerard could do. But it was so worth the effort.
Sitting in a meadow with a 360 degrees view, it really was enough to take away whatever breath you had left.
And there was even a shack that served light refreshments before we started the arduous knee-straining descent.
On the trip back up the valley we watched the sun set on the snowy mountain peaks to the north just like a Roerich painting. (Nicolai Roerich was a famous Russian explorer/artist who lived in Naggar from 1928 till his death in 1948. We both love his paintings).
Two days later, we made another excursion across the valley to a Buddhist monastery, the only one that supposedly houses both men and women.
Built on a steep incline it offered yet new views of the surrounding mountains in an incredibly peaceful setting of apple orchards and kitchen gardens. On the way back we stopped off at a sulfur hot spring. Not sure what the temperature was but it was HOT. Quite a treat to sit in the spring in the bright sunshine and look out over the Himalayas.