Naldehra If you want to replenish your drive without driving too far from your work station, head to this quaint corner in the Himalayas

Picking a tourist spot could be tricky these days. If Shimla spells deja vu and Mussoorie no longer excites you, try Naldehra as a destination to refuel your batteries. Calm and unspoilt, Naldehra is nestled in verdant hills and is just 22 kilometres from Shimla. I made The Chalets the base to explore the thick cedar jungle and the world famous 18-hole golf course.

The height (2200m) and landscape makes it a challenge for masters, but to me it was a vast expanse of green dotted with deodar trees and water bodies, like a painting come alive. Perhaps that’s why Lord Curzon called his daughter Naldehra. On one side is the Nag temple from which the place derives its name. A guided tour on a horse around the course is a way to absorb the scenery. It is an exciting ride on the undulating and slippery curves where you can surrender your safety to the mount. It is peppered with spots where many a romantic number from Hindi films has been shot.

The guide shows a tree which featured in Pyaar Jhukta Nahin , a spot which is popular as Badal Point because it found a place in the Bobby Deol film. Both the film and the actor have slipped in the rankings of public memory, but the way the guides tell you, it seems as if the camera rolled yesterday.

Today it could very well roll at my logwood cottage at the resort, which almost merges with the forest. It is a getaway into the wild where you can walk to your heart’s content if the legs are willing. Sunshine plays hide and seek through the verdure and monkeys want to know who has trespassed into their territory, but all this is in good humour. After all we are family!

I am told the pinewood used in the tastefully done up cottages is sourced from the chilly climes of Finland that makes it robust enough to withstand the vagaries of weather in this part of the world. But who is interested in details when nature is eager to envelope you in its misty blanket? It is time to embrace the clouds and let the droplets tickle you. You can sit for hours on the balcony with a hot cup of masala tea clasped in your palms appreciating the painter at work on the blue canvas that changes shades every few minutes.

The eyes have had their fill and it’s time to replenish the energy. The restaurant has a romantic setting as one gets to see a different side of the forest with the chirping of chikor providing a lilting background sound. From Mughlai to Continental there is plenty to choose from, but do try Himachali cuisine. I fell in love with sidus . The dumplings, made of wheat flour raised for six hours, are stuffed with poppy seed paste and steamed. Served hot with ghee, it is a taste you can’t duplicate at home. Time to hit the hammock with a book — and as the mercury drops the fireplace in the cottage beckons you to play truth and dare.

Before doing nothing becomes a virtue, the next morning I go down the hill to a traditional Himachali village where they still use slates to cover their roofs. The wooden structures, religious symbols and simple faces all take you to a world you felt no longer existed. Here it does, and merges with the modern rather effortlessly. Thrilled, I head towards Mashobra to have some apples. If in Mussoorie you can find Ruskin Bond on the road, here chances are you might have an encounter with Pankaj Mishra. But I had no such luck as I took the road to Shimla to spend some time on the good old Mall.

(The author was in Naldehra on the invitation of The Chalets.)

ANUJ KUMAR

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