We started from Sarahan at around 9.00 A.M. in the morning after partaking some light breakfast at the Hotel Hatu. We retraced our journey till Jeori, where the side road meets the National Highway 22. On the way down, we found abundance of fruits strewn around on the roadside; we collected some ripe apricots and I struck up a conversation with two local ladies who were collecting the same from their orchards. It transpired that the apricots being highly perishable did not command a good price, therefore, the apricots whose seed kernel was sweet fetched a higher price as the same was mixed with inferior quality almonds. However, the apricots whose seed kernels were bitter was now being used to extract apricot oil and also to produce scrubs by the cosmetics industry. As we were approaching Rampur, we again wanted to partake some delicious ‘Kulcha & Chola’, however, when we stopped at the location we found that Anokhey Lals’ father had expired and he had left for Bareilly, the other vendors were not up to the mark and seeing vehicle approaching, immediately started asking for exorbitant rates, that too for stale Kulchas, we dropped the idea and only had some Chola (Bengal gram) and continued ahead.
Sunset from Chail
As we approached Narkanda, we caught glimpse of Griffons feeding on something on the road, but just as we slowed down, two local bikers ploughed through and the Griffons flew away. Further ahead, my children were delighted when we caught a glimpse of a pair of fox that appeared right on the road ahead. We had planned ahead to buy some delectable Cherries that are locally grown. But we were caught up in the first monsoon showers at Narkanda and found the shops closed, as rain water can damage the packed fruits. Our driver was more dejected than us, but as we went past Narkanda, we found some local villager was putting up his wares on a table by the road side, we bargained a bit with him and purchased five packs of Cherries from him. The road towards Chail bifurcates from the National Highway and one has to drive towards Kufri and continue on this road and having gone past Fagu and other small villages and many a resorts we reached Chail late in the evening.
Griffon on the road
This is where we spotted the pair of foxes - below the tree standing ahead
Chail in Himachal Pradesh lies at a height of 2,250 metres above the sea level. In 1891, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala incurred the wrath of Lord Kitchener and was send in exile. He was banned to enter into the summer capital of the British Raj, Shimla. Thus, to avenge the dishonor Maharaja Bhupinder Singh decided to build a better summer capital than Shimla. The little village ofChail was perfect. It lay surrounded by magnificent deodar forests, Shimla was in direct vision and most important, the hill of Chail at 2226 m was somewhat higher than British-controlled Shimla. To ‘cock a snook’ at the Britishers, he decided to create his own summer capital, which was Chail. Chail is also famous in the history for having the highest Cricket and golf fields, which too was built by the Mahajara. The ground surrounded by tall trees is a beautiful spot in itself. The architecturally magnificent palace of Maharaja is now used as a heritage tourist hotel.
Passing by Theog - rain clouds looming
Passing by Fagu
The journey from Fagu to Chail is through one of most green environs I have come across in Himachal Pradesh. Nature is at her exuberant best and words like pollution and deforestation is no where to be found. Chail was accordingly, designated as the summer capital of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala. With the eye catching snow-capped Shivalik peaks in the background and the beautiful orchards and pine valleys around reminds the visitors of the uncharted beauty of this place.
The Chail Palace
Inside view of Chail Palace
The view of Kali temple at Sidhi Baba hilltop
The palace (now heritage Hotel) of Maharaja is on Rajgarh Hill, which is surrounded by three hills. On the third hill, Sabba Tibba, is the small township ofChail. However, there is a small anecdote associated with this place pertaining to the Sidh Baba Ka Mandir. It is said that the Maharaja had originally intended this to be the site of his palace, and had even started building it, but as is believed, a 'sidh', saintly person appeared in the Maharaja's dream, and declared that this was the place where he had meditated. Consequently, Bhupinder Singh shifted his venue and built a temple on the spot. This temple dedicated to Goddess Kali is at a vantage point and offers a bird’s eye view of the valleys below.