We climbed gingerly, Babar in silent awe as we navigated the narrow looping roads going up the mountain curtained on both sides by trees huddled closely together amidst a think blanket of foliage. A sharp chill in the air made us shiver as we went further up, lush vegetation obliterating the sun turning day into night at four o’ clock in the afternoon. Mini waterfalls every time we turned into a curve trickled down on the side of the mountain licking the verdant leaves of enormous ferns lining the road. Our excitement mounting as we drove higher and higher. We were on the last stretch of our fourteen hour drive from Delhi to Chopta. Chopta is a beautiful hill station known as the mini Switzerland of India, located in the mountainous state of Uttaranchal in the northern part of the country. It is seven hours further away by road from Rishikesh.
As we drove on, we saw a small fox crossing the road. It paused and stared at us for a few seconds then with nimble feet darted towards the jungle faster than I could click the camera in my hands. Around and on top of the tress numerous variety of beautiful birds were flying about, some with very long tails. Magpies are especially abundant in the area. The camp we stayed at was named after this bird. I also saw what I thought was a local version of pheasants scampering around in the bushes. Much later at the camp we learned of other lively beings inhabiting these woods. Bears and leopards are just among those. The camp owners cautioned us against letting Babar run loose in the night as leopards are always on the prowl and could easily feast on him. We saw with our own eyes gruesome evidence of this as we passed half eaten carcasses of a calf and of a Langur carelessly discarded on the road.
A few meters ahead I saw a ray of sunshine where the trees were sparse and where the sky was visible again. Then all of us caught our breath in wonder, I think even the dog, as the scenery unfolded before us.
I was left wondering if we passed a portal or something for we were suddenly transported inside one of my favorite fairy tales. What a magical place we wandered into! I expected some Hobbits appearing suddenly in the meadows. It was like a scene from the Lord Of The Rings.
When we reached Magpie Camp it looked deserted save for the cook and the staff. Hubby was happy about that.
Babar could roam free as much as he pleases, no shrieking aunties to worry about. But there was of course the leopards that were lurking behind the wall of trees. The thought of one coming to our tent and snatching Babar away in the middle of night kept me awake and vigilant on our first night in the camp. But none made their presence known during our stay. I was bit disappointed about that! Ha! As if! Hahaha.
The air freezes during the nights, the temperature plummeting to a minimum of negative five degree Celcius, leaving Babar shivering despite his thick furry coat and ornamenting the whole meadow with white frostings in the mornings.
Two days of our stay we spent climbing hills, (both more or less six hour treks) one towards Deoriatal Lake and another up Tungnath Peak. The poor canine exhausted himself each time by climbing up and running back down to check on his two legged companions who were lagging behind, wondering why they were walking on such a glacial pace. Especially the female one!
Horses are available if you are not keen on climbing the mountain on foot.
Refreshments are available once you reach the park where the lake is. A dhaba serves lunch and Maggie at hotel prices which one can easily overlook after the arduous climb.
The city offers no leg room to breathe for us humans and canines that running to the hills becomes the best option to refill our lungs with unpolluted air, cleansing our minds from worry and cares, recharging our spirits for the battle that is life.