Dhanaulti in May, on the way to Uttarkashi, Harsil and Gangotri

Jolly Grant airport on a mid May afternoon didn't seem half as bad as Lucknow! So glad that we could find the time to take off to the Himalayas.

Driving via Dehradun under the shade of giant Sal trees got us singing with joy. Rightly so, our group of six girls is self-named, 'Happy birds'. Onward to Mussourie (60 km from Jolly Grant airport) and Dhanaulti (24 km from Mussourie) by 6pm the same day, we were plain and simple happy.

Prakritilay Samadhi! The blue sky and blue-green-brown hills unlimited  were occasionally interrupted by a speck of red rhododendron, a racing car or a file of school kids near Allen Wynberg school on the outskirts of Mussourie. There was no one vying for space on the road! This was just a few hours from Lucknow and the traffic delay that nearly kept us from getting on the flight!

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Time and each other was all that we had here. A stop for tea, overlooking luxurious green potato fields, and kids running after cows to the sound of wind in the valley. It was blissful.

The only other sound was that of laughter and rattling of kids’ self-made toy, a stone tied to a thread, rattling away as it got tossed around behind them as they ran after each other and the cows. The bill at this tea shop was next to nothing. Memories of bliss are priceless.

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Closer to Dhanaulti, we went past several Adventure camps and eating points. Ropewalks crisscrossed over valleys. Colourful flags and apple trees marked the camp areas. An edible grass with red lacy flowers swept whole hillsides that didn't have tall shady deodars or rhododendrons. It tasted like Changeri that grows wild and in gardens in Lucknow, a mildly sweet-sour herb that we nibbled in our time out in the open as children.

Dhanaulti itself is a lesser known place, making it far from busy. It is a paradise for yogis and nature lovers.

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Most of Dhanaulti comprises of two eco parks. Beautiful spaces have been created by local villagers using locally available resources. The eco park isn't a new enterprise for them. Traditional hill communities thrived on local resources and skills. Both parks are accessible from the main road itself which is also lined with hotels, home-run and high-end restaurants and the never-ending deodar trees that hide the sky.

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The GMVN Dhanaulti Heights hotel was right next to the eco parks and a forest guest house. Eco parks close at 5pm so we sat outside a park with a plate of pakoras, chai and boiled corn with lemon juice from roadside vendors and watched the eco-park resident monkeys find ways of getting corn cobs from the corn-seller. It was a live show. The grey, long-tailed monkeys knew how to get their way, especially the little ones.

pakora at dhanaulti

These vendors lived in the village below the road. We will go there and the Eco parks next time.

There is always a next-time list in travel and lifetimes! Unless, living in the moment is good enough.

A walk after dining at Rana Vaishnav Bhojanalay was still too early to sight the stars. Lights from roadside establishments kept the stars in hiding, as they do in a city due to light pollution.

At day break, the view of the snow peaks was a silhouette against the rising sun. Swargrohini and Bandar Punch ranges stood tall against the distant sky. The hotel garden was a reflection of the blue sky, with a border of blue iris and blue-pink hydrangea blooms.

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Daisies and other Himalayan flowers covered the grass lawns.

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There was an unforeseen delay in leaving Dhanaulti. A guest had left the bathroom tap running, resulting in an empty water tank. It was a while before the erring guest, err room could be identified and the tap switched off, and the tank refilled. After a warm bath and tea, we could leave for Harsil, just 24 km from Gangotri!

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