DAGSHAI - small cantonment town in the hills,kasuali,daly lay-TREKKING, RAPPELLING, PARAGLIDING OR BIKING -pack punch,dress code,tent tryst-MUNNAR-kerela's most famous hill station, rivers-Muthira,Puzha,Nallathanni and Kundala, Anamudi the hightest peak in south india,Eravikulam National Park ,wild goat the Nilgiri tahr.
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Lost in time
WAYFARER: Dagshai is a small cantonment town in the hills that’s oozing with history,
Thepoet — and there is only one, when a particular eastern state is concerned — says it rather well. If you look hard, you will find a treasure in the unlikeliest of forms right there in your backyard. He could have said this about Dagshai — a little mountain spot that’s almost in Delhi’s shadow. But what a treasure it is.
I had heard about Dagshai from some friends, but never thought of going there. Dagshai can’t be all that beautiful if it’s just a six-hour drive from Delhi, I used to tell myself. And then sometime last month, while on the lookout for new places to visit, I thought I ought to check this little town out for myself. So I led an army of 15 people, including three kids, to Dagshai in Himachal Pradesh.
It’s curious how not many have heard of Dagshai. Everyone knows Shimla — so much so that it turns into a Karol Bagh or a Bow Bazaar in the summer holidays. We all know and love Kasuali, which is a nice cantonment area some 340km from Delhi. But every time I tell people about Dagshai, they ask me, what shai?
I suppose there was a time I used to react in a similar way. But no longer. I have found a wonderful friend in Dagshai. It’s quiet, green and picturesque. It has no ugly buildings, no blaring horns, and no loud tourists bumping into you on the mall. And, oh yes, there is no mall either.Dagshai is a cantonment town — and has been left to it-self because of that. The army forbids construction, so you have nothing but little cottages dotting the hilltop. At a height of 6,000ft, it is 330km from Delhi.
We decided against driving up, even though it’s a nice drive — in large parts on an eight-lane highway — from Delhi to Kalka. Dagshai is 28km from Kalka, really a hop, skip and jump. If you start early enough from the Capital, it’ll take you five hours or so to Kalka — and then an hour to Dagshai.
We, however, went by train. We boarded the Kalka Shatabdi from Delhi early in the morning, and were at Kalka, on the border of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, in four hours and twenty minutes. We took a taxi from the station — but had to, of course, stop en route at Giani’s Dhaba at Dharampur, which is almost a pilgrimage stop for those traveling to Himachal Pradesh.
When I first went there decades ago, it was a shack that offered wayfarers rotis and rajma. Now it’s a sprawling and flourishing dhaba, with delicious, fresh food, and a huge menu. A friend had told us to try out Giani’s lemon chicken. Usually, I stick to butter chicken in dhabas, for you can’t go wrong with chicken, butter, cream and tomatoes.
But we had the lemon chicken, which was mildly flavoured and good to eat, along with hot dal, zeera, aloo and rotis. Then, suitably nourished, we hopped into the taxis, resuming our journey to the hills.
The road snaked its way toDagshai, with pine, rhododendrons and pomegranate trees lining the way. We found the cottage we were going to spend three days in — called 18 Charring Cross — without a problem. The cottage is run by a Delhi resident called Arun Aggarwal — and you can call him and ask him if he has a room to spare for you. It is a lovely cottage with a view of the valley, and a sprawling field in front of it — big enough to play football if you wish to. From the cottage you can see the toy train from Kalka to Shimla puffing and tooting its way up the hill.
If you are in need of a spell ofrest and silence, this is where you should be. All that you can do in Dagshai is go for long walks, and if you are bent upon seeing some local sights, you can visit its two churches, a cemetery and a quaint little post office.
It also boasts of an old jail with 28 cells, where white prisoners were kept during the British regime. The jail, sadly in a state of disrepair, has an adjoining area where prisoners used to be hanged.
Dagshai is bursting at the seams with history. The name itself has a slice of history attached to it. Legend has it that during the Mughal period, prisoners were sent to Dagshai and branded on their foreheads. That is how it got its name — from daag-e-shahi, or the mark of the royals.
But what interests me mostabout Dagshai is its link to the Irish war of independence. After the First World War, an Irish regiment of the British army was stationed in Solan, some 20km from Dagshai.
Sections of the regimentrevolted in support of the Irish independence movement, and 70 prisoners from the regiment were taken to Dagshai and court-martial-led. 14 were given life sentence, but their ringleader, James Daly, was executed there.
For some 50 years, Daly lay buried in Dagshai. Then, in the seventies, his remains were taken back to Ireland, and he was buried in his homeland with full military honours. The Irish, who have a song for every occasion, wrote a little marching song for Daly and Dagshai. It goes like this:
And the drums they were a beating time/while the pipes did loudly play/ When Daly died, the drums did beat/ that morning in the Dagshai heat/ now we’ll beat the drums no more.
Imagine, somewhere in Ireland, they are singing a song about Dagshai, and back home, it does not even feature on the district map of Solan. Dagshai, truly, has dropped off the map.
Are you into adventure sports and tourism?
Whether it’s trekking, rappelling, paragliding or biking, or any of the other adventure sports, they all offer a mad and breathtaking rush of adrenaline. And it’s absolutely essential to equip yourself with the right gear to make for a hassle-free and fun-filled trip.
So before embarking on your next adventurous getaway, arm yourself well with accessories that will see you through the planned (and the unplanned) situations as you rough it out. Here’s a round up of what the city’s stores have to offer.
Before you head to the nearest stores to buy a rucksack, make a mental checklist. The perfect rucksack must have essential features like compression straps that allow you to adjust the size of the bag according to the weight you carry, padded hip-belts so that the weight is distributed around the hips too, collapsible side-pockets for extra storages, expansion sections of extra material that allows the top to be overfilled and base opening for easy access to the bottom of the rucksack.
You could try brands like UBAC or Alpine for weather resistant rucksacks with a capacity of about 60 litres. They come in a price range of Rs.1,950 to Rs.2,500 and are equipped with collapsible pockets, base openings and padded hip-belts. You also get handy little camera bags to attach to your rucksack in the range of Rs.450 to Rs.1,050. Drop in at the UBAC outlet on M.G. Road or the Alpine showroom on Ballygunge Place East for a dekko.
At the Club outlet in the City Centre, there are options to be explored too. We really liked the 60 litres backpack for Rs.1,233 that can be bought along with a sleeping bag for Rs.1,069. You can also opt for an 80 litres backpack for Rs.1,999. These come in a smart blue with three to four pockets. Some even offer shoe storage space. These ones too come with compression straps, padded hip-belts, and collapsible side-pockets and base openings.
If you want all the works and some more added pizzazz, do go in for the backpack from Giordano in Forum. With six chambers, it comes for Rs.3,690 and in cool colour combinations like red and black or white and black.
Of course, the Samsonite models with built-in strolleys emerge the hands-down winners in this section. These double-duty rucksacks come for a cool Rs.6,199. And short of the expansion sections, they have about everything you could possibly want in a sturdy rucksack.
The most important part of your wardrobe during your sojourn in the wild will be the specially designed jacket that will protect you from the ravages of the weather.
You can go for the heavy and warm thermal jackets from Nike for Rs.4,500 while for the waterproof ones be prepared to shell out about Rs.6,000.
If that seems a bit over the top for you, drop in to Irish near Jyoti theatre for thermal-cum-waterproof jackets at Rs.3,200.
UBAC offers hollow-fill thermal jackets that can keep you warm in temperatures up to —15%c. These costs about Rs.1,180. You can also check out the cool camera jacket from UBAC, which has a special pocket to cushion your camera.
Cliff-line has double-layered jackets that come for between Rs.700 and Rs.1,100. Wind—proof jackets will cost up to Rs.650 at Alpine, while for insular ones you will have to pay about Rs.975.
At Chakra Equipments, be prepared to shell out hollow-fill jackets that insulate you up to — 8%. You can also check out the waterproof jackets and trousers that cost Rs.650 and Rs.550 respectively. A must buy is the hollow-fill gloves to warm you through the chill.
Watches that tell the direction and the temperature are also useful on a trek. Or choice is the impressively equipped titanium alloy Casio Protrek which costs Rs.15,495 and comes with a tachometer, altimeter, barometer, temperature, indicator and a compass. The same model is available with a rubber case for Rs.13,995.
If you’d like to spend less, the Timex Tight is also a neat rubber model that comes with a compass, nightglow and temperature indicator. It costs about Rs.999.
Trekking shoes are another mandatory buy for anyone planning a journey to the back of beyond. Bad shoes can really ruin a trip. Make sure that you check out the soles that offer a sturdy grip on rough and uneven terrain. Also, shoes that offer some degree of protection from water or snow top the wish list.
Reebok has waterproof suede leather trekking shoes for Rs.2,690. The brown suede leather pair especially caught our eye at Rs.2,790.
You can also drop in at Wood-land to get trekking shoes with special ankle protection coupled with excellent grip that’ll cost up to Rs.3,000.
Adidas has a range of water-resistant leather shoes with moulded soles costing between Rs.2,500 and Rs.5,000. But our pick is the brown and yellow Terex model that would empty your pocket by Rs.7,999.
You will need to find a secure shelter against those cutting winds and chilling rains once you retire for the night. Tents are indispensable on the adventure trail and here’s a checklist of what the stores here have to offer.
UBAC has A-shaped tents for two at Rs.4,800 while a four-person tent can be yours for about Rs.4,500. Dome-shaped tents for two will empty your pockets by Rs.3,300, while for four be prepared to shell out Rs.4,900.
You can check out four-person tents for Rs.4,800 at Alpine. They are waterproof on the outside allowing visibility from inside.
Cliff-line has such tents within a range of Rs.3,800 and Rs.24,000 and come in varied colours. Chakra Equipments has waterproof dome tents for four that will cost up to Rs.5,000.
You’ll get ridge tents for Rs.8,500 at Irish which can house five people. And if you want smaller ones for two people, take a look at the dome-shaped tent at Rs.4,500. Ridge tents at Chakra Equipments for four are yours for Rs.3,500.
So when are you gearing for your next does of adventure? Planning for it is surely not longer a daunting task.
VARIETEA: Munnar has 12,000 hectares of rolling tea gardens
Early Colonial settlers,it must be said,chose well.They laid foundations of hill stations that to this day look like something out of cell
uloid sequences.Munnar,Kerela's most famous hill station in its verdant Idukki District,,is one such easily reached paradise.Literally tran
slated as three rivers-Muthira-Puzha,Nallathanni and Kundala-
Munnar hosts their confluence at the centre of the town.Also in the
vicinity of this tea town is Anamudi,the hightest peak in south india
at 2,695 meters.Apart from rolling vistas of tea gardens-12000 hectares of them-and spice plantations,Munnar's charm is derived from its many waterfalls,lakes and streams.Its wooded trails are ideal for walks,and the over 500 exotic species of birds are a bird watcher's delight.Then there is mountain biking for those endowed with the requisite
leg and lung power.Also, 15 km away,Eravikulam National Park is home to the highly endangered wild goat,the Nilgiri tahr.
The dams across Munnar's rivers offer boating in tranquil waters,while a visit to one of the many tea factories here is an entirely aromatic experience.It is to Munnar's credit that easy tourism has not snatched away its serendipity.Go there before it does.
The Garden City was always a hip destination. And now with the hotel rates falling, travelers have all the more reason to plan a trip to Bangalore. The latest to launch a deal is The Park, Bangalore, which is offering a stay for a couple in a deluxe room for Rs8888 plus taxes per night. A terrace suite how–ever comes at Rs13999 per taxes and a deluxe suite at Rs16999 plus taxes per night. The rates include complimentary breakfast and dinner at Monsoon – the hotel’s multicuisine restaurant, a welcome drink on arrival along with a fruit platter. They also throw in two-way airport transfer, which is a big blessing given how far the new airport is. You get 20% discount on all food, beverages and laundry as well as free entry to the happening I-Bar. And if being a lounge lizard is not really your style, you can go for a relaxing head and shoulder massage. You also get to take in the sights in style, being driven in the hotel’s limo for a half-day sightseeing to places like Bangalore Palace, Cubbon Park, Lalbagh, Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace and more. The offer is valid from October 1 to 12 and from October 24 to November 2, 2008. For details call 08025594666.
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