Among the myriad hamlets of Himachal Pradesh is Naldehra, a town tucked just a little while away from the hustle-bustle of the well renowned hill station, Simla. About an hour’s drive from the main city, Naldehra is everything that Simla is not – serene, green and ever so fascinating. But since visiting offbeat destinations come with the onus of choosing a promising place to stay, I needed a place to stay that added its crucial bit to the experience. And so, my stop at the quaint settlement was The Chalets Naldehra, a one of a kind boutique mountain resort which was nothing less than a paradise perched on the hills. Inspired by the magnificent Swiss chalet architecture, The Chalets Naldehra is a home away from home, where every room overlooks independently spectacular views – the misty morning clouds, the patch of forest with imposing cedar trees, and the immaculately manicured lawns. The rooms are essentially designed like pine log homes, intricately done up with great precision and care. What sets it apart from the rest is the fact that it is built atop a mountain bend, keeping the natural landscape undisturbed. The property, owned and initiated by Yatish Sud back in 2001, is now being managed by his only son, Amish.
Teeing off with lessons in golf
It was under Lord Curzon’s watchful supervision, the Viceroy of India during the early 1900s, that a 9-hole golf course perched at an altitude of 2,200 meters took shape. What used to be his favourite camping site just outside the summer capital of British India (Simla), with thick manes of Himalayan cedar enveloping the pristine beauty, was soon transformed into an impressive golf course. Unfailingly, he named the course after this third daughter Alexandra Naldehra. Today, the Naldehra Golf Course is a grand 18-hole golf course, one of the oldest and most scenic in the country that resides right next to The Chalets Naldehra. Tourists can try their hand at the sport by paying a nominal daily green fee that ranges between Rs 250 to Rs 500. One could either trek their way up the ridge but since the climb is exceedingly steep it is advisable to hire a cab or pony. But it is only after you witness the breathtaking grandeur of the lush topographic glades that you realise why it is regarded at par with the reputable golf clubs of India. After a half-hour long session with the chief coach in learning how to reach the right posture for a perfect stroke, I was finally able to hit the ball hard enough to fly off the net. There was not a single soul to score my amateur swings and thank god for that. The sport may come across as easy on the eye but it requires a great deal of patience and precision to send the ball into a hole. Both father and son, Yatish and Amish are professional golfers and regular participants in intercity tournaments.
A stroll in the apple orchards of Mashobra
It is one thing to buy apples from your local fruit vendor, and it is another thing to pluck them off the branches and bite into its savoury, untouched sweetness. My second day at Naldehra began with a short 20-minutes drive to the apple orchards of Mashobra’s Regional Horticultural Research Station. The centre has about 170 varieties of apple trees, both red and golden, on board. Ideally, the apple harvest season in Himachal Pradesh begins in August and lasts till September. Luckily, my visit coincided with the time when golden apples are found hanging from the trees in their ripened best. But since I had already had honey pancakes for breakfast at the resort’s Garden Pavilion restaurant, I used my time for a leisurely walk in the fragrant orchards, blossoming with the forbidden fruit as the sun slowly came down heavily to call it a noon.
Simla’s old world charm is still intact
It is true that the number of inhabitants has gone a notch higher than it was fifteen years ago when I last visited. But the close-knit and content life that people in Simla lead will forever remain matchless. We drove further down to reach the majestic Viceregal Lodge where a guided tour of the building was about to begin. It is thrilling to revisit places of historical significance, especially when it recounts the days of the British-ruled India and India’s subsequent struggle for independence through its walls, furniture and walls. After a sumptuous lunch at a cafe, I proceeded to the famed Mall Road which was unusually crowded for a Monday afternoon. The street teemed with college students, young couples and office-goers who seemed to have gotten off work early. With some shopping in mind I headed to the Tibetan souvenir shop down the road where I picked up gifts for friends and family. Souvenirs are bought as a token that reminds us of all the beautiful places we visit. But that night, as I sat outside my log hut with a comforting cup of coffee in hand, I realised the greatest souvenir lies not in any materialistic memento. It is in fact the intangible experiences and collective memories that we encounter – of meeting new people, of loving an unfamiliar city, and of understanding life a little better.