Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mountains vs. Seas

If anyone asks me about my preference between a holiday in the mountains and one near the seas I would say ‘mountains’ without batting an eyelid. May be because I have lived most of my life in cities with beaches – first in Bombay and now in Chennai. My house in Chennai is only a 10 minute walk from the beautiful Elliots` beach, where I go for a walk every day!  So I am not particularly fascinated by Beach resorts because I find the experience monotonous.

 I prefer the mountains because of the varied experiences I have  had  during my many visits to  small hill stations on  holidays and ofcourse  the mighty Himalayas on pilgrimage trips or fun holidays.

While trips to hill stations have a certain pattern, visiting the Himalayas has always been an awe inspiring experience.

Let me start with the hill stations.  Most of the resorts in hill stations,  with man made lakes, gardens and parks,  were established by British rulers as a get-away for their officers  during the hot summers.

As you ascend the hills emerging from the plains you will encounter small streams crossing your path or mini waterfalls traveling down the side of the mountain or sheets of white water cascading down the steep hillsides, giving you some unforgettable moments.  Most of the hill stations also have some fabulous viewing points.

I remember my first experience of viewing the Doon valley  atop  the  hills of Mussoorie made famous by the genial  Mr.Ruskin Bond, the famous author of British origin. While the valley provides a certain viewing pleasure during the day, at night it looks as if all the stars from Heaven have descended  on the earth – thanks to the glittering lights of  Doon township.

To reach some of the hill stations like Ooty you  have to ride through scores of hairpin bends which provide an adventurous twist to your journey. For some with weak stomachs it could be a nauseating experience!

If you have to pass through reserved forest areas, as in Mudumalai  on the way to Ooty from Mysore, you can also see varieties of the four legged species  crossing your path.

Some of the hill stations also provide a mystic experience if you visit them during monsoon.  If you can get over your anxieties of possible land slides on your way and reach your destination safely, then you are in  for some ethereal experience with clouds.  Sitting on the verandah of your resort room you can see and feel the white and dark clouds passing by you.  The frequent rain during such holidays can sometime upset your tour plans but the joy of getting wet one moment  and encountering the bright sunlight the next, can leave you mesmerized. That is  nature`s  way of playing games with you.

While visits to the hill stations provide you with guaranteed fun  moments , visits to the big mountains like the Himalayas are altogether a different experience!  I have had the privilege of experiencing the Himalayas on several occasions.  Some of them on pilgrimages visiting the abode of Lord Vishnu like in Badrinath in Uttaranchal or Muktinath in Nepal or visiting Gangtok in Sikkim trying to reach Nathulla Pass at the height of 15000 feet, on the Indo-China border.

When you are on a pilgrimage to the Himalayas, you know inspite of all your meticulous planning, the Darshan of the lord is possible only if the Lord wants to see you!

So when people start on any pilgrimage, they have butterflies in their  stomachs and prayer on their  minds.  If you are traveling in a group, you will hear every one joining in singing devotional songs in praise of the lord, right through the journey which can last upto 48 hours one way, with one or two breaks for overnight stays.

The inherent fear that accompanies everyone through out the journey is compensated to some extent by the joy of witnessing some gorgeous natural sights.

When you are traveling to Badrinath by road, the sacred river Ganga accompanies you right through the journey.  Sometimes it is running parallel to the road, at other times you can see it is winding  its way through the mountain over rocks and trees. While in some other places it descends majestically from a height as a waterfall and in some places it glides along  gently.

 When you are  travelling by road to Gangtok you will have  similar experiences with river Teesta accompanying you  right through the journey  It is a fascinating feeling  that words can never describe completely.

When you visit Kashmir, variously described as the Paradise on earth or a  Dreamland destination on the Himalayas you will have the additional delight of witnessing honey dewed orchards, flower carpeted meadows, rippling lakes and icy mountains beckoning you.

Relaxing in  the  house boat at the Dal Lake in Srinagar, in the evening, you will be  captivated by the beautiful scenery provided by the setting sun behind the mountains.  At night when the lights are switched on by all the   boats – Dal lake becomes Golden lake, thanks to the reflection of  thousands  of  amber  coloured  lights in the water.

The snow clad mountains of Sonmarg and Gulmarg also offer you the opportunity to indulge in a lot of fun activities like skiing, skating or simply playing with ice balls!

I can go on listing the many virtues  of the varied  experiences you can have on small hills or big mountains. What I have listed is enough to justify my preference for the mountains as against the  Seas for a dream holiday!

Any one with a different view is welcome to share his/her views with me.

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