Diamond in the Rough

From Shimla we plan to drive the back-roads via Karsog to Mandi, which we hope to be able to accomplish in one day. This way we may be in for a slower journey but it’s less time spent behind buses, cars and trucks, breathing dust and exhaust smoke and generally fearing for our lives. We have inquired with some people and they say the road is good. This I cannot dispute for the most part, but it’s high, steep and winding. As a driver I need to focus and concentrate on the road ahead, but the occasional glimpses of the massive voids to my side are enough to subconsciously let the fear take effect. Occasionally I have to consciously tell myself to relax and just ride the road ahead as any other because I find that without noticing it I have become quite tense sitting on the bike. Though my focus is on riding, my mind is bring perplexed by the massive sense of scale around me and it’s not sure whether to panic.

Ha ha ha ha! These are the joys of riding the Himalaya! There is a small price to pay but once you realize where you are and see the stunning landscape your mind is overwhelmed by the sheer hugeness of it all and the smallness of yourself, and it brings about (for me anyway) a tingling sensation of euphoria and awe inside my gut.

We ask people along the way for directions to Mandi and it seems that we’re on the right track. However a few kilometres before Karsog we make a most fortunate mistake: we take a wrong turn which takes us on a 25km detour through mountain forest and again, about 3km before Karsog, I recognize that this trail has led us to the same guest house which, in 2005, my friend Marcus and I so fortunately came across after a full day’s ride.

The Hill View Guest House is a beautiful little establishment just below the residence of its owner, Mr Saklani, who slowly built up this place following his retirement in public service health care in this area. And to my delight, Mr Saklani is alive and well, now aged around seventy three. The guest house is surrounded by orchards, forest, beautiful garden flowers and mesmerizing views of the surrounding mountains and the great valley, stepped with lush green crop plantations. This place is nature pure and we decide to stay for two nights to take it all in.

The rooms are quaint, clean and warmly decorated. We take our dinner – mostly made from his own farm produce – on the immaculate lawn Mr Saklani has planted before his house and have warm conversations with him while he puffs eagerly on his hooka pipe.

It it a revitalizing stay and we’re glad to have chanced upon this place, as I had no recollection of where it actually was. We say our farewells on the last morning before we head off and I hope that I may visit this place again some day and have the pleasure of his company once more.