I recently had a chance to spend a long weekend in the small artisan’s village in Himachal Pradesh called Andretta. Let me start off by saying it was wonderful! A perfect weekend getaway which offers a variety of activities ranging from Paragliding to simply lazing around at the home-stay with absolutely nothing to do other than imbibe the beauty around you and hope to carry some of it back with you at the end of the weekend.
We started our journey by arriving in Pathankot via train and then started out on a four hour drive to Andretta village. I love the mountains. They make me feel calm and content with life and help me forget any troubles that I may have in my everyday life. I felt the familiar calm settled over me as soon as we started our drive to Andretta. The drive was stunning to say the least! Himachal Pradesh was seeing unseasonable rain for that time of the year and so, as far as I was concerned, the overcast skies simply added to the beauty of the journey.
As lovely as the journey was, my joy was doubled once I saw the home-stay that we were going to live in for the weekend. The Mirage is a beautiful place set in a lane off of the main road in Andretta and is surrounded by beautiful trees and flowers. The home-stay is made up of several lovely cottages; all done up beautifully and in good taste. The owners, Dennis and Dolly, make you feel right at home with good home cooked meals and great company. You can go for breakfast to the dining are and spend the morning looking out for beautiful birds and a great view of the snow covered mountains around you.
Himachal Pradesh saw unseasonable rain in March. So we arrived in Andretta in the midst of a lot of rain that carried on for a better part the three days that we were there. I am not sure, but that may have been a reason for the amount of snow that we saw on the mountains around us. Honestly, while I was there, a whole lot of conversation was not on my mind. It was just too beautiful to ask for a lot of information on the place. I was content to sit back and enjoy the beauty around me. However, with the weather being what it was, we were a little worried about whether we would be able to go through with the paragliding program or not.
Andretta is a lovely place to go on walks and treks. I chose the former and got to see some lovely little spots hidden down unassuming paths. During our stay there we walked through some fields and got an even more stunning view of the snow covered peaks. on the whole a very pleasant couple of evenings spent walking around the village.
Very close to The Mirage is Andretta Pottery, which is what Andretta is famous for. They make some of the most amazing blue pottery and have won several accolades for it. Our trip organiser, Wonderful World, arranged for one day of pottery classes with them. Sitting for those pottery classes was a revelation in itself. Surprisingly, pottery is a very calming process. Our teacher, Shubham, told me that unless you are feeling calm and focused, it was very difficult to get any step right in the process. And it was really believable. Centering that lump of clay felt like I really needed to be centered. The whole process makes you think of nothing other than the task at hand and it was oddly liberating. I did manage to create my first bit of pottery (though I admit it was with a lot of help from Shubham). It was amazing how we would all struggle with all our might with every step and de-shape the clay and he would just come along and set it right with one hand – ONE hand!!!!! All thanks to Shubham though for making the experience so amazing!
After a lot of crossed fingers and toes and various limbs and several prayers offered to the weather Gods, we finally got a beautiful bright and sunny day to go paragliding! We left early on the morning to get to the Paragliding sight in Bir-Billing. Bir and Billing are two villages in the Dauladhar mountain range in Himachal Pradesh that are known as the second best site in the world and the best site in Asia for Paragliding. You take off from Billing at a height of 2400 meters and land in Bir, which is about 1000 meters lower. It is only an hour and half’s journey at best from Andretta and was our final destination before leaving for our home towns. The Gods had finally smiled upon us and we were going to get a chance to go paragliding.
An what an experience it was! We were of course going to go tandem with more experienced pilots. And they really seemed to know what they were doing. We were harnessed up and ready to literally run off a cliff! I take a pause here to tell you about the amazing Rhododendrons that we saw all the way to Billing. Apparently, due to the crazy weather there weren’t as many flowers as there usually are during that time, and having seen what I have, I cannot imagine what the mountains would look like when in full bloom. It was spectacular. They say that entire mountain sides turn red during the season.
And then we took off! It felt like I was flying! The wind was rushing all around me and there were no sounds to be heard 2400 meters up in the air. The view was amazing all around us and all we had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride quite literally. I didn’t want the ride to end! And to make it all a little more interesting our pilots did a small trick and took us whirling down almost to the base at Bir. Then, touch down. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I can only compare it to going scuba diving in the Andamans which was just as amazing!
And just like that our trip was coming to an end. We packed up and got into our cars for the four hour drive back to Pathankot railway station to get back to Delhi and then onto our hometowns. Thank you Andretta for giving us such a wonderful time. And yes, Thank you Wonderful World for organizing such a fabulous tour for us and making it all so easy for us. I hope to do another trip with you soon. As for Andretta, I am definitely going back again, even if it is just for another weekend!
Blog reproduction from Neha Sharma’s blog at http://amfootlooseandfancy-free.blogspot.in/