It was a cold foggy morning. Dark still. The sun struggled to streak through the dense fog that hovered over hilly Mussoorie. And the misty road up and through the hill leading to Dhanaulti was a dark and lonesome road. But the car took a smooth curve around the bend like it always did. The soft and grey smoke of fog covered most of the distance. Seized by the gripping cold and anxiety in the dark, I sat on the edge of my seat, holding on tight to a hand holder in the car as we travelled on.
The thick fog covered almost everything around. Could the driver see the road ahead? What if he drove off the cliff! Who would know if the car rolled down? As a solo traveller, who would hear your call for help? Fear was all I knew that moment. The journey seemed forever. The local cab driver, Jo, drove silently undeterred by the weather condition. He has been ferrying tourists every day. Familiar with the place, perhaps, he knew the bumps and curves well. He was calm. He spoke not a word. And he did not hurry. He drove at a leisurely speed while I couldn’t wait to reach my destination – Dhanaulti or Dhanolti in Uttarakhand.
After a while, the fog began to clear slowly. I could see the mountain tops now. And finally, I heard a sound – a blah ... of a sheep or a goat amid the crispy clean air as we neared Dhanaulti. Yes! Almost there. I released a deep breath. All fear was gone.
Now that the sun was up, the journey was shorter than expected. The place was just 24 km away from Mussoorie. The white tourist lodge perched atop a hill was a warm, welcoming sight. But time was short. After a quick meal of rice and chicken curry, I left Jo behind and quickly hitch a pony ride on a beautiful winding road that led me far into the deep. Here, the trees stood tall. And time stood still.
I threw my head back, but not good enough to see the tip of the green tall pines. The fine sun beams streaked softly through the wet mist that drenched the rich forest. Yes, here lives poetry, in nature’s best. A little green elf or a pretty pink fairy could give you the much-needed company if one stayed a little longer. I stopped for a while to breathe in the silence of the deep and soak up the chilled air of the green pine forest. It was mystical. It was almost dusk, but I had miles to go before I camped here for the night. The apple orchard in the wild I must see.
Surrounded by the Himalayan mountains, the orchards were sprawled out like Aladdin’s garden with apple and cherry trees, filling the air with the sweet fragrance of abundance and whispering hope amid the cold. A neatly kept resort in the orchard beckoned to halt the night. Once a hunting lodge it now provides a clean stay and home-cooked food. From here, one can enjoy the delightful views of the apple and cherry trees with the green and blue mountains in the backdrop.
Apart from the orchards, a visit to the potato farm was on my list. But with no time to spare, I managed a moment at the vast expanse of the potato farm from where one can see the captivating view of the Doon Valley. While I missed visiting the Eco Park and Surkanda Devi temple popular among tourists, a day spent at the apple orchards and the experience of a night camp in the stillness of the wild was worth the visit to Dhanaulti. However, one must avoid visiting the place during rainy months and severe winter months. It rains heavily during July-August and by February heavy snowfall cover the place.
If you love the grey and the silence of a foggy calm, you must take the road to Dhanaulti.
"I like the muted sounds, the shroud of grey, and the silence that comes with fog," ~Om Malik
Here’s how to reach Dhanaulti – Catch a train, bus or fly to Dehradun. Then Catch a cab from Dehradun or from Mussoorie.