Saturday, October 17, 2015

Staff Outing

As I mentioned before, this past week has been Activity Week, with students and staff chaperones scattering for hiking and other activities. For some years, on Friday of Activity Week the administrative staff, most of whom have been working in their office, are treated to an outing of some kind. A few years ago I wrote about a day at Brentwood Sanctuary, a resort area to the west of Mussoorie. This year the group headed east to Chamba and Tehri, and I was fortunate to go along.

About 18 of us traveled in four taxis and one private car. Before we left, Eric handed each of us a bag for the trip with a bottle of water, bag of chips, packets of peanuts and cashews, and boxed pineapple juice. Very nice! We left the school gate at 7:00, just an hour earlier than Dan's small group motorcycle trip was to leave. The drive was spectacular; all but about ten kilometers was on the front side of the slope. The views would have been better if there hadn't been so much mist and haze. At the tea stop we could just make out the snow-capped peaks poking out of the clouds, but not enough to have a picture.

Our first stop was at a village tea shop, a little less than two hours away.

Village house with traditional slate roof

Enjoying tea in the sunshine
After another hour we arrived at a resort in the hills above Chamba. Chamba is now a big town, where the Tehri-Mussoorie Road forks to Rishikesh. The resort was an organic farm with a restaurant. Material from the Purana Darbar palace in Old Tehri has been used in the construction. The palace had been built by Maharaja Sudarshan Shah in 1815. When the Tehri Dam was built, a new Tehri was built some kilometers away and the residents were moved. The town is now submerged in the lake. It was a nice place with gorgeous views. There were six rooms opening onto a veranda. Behind the building and up a hill were a couple of tents nicely outfitted. In the dining room, there were many artifacts taken from the old palace.

Lodge veranda
Section of painted ceiling

Antique rocking horse

View of Chamba from farm
We looked around, enjoying the view and the sunshine. Around 10:00 tea was served, with many delicious pakoras -- onion, potato, capsicum (green pepper), paneer (cheese) and brinjal (eggplant). The sauces were fresh mint chutney (spicy!) and catsup.

After tea we headed toward the Tehri Lake. We drove through the center of New Tehri and I grabbed a shot of this temple from the car. It is a large bustling town now.

Tehri street with palace hotel above
The picture below was taken in 2002 when the dam was still being built. It is the tallest dam in India and one of the tallest in the world. It is rock- and earth-filled.

And here it is today -- you can see where the terracing just above the water level was during construction.

We drove down a long way to the level of the lake, where we had boat rides. They had two boats that each held six passengers. I was in one of the first boats. We were taken across the lake to the opposite shore for a half-hour ride. A videographer was taping us for a promotional video.

On the far side of the lake, these workers were standing on the shore watching a small fire that appeared to be coming out of a depression. We couldn't tell what they were burning.

After our ride, another group was taken out. Most people stood around the dock watching, but the sun was hot and I went up. This man had a small tea and snack shop with a large canopy. Esther and I sat in the shade and had a cup of tea.

Once everyone was finished with the boat ride, we drove back up to the resort for lunch. It was delicious -- panneer curry, spinach, mixed vegetables, rice, dal, chapatis, and mutton.

By this time it was about 2:30 and we had one more sight to visit -- an angora rabbit farm. We drove just a few kilometers and walked up a long narrow path. I got as far as the shop where they sold the sweaters and shawls, but didn't go on to se the rabbits. It is a government scheme that provides farm wives with their own income. Several people bought shawls and sweaters; they were beautiful. The pure angora ones were very expensive, but they also had blends that were very reasonable. The photo below shows a flat part of the path alongside a marigold garden.

When we got back to the resort, many people were ready to leave, but the manager said that our afternoon tea was ready. So we trooped back upstairs. They had made tandoori paneer and chicken. Someone had aluminum foil and packed up the chicken and paneer for people to take home. We had tea and biscuits and finally headed back. Just as we were leaving, the sun went behind a cloud.

It was a wonderful day and I'm glad I went. We got back to the school gate at 6:45, just under 12 hours after we had left. I was completely exhausted and slept for nearly 10 hours!

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