I look at the path to the pheasantry in Sarahan skeptically. “Are the birds in cages? “I ask Doreen with a heavy heart as I get out of the vehicle. I have always abhorred the idea of having birds in cages. “The walk is going to be beautiful” she says. I trust her as I follow her on to a mossy path. We are at Sarahan, a quaint village beyond Rampur, in the Shimla district of Himachal. This was a one night halt, after Fagu, before we headed to the gorgeous Sangla and Kalpa in Kinnaur. No wonder, it is called the “Gateway to Kinnaur“.
We had reached here around 4 pm and no, we wouldn’t retire to our rooms. Not with Doreen. An evening walk was a must. No matter where we are. So here we were, walking upto the pheasantry, (me with zero expectations of spotting anything). But this was going to yield a surprise. A memorable one.
The sun rays were now penetrating through the trees as the Cicadas sung to their hearts content.
“How far is it?” I ask, 10 mins later.
“Enjoy the wa…” she stops mid way. I stop too. We look ahead. The green path is flanked by two other colours: pink and purple. My jaw drops.
Clusters of colourful Himalayan Balsams welcome us sprouting through bushes and wood logs. Ferns of varied shapes and sizes fall gracefully from barks of trees. Some creepers cling to the barks tightly, as if locked in an embrace.
Wild flowers stand atop shrubs, keeping a check on who is walking on the dry leaves. The forest had come alive to a bunch of intruders, and how!
Twenty minutes later we reached the pheasantry, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it is the state’s effort to save the endangered birds from predators. The birds are in a protected natural enclosure and the forest officials are extremely particular about the feeding and protection of the birds from germs and diseases. The best part was it’s isolated location, due to which, only the interested tourists could make their way up and interact with the birds responsibly. I heave a sigh of relief. This pheasantry was not for human entertainment, but bird conservation. There is a notice board outside detailing the do’s and don’ts for the visitors, where teasing the birds was cited to be a criminal offence, and talking loudly was a strict NO-NO.
This is where I sight the vibrant coloured Himalayan Monal and the gorgeous state bird of Himachal, the Western Tragopan. The quiet of the place is punctuated only with the call of a young Monal strutting away. We look at it’s antics, from one branch to another.
As dusk sets in, the Cicadas raise their volumes as if urging us to leave. Alas! Intruders have to go and so we began our walk back to the HP tourism’s Hotel Shrikhand, our abode for the night.
The walk back is graced with the evening sun’s rays falling strategically on the petals of flowers as if highlighting them and saying “Look, that’s my favourite!” The riot of colours continues all the way as I spot some of nature’s gorgeous treasures, painted delicately in gentle strokes and tucked away between rocks and shrubs. It is nothing short of a miracle to see so many colours in a tiny span of one hour. There were flowers that I had never seen before, some whose names I knew, some absolutely unknown.
In between the trees, the famous temple of Bhimakali, appeared at a distance. The gongs went off, announcing the Grand evening Aarti at the temple.
It was indeed time to get back from nature to civilisation. As we entered the idyllic Hotel Shrikhand, a flower spread welcomed us there as well. From Crimson Dahlias to the fragrant Himalayan Champaca, the hotel premises were a flower paradise too.
My top reasons why you must choose this hotel (apart from the flower show)
1. Splendid views of the Shrikhand Mahadev (on a clear day, you can see the snow capped peaks in full view)
2. Proximity to the Bhimakali temple (a detailed blog post on the beauty of this temple will up soon)
3. Idyllic cottages and pretty windows (The windows that became props to pose and click pictures!)
4. Mr. Shiv Kumar, the extremely helpful manager with his animated stories. (Who I spoke to for 3 hours, discussing everything from traditional recipes to markets to local marriages to state routes).
If you are staying here, do walk up to the shop outside selling local food, where the lady knits cute woollen wear to engage in a chat, and bring home some hand woven beauties.
Apart from the pheasantry walk, you can also walk down to the old house of the king across the village. There is no access inside the palace but one can visit the orchards and the gardens outside. Enroute you may come across local women pressing oil from apricots and a cluster of Persimmon (Japani phal) fruit trees.
For the secret valley of flowers, the magical sounds of the forest, the colourful creepers, the tiny wildflowers that mushroomed out of nowhere, the majestic Bhimakali temple, and the stunning sunrise over the Shrikhand Mahadev peak, Sarahan you will be always be remembered.
The distance is 564 kms from Delhi and 170 kms from Shimla.
The best place to stay is HP Tourism’s Hotel Shrikhand.
It is an ideal one night halt en route Kinnaur.
The best time to visit is April-September.
It can be reached from Shimla by cabs. Buses are available till Rampur which is 23 kms away.
The pheasantry is closed in the summer season as it is breeding season for the birds.