Before my trip to Himachal Pradesh, everyone who knew I was travelling there had something to tell me about the place. More so because this was my first trip there and also because I would be seeing the Himalayas for the first time.
So, I got to hear about the weather, the roads, the people, the rivers, the food, the vegetation, the various mountain ranges, the monkeys, the treks, the hotels, the temples, the local culture, apples, snow, wildlife… But all of them missed out on telling me about the breathtaking Himalayan sunrises and sunsets or for that matter, Himalayan moonrises or moonsets.
The first set of sunrises and sunsets that I saw were at Fagu and Sarahan respectively. They were beautiful and I may have even termed them as spectacular, if I had not gone to Kalpa and seen the sunrises, sunsets and moonrises over the Kinner Kailash range; they redefined the words “spectacular” and “breathtaking” for me.
On my first evening at Kalpa, our group visited a gompa at Kalpa village. Our visit ended around sunset after which we were generally wandering about. Suddenly I heard Doreen, our tour leader, call out to us in an urgent voice to hurry and see the moonrise.
We all rushed to where Doreen was standing and saw the moon peeking from behind a mountain peak and getting ready to make its appearance for the night. And over the next few minutes, I was witness to a moonrise like none that I had seen before and, perhaps none that I am likely to ever see.
A couple of days later, it was the full moon night and I saw the moon rise again at Kalpa. But this time, I saw it from the 5th floor observation deck at the hotel we staying in — The Grand Shangri-La. The sight of moon bathing the entire valley with a silvery light as it rose was a magical and unforgettable sight. (Apologies for the rather terrible photograph below)
Before I start waxing eloquent on the sunsets at Kalpa, I must confess that I never actually saw a single sunset. What I saw was the light of the setting sun play out on the snow-clad peaks of the Kinner Kailash range. While I was oohing and aahing over the moonrise, the sunset colours on the mountain and snow were equally mesmerising. Words are inadequate to describe what I felt like, but this extract from one of my favourite books, Heidi by Johanna Spyri, on an Alpine sunset comes very close to how I felt and how I behaved when I saw the “sunset”.
And thus imperceptibly the day had crept on to its close, and now the sun was on the point of sinking out of sight behind the high mountains. Heidi was again sitting on the ground, silently gazing at the blue bell-shaped flowers, as they glistened in the evening sun, for a golden light lay on the grass and flowers, and the rocks above were beginning to shine and glow.
All at once she sprang to her feet, “Peter! Peter! everything is on fire! All the rocks are burning, and the great snow mountain and the sky! O look, look! the high rock up there is red with flame! O the beautiful, fiery snow! … Everything,everything is on fire!”…cried Heidi, as she ran backwards and forwards to look first one side and then the other, for she felt she could not have enough of such a beautiful sight.
The sunrises were no less spectacular and I saw three of them at Kalpa. Every morning, I would be up before sunrise, wrap myself up well against the cold, climb up to the observation deck of The Grand Shangri-la, make myself comfortable on one of the seats there, and wait for the sun to rise.
It would begin with the skies gradually lightening and the peaks of the Kinner Kailash range getting highlighted as jagged silhouettes. The first rays of light would start appearing from behind the peaks lighting up portions of the valley. And then a tiny sliver of the sun would become visible and within a couple of minutes the sun would be out bathing the entire valley in a soft golden light. That would be the cue for me to get a cup of tea and enjoy the morning sunlight for a little while before getting ready for that day’s explorations.
I enjoyed all the moonrises, sunrises and sunsets that I saw during my stay in Himachal Pradesh. But the ones I experienced at Kalpa were really special and left me feeling really blessed and lucky.
Have you been moved by a similar moonrise / sunrise / sunset? Do share your experiences with me.