10.07.2016 - 17.07.2016
The tea picking season is in full swing at present & the 20 acres of tea bushes on this 70 acre estate, has a constant group of nimble fingered loyal pickers happily singing & working through sections of the farm..Apart from the various choices in fruit & vegetables that are in season too, life at Darang Tea Estates is mainly self sufficient, with even a small herd of cattle producing fresh milk, butter, paneer cheese & yogurt for the dining table on a daily basis.. Neeru is pretty talented in the kitchen too, and it's certainly shone through since I arrived & her regular cook of 45 years is away on holiday... Apart from catering for Naveen & myself with a daily change in menus for breakfast, lunch & dinner she seems to enjoy making her home made jams, pickles & chutneys with whatever is in season at the time..
A close friend & neighbour of the family is Mr. Shivpal, who was kind enough to invite me to a "Bhat".. A pre wedding lunch organised by & for the bride's side of the family & close friends at their home..It was an awesome afternoon & an experience I shall treasure always .. genuine local cuisine of rice & around 6-8 varieties of dal & vegetables served on plates of leaves & eaten only with your hands .. they say food tastes better eaten with your fingers & I think it's true .. Just try it & see.!!!!
On Friday Naveen & I decided to brave the monsoon rains & have the morning out for a visit to the Nagar Fort, a 20km. drive to Kangra which was once the capital and part of the powerful Chand dynasty.. The fort itself is said to be the oldest in the area & perhaps even all of India..Dating back to around 1009 and through the Mughal period of Jehangir's reign, it's certainly worth the visit, especially since the opening of the museum & installation of the personal audio guide system within the last few years.. After the British took possession of the fort & established a garrison there, it was sadly abandoned in ruins after the disastrous earthquake in 1905.. The ruins are perched high above the city of Kangra on a windswept ridge, overlooking where the Manjhi & Baner rivers meet... I've always had a keen interest in Mughal & India's past history, so this has got to have been a major highlight through my stay here..
Through the heat & humidity of the monsoons in these parts, probably the best times to take a stroll are late afternoons/early evenings or better still early mornings, before the heat of day sets in .. Photographically speaking too, these times tend to be ideal for taking pics in the natural light of day..!!!..
Well sadly, it's time to say bye to Palampur, especially Darang Tea & Homestay and move on to the next part of this travel stint in India .. Dharamsala and the home of the Dalai Lama..!!