Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Romantic destinations: A date night at Jamnaala

You can go to sleep here too! (Jamnaala)

Are you a nature lover who wears travelling pants? Do you also not shy away from a good hike ever so often? Do you end up romanticising nature whenever you’re treated to the ‘perfect scenery’? Is your significant other just the same?

If you answered those questions in the affirmative, an outdoor camping date night is just your thing.

For me, personally, that feeling of just the two of us lying somewhere at the end of the world does it. What also does it for me: A man expertly manoeuvring a good fire in the windy woods, artfully pitching up our camper’s tent, and who has something to show in the department of cartography and celestial trivia. (Ladies, don't you vouch for the magnetism of a dude who puts his arm around your shoulder and gently guides you to a Milky Way or a North Pole you've never laid eyes on before?)

In October Fireballs gave you a taste of what a date night by Spiti’s beautiful glacial Chandra Taal might feel like, this weekend we have upped the adventure quotient a notch and have dug out a romantic getaway on a trekking trail in the outer Himalayas.

We bring you Jamnaala – a camping station midway on the 19km hike up to the Churdhar peak.

Reaching Jamnaala at sunset (November end, 5pm)

Picture a meadow fenced off from the forest by coniferous and rhododendron, with the backdrop of breathtaking majestic mountains, and rich Sirmauri flora decorating the meadow itself. If you reach on time – at sunset – your senses will be treated to the richness of an Opal-like sun turning into a giant orange globe at which point the meadow is ten shades of green with streaks of bright orange.

Imagine giving each other a comforting foot rub huddled by a bonfire after a long and tiring day’s hike, intertwining fingers with each other (or whatever it is that you kids are doing these days!) beneath the Milky Way, gazing at a moon so close (even a full moon if you plan your trip well) and talking about all the crazies and fancies you hardly get to discuss in routine life, then waking up the next day to have breakfast in paradise.

Jamnaala - 8am

Do you know how many million stars stud the sky overhead at this place? It’s 69!

How to get there

Jamnaala is 9 km uphill from the Nauradhar village – a base point which is 70 km (or roughly three hours) away from the nearest town, Solan. The first kilometre of the trek involves climbing steep rocks, but the rest of it is a straight incline.

It took the two of us five hours, after starting at 12pm (including a half hour lunch break at one Lucky Dhaba right after the steep rocky climb, and three shorter breaks) lugging at least 10 kg camping backpacks each to reach the meadow at 5pm which was the perfect hour to arrive.

If you are not driving down to Nauradhar and are taking HRTC buses to the place, be sure to ask enough locals to triple-check the bus timings because buses from Solan to Nauradhar: not too frequent and also prone to cancellation!

What to bring

Yes, our 10kg backpacks were the result of lack of planning; and No, you won’t have to lug that weight to enjoy your date night!

What you need between the two of you:
- a tent (check out this ‘ultralight’ Quechua tent for 2 people) which weighs 2 kg;
a fire starting kit (less than 1 kg);
4-season sleeping bags for each of you (or you might fancy going for this Northface sleeping bag for two people – 3kg); and
- cooking stove (And here’s how you can make one on your own using beverage cans – it weighs 2 kg).

Those essentials together weigh 8 kg between the two of you. Other than that you need some easy-cook food which you can grill over the fire without the need to carry any cooking utensils.

And trekkers, wine! Gigantic swigs of the Old Monk are likely your staple on cold nights, but this being date night we say chuck the Monk and bring two wine glasses with some Cabernet Sauvignon to the camp!

There you go - A total 10-12 kgs (Allowing for water weight)! That’s nothing between two hikers tempted to reach a coveted venue, and who have the entire day to do so walking the woods through a moderate incline with breathtaking views.

PS: Why make the cooking stove when you can grill your snacks over the firewood? Because the warmth from the tiny beer can stove will do wonders for the insulation of the inside of your tent in the freezing cold night, should you choose to cook inside. 

Also, should you choose to bring food that is not to be grilled but to be cooked with water, you will have to trek back 800m downhill for the first water source.

Best time to go

November. November. Sweet November!

The underside of your meadow will be a track of snow, the view of the mountains will be ivory-like since the snow has set in and alpine flowers that spring up at this time lead the ranks of beauty.

Also, the Churdhar is a hot trekking destination at all times except near season end. Trekkers hit it in droves from March until October, so if the point of your date night is distance from the crowds, try November!

The temperature at 7pm in November here was 4 degrees Celsius for us, with winds blowing at roughly 40km/hour. So yes, it will be chilly - leaving you no option but to snuggle! ;)

Starry night at Solan

View from the fireplace: Jamnaala