Happy Women’s Day! This Women’s Day we hope there comes a time when solo travelling for women will become de rigueur and not seen as a thing of bravura. Because, it will mean things have got safer for the wimmen folk, they have become bolder, and liberated enough to go wandering about by themselves. Looking at the increasing number of solo women travellers today, looks like the day will be here sooner than later. Yaay to that!
A special day such as today calls for a special place to be written about. Himachal Pradesh. The cool breeze (read chill) and clean air and flowers and valleys and apples and apricots and goats and the lovely, lovely people apart, no place must be safer for solo women travelers in India than Himachal Pradesh. Even though it was two’s company for us, it must not be very different for women traveling alone.
The first day of the trip began with banging on the reception door of Hotel Akashdeep at 5 AM to open up, as the staff slept while we patiently waited for a couple of hours. Winter morning pitch darkness and not a soul in sight, we didn’t know if it was the chilly weather or the fear of being only-two-women-travellers that gave us the chills. But even by the roadside and out in the open in cold weather, we were A-okay! Since then to the last day of the trip, the mountains continued to pleasantly surprise us, receiving us with arms wide open.
When in Dalhousie, a wine vendor exclaimed, “Are the two of you really travelling by yourselves?” we wondered what reactions solo women travellers must incite. Likewise in Baloo, 5 km away from Chamba city centre. Our extremely helpful (and good-looking!) hotel owner Sanjay was encouraged enough to venture out of Himachal and come to Mumbai after seeing us “gutsy” women coming all the way there. And that was the beauty of the place and its people.
Absolutely stark in contrast was Pathankot, which is not even proper Punjab but the border. Seven days in Himachal, and not a single guy that misbehaved. Seven minutes in Pathankot and a gang of hooligans on the bus from Chamba to Bhuntar staring, trying to nudge, and whatnot. It is interesting what mere boundaries can do to your psyche. As soon as we knew our bus had entered Himachal once again, there was an inexplicable relief that we felt – that now we had nothing to fear about. It was also the bus conductor’s reassuring ‘why fear when I’m here?’ kinda words that meant the most to us. That night we knew what they mean when they say,‘sleep with one eye open’. Disconcerting as it was, that was the only unnerving incident during those 15 days in Himachal.
As we continued the journey to Soma Rupa, Kasol, Tosh, and Manali, till the very end there were no strange looks, no making us feel like easy targets because we didn’t have men protecting us, no trying to fool us just because women, and no such nonsense!
So, if it’s a beautiful place that promises safety that you seek as a solo woman traveller, or even just the two of you, go Himachal for sure!