Spring is a recurring theme in Japanese verse. Scores of haikus have been composed to honour the beauty of cherry blossom. Basho captures its ethereality, “April’s air stirs in willow-leaves…a butterfly, floats and balances.” Issa philosophises its impact, “What a strange thing! To be alive, beneath cherry blossoms.”
Obviously, the spring we encounter in the cities is bounded by geographical and urban limits. It appears in the gardens of Delhi before wilting away in the merciless heat wave of summer, it manifests in the few Jacaranda trees that have survived the infrastructural overhaul of Bangalore, and it altogether refuses to show up in Bombay’s humidity. But if you haven’t experienced spring in full bloom, treat yourself to a trip into one of the following lush woods and you’d come back thanking us.
1. Kargil – Apricot Blossom
This little town providing respite to travellers between Srinagar and Leh became famous for all the wrong reasons. If you’ve visited Leh you would’ve noticed women selling dried apricots in the Main Bazaar; these apricots – the best of them in fact – come from Kargil. Chuli, as apricot is called in Ladakhi, grows in close to 150 varieties in Hardass (no pun intended), Batalik and other nearby villages, and in April, when the apricot trees are in full bloom, the white flowers look no less spectacular than fresh snow.
2. Kumaon – Rhododendron Blossom
Crimson is the king of Kumaon, it’s the reigning colour through April thanks to the rhododendron trees in the forests of the region. ‘Rhododendron’ literally means a tree full of ‘rosy, red flowers’, and is called Chimul in the local dialect. Whether you see a deep pink or flaming scarlet depends on what altitude you are on; just get to Almora and start walking away from the road.
3. Kullu – Plum Blossom
Kullu Valley is famous for apples, yes we know, but you should see the plum trees in blossom before you take a call on the aesthetic value of the fruit species! Plum trees weigh down with delicate pinkish white flowers, and you needn’t go far either. Every orchard is in bloom through April.
4. Coorg – Coffee Blossom
Say that out loud – coffee blossom – don’t the words have an exotic ring to them? It might not be very obvious to us, but a seasoned coffee planter can predict a fair bit about the ensuing harvest by looking at the flower. And the coffee flower is deceptively, beautifully white, merging with mist on cooler mornings.
5. Sikkim – Orchid Blossom
Close to half of all orchid species recorded in the world today are found in Sikkim. To see them in one place you need to land up in Gangtok and head to either Deorali Orchid Sanctuary or Kyongnosia Alpine Sanctuary. Seeing orchids in bloom is sensuous – come prepared for a spring party of heady colours and fragrances.
Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar