And the trip has started. Hello to whom so ever reading this.. I am 28, my office gave me a farewell yesterday, I don't have a job in hand but I have an aim right now - to unwind myself on this trip.
So here it is my journey to find some pieces to fill my internal peace. I have planned (not so planned though) a trip to Manali (kasol) - Bir Billing - Mccleodganj. Fortunately or unfortunately (will get to know later) I just have a confirmed bus ticket from Himachal Bhavan (their volvo is good) Delhi to Manali, which I will deboard at Bhuntar tomorrow morning. Next is to first go and get some place to stay though I have spoken to one of the AIRBNB but haven't confirmed.
Let's see if I can complete my planned circuit - Kasol-BirBilling-Mccleodganj
HPTDC buses have their same pit stops and got some good dinner and we were back on the roads soon. Delhi- Karnal- Chandigarh- Bilaspur- and other district bypass roads head towards my first destination.
So it's another day - 21st July'18 Saturday and the clouds come down to greet everyone. It actually looked to be a Good Morning. Have slept for not more than 4 - 5 hrs but now these picturesque views won't let me sleep and it would be a disrespect to them if I try to sleep.
The bus has stopped at bhuntar & the conducter actually forgot to tell me that, which I told him to do in the beginning of the trip but because I could recognize the handpump at bhuntar , so the journey went ahead and I boarded the local bus to kasol from there. It actually costs you 50 bucks and 1hour to reach kasol from bhuntar. The bus conducter was even generous enough to tell me that buses are available for Bir from Mandi so I need to find that also but later.
And a quick nap made me ready to snap a few pieces of the world again. When I travelled in 2016 to kasol in order to trekk kheerganga with my office colleagues, we got the Evergreen cafe (one of the best cafes as I have heard, I will able to comment on the food only after I eat) closed as the bus from Delhi reaches early and the cafes do not open that soon and Evergreen opens even later than 10am. So here till I wait for the menu let me tell you that it's not only the rains (though it's open sky till now ) in the month of July but even right now I can feel hot not humid temperature sitting in the outside area and you won't prefer to sit inside a restaurant/cafe when you are excited to visit the mountains. Finally I order a spanish breakfast and got a peaceful seat outside too. And you see people around rolling , writing, interacting , most importantly chilling .. somebody cursed the fact that it was not raining & it drizzles as I write this. See it's a live experience from Kasol on 21st July'18.
So I even got this room at a home stay, a private room with private bathroom for ₹700 and it's actually not listed on any of the booking portals due to their registration issue but decent enough place to stay for a night. It's a very little bit of trek (right behind the moon dance cafe) to reach this homestay.
So my breakfast is here and rest of my journey after that. Good food or may be the hungry stomach likes everything (kidding). And you can chill atleast half of the day but I preferred to walk down in the drizzle and walk till Manikaran gurudwara.
It's a 4km long road to manikaran and it took me 45mins to cover it. But when i travelled by road I could see those places which we miss when we drive, off course it is advisable to drive only but then adventure isn't in doing conventional stuff. At 2.45pm when I reached manikaran gurudwara, I could see the same water flowing which was becoming mamoth in the route earlier, now became even stronger and what is manikaran famous for - the hot spring water. And there while washing my face with the sacred water, I saw this sign which said excessive bathing in the spring can cause dizziness. This message made it clear as to what happened to me when I last came to kasol to trekk kheerganga and slept in the hot spring up there in the heaven 'Kheerganga'.
After the prasad, darshan and few pictures with the flags over and around the gurudwara I boarded the bus to kasol chowk which took ₹5 and not only that, the conducter gave me some advise - "how can you find paragliding in this time of the year". To confirm that I again added something to my long list of mistakes, I called Bir paragliding office and they said it's no where available in Bir Billing similar to what happens to river rafting in Kullu and Rishikesh.
Now Bir is planned in future, if not this time atleast now I know that I have to do it in September because that's the season in near future. So as we should all do (#Preaching), do what is needed at that moment - think about the future - but give preference to present , I started moving towards next in list Chalal.
Chalal is not far from kasol chowk, just take the left lane next to the shop in front of the wine shop at kasol chowk and get on the Kasol-Chalal bridge.Trekk for around 2-2.5 kms to reach Chalal but the best part is that the mesmerising sound of the river that surrounds whole of Kasol is here next to you after you cross the bridge. Rasol is also on this way , there's a hike going up in the starting after crossing the bridge. I even read that atleast till 2016 Chalal was the rave party place and you don't have big hoardings calling you for the parties but tou might bump in while crossing the woods. See a live telecast of even what I learn. Chalal trekk is pretty comfortable and straight and the companion is something we all are finding if we head to the mountains. I some how agree to the fact that because of what culture kasol has, families must be relecuntant to visit this place and plus more than the culture it is the base camp for amazing trekks to small but not that small villages.
However, we need to agree on this also that like roads made to tosh (off course to provide comfort to the travellers , guest and to bring more tourism to kasol, tosh) will takeover something authentic from the true friends of these mountains. But, I got to interact with a few people who work as coolie for guest houses and others in places like Chalal and Rasol and they told it's earning ₹100 for one round of travelling with neccesaties / luggage from kasol market to chalal / rasol. So the roads might get respite to the villagers in Grahan and other surrounding kasol. After all Change is the only constant. Just sharing my thoughts.
While I gained some knowledge in my mind regarding paragliding in order to remove Bir from my ""planned"" trip, I had a good chicken cheese grilled sandwich at Moon Dance cafe. It is too one of the tried places from my last trip and now they have better toilets too, it is right there at jasol chowk , two three shops after the wine shop and the German bakery is also here.
Tripped back to the home stay as you tend to get a bit wet and muddy after the trekk. And plus the stay was nearby.
Evening - 8pm - my home stay's care taker other than asking if I need "stuff", he told me to visit Rainbow cafe, this is on the way you walk towards the kasol chalal bridge. This is totaly the one you find in metropolitans - cocktails, live music and food is the queen in kasol (the nature here is the king). So good place to hangout in the night to chill. Though chilling at peaceful cafes or may be at your stay would also not be a bad thing rather good. For your info- This place is expensive and that reminds me to tell you that the food is expensive here at kasol cafes as a sandwich is ₹300 and Oreo shake is ₹200 and that's a bit more as per me for mountains.
And listen it's actually difficult to make people understand in Kasol that you don't smoke or at least you don't want to.
Cafes to visit here in KASOL-
Hello, it's Day3- when I woke up with a few questions in my head that where am i headed today? options - trekk to Rasol/Malana/Grahan. I kept Grahan for future when soon I trekk in the right weather with the YHAI to SarPass as we need to base camp at Grahan in it. So out of Malana & Rasol, I chose to visit/trekk to Rasol, enquired and got to know that it's actually a very steep trekking route to Rasol but thought of giving it a try. You cross Chalal and enter deeper in the woods to reach Rasol, it takes around 3hrs to reach there but trust me it was quite a steep way up there and it actually checks your fitness level. Very narrow lanes in the mountains along the edges made me reach at a height where I could find myslef closer to the mountain peaks and gave an exceptional experience along with the view of parvati valley. I need to be true here as you can't lie to yourself, I was not able to complete the trekk. I have done kheerganga trekk which takes around 5hrs to reach but this one was way too steep and no place after Chalal to refuel yourself . The horses carrying necessities to Rasol village at times gave me strength to walk more but last 30-40% of trekking for 1hr more was something that I gave up on. It's easier in life to give up rather than continuing and heights are only achieved if you stop but don't quit.
I thought of going to back to my bae - the parvati river around Chalal. May be that gave me a bit of more than peace for the moments I used to sit there and read or think. It's not a good feeling to leave the trekk incomplete but just to soothen the heart pain, i realised it actually started raining heavily when I was descending towards Chalal and it would have been difficult for people who were trekking now to Rasol. But been in love with mountains so I know rains are there when you reach up a good height, even then there have to be sheds which save you if it rains heavy and there's nothing like that on way to rasol.
So this happens in Kasol, because it is a base camp to so many trekks, you learn about all of them in order to choose one out of all of them as it's not practical to do more than two (one small, one longer trekk) in the same trip. And who would not to visit this heaven for peace again.
After the reading session next to my bae, it was time to visit the Evergreen cafe one last time as i was about to leave Kasol in the evening. Now as per the plan, I had to go to Bir to paraglide and as that was not available in this season so booked a bus to Mcleodganj. This is going to be my first trip to Mcleodganj and no good, reputed hostels were available so booked this Pink House at Jogiwara road (for backpackers and with private rooms) for the same rate (Goibibo discount) as much a hostel would cost there in Dharamshala/Mcleodganj.
Finished a great Israeli breakfast with israeli salad(olives, jalapeños, feda cheese & basic salad ingredients) , shakshouka (middle eastern egg dish in tomato sauce ) and home made cheese , strained yogurt Labaneh. Made the bookings, spoke to a few guys who were there just to explore what all stuff can they taste here in Kasol, saw the famous himachal/uttrakhandi celebration parade which happens on Sundays and took my bus to Bhuntar. The bus takes more time to get down in comparison to the time taken to reach Kasol from Bhuntar. But it is acceptable when you know that good food is waiting for you. Mamu ka Dhaba, my bus was at 10pm and I reached bhuntar at 7 so now was the time to enjoy the Chicken curry at this simple dhaba. Keep this in mind , you wait for your Bus at Bhuntar and you don't eat at Mamu Dhaba then you are missing something. The dhaba is near to the flite view hotel which is the boarding point for all the buses heading out of Bhuntar. There are fruit shops next to the stop selling himachal home grown apples, pears and all the fruits that we enjoy and yes there's a wine shop too at the stop, in case your bus gets delayed. My bus got delayed by an hour. Always prefer to call the driver (he can be contacted with the number shared on the ticket) and check or rather inform them that you are waiting at the point.
Monday morning 5.30am - I wake up by sounds like Mcleodganj, Mcleodganj - the conducter personally went to everyone to inform about its arrival at McLeod as the bus was further going to Amritsar.
Cold weather with water puddles all across the road. So yesterday before booking the tickets to Dharamshala, I read (a lot) and spoke (to a few) about visiting this part of Himachal in July end and majority gave a simple logic, this place is high up the altitude and gets the maximum rains but there were a few who even gave this logic that weather is unpredictable so don't worry and start the journey, and I did it.
Finding the stay early in the morning and that too when you desperately want to get fresh was quite a task and Mcleodganj roads because of the height are steep.
The city ones base to the Anglo Sikh war and then to Tibetans since 1959 has the correct name Dharmashala - where people stay to rest and so did the courteous staff at Pink House did for me. Azhar (the caretaker) gave me a make shift room that too early in the morning to take some sleep and freshen up (there was no water in that room though but later everything gets sorted ). Got a good room with a view to the mountains at 11am. The Dhauladhar ranges are visible from any of the properties at the Jogiwara road.
Headed to Illiterati cafe 6mins away from Pink house and please do not miss going there to spend sometime with yourself looking at the Himalayas with cup of coffee. And do try their home made musseli. It is indeed a very peaceful place and budget friendly along with amazing vibes. Read a play script and sat there for hours.
Next was to try some momos in the Tibetan styled land. Tibet kitchen gets you tasty local dishes and is right at the Mcleodganj city square. Mcllo restaurant is also situated there in the middle and I will visit that in the evening. Coming to rains, yes it is raining in McLeodganj. The rains are four times more to what was in Kasol but not that bad, I could roam-chill & know that Mcleodganj is a no smoking town.
The Bhagsu trekk is pretty convenient and it's more of a road walk but then a lot of steep climbs. Bhagsu is as under-rated vs Mcleodganj as Chalal is in comparison to Kasol. It is much more quiter and scenic to the adjacent famous towns. Went up till Bhagsu temple and there are a lot of cafes on the way and over there so you can chill at any of them to a beautiful view.
Dalai Lama's hometown & Britisher's summer capital (before India's independence) - Mcleodganj is pretty much closely connected to all the places to visit and that's why it didn't take more 30mins to walk back from Bhagsu to the Mcllo restaurant in the city square. First place where i felt the food had a lot of scope to improve, it's 'food' so it was good but not upto the mark. You can skip Mcllo and rather enjoy the evening at Seeds cafe or go back to Illiterati.
Thing for tomorrow is a hike to Triund, will try to start as early as possible and then return back to unwind at one of the cafes.
TRIUND! A 9kms walk from my stay (jogiwara road) divided into 3kms till Dharamkot and then 6kms till Triund top, you even get an auto/cab from city square to Dharamkot- the starting point to Triund trekk. Good I shared some insights because since 6am till 12pm it just rained like cats & dogs and I could just enjoy the clouds all across. I walked down to the Illiterati cafe as that was my bae in Mcleodganj and I barely could see the turns on the road and it was damn slippery. I could have trekked in this weather but it would have been damn slippery, risky and the weather would have been definitely different up there than from the town down here.
Anyway, a fallel wrap - pancakes- americano - script to read and waiting for the clouds to clear was how Tuesday was going. Morning was sad but a phone call changed a few things, I got the opportunity to read a book back in Delhi on Friday and the sorrow and fight with the rain ended as I got lost in the pages of the book at the cafe.
Met two guys from Chandigarh and actually congratulated them as they booked a place in Upper Dharamkot to stay. I decided there and then, when next time I get here, which I will to trekk Triund -it is suitable and logical to put up at Dharamkot.
The evening was to roam around and eat again (hope this is not turning into a food blog). Do try Thupka at Clay oven and if you don't want to try that then may be momos because of the lip smacking chilly sauce. Don't know about you but I am in love with momos only because of the red chutney.
Roaming around at night is safe and peaceful. There are not more than 5 lanes from Mcleodganj and just two lead to trekking areas and one road to Dharamshala.
I had this question that what is McLeod's night life. How funny is this..
Kasol is known to be shady but it's not
Mcleodganj is known to be the purest town in Himachal and no restaurant has drinks in the menu but almost every one sells it under the table.
After roaming a bit, I came to know few eateries like Capre Diem which had good food and crowd. There are way too many other restaurants and they are all good family restaurants. Do not come with family to Capre Diem, bit if you alone or with friends then come down at night for pizza and beer. They play their own songs and couple of friendly guys hang out there.
Remember they take more of paytm in Mcleod than debit or credit cards so get your kyc done and get cash less trip.
I heard something today - THE MOST IMPORTANT MOMENTS OF AN EVENT ARE MEMORIES OF IT'S FINAL MOMENTS . So that in future when I remember this trip I should just feel good and smile. And tomorrow is the final day of this solo (prefer not to give any adjectives here ) trip. Planned something but don't know if the external factors will let it be as planned.
If you have read till here then I THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart, you made this trip exceptional for me.
The last day of my trip started with the sound of rain but gradually the sun came out to everyone's surprise. After handing over the room keys, I started walking towards the Tsuglagkhang monastery where Dalai Lama preaches when he is in India. Don't get confused with what google shows about monasteries in McLeod, there is just one temple which is at the end of the temple road. If you are lucky as per timing then the monks can be seen making noise in their recreational area. I entered around 12 noon and then followed the sign board to clockwise do rounds around the temple sacred area. The MANI Prayer wheel will definitely attract you and there are around 36 wheels which you turn clockwise to earn merit equal to the recitation of the mantras filled inside the wheel.
There are many restaurants & cafes near the monastery & one is right in the temple compound. Though I had to search for an ATM and there are quite many of them near the city square. I somehow landed in a very simple cafe Budan and it's dead cheap & the simple food is home like & tasty. The weather is pretty decent today and while I took an auto from Mcleod to Dharamshala I thought that Triund could have been done today. And just a wait of this thought that it started raining in Dharamshala. Anyway after 30mins of the ride, I was at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Ground. The auto took ₹200 to drop me 13kms down from Mcleod and the cricket stadium entry fees is ₹20. It is one of India's most beautiful stadiums with red tomb like structure at one end with white snow capped mountains in the background. The season did not let mountains come in the photos but the colourful chairs of the stadium made the whole view picturesque.
The stadium is about 3 and half kms from the bus stand and I gave a try to walking down till an eatery near the bus stand. Yes I walked all the way uphill but prefer not to till you actually want to slog yourself up.
Just for your information, private buses in Dharmashala do not stop at the bus stand, there is petrol pump next to it where the buses halt and there's a mall with few eateries so it can help you wait if the weather is not suitable outside.
As the trip ends, I learned that we travel to unwind ourself but instead take a lot with us back home.
I hope the long trip summary here termed as the Himalayan yatra log is of use to you and you plan keeping in mind my mistakes. I have hoped the bus now and will just get ready for my book reading session happening after two days.
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