The Great Indian Backpacking

21st Jan 2016
Photo of The Great Indian Backpacking 1/13 by Joseph James
mighty Dhauladhar from triund
Photo of The Great Indian Backpacking 2/13 by Joseph James
Triund trail with Mcleodganj below
Photo of The Great Indian Backpacking 3/13 by Joseph James
Shimla's quiet landscapes
Photo of The Great Indian Backpacking 4/13 by Joseph James
Toy train from Kalka to shimla
Photo of The Great Indian Backpacking 5/13 by Joseph James
Ganga aarthi
Photo of The Great Indian Backpacking 6/13 by Joseph James
Laxman jhula
Photo of The Great Indian Backpacking 7/13 by Joseph James
The beautiful ganges
Photo of The Great Indian Backpacking 8/13 by Joseph James
Photo of The Great Indian Backpacking 9/13 by Joseph James
The narrow gorge of the cave
Photo of The Great Indian Backpacking 10/13 by Joseph James
Photo of The Great Indian Backpacking 11/13 by Joseph James
Robbers cave, dehradun
Photo of The Great Indian Backpacking 12/13 by Joseph James
Triund trail
Photo of The Great Indian Backpacking 13/13 by Joseph James
Atop triund

To get rid of our itchy foot, two of us again belonging to the "Bangalore IT cult" set off on a backpacking trip to McLeodganj via rishikesh and shimla. Being an economical trip,we chose the Indian railways to take us till Delhi , which eventually changed are whole trip with dehradun and mussoorie also being chosen to have our footfall! We started off with dehradun. Being south indians, we were intrigued to hear a localite of dehradun say that "vikram" will take you across the city. Oh cool!! what is this vikram then??? mini- bus,jeep...well, all these ran through our minds on hearing this macho name. After the wait, we finally found the muscular machoist vikram which we jaw droppingly realised was the second cousin of the typical south Indian auto but more trendy in its blue camouflage and packed with muscle and size to be imposing enough to deserve the name. Vikram took us round the city and we owe you big time considering how big hearted you were with your fares! .That was our first tryst with north India apparently. Hoping more of such initiation into the Hindi land treasures ,we moved on to tick off the first spot in our list.Our first stop was the robbers cave in dehradun, a near 10 km from the city, buried in a village with not even the faintest trait of its existence prima facie. The place is well maintained with chappals for rent and few cafes to serve maggi and chai. The cave was nothing like we had seen before. Narrow gorges with river flowing , the cave also has remnants of a fort wall and also demands of you to climb a few rocky terrains making it thrilling knowing not what to expect at the end.Me and my friend, having doned ourselves the role of pro-mountaineers were dumbstruck to find a cafe inside the cave serving you hot maggi and garmagaram chai. The ambience of the cafe was in itself soothing. The place is best served when not crowded :p"QUEEN OF HILLS" was our next destination.A bus journey of around 1 hour took us to the queen.Though we regretted not taking a bike for rent, AMS( acute mountain sickness) ,the hair pins ,the chillness and the RTC's buses of course speeding the way mercilessly,we thanked our stars for not risking our lifes :) For south indians alien to this place, mussoorie is 100x times our very own ooty in all terms ,be it the beauty,chillness,hairpins ...everything. Spread over a few hills, the town of mussoorie is best for a nomadic exploration,with shops offering cheap stuffs and north indian food .There are also a few places that offer the majestic view of the valley as well.Despite Mussoorie having plenty of spots to keep you busy including the fabled kempty falls which is 16km from the town,what really got our priority was the nomadic escapade through the town,which also houses the ancient Survey Of India building which traces its roots to the 19th century and the string of shops lining the road cut around the hills.For those visiting during the winters,the place demands thermal clothes lest you want to get your what not frozen ;)

After bye bying the unexpected bounties of our trip, we pushed off to rishikesh, the popular temple town cuddled by the ganges,the aliens hub of indian culture learning,dotted by ashrams and landscapes, the city truely has an divine aura about itself along with two majestic iron suspension briges across the ganges by the name of Ram and laxman jhula.Whats rishikesh for you??? If this is what your thinking...renting a bike would be handy to explore the length and breadth of this city which houses the fabled Beatles ashram of Maharishi Mahes yogi(for those ignorant, this is the birth place of transcendental meditation)...numerous ghats along the ganges to get immersed in your thoughts or may be to try your hand in poetry as well. And this is a part of my poem on rishikesh,

" peace, peace, peace is all I seek;stench of woe is all I reek;hymns,chants and poignant divinity;in here I have found serenity. "Talking of the poignant and ritualistic rishikesh, the place had a surprise for us. Having heard a lot about the ganga aarthi,we chose to ride ourselves to the triveni ghat which hosts the majestic of all ganga aarthis around rishikesh and yes! it was magical. Imagine the sun setting in the background,with the sky turning gorgeously dark and the ganges gushing underneath with pious devotees engaged in thier bhajjans. It is in this background that the pandits with their torched lamps offer the prayers for ganga mata. The synchronised movement of the fire lit lamp amidst darkness is to die for. For the ultra modern sort of person that i am , its rare moments as these that make you venture into spiritualism apart from the time when you are lost glassy eyed of course.(i cant be anymore frank, sorry :) )

Enough said about the spiritual part..lemme be brutally honest. what bought us to rishikesh was not as much as the spiritual aura of it as the recent crowning of the place as the adventure hub of India.Oh yes!! we chose rishikesh to experience our first bungy jump which happens to be the highest in india from a height of 83m(thats 272 feet!!bloody f##k). Now, that is the craziest thing Ive ever done till date being the person I am with an acute fear of heights !Honestly, bungy was my way to conquer that.So, how was bungy?? How was the free fall??I once came across this line in a movie which goes like this,

"life is the marriage of elements;death the divorce of the same."

I've never found these line more true than when I was bungying. That moment when you have fear wrapping you all over , that moment when you find your limbs numb and paralysed, that moment when the mere flash of the ground underneath shows itself as nothing worse than a chasm, that moment when the jackshit behind you counts THREE...TWO...ONE...GO!!(and of course the moment you realize that a shitty camera is getting all your "Dude, am fucked!" expressions recorded :) ) .....that really is a priceless moment cause the very next moment its YOU...only YOU...taking a leap into the thin air with all your "elements" flying away from you leaving you weightless (may be souless!! to exaggerate :p) with the ghostly air ramming your face mercilessly. Gentlemen!! thats bungy... in a matter of few seconds.( not for the faint hearted,thats need balls to do this...figuratively and literally :P )

Done with rishikesh,we set off for shimla expecting it to be snow clad at the peak of winter.Shit!!there was not a tiny speck of snow to be found there(but as luck would have it, shimla was covered in snow by the time we reached bangalore :'( ) having heard a lot about the kalka shimla toy train,we chose kalka as our next stop travelling all night taking connecting buses through haridwar to reach there at 4 in the morning to catch the first train for shimla. the toy train journey was worth the pain though slow as the journey of 100 kms took around 6 hours but laid around the beautiful pine forests and really is a wonder to see the train pull off slopes through the hills with much ease sending us back to the cartoon times of our life .

Shimla didn't let us down. Hills,greenery,chillness.yes! the place had all the ingriedents to fall in love with it. What struck us most was that despite being the capital, there was an abominable calmness that had its firm clasp all over the city. Having booked our hotel one day prior through goibibo, we set out towards our hotel on foot partly to explore the hills and also to suffice our sense of austerity. Little did we know that the place was in the outskirts of shimla with less commercialisation and sweet people. Now that's the perk of being a backpacker,you get to explore the road less taken. Staying in a pure hamlet of kind, our host was sweet and so was the view from our balcony. The hills and green trees and the whispers of a waterfall at a distance. On the whole, shimla provided us the much needed break from our "Shore in the city" .

Our next and last pick was mcleodganj, more popular among foriegners for its buddhist traditions as it is the abode of the holy Dalai lama. The journey from shimla to this 'Indian Tibet' takes a tiring 12 hours by bus passing through the famous kangra valley. For the ignorant,mcleoganj is a suburb of dharamshala at a distance of 10 kms and is again a hill town which leaves the visitor gaping with its perfect blend of buddhist tradition with the western modernism.Oh yes!! modern pubs dot this town along with classy restaurants.Though stunned by the town...there was more in stock for us. Early morning we set off for the fabled triund trek which is a trek of 10km from the town. Triund is a hill in the foothills of the great himalayas facing the snow clad Dhauladhar ranges. Romantic as it may sound,the trail is not one to be conquered easily due to the tough terrain filled with rocks and steep hills. Two of us with huge backpacks didnt expect our trek to get this meaningful of the word (pun intended :'( ). Taking 3 hours to negotiate the last 3 kms should give you a fair idea of the unfair trek mainly due to our backpack. The trail was beautiful with the birds eye view of mcleodganj town visible from different points of the trail with a couple of shops enroute charging you a whooping 200% of the MRP, but that is totally reasonable as there no trace of habitation anywhere near. And finally after 6 hours we reached the top to see the mighty dhauladhar in all his pride and it was a sheer pleasure to stare at him with the clouds above in their nomadic pursuit making one realize our very own existence of every moment leaving an imprint of satifaction for the pain taken. The serenity of this place is sure to make you drown in your thoughts. Biding adios to triund was painful but than thats how it is...all good trips have to end to keep you in prep mode for the next.

After 10 days of exploration, adventure and wonder topped with new people, new friends and above all new experiences, we headed back to our place...namma bengaluru..with a heart burdened by the time and again 'elusive snow'!! But don't you feel victorious, I shall have my vengeance this year or the next :D.Cheers!

"The Indian Tibet" is a wonder worth staring at, owing to its perfect blend of western modernism with the tibetan buddhist culture. For those unaware, Welcome to the abode of the Dalai Lama!!! Buddhist monastries,Tibetan cuisines, pubs..oh yes! you have it all here, let alone the all healing herb :) (wanna get glassy eyed,heres your place broh!)

"The Queen Of Hills" as is popularly known, Mussoorie covers an expanse of beautifully located hills at a drive of 1 hour from Dehradun. The fog clad moutains, steep yet curvy roads, the lush of green covering habitations and the chillness of the january winter are all to die for. Despite the abundant tourist spots about its periphery, a nomadic escapade through these hills unravels the culture and achitecture of this once colonial summer retreat.

"The Yoga Capital Of The World" has much to offer then the mere discipline. Truely a temple town with the sacred ganges flowing around in perhaps its most pristine form, the very breadth of this epitome of indian culture is pregnant with brahmanical chants and so is the vast expanse at the foothills of the Great Himalayas, with poignant temples and ashrams(the Beatles ashram included). Adding to this is the cities new avatar as the "adventure hub of india" to suffice all your adrenaline rush. Bungy,flying name it, they have it here :P

This river cave formation stretching for around 600 meters is burried just 10kms away from the Dehradun city and has moderately deep gorges clubbed with dilapidated fort walls adding to its aesthetics.

The capital of Himachal Pradesh is yet again a hilly town spread over a bunch of pictuesque hills which again are crowned with snow at winters. Unlike its rivals, Shimla has a toy train connectivity from the nearby village of Kalka which is about 100 kms apart. The train journey though slow offers a visual treat rich in different terrains and altitudes. Pines, steep slopes, snow, hilly terrains are all you can count on in shimla.

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