When i started the journey, I was all alone.
When I came back, I brought the world home.
It had been 2 years since I set my eyes on McLeodganj. . Situated among the Himalayas, like most of the tourists spots in North India, it has a cultural fusion, unlike any of them. Known as 'Little Lhasa' after the Tibetan capital, McLeodganj houses Tibetans forced to live in exile after China's annexation of Tibet. This makes it an enthralling place to visit as you get to see the Tibetan culture mixed with the natives everywhere- from the architecture to the food and the places of worship.
Reaching the place-
Since I live in New Delhi, and did not wish to drive myself all the way, I had two options- A 9-hour journey in the train which would take me to Pathankot in Punjab and then cover the rest by a local bus which takes 2 hours to get there or I could take a direct bus to Mcleodganj which takes 12 hours. I do not regret travelling the extra hour as the bus was as comfortable as they come!
The Little Lhasa-
Almost every bus from New Delhi reaches the place just after the break of dawn. That means you get to witness the dawn from the narrow road winding around the hills. You feel yourself rising above the ground gradually as you move and the Sun rises with you. You catch a glimpse of the town, tucked away in the womb of the surrounding hills, every part of it glowing in the bright yellow shine.
Mcleodganj entertains plenty of travelers every year. Here you would find a plethora of hotels within your budget to stay. Once we found a habitable place, it was our time to explore! This place is famous for its eating establishments and being a Foodie, it was my duty to try as many as possible. We headed straight to Four Seasons café after almost everybody we met on the streets recommended this place for the best breakfast in town.
The café turned out to be a small joint with 5 tables laid out. The owner of the café, Mr. PG, sat in a corner near the kitchen door and greeted us well as we entered. The café had modest decorations, sticky notes stuck on the walls with the reviews of the restaurant. Tibetan music played in the background and although I had no idea what it meant, the music was very pleasant to the ears. It had a bunch of novels and guidebooks in a shelf that you could read within the restaurant. Mr. PG was most helpful when we asked him for must-see places in the city. I would recommend everyone to visit this place the next time they are here for the best omelette in town.
Near Four Seasons is another café, although a lesser known one, Jimmy's. The decor was something I quite liked. It was filled with mid-size posters of movies, most of them classics. The food tasted good enough and their Benoffee Pie was something worth a try.
The most famous restaurant of McLeodganj lies right at the entrance of the town's market on the 'main square', as the place is commonly referred. McLow is one the few upscale restaurants in the town, with a band playing in the evening and fine-dining facility available. The delectable food was worth the prices but their specialty was the variety of soups they offer.
Places to Visit-
One of the most eminent attractions of the town, Tibet Museum houses the memoirs of the people who fled from Tibet after its annexation by China. The gallery, sprawled across two floors, gives a view into the plight of the Tibetans, the atrocities they suffered, the doleful days they had to see. It depicts the striking contrast from what Tibet used to be, a heavenly, exotic land, to what it is now, a barren Chinese territory with no one to cherish its beauty.
The Museum is situated in a complex, which harbors the Dalai Lama temple and Dalai Lama's residence as well. Although we were not among the lucky few to have a chance to see Dalai Lama in person, he epitomizes the tranquility that prevails in the temple.
Bhaksunag Temple and Waterfall
About a mile from McLeodganj lies another town of Bhaksunag. Tourists flock to this place to see the famous Bhaksunag Temple. The temple, situated in a beautiful complex, with a delightful view of the valley, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The waterfall is situated about half a mile from the temple, the way leading to it not being a comfortable one but it is worth a visit. I am personally elated whenever I see a waterfall, although this was pretty ordinary. You could climb up a few feet, with the help of large boulders and sit on them. You can close your eyes, your feet in the water, and feel the exhaustion of the journey melting away with the flowing, falling stream.
Triund is the closet peak to McLeodganj, perpetually covered in snow. It is said to be ideal for trek-virgins and you can camp on the top for the night. We were too excited when we started the trek. it was the first time I was going on a guided trek. In all my trips, I had gone for morning walks along the hilly roads and declared them to be treks of my own. But this was different, I realized 10 minutes into our journey. Although the trek was just winding paths carved out of the hill, it was too tiring! "Perhaps it is the heat" I said to my friends, panting, attempting to hide my tiredness and lack of fitness but they knew. After the initial bout of breathlessness, all of us became so engrossed in the beauty around us, the sights of the valley, endless, boundless spread we were feasting our eyes on, every step we took made us feel its worth. There were times during the trek where we had to walk across the hill on snow, with no beaten track. I was scared to death at these places. I was murmuring to myself, "Don't look down. Look down and you will die!" but I still did and realized if I set one foot where it shouldn't be set, I could actually die. But I didn't. All I did was gave multiple reasons to my friends to laugh. I was praying the whole time we were walking on the snow, especially when we were climbing down a steep path on our return. I just had to sit on the snow, freezing my butt and my hands, instead of choosing the second option- to stand and look down and fall and die.
Somehow, the fears have a way of coming true. I did fall, not to my death but on my foot, and had to cover the 3 Km downhill trek with a fractured ankle in a drizzle. It was an unforgettable, painfully wonderful experience!
Overall, Triund is a must visit place- for the sights you see on the trek, for the stars you see in the night, for the serenity of your mind and to feel you are on top but still not high enough.
Dharamshala is a city, which McLeodganj is a part of, in the Kangra district. Although almost all the attention is stolen by major attractions at McLeodganj, Dharamshala boasts of a few not-to-be-missed locations. The Kangra Art Museum houses centuries old relics and every little thing on display is bound to intrigue every person having the remotest interest in the Indian history. It consists of handicrafts including paintings on clothes and intricately designed handkerchiefs and deities, each carved out of a single piece of stone.
Our next stop was the Dharamshala cricket ground. Dharamshala is home to one of the highest cricket grounds. The picturesque view from the stands made me wonder how hard it must be for the players to not get distracted by it and focus on the game!
All in all, McLeodganj and Dharamshala are indeed two of the places in the ever beautiful Himalayas that one should visit to be lost in a dizzying magnificence.