Little Lhasa Expedition Ride

Tripoto
4th Apr 2014
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora
Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride by Rahul Arora

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 1/62 by Rahul Arora

“Sir, would you like to leave a message for us on the board? It’s a social gesture. We’re glad you’re here.” The owner of the Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen in McLeodganj asked me while I enjoyed the splendid breakfast. He had been a very generous host, couldn’t refuse; I nodded with a smile. The gentleman left a pen with me while I grabbed a tissue paper to jot down my message. And then came a minute long pause; I felt short of words. Not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I had a plethora of unique thoughts that I wanted to let out. The legend has it that a traveler leaves a part of him where he stays; his footprints on the soil he walks & his fragrance in the air he breathes. It was drizzling & there was bliss all around. The echoes from the Dalai Lama Temple filled the air with vigor and devotional conscience. There were people all over the place but it was silently quaint. Life seeped through the boundaries of time as if nothing was a miracle; but it felt special. “It’s beautiful here. I’m taking spirituality & peace home”, I wrote after a brief dive down the memory lane.

Alright, we’re going to coil back a little. Given the mystic advent to its existence, McLeodganj always seemed like a riddle to me. The sorcerous name “Little Lhasa” added to the enigma that amplified my anxiety. I was often misunderstood & would make assumptions till the time a traveler friend of mine shared his own encounter with the place. And to that moment, my perspective changed. Though I always knew that a large population of Tibetans inhabited the soil but some unknown instinct in my mind kept telling me it was more than just a big chunk of people living in the area that made this place special. It was some sort of a calling that I always felt for this picturesque hamlet. I had come across numerous travel stories about this popular hill station & each one dictated a unique flavor of this wonderland. As time flew, I got inclined towards learning more about McLeodganj & was keen to explore this higher suburb region of the Kangra valley. In due course, a day came when I asked my colleague & friend, Sabin to accompany me for a mighty ride to McLeodganj. Next thing I remember, we were preparing the saddle for the mammoth ride down the road.

Day 1 | Delhi – McLeodganj

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 2/62 by Rahul Arora

Route followed: Delhi – AmbalaRupnagarUna – Kangra – Dharamshala – McLeodganj

This was Sabin’s debut ride in North India & he was clearly excited to hit the road on his thumping machine, the RE Bullet 350. I was no less pumped up either as I took on the familiar roads on my humble Hunk. With the first light of the day, we hit the road in good spirits. Plan was to ride comfortably & take it easy on the bikes as the heat was expected to be cruel enough especially in the afternoon. As the spirit of wandering verbalized, we decided to create our itinerary on the road itself as each moment came. We took the usual course from Delhi to Ambala via NH1. It was 08:30 AM & it was a bright morning. Chances of a scorching sun preparing to take a toll on us were clear. We stopped for a quick breakfast at a famous highway food joint, Chokhi Dhani in Sonepat. Noticing the riding gear, the attendant asked me if we were stunt riders or belonged to some motorcycling group. “We just love to ride bikes my friend”, I told him while Sabin complimented my response with a brief smile. The place was enormous with an open garden cafeteria as well as an air-conditioned facility with typical Rajasthani keep-up. We gulped down a couple of paranthas each & had tea to do away the heat. Highway side food joints are usually good at providing a comfortable dining space along with the unconventional touch of hospitality. In spite of being a popular restaurant chain in Rajasthan, Chokhi Dhani has maintained the virtue of a highway dhaba quite well. I must say the ambience was worth a pit stop every time you’re on NH1.

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 3/62 by Rahul Arora

Chokhi Dhani, Sonepat

Without further delay, we took on the road for the long ride ahead. With no particular plan in place, we decided to take the countryside & just after crossing the toll-gate at Ambala, we drifted into the narrow roads that lead to Rupnagar. The heat was catching on to us. We halted frequently for water breaks till the time the sun was right above us. With the trip meter reading 380 kms, we stopped for lunch was at Una, Himachal Pradesh. It’s a small town with a substantially large crowd & too many under-construction roads. We had a light lunch & to compensate for the heat, drank a lot of water. It took us fairly 30 minutes just to leave the town after lunch, for the roads were torn apart leading to heavy traffic. But as soon as the heat began to moderate, we gained pace.

At the food joint in Una, I happened to come across some funny words I had never heard before. To say the least, it was heights of typos. Burger became Vurger, Noodle became Nyudle, Golgappa turned into Golgaffa, Manchurian was spelled as Machurian & the best of all, Spring Roll officially became Speeg Roll. That was a moment of laughter & we had a crazy time talking about it with the shop owner who was responsible for the epic menu board.

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 4/62 by Rahul Arora

Talk about typos huh!

Making our way through Nangal, we made crossroads into the desolate Kangra valley. Trip read 420 kms when we first started climbing the hills. A wise hairpin turn took us upfront with the view of the mighty Dhauladhar Himalayan ranges at a distance. The serenity & calmness of the place is inexpressible in words. I was dumbstruck looking at the quaintness of the mighty Himalayas. Here’s a peek:

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 5/62 by Rahul Arora

At the gateway to Kangra Valley

I have managed to get up close with a numerous mountain ranges but believe me; Sabin was delighted to witness a snow-capped mountain range even from that distance. Just as we moved further, the light began to diminish. It was 05:30 PM & we could see the sun right in front of us on the horizon. We stopped for a quick photograph but missed the sunset by seconds. Here’s what I managed to click from the moment:

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 6/62 by Rahul Arora

Missed the sunset but captured the colors in my lens

As the sun chased us down, we continued on our way to our destination which was still some 80 odd kms away. As the night shadowed upon us, the road conditions deteriorated gradually. Bluntly, roads in the entire Kangra region are in pathetic condition. Someone’s got a whale of a job on his hands. Some more bad roads followed as we entered the Dharamshala suburb but the air changed. It was quiet & cold. As it was already 09:00 PM, not many shops were open & there were not many people on the roads. We continued towards McLeodganj on the steep climb. It was dark; the valley looked ravishing in the moonlight. In spite of numerous pit stops, we made a good time of 14.5 hours & covered 496 kms to reach McLeodganj at 09:45 PM.

Precariously located amidst the largely spread pine, rhododendron & Himalayan oak in the dense coniferous forest, the sacred land rests in the godly shadow of the mighty Dhauladhar range of Himalayas. McLeodganj is situated on the higher reaches of Dharamshala, a city & a municipal council in Kangra district. The best months to visit the valley are autumn and spring while winters can be attractively charming with a wise snow cover throughout the months of December to February. I’m glad we managed to travel during the summer & got to view the valley in full bloom. However, weather is something you can’t really take for granted. Consequently, a fine spell of downpour surprised us when we weren’t ready for it at all. I’ll come to this part later down the blog.

I was delighted to be there. The Mall Road was full of tourists & hotel vendors selling cheap accommodation options. A number of good restaurants crowed the place while roadside hawkers crammed the sidewalks. Though the sacred town was sleeping, the tourists were keeping busy with booze & Tibetan food. We knew where to go & headed towards the hotels lane right next to the mall road. Just a few blocks ahead, we noticed Hotel Sahil on the left. It was a fine-looking hotel with decent parking space. I went in & cracked a good deal for a 3-night stay.

A vigorous day ride came to end with a comfortable accommodation & a fine dinner. I was finally at the mystic land I always dreamt of traveling to. It was serene & blissful. Sabin mentioned that he was glad to be there as well. We had an amazing ride, except for some of the bad roads we came across in the Kangra valley. Next day was planned for an excursion in & around the town and getting to know the way of life. It was 11:00 PM already, so we decided to call it off. Lights out folks; Goodnight!

Day 2 | McLeodganj (In-&-around)

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 7/62 by Rahul Arora

A Tibetan monk spinning the prayer wheel

I opened my right eye insignificantly as a streak of light seeped through the window curtains & landed right up on my face. Within moments, I was up. After a day long ride into the hills, a good night’s sleep is really a savior. I checked the clock & it was 07:15 AM. I went ahead & pulled apart the curtains. The entrancing Dharamshala valley revealed its true colors right in front of our room balcony. We didn’t realize this a night before that the enormous valley lied on other side of the road. I’m glad we chose that place to stay. I went out in the balcony & noticed that we had the busy mall road on our right & the unruffled lane leading to the Dalai Lama Temple on our left. The temple was about a 100 meters from our hotel, gracefully perched on top of a small ridge down the road. The sky appeared charmingly blue while the dense forest cover surrounded the town. To add to the charisma of that lovely morning, morning prayers escaped out from the Dalai Lama Temple & filled the valley with spiritual integrity.

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 8/62 by Rahul Arora

Dalai Lama Temple, McLeodganj

In one word, it was peaceful. A majority of Tibetans could be seen on the roads; many of them monks clothed in maroon colored monastic robes. Buddhist monks keep simple clothing that aptly represents the simple spiritual lifestyle that each one of them has vowed to keep. As we descended down to go for a trail around the town, our hotel owner handed us a places-to-visit list. There were a dozens of places on the list, but we didn’t want to go around to each one of them & get ourselves clicked. After all, a tourist sees what he came to see; a traveler sees what he sees. For a change, we decided to walk & give the bikes a little rest for the day. The streets were crowded with locals heading for their daily routines. The sidewalks were busy with hawkers setting up their shops in the form of small tents. One can find all kinds of traditional Tibetan contraptions in these shops including the prayer flags & the prayer wheels. Without a doubt, the streets are best place to pick up souvenirs, but we decided to leave that for our last day in town.

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 9/62 by Rahul Arora

The local bazaar; street market

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 10/62 by Rahul Arora

Tibetan contraptions

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 11/62 by Rahul Arora

Tibetan kids

We had a quick breakfast at the Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen at the mall road. The restaurant is built aptly to give a feel of Italian culture. Bright colored walls with posters & paintings of Italian customs filled the entire place. It’s quite popular among the foreigners as well for the delicious American & English breakfast served there. After leaving a heartfelt message at the restaurant, we walked out.

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 12/62 by Rahul Arora

Inside the Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 13/62 by Rahul Arora

The wonderful American breakfast

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 14/62 by Rahul Arora

Someone scribbling their own story!

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 15/62 by Rahul Arora

Yea, don’t forget the free Wi-fi while you’re there!

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 16/62 by Rahul Arora

This is what I wrote.

First up, we were eager to visit the pleasant Dalai Lama Temple. The entire complex is surrounded by deodar cedar trees & is reflects the serenity of Buddhist culture. It’s just a short walk away from the McLeodganj mall road. As we walked towards the temple, we noticed a lot of locals heading the same way to offer morning prayers. The gates of the temple are decorated with prayer flags adding to the colorful presence of the peaceful complex. From a distance, one could hear the chanting monks offering prayers. It was immensely soothing to be in such a placid environment. We deposited our cellphones, cameras & wallets at the cloak room and went inside. Yes, no cameras or mobile phones are allowed inside the temple. They don’t want some obnoxious tourists to click photographs & disturb the silence that prevailed. May be it is better this way; nothing’s more important than to preserve the composed cultural presence they have. We went in through the stairs that lead to the large wooden doors of the holy temple. The first thing I noticed as we took off our shoes outside the temple was that in spite of a hundred people gathered at the place, the noise level was seemingly low.

The temple was lightened vastly with different colored drapes hanging from the ceiling. A large idol of Lord Buddha is placed at the center with huge shelves filled with Tibetan holy books on the sides. Prayer flags could be seen all over the place & Tibetan paintings on the temple walls. We offered prayers & moved out of the premises. Right outside the temple, Prayer Wheels are placed for offering prayers by turning the wheels in clockwise direction. The traditional Tibetan mantra “Om Mani Pad me Hum” is written in Sanskrit on the outside of the wheel. According to Buddhist tradition, spinning the wheel has the same meritorious effect as reciting the mantras verbally. We followed the tradition respectfully & offered our prayers.

Right outside the temple exit, one can find the Tibetan National Martyrs Memorial. It was a memorial site dedicated to those who self-immolated themselves to protest against the Chinese invasion of their land in Tibet. I found a list of people who set themselves on fire to fight for the cause & to my surprise; there were teenagers on the list as well. I was moved at the determination these people have for their cause. Tibet was a sacred land before Communist Part of China turned it into a dumping ground. All its sacred lakes polluted & holy shrines turned into wastelands. Every Tibetan relates to the brutal treatment they have faced & is willing to contribute to this cause for freedom. If one wants to know more about the Tibetan invasion & their struggle, they can visit the Tibet Museum right outside the temple. Films & posters of Tibetan tussle are aptly captured and are demonstrated to the world at large for a minimal fee of Rs. 20 per person. The museum is worth a visit; trust me, you’ll be moved.

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 17/62 by Rahul Arora

Tibetan National Martyr’s Memorial

As I turned pages on McLeodganj history, I was taken aback. The wild & picturesque scenery that looks down to the world with warmth holds some wretched sentiments close to its chest. Originally the area was annexed by British as a subsidiary cantonment with a Hindu rest house or Dharamshala; and hence the name for the cantonment, Dharamshala. Today, Dharamshala is home to the historic 1st Gorkha Rifles, a Gorkha infantry regiment of the Indian Army comprising Gurkha soldiers of Nepalese origin. In 1905, a major earthquake shook the valley. Close to 20000 people died & the cantonment was entirely devastated. The Gurkhas rebuilt the town from scratch. The people of the valley owe it to them for their undying efforts. However, that’s not the only scar on the face of this magnificent valley.

In 1959, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, fled to India after the failed rebellion in Tibet against the Communist Party of China. He was offered refuge in Dharamshala by the Indian Prime Minister. With nowhere else to go, he set up the Government of Tibet in exile in 1960. McLeodganj became his official residence and also home to several Buddhist monasteries and thousands of Tibetan refugees. Faced with the brutality of Chinese government, the Tibetan people escaped through the high mountain passes making their way through Himalayan peaks in Nepal & North-Eastern regions of India. It’s a pity that these good people were thrown out of their own land only to turn the sacred soil into a junkyard for nuclear waste by the Chinese government. But over the years, Tibetans in McLeodganj have been protesting over Chinese possession of their land in Tibet. Young men & women set themselves on fire in order to raise voice against the viciousness that drifted them apart from their heavenly abode. The sad part is that even after huge number of self-immolations that occurred in McLeodganj, Dharamshala, Tibet & even China, the cause is still unattended. Tibetans found solace in this part of the world & made it their home. Over the years, McLeodganj evolved into an important tourist and pilgrimage destination, and has since grown substantially in population. And I hope these people find peace here as they deserve.

Spiritual abundance is something once can find in McLeodganj & take away a part for them. Next up, we walked towards the Bhagsunag Temple situated along the headquarters of 1st Gorkha Rifles regiment. It’s a temple of Lord Shiva built in the 19th century majorly worshipped by the Gurkha platoon villages in Dharamshala. Just a few clicks ahead of the temple, lay the Bhagsunag Waterfalls known for their precarious location. There’s a kilometer long trail one has to take to reach the waterfalls & the scenery is worth a mention. They have cut down a pathway leading to the falls at the edge of the mountain secured by railings. The entire trail can be seen from both the end points & is an inspiring one. We descended on the trail & came across this hoarding. Undoubtedly, a wise way to deliver the message.

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 18/62 by Rahul Arora

Noted!

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 19/62 by Rahul Arora

1st Gorkha Rifles regiment

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 20/62 by Rahul Arora

Bhagsunag Temple

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 21/62 by Rahul Arora

What are you lookin’ at lil fella?

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 22/62 by Rahul Arora

The pathway to Bhagsunag Waterfalls

We spent an hour or so at the falls before we descended back. It was noon already and we were famished. Since we were to take our bikes out for the next destination for the day, we decided to walk to the hotel. McLeodganj main market has ample eating-out options. I always wanted to try the exquisite Tibetan cuisine while I was in the Little Lhasa & so we did. We hopped onto a cuisine named Tibetan Gyathuk & a local drink for lunch. Gyathuk is essentially a noodle soup containing chili powder, noodles with gram & pea soup. It was delicious to say the least. The host told us that Gyathuk is also very popular in parts of Ladakh. I enjoyed the cookery & promised to try it again whenever I could.

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 23/62 by Rahul Arora

The falls from a distance

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Interesting name!

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Don’t you jump my friend!

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The terrain looked rock solid

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Monks can be fun at times!

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An action click!

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Yep! That would be me.

As we finished lunch, we went for a stroll down the market. Lots of shops would be seen selling duplicates of ancient Tibetan sculptures & contraptions. There are ATMs of almost all the Indian banks, so cash was never a problem. It is amazing how one can get accustomed to the way of life in a strange environ. We could make out the daily lives of the locals just by roaming around in the streets & getting to understand the neighborhood. Sabin came across Malabar Restaurant on the main street & insisted that I clicked a picture of the food joint. He was excited to see a restaurant named Malabar in the heights of Himachal Pradesh.

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 30/62 by Rahul Arora

Mall Road, McLeodganj

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 31/62 by Rahul Arora

Pedestrians spin the wheels as they pass them

After an hour long walk around the town, we headed back to our hotel, picked our bikes & throttled towards the Naddi Sunset Point. Within a couple of minutes, we could see dark clouds gathering around in the sky and before we knew it, it was drizzling. We went ahead in the sprinkle to reach the Dal Lake, a sacred lake in Dharamshala suburb. There was not much to do & look around the lake, so we clicked a couple photographs & continued to sunset point. While on our way, I noticed a ridge at the edge of the hill with a glorious view of the Dharamshala valley ahead of it. We halted there a quick photography session. While Sabin sat around the bushes & relaxed, I managed to click some pictures from the antiquated place. The valley upfront looked astounding; very colorful & peaceful. Here are some clicks from the ridge:

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 32/62 by Rahul Arora

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 33/62 by Rahul Arora

Machines with attitude!

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I just loved the colors at this place

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Looking down from the ridge

We reached the Naddi Sunset Point at 05:30 PM & parked our bikes. Since it was almost 30 minutes to sunset, we took a brief stroll down the roads leaning into the valley. There were hawkers with telescopes that let you view the magnificent peaks of Dhauladhar ranges & the Triund trek base camp. We peeked through the telescopes & acquainted ourselves with the mighty peaks of Dhauladhar. It was a perfect place to be. The monstrous snow-capped Himalayan peaks on one side & the vast peaceful valley on the other. I clicked a few photographs at the spot; here they are:

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The roads descending down the valley

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Sunset Cafe at Naddi Sunset Point

Right next to the sunset point, I saw this food joint. It was a very basic facility with some minimal options to each & drink but it was aptly named Sunset Café. We took aside a table made out of weak cedar wood & enjoyed Omelets with tea as we waited for the sun to descend and disappear into the distant horizon. The sky changed colors every moment & I couldn’t get enough of the surroundings. It was green all around with the sun willing to play hide-n-seek from behind the dark clouds. We witnessed a shady sunset as it was cloudy but it was a beautiful environ. The fresh cold breeze enriched our souls as we laid eyes on the unending valley upfront. We stayed they till it was dark & then headed back to our hotel. To add to Sabin’s content, we had dinner at the Malabar restaurant that I mentioned a while back. To our surprise, there was no connection of this restaurant to the Malabar Coast in South India as told by the hotel owner. The food was great though!

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 38/62 by Rahul Arora

This brought us to the end of a yet another exciting day of exploration & enlightenment. With every moment passing, I was feeling the vigor rising in my heart. I had respect for the people of the valley. They live their lives content & take each day as it comes. I hope the existence of this holy land nourishes their lives every single day & the spirituality never fades away. That’s it from the second day of our expedition ride; day 3 has something bewildering on the cards. Cheers!!!

Day 3 | Khajjiar & Dalhousie

Route followed: McLeodganj – Jot – Khajjiar – Dalhousie – Nurpur – McLeodganj

Distance traveled: 255 kms

Plan was to leave early for Dalhousie via Khajjiar. I had set an alarm for 05:00 AM & was up 5 minutes before time. May be I was too excited & looking forward to explore the countryside in the wild hills of Himachal Pradesh. I freshened up & rushed to the balcony to get a glimpse of the Dalai Lama Temple at dawn. The sun was not still out of the curtains, but the temple shone in bright light. The sky was bluish purple & changed shades with every moment passing. I woke Sabin up & we got ready for the ride.

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 39/62 by Rahul Arora

Dalai Lama Temple at 05:00 AM

We skipped an early breakfast with the hope of getting some down the road. We left for Khajjiar through the state highway. An intersection showed a signboard for Dalhousie on the right 96 kms away. We took the turn & followed the road. As expected, the astonishing countryside welcomed us. The lush green fields carpeting the mighty Dhauladhar ranges looked phenomenal. The cold breeze made the moments easier & worthwhile. It was a narrow two-lane road in good condition. We didn’t find much traffic at that hour; probably it was too early for the mountain life to start. We blazed through the smooth hill roads right across the green sidewalks. As soon as we started to gain some height, the scenario changed. The green fields disappeared & the old-school rocky terrain showed up. Road conditions started to deteriorate & there were pebbles scattered everywhere on the tarmac. Plus, to make matters worse, it started raining. That’s when we decided to park our bikes & took shelter in a deserted bus stand on the side. There was no vehicle to be seen apart from a couple of public transport vehicles.

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On our way to Khajjiar

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Our bikes parked while we hide under a bus stand shelter

We waited for almost an hour for the rain to stop & once it weakened, we got back on our rides. The countryside, though too isolated, was bliss to ride around. The freshness in the air was inevitable. With the roads worsening gradually, my bike’s chain cover started to make noise. I noticed a couple of times but went on. After a while the noise worsened & I found that the nut holding the cover on the chassis had loosened & the cover was cracked at places. I had to go on with it for a longer while as there was no mechanic around to get it fixed. The noise was getting intolerable; Sabin asked me to get rid of it somehow. We stopped & I decided to remove the cover completely. I pulled out the tool kit & used a spanner to remove the chain cover & tied it on the pillion footrest on the side of my bike using a bungee cord. To our relief, the weather was clear so far. At places we found it gloriously sunny. The valley was in full bloom after a mild shower & the colors began to flourish. The sky was clear & we could see the distant villages coming to life. We stopped a couple of times & clicked a few photographs of the friendly countryside.

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Getting rid of the chain cover

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 43/62 by Rahul Arora

The valley was as bright as it gets!

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 44/62 by Rahul Arora

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 45/62 by Rahul Arora

The enormous terrain

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 46/62 by Rahul Arora

The rain really brought the true colors of nature

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 47/62 by Rahul Arora

Civilization from a distance

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 48/62 by Rahul Arora

At work!

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 49/62 by Rahul Arora

Now that’s an elegant pose!

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 50/62 by Rahul Arora

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 51/62 by Rahul Arora

It doesn’t get cleaner than this!

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 52/62 by Rahul Arora

The thumper from Kerala!

As we made inroads into the deeper portions of the valley, it started raining again. And this time it was a significant downpour. We took aside beneath a shelter; it was an abandoned building, mostly in ruins. The hills were getting greener but the skies started to disappear & it was too cloudy all of a sudden. I could sense a delay in our schedules for the day. As an hour passed, I realized that I & Sabin were the only human souls out on the road in that weather. It was getting cold & dark clouds surrounded the valley. We were 5 kms short of Jot, a tiny hamlet on the way to Khajjiar. So we decided to do a wild run to Jot in that deceitful rain. It was moments after we took on the saddle; I realized it was a bad idea. Now were sitting ducks with no shelter around. We were completely drenched but we went on. It took us fairly 20 minutes to reach Jot & believe me, those were the longest 20 minutes of the day so far. We stopped at a roadside food joint at Jot to freshen up & let the rain pass away. It was misty all around. Visibility dropped down to a few meters at places.

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 53/62 by Rahul Arora

At Jot…

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 54/62 by Rahul Arora

Colorful shades of the valley

We ordered tea & some lunch while I made a phone call back home & talked to my parents. It was the most uncomfortable part of the ride so far, but I was delighted to be at Jot. The weather was cruel enough to break our confidence but we were determined to reach our destination. But not to disrespect Mother Nature, we waited patiently for the rain to stop. Meanwhile, we managed to have a good lunch. After Jot, the roads started to descend & it was a steep incline. The shop owner advised us to head back to Dharamshala, for the terrain was too rugged ahead. And on top of that, it rained. So the roads were too slippery & dangerous now. I acknowledged his advice but we had to go on. We took utmost care in descending down the valley. Riding at the speeds of 20 kmph, we made our way towards Khajjiar. Clouds were our companion now & we felt homesick around them. It was a bold decision to ride in such conditions. Luckily, we managed to reach Khajjiar at 02:00 PM.

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 55/62 by Rahul Arora

Just after the rain

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 56/62 by Rahul Arora

Just before reaching Khajjiar

Khajjiar, known as the “Mini Switzerland”, is a small hill station in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. Sitting at a height of 6500 ft. above sea level, Khajjiar lies in the foothills of Dhauladhar ranges of western Himalayas. It is famously known for its green meadows beautifully surrounding a stream-fed lake on a small plateau. There are a couple of restaurants in the area & few accommodation options too. The cottages are run by HP Tourism, PWD & Forest Department. The grasslands of Khajjiar are the main attraction among tourists & environmentalists. It’s a treat to watch the lush green meadows surrounded by dense forest. However, in our case, things were different.

As soon as we parked our bikes at the Khajjiar Lake parking, the weather Gods decided to let the fury rain upon us. It poured as heavily as it could. Every living soul ran for shelter & within moments, the green meadows turned into a damp wasteland. It got cloudy again & this time it looked real bad. The clouds shadowed the Dhauladhar ranges & it rained exceptionally. It got too cold. To everyone’s relief, there was a restaurant open at that hour. For a rough estimate, I suppose he must have sold hundreds of cups of soup that day. I & Sabin had our shares too. It was getting too tough to stand the cold winds that blew harshly through the forest. The entire area was drenched & the rain didn’t seem to be in a mood to stop. Worst part is, my camera battery died & I couldn’t click a single photograph except for the below one that I managed to click from my smartphone camera.

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 57/62 by Rahul Arora

Green meadows of Khajjiar

It was not exactly pleasant, but it was worthy of our time. You don’t get to witness the serenity of Himalayas at a place like Khajjiar every day. We waited for a long 3 hours at the same place before we could walk out of there. It was still drizzling but we could not be there forever. We had to reach Dalhousie & get back to McLeodganj the same day. It seemed like an impossible plan but it was still the plan we would follow. With due courage in our hearts, we started our journey towards Dalhousie. It was a mild steep climb but the roads were too bad. Drizzling kept our relief at bay. As we climbed up the hill, snow started to appear on the sides of the road & it became misty all around us. The valley was not visible & the only way we could think of going was into the shady path ahead. The air was chilling now. I could not feel my hands inside my gloves & the jacket was all wet too. I realized that Sabin would also be going through the same & I was unsure of his ability to fight such conditions, for he hailed from South India where it’s not this cold ever.

Gutting it out through the miserable conditions on the way, we reached Dalhousie in an hour. We were stone-cold & needed to warm up as soon as possible. We found a garments shop on the right & immediately stopped there. The best thing to do in such conditions is to remain dry. We were completely drenched, our gloves & jackets were wet from inside & we were shivering. The lady at the shop took us in & looking at our condition, she order 2 cups of tea from a neighboring shop. While I felt alright after removing the wet gloves & socks, Sabin took time to come back to normal after going through the harsh weather. The lady asked me, “You look fine son, but is your friend alright? He looks unwell.” I told her that he’s not used to this cold but he’ll be fine as soon as he gets to warm up a little. We spent a fair time at that place, had tea, ate something & got to meet some wonderful people such as the shop owner & her assistant. They were too kind to take care of us & letting us in while the weather didn’t look too good. We bought a pair gloves & socks from her shop and I thanked her repeatedly for doing us the favors. She was a humble lady; didn’t even let us pay for the tea. When I come across people who selflessly help others, I feel a heartening sensation about the human nature. It feels good to know that such people are everywhere in this world & we must learn to become like them; selfless & giving. May God bless her!

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 58/62 by Rahul Arora

Thanks to the lovely lady! She really was a gem of a person. That’s us warming ourselves up with the heater!

It was 06:30 PM already & we decided to leave for McLeodganj. I could see the snow-capped peaks of Mani Mahesh & Pir Panjal on a distance but we were in no condition to pull this off further. We couldn’t explore the Dalhousie region then but we came across many other traits of life on our way. I felt blessed to have met those people on the way. With good spirits, we were back on road to McLeodganj via Nurpur. The weather was clear now, it had rained all day but now it felt warm. We descended down the valley & the sun accompanied us. This time we took a timely halt & managed to click the sunset above a vast valley underneath. Here are some photographs of the mild sunset:

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 59/62 by Rahul Arora

The idyllic sunset

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 60/62 by Rahul Arora

This is Sabin's cover photograph on Facebook till date

Blazing down the conditioned roads of Nurpur, we reached back to our hotel in McLeodganj at 10:00 PM. The night was too dark & lonely, but we were back in fine spirits. I thanked God for helping us out in the moments of trouble down the road & yet keeping the adventure alive. After a brief shower, we had a graceful dinner & went to sleep, only to dream of the wonderland we passed a few hours back.

The day took us to a high & showed us the ground reality of life. We went into the densest forests & looked upon to the highest Himalayan peaks, but we felt the real flavor of Mother Nature alongside. In all honesty, I felt content with the kind of effort we put into getting back on our feet that day. I’m proud of being a motorcyclist & my humble companion took me to places I always thought of as mystical & untrue. Kudos to the spirit of life! It was time for us to get back to our lives back in the city where there were no deodar forests but concrete jungles awaited us. It feels great to travel & unravel the nature’s best wonders.

Day 4 | McLeodganj – Delhi

Route followed: McLeodganj – Nurpur – PathankotHoshiarpur – Phagwara – Ambala – Delhi

Distance traveled: 510 kms

Last 3 days had been worthwhile. We managed to get close to the real virtue of this beautiful hamlet. The ride took us close to the aesthetics of the dynamic valley, the sudden showers that led to unveiling of the nature’s existence and the people we met on the way who made a difference to our lives. Travelling is about getting away from what’s obvious & discovering what’s untold. On the last day of our expedition ride, we headed back home with millions of memories & thoughts to cherish. This time we took the highway & decided to do it in a good time span. We had a long ride ahead of us, we didn’t want to leave the mystic air of McLeodganj but as they, “one journey ends, another one starts”. We stepped out in good spirits with a view to change the way we live & the way we think about others. This journey gave us a positive streak to fight for what we want in life & we’d continue to live by this thought.

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 61/62 by Rahul Arora

The lush green surroundings…

I checked out of the hotel as Sabin saddled up for the long ride back home. We managed to pick up Tibetan prayer flags & prayer wheels as souvenirs for ourselves & friends. It was good to see that most of the shop owners could speak fluent Hindi. The shop we bought the articles from was run by a Nepalese origin man. We talked to him about the Tibetan culture & how he ended up here. He was friendly & made a good price for the stuff we bought. It’s always good to make someone smile when you arrive & even better when you leave. We took the clean road out this time & avoided the Kangra Valley. Blazing through the well-laid tarmac to Nurpur, we reached Pathankot by 11:00 AM. From here on, it was the metaled highway & we were ready to set our rides ablaze.

Photo of Little Lhasa Expedition Ride 62/62 by Rahul Arora

The heat caught on to us again & it was getting difficult to breathe inside the helmet. We stopped at regular intervals to cool down & drank lots of water to keep ourselves hydrated. Seeping through the NH1, we managed to reach Delhi by 11:45 PM. A little over 12 hours, but it was a good run as compared to the one we had while riding forth. Sabin drifted towards Gurgaon from Karnal bypass while I headed straight back home. It was an amazing feeling to see my parents after 4 long days of modest struggle & adventure.

This ride tested our metal to its core. Had we surrendered to the forces of nature, we would have been in serious trouble & the results would have been much different. By God’s grace, we made it home safely. The expedition was over but the sensation lived on. I could feel the thrill of riding into the dense forest in heavy rain on the fiercest hills for weeks after the ride. The journey acquainted us with everything; snow-capped Dhauladhar ranges of western Himalayas, lush green meadows of Khajjiar, steep misty roads of Jot, the astounding views of Pir Panjal & Mani Mahesh Himalayan peaks, the holy town of McLeodganj, the serenity of Dharamshala & the vigor of Tibetan culture. It was exhilarating, yet soothing. We welcomed the forces of Mother Nature with passion & conquered our own fears. That’s what we wander for!

Live. Ride. Smile. Find Yourself.

Rahul Arora

3 Comment(s)
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Nice
Tue 10 25 16, 06:27 · Reply (2) · Report
Thanks Ankit :)
Tue 10 25 16, 21:33 · Report
+1 cool
Tue 10 25 16, 06:28 · Report
Photo of Jyotirmaya Behera
Jyotirmaya Behera
Nice one dude
Wed 03 18 15, 10:36 · Reply · Edit · Delete ·
Photo of Jyotirmaya Behera
Jyotirmaya Behera
Nice one dude
Wed 03 18 15, 10:36 · Reply (1) · Edit · Delete ·
Thanks Jyoti :)
Tue 10 25 16, 21:33 · Report