McLeodganj - Dharamkot

Tripoto
18th Jan 2017
Photo of McLeodganj - Dharamkot by Rhea Chawla
Day 1

I took an evening bus from Majnu ka Tila to McLeodganj on the 18th of January. Buses also stop at Dharamshala, however, having heard of it as any other hill city, I wasn't inclined to make a stop there.
I reached the bus stop at McLeodganj early morning by 6:30 am on the 19th and asked one of the porters to guide me towards a hotel. As you can tell, it was an unplanned trip.
One of them offered me a card of a lodge and asked me if I would like to walk up or take a taxi. I chose to walk after him. The 10-12 minute walk was beautiful with very dim light and the little town was very much asleep with only a dog or two roaming about.
The lodge was a cozy little space and thankfully had warm blankets and a geyser in the tiny washroom. I fell asleep almost immediately and woke up when the sun was shining bright in the sky.

On waking up, I got ready and left the room, the outdoors was warmer because of the sun for now and I started walking around the place, the main market road with cute little cafes and reached a point where one road lead to the main Buddhist temple and another was a jungle road, as I kept walking further away from the main road where the car parking was.

I explored the jungle a little but was scared of venturing too deep because I was alone, nor was I aware of the kind of animals that inhabited it. On top of that, a thorny plant got the better of my left hand which started to itch and ache really bad. Ignoring the same, I walked back to the read that went further to the temple. On my way down that road, I saw plenty of locals making the climb back up, rotating the cylinders that have mantras inside of them which the Buddhists chant while praying. The view along the road was scenic. I saw the temple from outside, being an atheist, I started walking back up the road and was raging with hunger by that point.
In the city, I stopped at a Punjabi restaurant and ate to my heart's content.
After lunch, I walked down the Bhagsu temple Road, chanced upon a second bookstore and bought War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. (I have a ritual, I buy a book from every city I visit.)

I never reached the temple (atheist) but chatted up a few more people, made friends with fellow lone travellers and also scored some hash from a hookah and bong selling shop. I was going up to Dharamkot the next day and was sure would want to carry the hash around.
Walking back to my lodge, I was called into a little place that served Tibetan food for tea by a retired army official who sat with his friend. They spoke to me heartily about Tibet, the Dalai Lama, the youth, India and the army. I sat there, sipping hot, sweet tea, talking to them for over an hour and then was chided a little when I said I'd like to pay for the tea, they were almost offended. It was a heart warming end to a warm day with a chilly night in store so I turned in early and fell asleep on time.

Restaurant McCll

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Flags near the temple, McLeodganj

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Maggi in Dharamkot

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

View of Dharamshala from McLeodganj

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

View from the bus stop

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

An adorable cafe in McLeodganj

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

On the Bhagsu temple road

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Cylinders with Buddhist mantras wrapped inside that are rotated by the worshippers as they walk up the temple path

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Road to the temple

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Back to McLeodganj from Dharamkot

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla
Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

On the way up to Dharamkot

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Monkeys on the way up to Dharamkot from McLeodganj

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

View from the room in Dharamkot

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla
Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla
Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla
Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Near the Galoo templel

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Taken in by the breathtaking views at the Galoo temple

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Last sunset in Dharamkot

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

On the way up to Dharamkot from McLeodganj

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla
Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Scenic Road on the way to the Buddhist temple in McLeodganj

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Trek to Dharamkot from McLeodganj

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Trek up to Galoo temple

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Trek up to Galoo temple

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Road to the Buddhist temple

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

View from the room at Dharamkot

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

The main temple in McLeodganj

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Trek to Galoo temple

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Snow at the Galoo temple

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Dog I met at the Galoo temple

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Restaurant McCll

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Flags near the temple, McLeodganj

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Maggi in Dharamkot

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

View of Dharamshala from McLeodganj

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

View from the bus stop

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

An adorable cafe in McLeodganj

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

On the Bhagsu temple road

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Cylinders with Buddhist mantras wrapped inside that are rotated by the worshippers as they walk up the temple path

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Road to the temple

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Back to McLeodganj from Dharamkot

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Near the Galoo temple

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla

Monkeys on the way up to Dharamkot from McLeodganj

Photo of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Rhea Chawla
Day 2

Dharamkot was a 1 km trek, very steep, upwards from McLeodganj. I walked up with my Trekking bag in tow after checking out from the lodge by 10. Before the trek, I ate delicious Tibetan food at the Tibet Kitchen, at the main square of McLeodganj itself.
The trek should have taken not more than 45 minutes but I was sadly carrying too many clothes (inexperienced traveler) and I took a little over an hour to reach. As soon as I entered the little village, the vibe changed. It was even more calm and quiet than McLeodganj.
There was a small tea shop at the entrance that also served eggs. I asked the boy there if I could find a room and the closest spot to go and see snow. One of the guys with him said he had an empty room from which the Galoo Temple was a 30 minute trek and showed me the way. It was a cozy room, right in the middle of houses of other locals and everybody smiled and made small talk as I was shown the door to it. I changed, freshened up and asked the guy, Sunil, to show me the path to the temple. He took me to a spot where there were rocks all the way up, till the eyes could see. I couldn't find a trail at all but didn't want to look scared or defeated as he confidently told me to keep walking up the hill till I come across a dirt lane that would take me straight to the temple. I took a few deep breaths once he left, asked myself if taking a cab from the main road would not be a better option, and then started climbing. The climb was exhilarating and beautiful. And tiring. But beautiful.
The view, the trees I was amidst, the rocks and the fact that I was alone with barely one or two people walking back down every 20-25 minutes made the experience even more surreal.
On reaching the temple, all that snow took my breath away. I couldn't move for a few minutes and stood fixated at a spot, taking it all in. I made friends with a dog, with another fellow traveler with whom I talked about life as if I were in a movie, theorizing and philosophizing and a local who offered to drive me down to the main road. I didn't take him up on it as I wanted to walk back down though I was exhausted with the two difficult walks.
When I reached Dharamkot again, I was famished and asked for a place to eat. The only open cafe was Morgan's Place and boy! How adorable it was. Floor seating, a cute heater and an adorable dog that kept coming back even though it was shoed away every time. The food was also nice and I met another solo traveler at the cafe who was on a 8 month travel, 6 in India and 2 in South Africa. We talked over food about books, movies, law, Cambridge University (he graduated from there as an aerospace engineer) and everything else under the sun.
I got late and it was horribly dark by the time I left for my room. The street lights were lit only every few feet and there were long stretches of road in the dark and the temperature had dipped badly to top it all. By the time I reached the room, I was shivering with cold. I snuggled into the blankets with all my clothes on, took a swig of the rum I was carrying thankfully and fell asleep.

Day 3


Last day, I didn't do anything. I woke up, saw the snow clad mountains from my bedroom window and asked myself if I really wanted to go back.
I did a lot of one on one with myself that morning before I finally packed and started waking back down to McLeodganj. Stopping on the way to eat Maggi at the tea shop right at the entrance of Dharamkot.
Back in McLeodganj, I ate an amazing double cheese pizza at the McCllo restaurant, ate a chocolate fantasy cake and wandered into the market to buy one of the flags that have the popular Buddhist mantra "om mani padme hum" written over it. I also ended up buying an over priced necklace, but oh, anyway, I was leaving the place to never come back.
I then headed back down to the bus stop and left the McLeodganj,  a little bit more at peace with myself than I was before I entered it.
On the bus ride back, the walls with their posters, wall art and sign posts of 'Free Tibet' kept me awake for a long time. The trip cost me less than 5k.

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