What a stormy eve it was!! Dusty and Yellow sky! We were a group of 19 guys and girls. Booked a Super Deluxe AC Volvo. At last at 7 in eve, we managed to cross the border of Delhi. We halted at Hotel Sheesh Mahal for dinner. Such a large receptive formal fore-court with palms on both side and a water body in the centre –and the luxurious high-end restaurant. We, then, headed our journey forward. Watched P.K. and Ramaiya Vastavaiya (shitty movie though) back to back. At around 4:30, we started waking up from our sleep because of the bumpy ride. Yes, we were on the hills!!! All we could see outside is dusky sky and silhouette of the mountains. The sun was rising fast and so were the people. Amazed to see so many people jogging on the hilly tracks along the road! Finally the coloured town arrived and the first thing that appealed the eyes is the raw – grey – half constructed structure – so called bus and taxi stand! I wish if it remains like that forever- standing alone-overlooking the valleys. From there, we were supposed to walk up (first) and (then) walk down to our Hotel-Pink House.
We moved out of our hotel after getting freshened-up for some breakfast. Had street food – hot momos – stuffed with spinach and potato served with spicy chutney.
We set off for Bhagsu Nag Waterfall which is approximately 3kms away from the Main Square of the town. It was an amazing but little exhausting hike. But, the view and the trickling sound of water kept us moving. As we reached our destination and jumped into the crystal clear water, our feet got a frost-bite. The warmth of the sun-light breeze-thunder of the cascading waters-chirping of birds and murmur of the people around were all so pleasing to the ears. We sat on the rocks –sang at the top of our voices-and created a jazzy ambience for everyone around there. For lunch, we headed to Shiva Café above. Had flavoured hukka, thin crust pizzas and pasta there; and chilled there till the sunset. The terrace overlooks the colourful town below. And interiors are a surprise for one’s eyes.
We explored the market and restaurants in the evening. Those kiosks along the streets where all funky-junky-traditional jewellery is sold – gained all of the girls’ attention. But, we saved our shopping task for the last day. We got to know about the jamming session to be held at Carpe Diem that night, so hurriedly went for dinner there only – which was purely above expectations – not too cheap and not too expensive – delicious and hygienic with Indian tadka – plus the quantity was also up to the mark. But none of us were resistant to dancing on the beats even after hogging so much. The night was celebrated at its fullest.
In the morning, we visited the serene Dalai Lama Monastery. The enchanting prayers resonated the whole ambience – was a relief to the ears.
From the bus stand at the chowk, we hired three taxis for Dharamshala which is around 30 min away down the hill. Our first destination were the tea gardens – vast - lush green - with narrow paths in between. We walked across the hill deep into the greens – to lose ourselves - for someone else to come and find us. Next, we headed to Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Cricket Ground – the only stadium in the arms of snow-capped mountain peaks. It is surrounded with the most picturesque backdrop in the country. The bright colours impart a unique character in the subtle-most background. Next in our list was Norbulingka Institute – probably the most heavenly built-space on earth. Quiet. Serene. Earthy! To say more about it, would be to reveal the first-hand experience. It is dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan Art and Culture. One can witness the craftsmen working on handicrafts in the art studios. But, that poetic experience can’t be easily expressed in words. One must vis-it and feel-it! (The only thing which was poor was the service of the café in the institute).
Third day. The day of trek to Triund. We had planned to spend the night at the top, so we started a little late i.e. around 10. All set and packed with woollens and water. Excited and Enthusiastic. Rest, all of the other preparations were done by our hotel staff – guide, tents, sleeping bags, dinner and breakfast. The night before, we were told that it’s a pretty moderate trek of around 9 kilometres, with gradual slopes, which becomes a little steeper as we reach the top. So, we 20 (with the guide) started off at around 9:30 in the morning. Within a few metres only, we met our little companion – a beautiful dog. First halt came after first three kilometres – that was around after one and half hours. Till this point, the energy level and excitement were at its peak. And gradually, it started draining out as the trek gradient became steeper. We all were separated in groups of two or three depending upon the speed by which we walked. Sometimes solo. But it was great to experience the wild alone also. The sharp turns that looked like dead-ends. Those ups and downs. Somewhere it was all dark hidden amidst the shadow of the tall pines. Somewhere the paths were all drenched with scorching sun above the head. Not a single cloud that day. Only those sips of water kept us alive. And also the scenic views of the town which was going farther with each single step of ours; and the nearing top of the camp. And THE BEST PART of the trek are the people you meet on your way who keep you motivated to not to stop. That stranger smiling and wishing you the best! We survived on *Maggi* and chocolates for our brunch. The last kilometre was really a challenge when all of us became monkeys – jumping and climbing the rocks for some short-cuts. There we looked behind once to from where we started and rubbed our eyes twice. But….At Last….WE REACHED! And it was an ACCOMPLISHMENT.
There was a sense of achievement. The faces red – skin tanned – bodies damped in sweat – a sweet smile on face – pride in the eyes. And the view. Snow-peaks in front and the valley at the back. We had lied down to be sun-kissed for a few hours on the mounds and slept till the sun had gone a little cooler. Moon was rising. Sun was setting behind the hills. Sky tones were getting purplish. Breeze was chilly. We posed for silhouette pictures. Meanwhile, our dinner and bonfire were also set; and the starts were twinkling in the sky. It was pitch dark - no artificial light. Our faces gleamed in the moonlight. The temperature was dropping. We lied down under the dark blanket – staring at the stars. After sometime, everyone started creeping inside their sleeping bags.
It was around 5 when I got up because of the birds’ chirp. It was dawn. The first ray of the sun emerging from behind the snow-peaks rendering them dark in shadow. After having our breakfast, we started off with the down-trek. And of course, it was to take comparatively lesser time. But, the feet were slipping forward in the shoes, and there came a point at almost the end of the trek, when I had to walk barefoot. Climbing down was equally tiring, but we managed to get back in three hours.
The eve we spent roaming on the streets of the town – purchasing some souvenirs and jewellery. But, we all decided to dine together at our guest house terrace – desi khaana- naan, shahi paneer aur dal makhni.
The other day, we had planned to return back to Delhi, but visited Kangra Fort before that.
Our last breakfast in McLeodganj was at Café Illiterati, and I recommend it when you really have lots of time to chill out. The café has awesome interiors with a huge collection of books ranging from comic books to adultery; a space for music lovers. It has a spellbound view from its little balcony. But, the service is pretty slow and poor. Say, if you have ordered five things, they’ll serve it one by one and by the time the staff gets another dish, you can easily finish off the dish which was served previously. But, no doubt the quality is good.
Next place in our wish-bucket – the old, ruined Kangra Fort. It is one hour drive down the hill from McLeodGanj in old part of Kangra. The fort lies on the top of hill surrounded by deep valley all around. The entrance is manicured with lawns and flowery trees. The multi-tiered terraces provide scenic views in complete 360 deg. direction – silver caps of the mountains submerged in the white clouds and the empty stretch of road with woods on one side and valley on the other.
Hence the journey came to an end. We boarded the return bus from the highway. A complete package of bumpy roller-coaster ride it was! Unforgettable memories! The very first experience of the thrilling trek! And probably the last batch trip in which the maximum of our gang went!