Day 3: Trek from Nako to Tashigong, four tramps, one purpose: Bliss! I wanted to visit the village of Tashigong by trekking- the last Indian village before Tibet, 12 kms from Nako, but did not plan about it till the day before. When I visited the Nako monastery the last evening the Lama and his junior trainee told me about Tashigong and showed me the way to it. I was a bit skeptical to go alone on a 12kms trek because I did not know how the route will be. But I guess He listened to my prayers last evening at the monastery and the Lamas suddenly got an idea in their mind to visit Tashigong since they had been planning about it for quite some time. I told them I would meet them early in the morning and start. Meanwhile while I was exploring the village, I came across another solo traveller, a guest to our country from Israel, Gil Zissin, who has come for a year long trip to India and now he was in Nako. While talking to him I got to know that he has also heard about Tashigong and wants to visit it. So the four of us planned to start our journey together the next morning. 7:30am: DOCTOR SHAKSHUKA CAFE, So I went to this strange sounding cafe to have my breakfast and met the owner cum cook cum guide of this cafe, Dipender Ji. When he came to know that I am a bong, he started talking to me in Bengali and kept talking about delicious Bengali food which he could make. I was overwhelmed. By then Gil joined us and ordered the Tunisian/Israeli dish Shakshuka. This is when Dipender Ji told us the story behind the name of his cafe. The story goes like this, in 2007 a group of Israeli travellers came to Nako and one of them fell quite ill because of the food. That time, Dipender cooked Shakshuka for him every day for a week and everyday he kept recovering. The Israeli was fit after a week and this gave Dipender the idea to name his cafe DOCTOR SHAKSHUKA CAFE. 10:00am: After breakfast, Gil, the two Lamas and me started on our trek to Tashigong. I carried a big rucksack on my back with a few warm clothes in case we get stuck somewhere or had to stay back there in Tashigong. As we climbed the mountains I was finding it quite difficult mainly because of the extra kilos I had put on in the last two months of internship. I was so wishing I had not eaten so much when Gil offered me to exchange bags as his was lighter than mine. I was a bit hesitant but he insisted so I happily gave my bag to him and continued comfortably. We continued to climb for quite sometime till we reached a point from where we had to keep walking on the edge of mountains. This was also the point from where we saw the highest peak in Himachal, the Reo Purgyil at 22362feet. 1:00pm: While on the trek my three companions were quite ahead of me since all three of them had that ‘mountain genes’ in them. The Lamas were from Kinnaur having made so many treks like this. Gil fresh returned from his compulsory 3 year army stint in Israel was very active and always led us. So I was the one lagging behind and at times I could not find the three of them even far far ahead of me which is when I used to get demotivated and a bit scared of the wild fauna which I expected, but fortunately was missing. I was panting for breath at a point of time because of the steepness and a lot of perspiration. This is when I recalled my previous trek by TSAF and the trek to the holy shrine of Vaishno Devi. I kept chanting ‘Jay Mata Di’ in a sort of dual voice, one is was speaking out and one in mind, this boosted my confidence and I could feel the divinity. I was able to walk now for much longer distances without taking rest. 3:30pm: After trekking for 12kms through the edge of the 12000feet+ mountains with dangerous unstable routes at times mostly alone, we reached Tashigong village. We took some rest of the rocks outside the monastery there and then went inside. We were very hungry since we had our breakfast quite early in the morning. So the Lamas tried to arrange some food for us in the village. This is when I got an oppurtunity to go inside a village house. A village woman Sonam Didi became our host and offered us tea at her home. She lived in a small hut, it seemed to be a poor household but it was self sufficient. She offered to cook lunch for us but we insisted not to since Gil and me wanted to return to Nako that day itself. But we all were actually very hungry, so when she insisted further, we agreed and she cooked ‘Kadhi Chawal’ for us. She cooked the food within 20-25 minutes and it tasted much much delicious than a buffet dinner in an elite restaurant. This was because of the warmth of the person who cooked and the way she served us I felt quite at home. 4:30pm: Me and Gil finished our lunch soon and we planned to climb down the mountain through a shortcut suggested by another villager, Palden Negi. This route was supposed to be 8kms long until we could reach NH22 from where we could get a vehicle for Nako if we reach by 6:30/7pm. With so many if conditions, we started climbing down. Climbing down was much easier and the route was much less risky. We came across pitch black horses, sheeps and heard drill shelling from the mountains of Tibet probably by their army just in front of Tashigong. By 6:30pm we reached the base of the mountain and by 7:30pm we got to NH22, completing the 22kms trek in just 7.5 hours. It gave an immense feeling of joy, achievement and fulfillment on reaching the highway. 7:50pm: After waiting for a while we got to hitchhike in a private cab coming from Chandigarh. The awesomeness of the day was yet to be over because we met these two young adventure freaks who were out for their first camping trip to Kinnaur. One of them was a lawyer, (cant recall his name) and the other a journalist,Himanshu but no one can probably predict their profession by their attitude and coolness. Which I am saying this is because the lawyer was a musician and they had put a camera on top of their car to record the path they were traversing to use the video in his music video. There was one more instance which was amazing that night. While the two played the famous number “Animals’ by Martin Garrex in the car and we were discussing philosophical stuff like there is an animal in every one of us, we came across a Himalayan fox crossing the road while approaching Nako. Its glistening eyes and long tail is a sight I would remember for a long long time.
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187 Kms from TashiGong
Best time to visit - January,February,March,April,May,June,October,November,December
Once known as Shyamala, synonymous with Goddess Kali, Shimla has been a summer retreat long before India even gained independence. This famous hill station similarly has a lot of places and things to see untouched by time. For instance, take a vintage joy ride from Kalka station to Shimla in a charming toy train that will take you through towering Deodars, hills and villages. Shimla truly comes alive during winters when a blanket of snow covers it all over making every nook and corner gleam and glisten. One such place is the ice skating rink (natural ice) near Lakkar Bazaar that opens from November to December. More winter sports include skiing, which can be enjoyed 21 km from Shimla in Kufri. Adventure activities such as rafting at Tattapani or a trek to Shali Tibba and Pabbar Valley are also worthwhile experiences. If you are fond of haunted stories and interested in having your own spooky adventure, you'll love Shimla. A lot of people including the renowned Rudyard Kippling (in 'My Own True Ghost Story) have written various eerie stories set around Shimla. A place known most for giving many people the jeepers-creepers is the Charleville Mansion. Another time travelling portal is the antique bookstore, Marina Brothers, located on Mall Road, which is truly a reader and collector's paradise. There are many luxury and budget hotels here, meaning you'll never fall short of options. Popular places to eat include Wake & Bake, Ashiana, Cecil and Minchy's that serve commendable Indian and multi-cuisine dishes and delicious gourmet food.
246 Kms from TashiGong
Best time to visit - August,September,October,November
A perfect combination of ancient and urban, this city has been deemed the most futuristic in the country, while also having been occupied by the Harappan civilisation almost 8,000 years ago. In fact, BBC has named Chandigarh as a perfect city with regard to its cultural growth, modernisation and architecture. Nek Chand Rock Garden is a unique and fascinating site, built solely by a man (after whom the garden is named), who used remnants from various demolition sites (particularly the debris while Chandigarh itself was being built) and a whole lot of scrap to build 2000 sculptures, statues, all integrated on walled paths, wherein one can also see man-made interlinked waterfalls. A short walk away from there is the artificial Sukhna lake, a landmark for families to relax and walk around while enjoying street food and keeping kids busy with quaint toys bought from vendors all around. Pertaining to Le Corbusier's (chief architect of the city) vision of Chandigarh being a garden city, Rose Garden is home to over 1,500 varieties of rose and the Garden of Fragrance is perfect for those mind-refreshing walks. Popular places to visit for an insight into Chandigarh and the entire country's history through various artworks are the Government Museum & Art Gallery and the Chandigarh Architecture Museum. Being one of the top four metro cities of the country, Chandigarh has a bustling food scene, home to every cuisine you can think of right from Mediterranean (Kelong, Virgin Courtyard) to Thai (Tao- Bar & Lounge). Some popular places for Punjabi dishes are Punjab Grill and Sher-e- Punjab. Chandigarh is also close to many hill stations such as Solan, Kasauli, Shoghi and Naldehra.
171 Kms from TashiGong
Best time to visit - March,April,May,June,July,August,September,October
A kingdom that has risen above disasters like the 2010 cloudburst and is still able to magnetise a plethora of tourists and travellers every month to it, even when the mercury dips below sub-zero levels. This former capital of the Himalayan Kingdom of Ladakh is chiefly dominated by the ruined Royal Palace of Leh and the eternally serene Pangong Tso, Tibetan for 'high grassland lake', which is spread for 134 km from India to China. If you're someone who loves travelling unconventionally and is interested in the lifestyle that thrives in this high altitude desert, you can stay with locals who have turned their homes into 'homestays' and are open to interacting with non-natives. For a more spiritual and mystical experience, one can also spend the night at monasteries such as Thiksey, Lamauru or the Hemis Monastery, where you will get a chance to interact with Lamas (Buddhist teachers) and learn all about their lives and what they preach. For more visual and audio insights and treats, one can attend the 6 day Ladakh festival, a multihued explosion of Ladakhi culture and tradition, celebrated annually in the month of September in Leh's villages. Leh can always keep you entertained, for instance, with trekking (frozen river trek to Chadar, Padam to Darcha trek), mountain biking, skiing, camel safari, paragliding and even having your car pulled uphill by the magnetic force at the Magnetic Hill. Foodies will get no better thrill than eating at the highest cafeteria in the world, Rinchen Cafeteria. Other popular cafes such as Gesmo, Nirvana Garden, Cafe Jeevan and Norlakh are a must to go to for their lip smacking Italian, Himalayan and local dishes.
172 Kms from TashiGong
Best time to visit - February,March,April,October
The land from where once an ancient trade route to China would be embarked on, Manali is an abode for modern creativity now as much as it for withdrawal and adventure in the majestic mountains. From offering hostels, hotels, co-working spaces to the cave where once Arjun, the Pandava king had supposedly meditated (Arjun Gufa), Manali is no less than a global village. The mighty Himalayas have inspired many foreign settlements here, giving rise to popular European and Israeli cafes, restaurants and hostels, providing one a consortium of around the world cultures. This town is a true haven for adventure junkies who can indulge in river rafting, paragliding, camping, rock climbing, rappelling, zorbing at Solang Valley and Aleo. Manali has an array of breathtaking treks and sights for its nature lovers, for instance the Patalsu Peak, the Deo Tibba basecamp, Jogini Falls and the Rahala Falls. For all the solo riders out there, cruise your way through the snowy alley of Rohtang Pass while those who wish to travel back in time, can indulge in the exquisite display of culture and heritage at the Museum of Himachal Culture and Folk Art. Restaurants and cafes such as the Khyber Pass, Johnson's Cafe, La Plage, Drifters' Inn, The Hangout attract foodies for their culinary justice to everything from Thai to European cuisines and even some live music. If all this is too over the top for you, then reconnect with simplicity at Naggar Village, which is home to waterfalls, a beautiful castle, an art gallery and locals which have many stories to share and a cultural heritage to take pride in.
185 Kms from TashiGong
Best time to visit - March,April,May,October,November
Dehradun is easily one of the most popular hill stations in India. Though easily accessible by all modes of transportation, taking the road would be the best way to experience this heaven. The drive will take you through dense forests on the hilly road and if you're lucky, you might even see a wild elephant or leopard pass you by. The fresh and dewy hill air will infiltrate your lungs and put you in a great mood right away. In terms of things to see, there is Robber's Cave, a river cave formation and Sahashtradhara, which is also a stunning sight of nature consisting of sulphur springs. But more than its sights, Dehradun is the perfect place for a family getaway. After all it has everything that you could need for a relaxing holiday. The town has many vintage bookshops (Natraj Publishers, The English Book Depot), college campuses with hilly backdrops, architectural marvels (such as the Forest Research Institute), alleys filled with quaint restaurants, adventure sports gear shops and forest resorts and hotels to fit every budget. Vishranti, a resort tucked away discreetly in the Sal forests of the Doon valley, deserves a special mention for its beauty and luxury. The city is a haven for foodies as Dehradun offers a lot of variety and affordability in its cuisine. Restaurants and cafes such as Doon Darbar, renowned for devour-worthy Mughlai dishes and The Buffet for its mouthwatering burgers, cutlets and coffee, are popular options.
169 Kms from TashiGong
Best time to visit - January,February,March,April,August,September,October,November,December
A quick getaway destination for Delhi-NCR residents, Mussoorie or the 'Queen of Hills' is the most favoured place for anyone battling urban heat. It remains quite crowded from May to July, as popular hotels and hangouts such as Mall Road, Mussoorie Lake, Kempty Falls and Gun Hill remain pervaded with tourists no matter where or what you may set your eyes upon. But if you carry the spirit of an explorer within you, Mussoorie can surprise you in many ways. For instance, if you curious to check out where the man who Mt. Everest is named after, once lived, you can reach the house and laboratory through a picturesque 4 km walk from Library Bazaar or Gandhi Chowk. Ditch the customary visit to Kempty Falls and take an uplifting trek to the quiet, serene and crystal clear Jharipani Falls instead. Mussoorie, when mist free, provides frame-worthy views of the Himalayan ranges, which can be enjoyed at points such as Lal Tibba, Nag Tibba and Camel Back Road, all of which need to be trekked or walked to, with the effort being worthwhile. Devalsari, a village quietly burrowed 55 km away from Mussoorie, is the gateway to the Nag Tibba trek and a location perfect for seeing beautiful butterflies and birds in the heart of nature. For those curious to delve into Himalayan life, history, art, culture and spirituality, Soham Heritage and Art Centre gives exquisite displays of the former, through various artefacts. As for foodies, restaurants such as Neelam, Imperial Square, Meeting Point Cafe and Casa Mia bakery do justice to North Indian, European and Tibetan cuisines and also offer delicious cafe knick knacks and drinks.
267 Kms from TashiGong
Best time to visit - February,March,April,May,June,October,November
Barely 4 km away from Dharamshala by foot, the hill station of McLeod Ganj is home to many majestic monasteries, delicious smelling kitchen cafes, video rental shops, western food cafes, trekking companies and wall to wall stores selling Tibetan souvenirs and many more goodies. Also known as Little Lhasa and the abode of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual influence and its mystical green hills mark McLeod Ganj as a significant tourist destination and a major traveller hang-out in the Kangra Valley. A 5-minute walk south of this town will take one to the Tsuglagkhang Complex, which comprises the official residence of the 14th Dalai Lama, vibrant monasteries with beautiful murals and even a bookshop cafe that goes by the name of Namgyal Gompa. Tourist activity after monsoon picks up, after October, with February March being pleasant months to visit the hill station to witness the Losar Festival or the Tibetan New Year being celebrated. This compact sized town is best explored and enjoyed by walking or trekking. Intriguing short walks around Mcleod Ganj include one that goes 2km east to Bhagsu which leads one to a waterfall and a temple. The most well-known trek, 8 km starting from the town, is to Triund, a snow-flanked and serene camping spot from which one can also travel 5 km ahead to reach a charming little forest rest house. With many many hipster eateries, the food here is some of the best you"ll find at any mountain destination.