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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226 Kms from TashiGong
Best time to visit - March,April,May,June,September,October
According to traditional etymology, Dharamshala translates to 'spiritual dwelling'. The calm expanse of the Dhauladhar Ranges enveloping this city grants it a rich history of spirituality and attracts thousands of travellers from around the globe, looking for that very bliss. Homestead of the Dalai Lama and innumerable other Tibetans, Dharamshala boasts of beautiful monasteries all around, such as those within the Tsuglagkhang Complex, which also houses the Tibetan Leader's official residence. Other attractions include the Kalachakra Temple, which houses some hypnotisingly beautiful murals, the Tibet Museum and the Namgyal Gompa, where monks can be seen engaged in animated debates in the afternoon. Apart from the spirituality, this charming little city also hosts International Film festivals, local fairs, Shoton Spring Festival and the vibrant Tibetan Opera- 'Lhamo. The city is usually dormant with regard to adventurous activities, but for those thrill seekers and nature lovers around, an adrenaline rush always awaits them. Some resorts provide opportunities for paragliding, flying fox, rock climbing, zip lining, rappelling and even night camping. Treks through the magical hills and forests are always invaluable, the most cherished one being, the trek to the snowy peaks of Triund. Dharamshala's vast Tibetan population gives way to charming little kitchen cafes serving the most lip smacking Tibetan dishes, that too at very affordable prices (below Rs 500 for two). Dishes such as thenthuk, thukpa, chocolate and meat medallions are a huge hit with most travellers that have visited and sought refuge in this city's mystical spread.
226 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.
228 Kms from TashiGong
Best time to visit - March,April,May,June
Barely 18 kms from Dharamshala, Kangra is the perfect weekend getaway for tourists and explorers alike. This small bustling city hides away quite a few marvels within its Dhauladhar Ranges. Those looking to nestle amidst its simplistic beauty must make it a priority to visit Pragpur village, which is India's only heritage village, a place with an allure that can only be compared with those colourful little European hamlets one has only seen on TV or in children's books. Another not so well known gem in this city is the Masroor Monolith Rock temple, which is an 8th century archeological wonder made of a group of 15 temples carved out of rock, with a pond in the foreground. A location that remains a favourite with tourists is the Kangra Fort, with ramparts over a 4 km stretch protecting it, atop a hill at the conflux of Patal Ganga and Banganga river. A 200 metre walk up the road from the Kangra Fort is all that is needed for those wanting to delve more into the city's history, where they shall reach the Maharaja Sansar Chand Museum, which provides an insight into the luxurious lifestyle once led by the Katochs, the erstwhile Kangra Royal family. Adventure seekers will love the various treks that go through the Dhauladhar Ranges usually ending near the Chamba valley, providing picturesque views. The city houses some of the most charming little cafes that to every book worm's delight have a shelf full of books and cook everything from Himachali, Italian and Tibetan cuisines on the menu. Some renowned cafes and restaurants are Moonpeak, Peace Cafe, Nechung Cafe, Snow Lion Cafe, Jimmy's Italian Cafe and Indique, wherein one can also enjoy live music nights.
283 Kms from TashiGong
Best time to visit - February,March,April,May,June,October,November
Located in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, Nainital is one of the most beautiful hill stations in Northern India. The stunning Nainital lake is bang in the middle of the city and offers tourists stunning sunsets and enchanting sunrises. One legend says that Nainital derives its name from the Goddess Naina, whereas another legend claims that once when the Goddess Sati was being carried by Lord Shiva, her eye fell in the area. The lovely hill station promises a rejuvenating weekend break for those who are coming from the capital city and is definitely worth a visit. Like most hill stations, Nainital has a bustling mall road, warm cafes and a very busy Tibet market. The mall road houses shops selling candles with intricate designs, wooden knick knacks and colourful woollens. Do bring back some souvenirs as keepsakes! If you have time, do visit Sattal, Naukuchiatal (for paragliding and kayaking) as well as Ranikhet for its surreal beauty. If you are looking for a quiet, carefree holiday, visit between the months of January and April. It'll be cold, but there won't be any crowd.
280 Kms from TashiGong
Best time to visit - January,February,March,April,May,June,October,November,December
Mukteshwar is a hill station in Uttarakhand that is popular for its wide assortment of adventure sports such as rock climbing and rappelling. Overlooking the peaks of Nanda Devi, Mukteshwar is also a celebrated scenic spot that is perfect for long walks and some quiet time in the closeness of nature. The Mukteshwar Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is a revered shrine of the region. Located near this temple is the Chauthi Jaali, which is a picturesque precipice of lattice rocks. These rocks present an enchanting view of the green grasslands down below. The Mukteshwar Inspection Bungalow, which is located near the temple, offers a perfect place to relax and unwind while enjoying the scenery around. The charming landscape of the Sitla Estate here is beautiful and offers seasonal fruits such as apples, peaches and plums. Mukteshwar has limited options in terms of food, but most places offer both North Indian and Kumaoni cuisine. Popular eateries include the Nirvana Organic Kitchen and The Hideout Crimson Hills. Government tourist hotels and PWD circuit houses provide accommodation facilities.
204 Kms from TashiGong
Best time to visit - March,April,May,June,July,September,October,November
A picturesque and quiet little town, Palampur is a panorama of stunning tea gardens, brooks, creeks, rice paddies and colonial era buildings all set against the backdrop of the breathtaking snow-peaked Dhauladhar ranges. It is perfect for those who seek a getaway from noisy cities and most importantly crowds. A not so popular tourist destination, Palampur is a town early to rise and early to sleep, whilst being a haven for to those who seek solitude, especially in the lap of nature. Places such as the Neogal Park is highly recommended for refreshing and soothing walks amidst the forest overlooking a river, which even consists of a small man-made lake for boating activities. For all tea lovers out there, visit the tea gardens and the Palampur Cooperative Tea Factory to understand the entire process behind tea manufacturing, which will be happily explained to you through a free tour by the people working there, wherein you can also purchase fresh Kangra tea leaves and many different types of tea. For handcraft enthusiasts, especially pottery, Andretta Artist's Village is the perfect place for one to not only purchase those clay crafted beauties but also to learn how to make them from scratch. Palampur is open to both Indian and Western cuisines, with a number of commendable and affordable restaurants to eat at. To try something more authentic or 'Pahari' for that matter, Sai Gardens is highly recommended for its versatility and prowess especially in the Himachali cuisine. Adventure seekers can enjoy paragliding and other activities in Bir, a place about an hour away from Palampur, guaranteed to give you a memorable time.
164 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.
147 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.