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
Delhi to Narkanda (420 kms)Everyone was itching to escape the dreadful heat of Delhi and get some respite in the sedative ambiance of the hills. And hey presto, as soon as we entered the ghats, the weather turned misty and greeted us with incredible spectacle:
246 Kms from TashiGong
Best time to visit - August,September,October,November
Chandigarh is India's first planned city, quite distinct from the rest of the country and considerably better organized. It is the capital of both Haryana and Punjab, but the city itself is not part of either state, being a union territory, i.e. administered directly by the central government. It was one of the early planned cities in post-independence India and is internationally known for its architecture and urban design. Chandigarh has various visitor attractions including theme gardens within the city. Some notable sites are Sukhna Lake, Rock Garden, Rose Garden, Parrot Bird Sanctuary Chandigarh, and Leisure Valley. Chandigarh as a perfect city with regards to its cultural growth, modernisation and architecture. Rose Garden is home to over 1,500 varieties of rose and the Garden of Fragrance is perfect for those mind-refreshing walks. 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 the capital city of Uttarakhand, a state in the northern part of India. Located in the Garhwal region, Dehradun is in the Doon Valley perched the foothills of the Himalayas. Nestled between the river Ganges on the east and the river Yamuna on the west, it is well-connected and in proximity to the Himalayan tourist destinations of Mussoorie, Auli and the Hindu holy cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh along with the Himalayan pilgrimage circuit of Chota Char Dham. Dehradun is the base camp for undertaking trekking expeditions in the Garhwal Himalayas. High-quality trekking gear like rucksacks, gloves, boots, tents, etc can be bought from shops in the thriving Moti bazaar. All items are mostly made locally and the shops also supply material to the Indian army that has its primary training center in Dehradun. 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 delectable Mughlai dishes. Dehradun tourism has also gained importance because of the trekking activities which are carried out in the Garhwal Himalayan range.
267 Kms from TashiGong
Best time to visit - February,March,April,May,June,October,November
Located in Himachal Pradesh, what most people refer to as Dharamsala is actually Lower Dharamsala. This is where the bus drops you, and from here you can make your way to Mcleodganj, or Upper Dharamsala, which is also where the Dalai Lama lives. The two Dharamsalas have a strong Tibetan presence with monasteries, meditation centres and a big library of Tibetan history. This is owing to the Tibetan refugees who have made this place home after fleeing the oppression of China in their homeland. There is a lot to explore at these destinations, which are popular both with Indian and foreign tourists. For tourism in Dharamsala, there is the Norbulingka Institute, where you can see artisans making thangka paintings, embroidering and carving food. Further up in Mcleodganj, you can visit the Namgyal Monastery, say a prayer at the St John in the Wilderness, take a dip in the gushing Bhagsu Falls, trek up to Triund or just enjoy the surrounding pine forest from its many fabulous rooftop cafes and restaurants. 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. Close
288 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.