Day 2 – Dalhousie to Mcleodganj – 27th April, 2018
After a terrific start to the trip and an even better end to the day, all of us dripped in sheer enthusiasm even though the bodies gave up. Everyone was devising their own plans for the next day with an impeccable zest. Mr. A, the excited soul that he is, had already his plans up for the late night card game with R obviously being a part of it. I don’t remember when we came into the room after one hell of a party, I crashed to sleep and R went off to play the game. All I knew that we were to leave for Mcleodganj the next morning at 7 and I had to cash on whatever sleep I could have for 3-4 hours or so. It was going to be a long journey and I needed to acclimatize well.
Here I must mention about Mr. A’s ardent zeal to being a wonderful traveler in the mountains. I found him wide awake at 5.30 am when I peeped down my window pane to have a prime look of the mountains in the first light of the dawn. He sat on the bench down in the open lobby and seemed to have had a long walk in the woods already, with his lens-set swinging around his shoulder. Perspiring he was but so content! God knows how he makes up for the lack of that sleep. He always overflows with an envious energy.
He was going to be our travel partner for the remaining trip. I met Mr. A’s wife, N, for the first time in person and her little daughter of 5 years, Reet! N was an extremely affable woman with a beautiful voice. We became pally in no time. She was simply dressed in a Salwar Kameez with a woolen shawl tucked around her forearm. Our driver came well in time and was too a sociable, sturdy looking man of around 50! Interestingly he had bought his brand new car a day back only which we were to ride presently. It was a white Breeza with ample space for four. We embarked on our journey at 7.10 am and started winding through the circuitous roads of Dalhousie.
(Read my travelogue on Day 1 – Delhi to Dalhousie here) 🙂
The drive was mostly uneventful with us diving in the raw beauty of arduous hills. An interminable depth, often startling us at times, followed us consistently on at least one side of ours. Sometimes we were in a valley and the road was flat with logged-huts and well-built houses on both sides. The valleys looked well populated and fairly developed, but hardly taking away from the natural beauty of the mountains. There was immense greenery on our way. The lush green meadows of the region were very well tended by the villagers. The cattle grazed over green grass and the dogs were friendly…. and hairy too. The path receded in almost hundred round-abouts per km and took a toll on our empty stomachs occasionally. Sometimes, we braved the most whirling terrains almost falling over each other.
We had to skip on our breakfasts since we started early and now we were to face the consequences. In mountains, as much as it is important to not to eat too much when in motion, it is equally advisable to avoid travelling empty stomach too. It tends to contract the abdominal muscles & intestines. The effect worsens if one experiences nausea and feels like throwing up. It can lead to AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). That is, you must contain something inside to puke as well. Nevertheless, we persisted! We did halt at a small roadside restaurant at around 11 AM to have a quick munching session and also to freshen up. We perked on a light breakfast so we could survive the remainder journey without getting vertigo.
There were a few rough patches too that we had to go through, owing to some construction work midway. A group of locals (labourers) worked ardently to flatten an otherwise dusty patch of land and their vigour was something to gawk on. Really! Hats off to these men who put their lives at stake and ploy themselves so hard on the deadly hills of these regions. They go unnoticed so easily. I was humbled, at the same time felt too small. If it weren’t for these people who burn their skin and chart out such malleable roads, how could we reap the benefits of their turmoil. They, for sure, get their rewards and wages but what they do, I think, goes beyond any monetary compensation.
We reached the market area of Dharamshala at around 12. 30 pm, that led us further to Mcleodganj. One of the must do’s, as everyone advised us, was to go to the Namgyal Monaestry. It is undeniably the most famous tourist places in Mcleodganj and on our visit there, we felt it did true justice to the hype so garnered by it. But what we cherished even more was the way we got there. It is another story altogther. One that we would talk and laugh about 20 years from now on a tea table with friends.
Right after our driver dropped us at the main entrance of the monastery, the clouds thundered a bellowing scream, signalling us of the rain that was about to come. It was impossible to gauge the unexpected showers considering the sun shone to its might just five minutes back. Now I laugh about how we ran like a bunch of rabbits escaping the rain and found refuge in a small shed adjacent to a tea shop right there. Thirty seconds into this brawl, it stopped raining and the sun sat again like a king tearing the clouds apart. We were half soaked and made our way to the stairs that led to the first floor of the monastery. But in a matter of just 10 seconds of us getting out of the shed, it started pouring heavily again. And with hailstones knocking our heads.
Wow!! The Rain God was definitely in for a play. We all scattered like a fleeting herd of sheep, shouting & laughing our hearts out, and stood just anywhere we could find some roof in. The play lasted for some 15 minutes and we finally reached the innards of the divine building.
The aura inside the monastery contained an inexplicable peace and tranquillity. It was a vast patch of building of three floors crusaded by Buddhist culture, where Tibetans migrated from China in 1959 to escape the persecution by People’s Liberation Army in China, with Dalai Lama being the flag bearer of the troop. It is also said to be the epicentre the Tibetan government and that a large part of its work affairs run from here only. The devotees performed a patterned exercise to pay their respects to God Buddha. It seemed like a series of yoga postures played in tandem with every second. Whatever it was, the energy and vibe of that place swept deep inside my core and settled there to never come out again.
We roamed around the hall and listened to the daily preaching session given to the Lamas by their leader. It was all so serene. The snowy clouds towered above the mountains that we could see from the long balcony of the monastery. At one place, the vast expanse of a huge oak tree overlooked the bare veranda of the building bestowing the floor with its cooling shade. The roads twirled towards unseen destinations and a long trail of vehicles could be seen snaking through, from the lobby above. With an unsaid promise to come back again, we made our way further to the Naddi Heights.
Naddi Hills is at a little distance from the main Mcleodganj and presented a remarkable view of snow clad Dhauladhar ranges of the Himalayas. We were pleasantly surprised & mighty happy to have taken the good advice of a friend who suggested us to visit Naddi. It appeared a place less traveled or was in the process to become commercially inclined. A few hotels and inns were under construction and the decision couldn’t be doubted as it would prove to be the most cruised and famous tourist spot in future. It had fair number of shops and tiny tea shacks residing by but it still looked isolated in comparison to its surrounding counterparts. The clouds rolled over our heads merging their blue to grey every second. The grey mist blocked our view at times, but there was nothing we could complain about. It only played hide and seek with the hills, occasionally precipitating into white waters resulting in a downpour.
A loud growl could be heard at some distance in the mountains and the weather made its intentions clear enough for us to fathom. It was about to rain again but we were safe inside the hotel cum restaurant called Naddi Heights where we pit stopped at, to have our lunch. A royal spread of Himachali cuisine along with my favourite Rajma Madra was laid in front of us. We devoured each and every bite while enjoying the delightful scenery outside the window pane. It was heavenly. We couldn’t find Himachali food anywhere else in the Kangra district other than here and we really feel bad about it. I think there should be more regional restaurants in every state so the outsiders get to experience a part of their culinary heritage. The clock struck 2.30 PM and it was time we head back to our hotel in Dalhousie, where yet another night of glare and glamour awaited us.
It was getting cold and to my plight, I didn’t carry a single piece of woolen to rescue my shivering soul. I regretted it all through. We got into our car and with our bellies stuffed, embarked on our journey way back from Mcleodganj. It was much more enjoyable than the morning drive for me at least, since R kept catching on his power naps every now and then, occasionally waking up to find out on where we have reached till then. Mr. A kept sharing tales & stories of his prior travel sojourns which I thoroughly enjoyed. 40 Km before Dalhousie, at around 6 PM we stopped at place called BAKLOH to straighten our stiffed backs. Bakloh seemed more like an amusement park for kids, though it definitely was not one. It had a lot of swings and rides, seeing which, Reet went gaga and wanted to ride each one of them. It was a flat piece of land forming staircase of sorts, with a panaromic picture of the mountains in the backdrop.
A few cemented houses and a trail of log huts were dotted in symmetry over each step and people in the closest huts could be seen prepping up for their dinner. A boisterous group of children made way to their houses in their school dress. They must be from the evening shift. A few women cut the green leafy vegetables from their home garden and I was so elated to notice every nuance of that humdrum. It all must be so regular to these people. “Will I ever be able to live a life like this?” asked my pitying soul! The place was very beautiful and I didn’t want to leave. I loved every bit of the horizon that merged the red of the sun with the blue of the sky. The colours enchanted me so much.
We covered the remaining 40 km and reached our hotel well before 8. Our driver deserved a pat for taking us to and fro safely and we developed a level of confidence with him and therefore, he was hired for the next day too. We had planned to travel to Khajiaar and wander about the local destinations of the place. The time was set for 10 AM sharp and we bid bye to Mr. Kishen, our driver. We were mildly tired but chinned up for the party that night like tigers. We ate, drank and danced like the day before and shared our travel stories for the day that went passed. The fervour was something to eye on.
A lot of people were in shock coming to know about the daring trip that we had plunged for the day. They couldn’t believe we travelled all the way 350 kms up and down to Mcleodganj and came back without a speck of fatigue. Yes, 350 kms in one go, in the mountains isn’t as easy it may seem in plains. But a traveller’s soul is not perturbed by the distance but by the moments. With a happy day in our kitty and a whole lot of memories in our hearts, we retired for the day only to be welcomed by a new and pristine morning.
Read my next blog about our trip to Khajiaar (Part 3 of this journey) in a few days. Till then, keep checking this place.