Day 1 – Delhi to Dalhousie – 25th – 26th April 2018
We had an early dinner and left for Old Delhi railway station at 9 PM dot. Torn between whether to hire a cab or take the metro, R finally booked OLA in a jiffy. We realized afterward that it was the right decision, as the walk between the Old Delhi Metro and Railway station is not particularly pleasant. Hordes of ticket windows dotted along the pavement and Interstate Busses parked haywire welcome you to the rustic vibe surrounded by dilapidated forts of ancient Delhi. This area straightway time-transfers you to how Delhi looked like in English times. Old establishments, shops, bickering hooligans, roadside dhabas, incessant sounds and an air redolent of petrol and dust. As much as it charms you, it gets to you after a point. The cab ride though was more or less seamless but we did struggle to finally arrive at the station for obvious reasons. It was the annual trip to Dalhousie, organized by R’s company. We were new to the whole thing and looked forward to it eagerly.
After a round of formal introduction, everyone waited for ‘Dhauladhar Express’ which was already running 20 minutes late, originally scheduled at 10.45 PM. The train was to take us to Pathankot, the base station, and the gateway to enter Dhauladhar ranges of the Himalayas and hence to our final destination, Dalhousie. We finally boarded at 11.10 PM and comfortably placed ourselves on our respective berths. The train chugged and I saw the station receding slowly out of sight Exhausted for the day, I wanted to retire to bed as soon as possible. But I forgot this wasn’t one of the journeys I usually take with R accompanying me on most occasions. There was this huge bunch of super exhilarated people who wanted to do everything but sleep. LOL! Their liveliness was contagious!
Not really complaining as it enthralled me as well, with people prize opening their tiffins with delectable smells of Poori sabzi and paneer bhurji oozing out freely to conquer ‘their stomachs and my nose’. This was at 12 in the night. My sleep took a backseat soon and here I was with my face hung at others’ dinner spreads and my evil eyes on the Paneer Bhurji. The whole thought of having an early supper to avoid food chaos in the train no more sounded a really ‘good idea’. It felt hollow in my tummy. Though a few co-travelers did offer me to share their meal to which, I backed off very politely muttering a difficult ‘no’. You know you can’t get friendly with someone right on the first day, to an extent that you gorge into their tiffins. Not a good idea. We had 3 more days to spend together and I didn’t want them to have an idea about my gigantic appetite and eventually scare them! There were kids around too. 😀
Nevertheless, with everyone done with their dinner, I finally wanted to crash to sleep but to my dismay and amazement, the biggest ampule of energy was still to meet my eyes, Mr. A, who happened to be our travel partner in our journey later. He just didn’t want to sleep and was on a constant search of an isolated compartment where he could play cards with his friends. He must have made a thousand shuffles with the co-travelers, known and unknown, and was adamant on attaining his target! I liked his vibe! He is a super senior in the company and also coordinated the tour with the management and travel agency! We slept anyways, or at least I did, and when I sleep, the world sleeps for me! All this while, R was invisible to me or maybe I felt so because I was half faint! Was it the sleep or the lingering smell of paneer bhurji, I really don’t know! Later in the morning, I was told my husband won the card game last night, which he called his ‘beginner’s luck’, being his modest self!
We reached Pathankot at around 9 in the morning and waited for our rides till Dalhousie. The weather in Pathankot was not any different than Delhi. It was hot! After a little chaos and Mr. A, as usual, killing it with his brilliant management skills, a crowd of 80 something humans clambered into 8 tempo travelers transporting them to a height of 2000 meters (above sea level). The bus ride took around 2-3 breaks in a journey of 3 odd hours, which was eventually stretched to good four and a half hours, constantly shaking our innards like a belly dancer. The travel took longer than it should have, resulting in unwarranted exhaustion and trembling heads. But the fragrant cool air and absolutely astonishing views of the hills kind of made for it.
An assortment of delicious lunch spread awaited us in the hotel – Peace Channels. It was an extremely beautiful resort, the nicest I had been to till date and was perched cozily right in the middle of the jungle. Scarcely populated, silent, serene and peaceful – just like its name! It was at a distance of 4 km from the main market and boasted some remarkable views of the Himalayas.
We freshened up, had lunch and rested for the day. A long walk in the woods, the same evening, helped us dust off any residual exhaustion that remained in our bodies. Soaking in the scenery with colors of green merging into mustard, often showing up a tinge of bright yellow somewhere in the bushes and going all blue as and when we looked right up in the sky! A shade of blue that is so hard to find in Delhi! The constant chirping of birds was music to my ears, which we never got to see, as they hid deep inside the jungle as if they were stubborn to not to be found by anyone. They were having a kitty of sorts, it seemed!
A far off tree house nestled on a high up cliff, swinging in the fragrant breeze dropped an orange flag tied to its girth, that swayed like the alphabet ‘Z’ till it touched the first flat patch. The sight of a human replacing the flag would have, however, been a little different and not so captivating! The steepness of the hills was frightening. But it still felt protective of whoever zoom past it, deeming every traveler, driver, tourist as its own but only till you follow the mountain rules. We marveled at the beauty that lied in front of us and felt both aghast and satisfied. “Why can’t I live here forever?” Something asked me! “I am working towards it, keep your patience, it will happen”, I said with my left eye tearing up a little! I don’t know why my left eye always waters first, whenever I cry!
Later in the evening, a lot of pomp and show awaited us. I had never seen such an endless flow of booze ever in my life before this. Neither have I seen such affable employers having a family like a relationship with their people. To me, it was a dreamy affair and I really didn’t want anyone to wake me up if it really was! An array of lip-smacking starters made their way every 15 minutes and same was the case with Teacher’s, Black dog, single malts and Smirnoff!! 😀 We ate and drank to our hearts’ content, danced insanely and did not stop even when our bodies gave up. There is something unusual with dancing all sloshed in alcohol with a shaky head. You just can’t decide if you’re more tired or more energetic. It only shows up the next day when a pair of bloodshot eyes get glued to each other and a body that refuses to stand without clinging to a support for even 10 seconds. It never happens to me though!
We were awake till late in the night forecasting the weather the next day. The clouds rolled in different shapes and immediately made their intentions clear. An occasional growl was heard every now and then; their wicked way of converting from being white to grey and then merging black into the dark sky. It was to rain next day and we were to map down Mcleodganj. Yes, you read that right. From Dalhousie, we were to cruise around 150 km one way till Mcleodganj and all the preps were done. The vehicle, the driver, snacks everything except for a piece of woolen cloth, which I particularly regretted! Mr. A and his family accompanied us and were our perennial travel partners for rest of the excursion.
Keep checking this place for what transpired the next day!!