From one hill to another

  • Javed Parsa
  • Publish Date: Dec 20 2016 8:18PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Dec 20 2016 8:18PM
From one hill to anotherGK Photo

Himachal is beautiful, quaint and has the most beautiful people.

Well, all this we have in Kashmir too and more.

As a kashmiri if you go to Himachal you have more things to relate to and less to behave like a tourist  at! It was the best decision I ever took. 

I was in Delhi for work and had a few days to spare, thus taking a break from all my worries seemed like a nice plan.

I was looking for someplace where I could just relax, sit back calmly, have a cup of coffee and sleep for as long as I wanted. So I circled in on Dharamshala- Mcleodganj. These pretty little towns are around 8 kms apart.  Mcleodganj is where most of the tourists are and where the hustle bustle is. Dharamshala is more mundane from a tourists’ point of view, but if you want to know how the local people live and go about, Dharamshala is the place.

Both these places depict a beautiful amalgamation of himachali and Tibetan culture with both groups of people living together in harmony.

What is beautiful about these places is that even though these places are flooded with tourists there are many other corners around the towns that are quiet and peaceful, where you can hear the birds chirp and the trees swing. Thus when you are here you get the best of both worlds!

 

The Transport:

Many buses ply between Mcleodganj-Dharamshala-Delhi. It is a 10 hour long journey, which does not seem like a mammoth task if you have survived the Jammu-Srinagar highway. The Volvo I took, travelled overnight and was a pretty comfortable ride. Reached Mcleod in the morning around 6.  The place was silent and beautiful. Witnessing the sun rise with almost no people around and the crisp chilly air kissing my skin, I knew I was in the right place. Sadly in the days to come I did not see the town so empty and clean as I did on that morning because post 8 am, people start thronging the streets. Early risers you see!

You can take a bus back to Delhi, but I wouldn’t recommend that. The journey down the hill is exhausting. Believe me because this is coming from a guy who has travelled in buses all around India and back home, and this was one tiring journey! You do not want to be awake and all dizzy when the bus is literally racing down the hill on the narrow roads. Better you take an airplane from Dharamshala’s Gaggal Airport or if you want to travel by road, book a cab! Ensure that you are comfortable.

 

The People

If you go to Himachal and come back with good memories it will be because of the local people you meet there. They are warm and friendly and happy to help.

They take pride in their culture and proudly show you around their town and make sure you are comfortable and happy.

One such person I met there was Deep.  A local chap, he offered to show me around secluded areas and helped me reach those places which no website or itinerary talks about.  It was not because of just these reasons that I loved being around him. That guy was full of stories, he told me about the history of the place, the people, their food, most of all he introduced me to Himachali music!

Once you come across the people and their hospitality here you will always want to come back!

One particular group I want to talk about is the cab drivers. They are all friendly and charge you reasonable prices, something which I haven’t seen in most places I have been to.

 The Royal Treatment

It was because of Deep that I was introduced to The Raja and Rani of Lambragaon.

Boy, did I have any idea that on this short trip I would end up living with a royal couple in their villa.  The Raja and Rani are sweet and really down to earth.  There is no air of superiority when you are around them. They gave me a place to live in and also the most amazing home made food! Talking about putting on weight!

Everyday I ate to my heart’s content and slept a peaceful sleep. Breakfast was served in the afternoon and later in the evening the Raja would show me around his place, telling stories of his forefathers and proudly showing me pictures of his family he collected over time. When I wasn’t out with Deep, I was in the villa, doing nothing, simply enjoying the pleasures of a quiet neighbourhood and well sometimes playing with the ‘royal’ dogs misty and sandy!

 

The Food

If you are in Mcleodganj the one thing you wait for the whole day, is your meals. This place has the best cafes and restaurants serving authentic Tibetan food. Try as many dishes as possible because you won’t be disappointed. Also there are many street vendors who sell piping hot momos once the evening sets in.

One restaurant that deserves special mention is Nick’s Kitchen in Kunga Guest House. They have the best Quichés and the most heavenly Banoffee Pie.  Forget your belly, your abs, your sharp collar bones everything when you are there.

While you are at Dharamshala, pay a visit to Tibet Café. Lamu is the woman who runs that small place. She serves the best momos and thupka. That woman is the epitome of grit and determination. She is a single parent who runs her restaurant to pay for her children’s education who are back home. Tell me about your reasons to not try!

 

Illiterati café

I had to talk about this café separately because this place is special, something very different. Located midway between Mcleod and Dhramshala in Jogiwara, Illiterati Café is where you find peace. With a book to read, a hot cup of coffee and the best flaky buttery crossaint I spent most of my evenings here. They have an amazing collection of books, placed on wooden shelves on their walls, something which reminded me of my restaurant back home. I could relate to that place, be at peace. It was like my home away from home. The restaurant has a picturesque view of snow capped mountains, and the big windows and the balcony dining only add to the beauty.  What is worth mentioning is that people are not apprehensive about sharing tables, so whenever I went there I was sure that someone would give me a little corner to sit and relax even if the place was packed. The whole vibe of the place is very friendly, strangers sit together and discuss books, music and life. You do not feel like a tourist here!

 

The Touristy Places:

Honestly most of the tourist attractions did not excite me. Having seen the likes back  home I just went about those places out of curiosity.

The Bhagsu Nag falls is where all the tourists are. The waterfall is beautiful but you have to climb flights of stairs to reach that place. People jumping in the water and getting pictures clicked should not surprise you.

The Dal Lake was a big let down. I anticipated a lake almost as big as ours, but the one there was small enough to be called a pond. But it was not the size that was disappointing, the lake was dirty and really not taken care  of. What could have been a very beautiful sight of a lake surrounded by humongous deodar trees was spoiled by the sheer callousness of a species called human beings.

There are many other places like the view point in naddi and the triund trek which you can try if you plan on having a really feisty trip.

 

Glimpses of Tibet:

Mcleodganj and Dharamshala are two of those many places where Tibetans were granted refuge by the Indian government. Thus there are many places where you can witness glimpses of Tibet.

One can visit the Dalai Lama Monastery in Mcleodganj or Visit the Norbulingka Institute

The Norbulingka monastery is beautiful and gives you insights into Tibetan culture and religion. The atmosphere around is peaceful, where you here the monks chant while you take a walk alongside streams of water.

Mcleodganj and Dharamshala are peaceful towns but the onset of the tourist season really makes the places really crowded, especially Mcleod. The town is really small with narrow street and congested buildings. Also with less parking spaces you really want to be away from the main square to avoid congestion.

Other than that these towns should be on your most visit list if you are looking for a laid back trip. If you want to be away from home on a break but do not want to act all touristy this is the place for you, the only thing is that you won’t see army men deployed all around!

 

(Published in the July issue of Ink)