Friday, November 18, 2011

Stay at Dharamkot, Dharamshala

An overnight bus from ISBT Delhi was the start of our short trip to Dharamshala, McLeodgunj, Bagsu, and Dharamkot. We tried to catch up small naps now and then which might be a good idea considering the fact that early in the morning there would be amazing sights to see prior to reaching Dharamshala. The bus took us through rivulets, valleys, mountains and bridges. A few mountain tops were lost in the clouds –this was just the beginning of what we were to see in the rest of the week.

As we alighted from the bus the air smelled fresh and why would it not, afterall we were at the foothills of the Himalayas. Our stay was scheduled in a small guest house among the valleys in Dharamkot. To reach, we hired a taxi for Rs. 250 from Dharamshala. The roads were horribly narrow and each of the hairpin bends rises as high as 5-7 feet! On our way we passed through McLeodgunj, the seat of Tibetan government in exile. The local roadside vendors were arranging their wares as we crossed them so early in the morning. We were driving through one of these roads close to Dharamkot when a tall dark skinned man with a little boy hailed us down. He asked if there were people from Bangalore in the taxi. So here was Hari Das, the owner of the guest house where we were supposed to spend three odd days.

Om Tara Guest House is being run by Ria and her husband Hari Das, an ex saadhu. There are no concrete/tar roads to this place and can be reached only by foot. Since the access to the guest house is through narrow spaces between rocks and a lot of vegetation [we’re in a valley here] there are signs –arrow in orange color, directing us to the entrances of the guest house. Later at night, having a LED torchlight came in quite handy to locate the correct route to the guest house.

Our room was a clean and spacious one with an attached balcony as big and a slopping roof overlooking the valley. We spent some time there taking in the fresh air and the green cover around us while we were served our breakfast. Hari Das informed us about the trekking opportunities around Dharamkot and since he had stayed in that place for more than 20 years, I was quite certain about his capability to guide us on the trails. We planned to take a lighter trail on the first day followed by a trek to the nearby high point of Triund the day after.

The light trail was to take us a little around Dharamkot and then through the dense forest to a nearby high point known as Gulu Mata [GM] from where you get a view of the mountains on the west as the Sun sets along with a glimpse of a nearby village –Naddi. We took a relatively easier trail and photographed a lot. A small detour brought us to a small tabled hill top where a lot of these Tibetan prayer flags were hanging, tied from one tree to the other. Our guide informed us that as per their beliefs, the prayers are supposed to flow with the winds and reach each and every person.

A little further up we found our way through tall pine trees. Sometimes we also could see the clouds come up from the valley and engulf the trees… such was the altitude at which we were. En-route we crossed a Buddhist shrine were apparently the present HH Dalai Lama is said to have spent his childhood days. We rested here for about 15 minutes before coming back to the trail to GM. For the rest of the trail through the forest our guide kept telling us stories about the wild animals that are found in there… something that we would have appreciated much had he disclosed such critical information at the start of the trail. On reaching GM we could make out the valleys and the villages that lied in the west towards the mountains. However it was getting dark and the fog covered whatever was left to be seen with the setting Sun. A tea shop there offered some nice warm ginger lemon tea to bring in the vigor to start the trail down. While coming back we brought the rains with us.

A great place to have good food at a good price was “Unity CafĂ©”. We tried all sorts of combo breakfasts that they had in the offering in the days that we spent there. Food was great; however the best of the lot was the ginger lemon tea with honey. My wife just loved it! We still tried out a few other restaurants but nothing came closer. Along with that my wife also tried out Thupka –a traditional Tibetan noodle soup at one of the restaurants in the by-lanes of McLeodgunj. Apparently she was not at all gaga about the soup and I would take that as a clue that she was not too impressed with it.

Over the next few days that we spent in the valley, we came down to Bagsu [from Dharamkot], walked all the way to McLeodgunj and just took in whatever the town had to offer. Apparently, we found more foreigner and Tibetans than Indian all along the places where we had been. Almost all the shops here had a portrait or a photograph of HH Dalai Lama. The streets were never empty… we saw scores of tourists shopping, eating, photographing and having a great time. My wife also dedicated a dozen or so photographs to something known as Street Photography… Greek and Latin to me. She also found enough time to get a traditional Tibetan robe stitched from a pretty busy shop in McLeodgunj. Then along the main street from Bagsu to McLeodgunj there are a lot of stalls of brass show pieces or traditional jewellery.

Not to be missed is a temple right in the middle of the town where you see those revolving cylinders with prayers carved in them. I found these cylinders one after the other on all four walls of the temple. Something that I was for the first time!

That was more or less our short and sweet vacation. Given a choice, I would want to go there again to trek and be in the mountains.

1 comment:

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