Known to the world as the holy abode of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dharamshala is synonymous with the Tibetan Government in exile and is perched on the higher slopes of Kangra valley in the back drop of the snow-capped majestic Dhauladhar mountain ranges. The city is dominated by the Tibetan populace while still retaining the British fervor and English lifestyles. Divided into two distinct sections known as lower and upper (Mcleodganj) Dharamshala, this colourful city is surrounded by thick woods of oak and coniferous trees and the snow line, which offers a splendid ambience.
Heads or Tails!!
I don’t remember whether it was heads or tails, but the choice was obvious : Dharamshala. I had 2 choices with the second being Dalhousie. Having started my journey from Jalandhar to Pathankot on 29th April morning, I found myself looking at 2 buses (One to Dalhousie and the other to Dharamshala) at Pathankot bus stand. Due to lack of time, I had to decide between these, and what is better than the good old tossing the coin? So, there I was, sitting in a local Himachal Government bus, gazing out through the picturesque landscape swishing past me. After a 3 hour journey from Pathankot, I reached Dharamshala, the lower part of it. The bus stand looked nothing like a tourist stand I expected. I made a split second decision to go to Mcleodganj (Upper Dharamshala) which was 10 km uphill. I had to race a bus uphill, and even though I nearly ran out of breath, I caught it. After reaching Mcleodganj, I took a double bedroom in a quiet part of the town for Rs.300 (I bargained and bought it down from 500). The mercury levels were at pretty comfortable readings with the cool breeze rejuvenating me.
It was evening, and I decided to take a stroll in the streets. It looked like I reached another country as most of the people were Tibetan refugees and spiritual seekers from all around the world flocked to this abode of Buddhism. After getting a map from the tourist office, I went to the Dalai Lama Temple, adjoining the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Too bad, the Dalai Lama was in Dalhousie that day. I played football with 2 Tibetan kids in the temple compound, and I must confess, they were much better than me in the game. After strolling around the market, bustling with International tourists and having thanthuk with tofu and egg for dinner, I decide to call it a day.
The next morning, I went to the Tibet Museum that described the life and freedom struggle of the peace-loving Tibetan people. My next destination was the Bhagsunag temple devoted to Lord Shiva. About 1km walk from the temple led me to the Bhagsunag waterfalls. It was a pretty good one, though there wasn’t much water in it. That’s where I met, Alexei, a Russian youth who didn’t know English. After a refreshing walk back, I hired an auto to take me to Naddi Village. The village offered splendid view of the snow-capped Dhauladhar mountains, but half the view was censored by the clouds. After a tea, I set out to Dal Lake, but was disappointed to find the lake practically dry. The pine trees around the lake was a consolation and I walked around this small lake before heading down to the church of St.John in the Wilderness. Built in 1852, this small church with its beautiful stained glass windows, is one of the oldest cathedrals in North India.
A bus took me from Mcleodganj to Dharamshala. Though the part of same town, there is an altitude difference of nearly 1000m between the upper and lower Dharamshala. After consulting the tourist office in Dharamshala, I walked through the Kotwali Bazaar and went to the War Memorial. Situated amidst a pine forest, it is a reminiscence of the great sacrifices of soldiers from Himachal. I then walked to Dharamshala Cricket Stadium, often called the most beautiful stadium in the world. I think, I’d agree with that. With the snow clad mountains in backdrop, and lush green fields, this field could still be worth view, even if your team doesn’t play the match well. One thing I liked about Dharamshala is that, the buses are so cheap, just Rs.2 for 2 kms. The Kangra Art museum is a good place for art lovers. I must confess, I’m not a big fan of art, but this museum was pretty good.
By evening, I found myself back in Mcleodganj and I had an interesting conversation with Robert, a German masseur. An evening walk in the cool breeze soothed my body, that was feeling tired after a long day. The rays of the setting Sun illuminated the snow-line in a golden hue. I bought a trekking backpack and had a tasty dinner with Chicken soutsemen. After settling all my room bills, I feel asleep in the cozy bed.
Are you out of your mind? Going trekking alone?
Trekking! That was my plan for the next day. After taking an auto to Dharamkot, I started walking through the pine forest to the Galu
Temple. After an hour and a half, I reached the Galu temple. Located high above Mcleodganj, this trek offered me breathtaking views of the town and the solo walk through the forest was a memorable experience. I met a few people in near Galu temple, who said, I could either go to Triund or Naddi Village. Since Triund was longer and had higher probability of getting lost, I decided to settle with Naddi. It was a proper rocky forest trail with dried leaves all around me. To my side, I could see the mountains guiding me. It was very calm, peaceful and quiet except for the rustling of the leaves and the chirping of birds. The trail was quite narrow and I saw a lot of birds that I had never seen before. But unfortunately, they weren’t very interested in modelling. After one of the best 1.5 hrs in my life, I found myself standing on a rock overlooking the Naddi Village. Priceless!!
From Naddi I walked for another kilometer and reached the Dal Lake again. There I met Roberto, a Swiss Engineer. We had a good conversation while I rested near the Lake. I took an auto back to Mcleodganj. After having Alberto Chicken Mushroom Pasta at an Italian restaurant, I caught my 6 pm volvo to New Delhi.
This concludes my 6 day solo backpacker trip to Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Here is the map of the 2250 kms (1400 miles) I covered during this journey and my total expenditure was about Rs. 6k (abt $110).