Category Archives: Travel

McLeodGanj / Triund – Solo trips can be fun too! (Part 3)

Previous Posts:

(PART – 1)

(PART – 2)

Continued:

The first night stay at Dharamkot is a distant and fading memory. The excessive pressure of maintaining the happy calm on a face tensed with aging wrinkles while trying to set a plan for the next couple of days and religiously following it after the ignorant tryst had taken its toll on me. Nonetheless, my first sunrise in the little town was an experience that could not be matched with anything else.


The morning sun:

One of the practices that I have developed, of late, is the practice of rising up early, to enjoy the sun rising in all its glory. Without a doubt, this good habit of mine totally paid off when I was in Dharamkot. I woke up, just in time, to feel the warmth of the first sun ray hit the cold surroundings and the glorious view that the shining winter sun brings with it. It was in the morning that I realized that my room was east-facing. The first couple of minutes, the sun rays could be seen shining from behind the mountains turning the sky in a sparkling white color. Within a few seconds (not minutes), the sun was out from behind the mountains, shining golden bright (picture below) making it one of the best moments in my stay at the town.

Dharamkot Morning


Triund Trek – Preparatory Leg

The morning had brought about a new sense of achieving something bigger and better. How foolish it would be of anyone to be in the mountains and not to try to reach the mountain top to savor what mountains are known for – utter peace and killing silence. I had already tried to cover up for my stupidity (I’ll refer to this as my new cool high from now onwards. This trip was a cool factor high, really) from the previous day by planning this trek in advance. My conversation, from the previous post, with the guest house owner who banged my door to wake me up in time to reach the Bhagsunag temple before sunset suggests the same. I had hired a private guide for Rs 800 (This could have been Rs 500) for the day to assist me to reach Triund for two reasons:

  1. I was not sure of the trek route.
  2. When on mountains, it is always better to have a company when you are trekking or campaigning as they act as a motivation for you to keep going and are also familiar with the place, people and local language to help you in time of your need. (Yes, I thought of that after the cool factor high. I’m weirdly amazing)

After sulking in the morning sun and taking a bath, I came out to meet the guide and have my breakfast. At Himalayan Cafe, I came to know about the Wildcraft Triund Trail Run that was being organized the same day. It is a half-marathon in the hills and is extremely challenging. The reason for this marathon being so challenging is so, because of the route. There are no roads where the participants have to run but a rocky , steep and narrow path. To my surprise, majority of the participants were either from Delhi or were foreigners apart from some local people. My guide told me that the last marathon (also the first one ever held) was won by a local resident and the winner took 1 hour and 17 minutes (not exact time but close) to complete the 16 km run with the max elevation of 2800M. This year, the defending champion was defeated by a time difference of 8-9 minutes with the winning time being 1 hour and 29 minutes (again, the time mentioned here is not officially recognized) and the youngest participant was a 16 years old schoolboy from Delhi.

I decided to start my journey to Triund a couple of minutes late as I wanted to cheer up the participants at the starting point of the trail run – young men, younger women and kids alike. In the next 10 minutes, I would be covering up the distance of my first ever trek as part of my first ever solo trip.

McLeodGanj / Triund – Solo trips can be fun too! (Part 2)

 

Part 1

 

Dharamkot –

The entry in the village did not need to be announced. I was welcomed by more than 4 friendly dogs happily cheering my arrival in the village, about 6-7 cheerful faces basking in the afternoon sun, sipping their cup of tea and the mesmerizing view of the Himalayan ranges at the entry point of the village itself. I dropped the heavy load from my shoulders on the ground and stood there for the next 10 minutes, not believing if the view was real or if I was watching a movie preview of the mountains (see picture below) for the beauty that they are. It seemed as if my purpose of coming to this place was already fulfilled. Little did I know, there was more in store for me.

Dharamkot view

It was still afternoon when I reached Dharamkot, exhausted with the little trek of mine that I am not used to. The narrow path to the village is broken on some parts and is mostly deserted, apart from one or two tourists here and there, and a couple of taxis or auto-rickshaws passing by. I still did not have a place to stay. The next half hour, I spent negotiating with the guest house owner to crack a better deal for me. I ended up paying Rs 600 / night for what would otherwise be a Rs 1200 / night room in the busy season. It was a comfortable east- side facing room.

*Bang Bang Bang Bang*

*Suddenly gets up*

“Do you want me to call the guide?”

“Yes, please!”

The guy from the west & the rush to Bhagsunag temple:

The night travel, the busy morning and the afternoon trek had taken its toll on my body. I dozed off straight away as soon as I sat on the bed in my room. 2 hours later, I was pacing downhill, to visit the Bhagsunag temple that I had heard of enough, to make me feel like I was home. But I had more on the way before I could reach the temple. To reach Bhagsunag from Dharamkot, I needed to pass through McLeodGanj once again but this time from the other side of the town. As I went strolling around, checking out shops for little souvenirs that I could buy for friends and family back home, I heard a commotion in the background. Even though I was running out of time to reach Bhagsunag, I turned around to see, what would be, a foreigner dressed up in a wig wearing a cardboard sign around his neck while holding a guitar and calling for attention (picture below).

Random Guy

In just 2 minutes of chat and no more, it was clear to me that he was just a failed artist (failed pun intended) who was trying to promote his failure as part of the promotional campaign for the events he would be playing at in the recent weeks. His creative handouts (image below) were as much fail as his artistic skills (failed pun intended, again).

invitationI asked him if he could probably play a song for me and the people gathered around us to which he gladly acknowledged. Surprisingly, just like Bollywood movies, people around us started singing the song along with the guy and the whole street turned into a music festival for a couple of minutes. I can therefore, proudly say, that I have ‘lived’ a Bollywood movie. (All you Bollywood fans – In your face!) One final handshake and I was back on my Bhagsunag trek. With all the delay, my plan to visit the temple during daytime had taken a setback. As I had earlier said, you can never control the outcome of these random voyages. About 20 minutes later, I was at the temple with an extremely scenic sunset happening in the background and in the next 10 minutes, I was done with prayers and out to enjoy the swimming pool at the temple. Yes! You heard it! A swimming pool at the temple!

The German Bakery:

The dusk had already fallen upon signalling that I had run out of time to visit the Bhagsunag waterfalls. My disappointment was soon washed away when I realized that the place is full of beautiful cafes and bakeries all around. The German Bakery would be the first cafe I would visit during my journey.

Imagine this – Slow rock music combined with cool breeze in your face while sitting in an empty restaurant lighted with dim lamps floating in the air from the ceiling containing artwork and surrounded by posters of Bob Marley while you sip on a drink (Banana shake, in my case *needed energy*). I sat there for about an hour relishing every moment of it.

I am a guy and I am not a womanizer / flirt:

I sat there relishing the ambiance doing exactly what I wrote above with my eyes closed. A couple of minutes later, my peace was lost with a couple of loud clicking sounds. Irritated with the sounds, I looked around, to find a young woman of my age trying her hands on her camera to get a good picture of the cafe. I waved my hand to her to get her attention. A couple of hand waves later, I had her come to the far corner of the cafe, where I was seated all alone for the past few minutes.

Me: “Maybe you’d like to click the picture from this angle of the lampshade here!” *Gets up from the seat*

*click click*

She: “That does not look good enough”

Me: “No! Try it from this angle.”

*click*

She: “Looks Ok?”

Me: “Here, let me help you!”

*grabs camera, clicks the picture (below)*

She: “Wow! That looks great! You’re good!”

Me: “Thanks! It’s late. Are you here all alone?”

*Random guy* : “Are you done yet?”

She: “Sounds like you got your answer!” *winks*

*both laugh*

Me: “Cya around, then!”

She: “Cya!”

But you guys have to trust me over this. I am NOT a womanizer / flirt!

Ceiling Lamp

McLeodGanj / Triund – Solo trips can be fun too! (Part 1)

“Oh! He’s never going to do it. Nobody goes alone. He’s just kidding..”

“Who goes on a solo trip in India? You’ve gone crazy!”

“You’re just mad! Why would you even do this?”

“Drop the plan, bro! Let’s go to Rishikesh next weekend for rafting and bungee jumping.”

While these were the most common statements that were used by people around me, including my parents, there were others that were motivating enough for me to not drop the plan to go on the solo excursion that I had not planned much for.

“Man! You’re so cool! Respect! I wish I could go like you!”

“Bhai humara, stud hai!” (Our brother is a stud! *sarcastic, I know; still motivating*)


The tickets to nowhere –

Frankly speaking, even I did not believe that I was going alone for this little journey of mine. The mere thought of traveling alone for 12 hours on one side, to a place in the hills, sounded bizarre and equally exciting to me. It wasn’t until 6 PM, when I booked my bus tickets, on the day that I was supposed to leave, that I realized that I would actually be doing this. I felt stupid for the next couple of hours that I was in the bus, sitting (rather, lying in the sleeper coach) alone sipping on Red Bull, trying to figure out, if this was stupidity to a new level or sheer cool factor on a high.

I had boarded a private bus to Hoshiarpur (Punjab, India) from Red Fort in Delhi that I had booked online on RedBus for Rs 1000, without a plan in my head for how I would be spending the next three days of my life. Even though I had spent the past one week telling everyone around me that I would be going on this trip, I had not planned a single moment of my journey because I wanted it to be a completely different and new experience for me. I have always believed that the best things in life happen unplanned (yet, somewhere in my head, I was quite sure this was stupidity).

Since the last direct bus to McLeod Ganj from Delhi leaves at 8 PM and  I was to be in the office till 7 PM, the bus to Hoshiarpur (leaves at 9:45 PM) was the only viable option available to me. So, there I was, headed towards Hoshiarpur, from where I would be taking the first bus to Dharamshala (Himachal Pradesh, India) and further, a cab to McLeod Ganj. Easy thing, right? Nah! Nobody told me that these buses that we sign up for, online, are not the buses we get in real. I was forced in a private bus (I really had no option. Pre-paid and last bus to Hoshiarpur. Could not miss it) with a very rude staff (that turned extremely friendly with me later in the morning and even offered me free ride for the next time and gave me their phone number) forcing me to contemplate my decision of going alone, once again, which I realized was the best decision I had made in the recent weeks.


The morning anxiety –

The fun part about these random trips is that you are never too sure about the outcome, no matter how hard you try to control it. Little did I know that I would face the mammoth task of reaching McLeod Ganj in the next 7 hours of my journey. It took me 4 hours of switching between 3 buses to reach Dharamshala at 10.30 AM.

Once I got down the bus, my anxiety level started rising. I was on an excursion to the hills all alone, with little knowledge about the place and nearby areas, with no food in my bag, no hotel rooms booked, no set plan / itinerary to follow to discover the places around, no return ticket in my pocket and a mesmerizing view around me. Things had finally got real for me, since, I knew there was no going back. My priority was to find a good and cheap accommodation where I would put up for the next 2 nights. After talking to over 25 people, I decided to stay at a guest house in Dharamkot, which is 2-3 kms above McLeod Ganj.


The mini-trek

By 2:00 PM, I had reached McLeod Ganj from Dharamshala, after a brief shopping spree in the local market. The guest house where I was supposed to put up was still 2-3 kms above McLeod Ganj. Excited and all pumped up, I decided to walk my way taking in all the scenic beauty around me.

Two things that a person must never be ignorant of, when on the lower hills:

  1.  Steepness of the slope,
  2.  Monkeys!

And by now, you know that I am an ignorant guy. With a bag weighing close to 10 Kg (Note to self: take less stuff next time), a steep uphill walkway, not more than a couple of people around and monkeys all around me, I had really started contemplating my decision making capabilities. Luckily, 30 minutes, one bottle of water and a Maggi later, I managed to reach the guest house in Dharamkot.

Dharamkot is a quiet and secluded place with not so many visitors around during the month of November. There are a couple of guest houses in the village and two small cafes where I could mostly see foreigners, sunbathing and enjoying a cup of tea in the small town above McLeod Ganj. This is where I would be for two consecutive nights.

(Part 2)