Kal raat khawaabon ki doorbeen se dekha apne mustaqbil ke fasane ko, thorda maddham sa laga; isliye dobara nikal gaya hoon kuchh aur jugnoo pakard laane ko! (With a telescope called dream, last night I saw the future of my life, I found it a bit dim; so I am out again to catch some more fireflies!) – akbar ali khan
Yes, you are right, the above couplet is just an excuse to satisfy my Wanderlust! I am still not sure why or where or when but one thing that I am dead sure is – I will be out there on the road full-time someday soon and maybe forever! Here is a brief description of all the satisfying journeys that I have made till date. Please feel free to ask anything about my trips.
Himachal Trip : November 2012
It all started with a planned trip to Kashmir but due to my parents’ inhibition I had to cancel that trip and in order to prove myself that I am not a ‘travel choker’, I had to go to somewhere this time! I had to just get out of my room! Finally I settled somewhere around 322 miles away from my earlier planned city(Kashmir) and i.e. Dharamshala. I boarded the bus from Majnu ka Tila (ticket was booked on redbus.in)
Tip: # 01 – If you are coming from New Delhi then take the Delhi Metro up to Vidhan Sabha and then take a sharing cycle-rickshaw for 15 INR to Majnu ka Tila.
When I woke up at 6 am, my bus had already crossed Dharamshala but nothing to worry coz I was heading towards my ultimate destination – Mcleodganj! As I got down at the bus-stop, I was thronged by touts. According to the Delhi’s climate I was wearing only a shirt and a trouser and therefore all the way my jaws were more jittery than the bus! So first thing that I did after getting down from the bus was to ran at the rear of the bus to grab my rucksack and pulled out a jacket! Yeah, now I was all ready for a bargain – Hotel Bargain! The guy whom I chose to negotiate with turned out to be a Nepali, his name was Rahul. He quoted the price of room (in broken Hindi) as 400 INR per night and finally we settled for 200 INR.
Not a bad bargain! I decided to stay on Jogiwara Road. To my surprise the tap water was hot and I found the deal hotter for 200 bucks! After a quick nap I went out to have a feel of the place and I was shocked to find the air so pure! The crowd was 70% non-indians and most of them were Tibetans. The place had a Tibetan Charm to it. I roamed around on Temple Road, Bhagsunag Road and to an extent on Dharamkot Road (steepest of all).
The next day I decided to go out with my guide cum hotel guy Rahul. We first went to Bhagsunag Falls. We took a cab for 150 INR (one-way). It was an average place but a bit over crowded even in the off-season! We climbed up to the fall and then we decided to trek back. The distance was not too much, in fact I was regretting taking a cab on my way their.
As we were walking down the Bagsunag Raoad, I spotted a shanty-styled dhaba with a sitting capacity of only 5! We had Indian food their, Dal-bhat and Gobi-aaloo and the healthy part for my budget was the price, I paid just 25 INR for a thali!! While having lunch at the dhaba, I struck a conversation with a British gentleman, James. He was may be in his late forties. He was traveling in India for the past 5 years and knew more about India than me! He had traveled all around the world, on every continent except Antarctica! He told me that he is now leaving India and heading for Brazil now. When I asked that how he managed to travel full-time then he replied that he has a bungalow in London and he has put it on rent. Wow! I found a sort of travel enlightenment in the land of Buddha! Tenant’s money to sponsor your travel expense; not a bad idea at all! I thanked James and then we headed for our next stop that day – Naddi. This time I took an auto-rickshaw for 150 INR. We crossed Dal-Lake (named on its color, as Dal (Lentil) is mostly Yellow) on our way to Naddi. After reaching Naddi which was a picturesque place nestled in the mountains I sat there and enjoyed some peaceful moments of solitude. After feeding my soul with that pause, I ventured deep into the mountains and found out an international school there – The International Sahaja Public School.
On my way back I decided to explore Dharamshala and took a Himachal Roadways bus. On the bus I befriended an Australian student of the International School. His name was Albert. Albert and I roamed around together and he bought a Music System for his younger brother who lives with him at the boarding school. The main town of Dharamshala is comparatively crowded but it’s a nice little town. I came back in the evening right in time to capture the beautiful sunset of the Mcleodganj. At night, I went into an eatery named Taste of India. I ordered Kadhai Paneer and Naan. The food was good and it became even better with a conversation with a Young Yankee. He told me that he was earlier traveling in the Balkan Countries and he was also a full time traveler; applying the same idea as James. He was from California. On my way back to my hotel, I stopped at a Japanese Cafe – Lung-ta for a cup of green tea. At the hotel while watching television, I enjoyed Fried Momos I bought from a Tibetan Lady. Next morning I left for Manali.
Tip: # 02 – For any Muslim traveler, if you want to offer namaz in Mcleodganj in a mosque then ask any Kashmiri Shopkeeper on the Temple Road.
I took a rickety Himachal Roadways bus to Manali. I reached Manali in the evening and was so tired that I was in no mood of any bargain this time and settled for whatever the first hotel guy offered me at the bus stop. I was staying on The Mall Road in New Manali. My cousin joined me on this leg of my journey. He came directly from Delhi. Next morning we were headed for Rohtang Pass on a shared Tempo Traveler. I paid 450 INR per person (both ways). A couple of miles away from Manali we took (on rent) Ski Dress, equipment and hired a Professional Ski Trainer. Due to the off-season we wrapped up the complete deal for 650 INR per person.
Half way from the Rohtang Pass we were told that we can’t go ahead as there was some road block up there in the hills. I was utterly dismayed as this would have been my first chance to see snow with naked eyes! After a boring and anxious four hours the good news finally came and we were headed for the Rohtang Pass. The Ski affair turned out to be a damp squib as we reached the Pass in the evening and by then the snow had already started to turn into ice! Next morning, we decided to explore the city.
We went to Hadimba temple and then started our trek to Solang Valley, a must-visit recommendation from a friend! As we covered some distance, we realized it won’t be a cake walk and my cousin had to leave that evening for Delhi so we decided to cut short the trek and came back for a stroll on The Mall Road.
My cousin and I parted ways now, he went back to New Delhi and I took the bus for my next stop – Shimla. I reached Shimla at wee hours and was again flocked by touts. They were all offering rooms beyond my shoe-string budget so I preferred waiting at the bus stop till the dawn breaks. After cooling my heels (literally) for 3 hours or so I finally decide to hunt for a decent hotel myself. To my surprise, the hotel rooms were slightly over priced as compared to my earlier destinations. I settled for a very modest (sic) room for 220 INR at Hotel Gulberg beside The Mall Road. As usual I went out to take a feel of the city and I was pleasantly surprised to find Shimla so organized!
Especially coz I didn’t like Manali very much. The Mall Road of Shimla was really a traveler’s treat! It was spotlessly clean, wide, well – maintained and above all – No vehicles were allowed! I roamed around on The Mall Road, clicked some photographs and then there was an alarm bell in my stomach – time for some food now! I stopped by a small Punjabi eatery and enjoyed Rajma-Chawal. It was fairly priced at 30 INR. It was tasty and healthy! After exploring The Mall Road I decided to climb the Jakhu Hills. It proved out to be a strenuous activity though.
Quite astonishingly, there were shops which were offering ‘sticks’ on rent (5-10 INR) to shoo away notorious monkeys! At first, I laughed at the idea but pretty soon my laugh fizzled out into the greenery of the Jakhu Hills. There were indeed a lot of gutsy monkeys out there! One of them even tried to take out my camera from my pocket! I climbed to the top and found that there was a Temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. On my way back I saw some hapless tourists begging those monkeys to return their stuff! Next, I stopped by Indian Coffee House on the Mall Road and enjoyed a delicious Masala Dosa for just 40 INR! My next stop was a majestic Viceregal Lodge.
It was a well-maintained British era building. In the evening I visited Lakkard Bazaar and then spent rest of my time on the Mall Road observing other tourists.
Next morning, I was scheduled to take the famous Shimla-Kalka Heritage train! Now it was time to say goodbye to Himachal! I went to the railway station and was pleased to find the train in healthy condition! There was no sign of old age as the engine wasn’t puffing but smartly whistling!
Tip: # 03 – Try to book your railway ticket (for Shimla-Kalka Rail) at least a day in advance (this is for off season) at the Shimla Railway Station.
There was an Irish Couple traveling in the same compartment. We chatted along. We discussed India, its poverty, Hollywood movies, Frank McCourt etc.
I was told by a fellow passenger that the train will cross 105 tunnels on its way to Kalka – amazing! The 6 hour journey turned out to be a bit lengthy though! Finally I got down at Kalka and bid adieu to the Irish Couple and then took a bus back to Delhi! A satisfying trip indeed!
Tip: # 04 – Visit www.wikitravle.org An informative website for any traveler!