The hills are alive with the sound of trekkers!
Whether you are student or stuck in the rut of a corporate job, you can’t help occasionally rebelling against routine. Sometimes that means looking back at the past, and occasionally it means flying away to a getaway.
So, here we were at the ISBT, Kashmere Gate ready to ready to reacquaint ourselves with our dreams in the midst of Post- graduate studies, reaching out to fantasies that occasionally peak out from between long academic essays and unending lectures (emotions recollected in tranquillity, as Wordsworth would call them.).
My friends and I believe in the healing power of the hills, and were convinced that this trip was just the balm our cluttered heads needed. Our journey began in a bus to Dharamshala. I slept through most of the journey, but opened my eyes at the crack of dawn to the majesty of the Bhakra Nangal Dam. I stared for a moment as the earth blurred into the sky, and the trees appeared like shadowy outstretched hands reaching out in supplication towards the horizon. No one but Nature’s painter can duplicate the pastel array of shades that covers the world at the precise moment when night conflates into dawn.
Already, the long and winding roads and the salubrious air were making us forget the blues of urban ennui. We took a local bus to Mcleodganj, and then took an auto to Dharamkot which was two kilometres ahead since we had planned to stay there. Dharamkot is the sleepy cousin of the bustling, more modern Mcleodganj. – a city worth exploring for its chain of stores and the Dalai Lama temple. In Dharamkot, we headed to Shanti Guest House, a bright blue building just a few steps way from the local tea- shop. The master bedroom on the first- floor was bright but the rooms downstairs were bathed in dark hilly shadows. I saw a young man in matted dreadlocks stretch in different asanas on the porch, facing the sprawling hillside. Doing yoga amid nature’s bounty is a different experience altogether, and you can’t help feeling that this is how our ancestors expected us to practise this art- not in sweaty exercise studios over vinyl mats.
After a while, we set out to Bhagsu, a small hill-side village througha hilly short cuts while friendly dogs kept us company. We whiled our time staring at the signposts leading to multiple tiny cafes and restaurants along the way. The hills don’t need neon signs- just a piece of chalk and a rock. The notice boards promised all kinds of wonders- there were yoga classes, painting workshops, chakra meditation sessions and more, many of them advertised in Hebrew. Hebrew is popular in this region. A lot of foreign tourists tend to stay in Bhagsu and explore the region, unlike the Indians who stay at Mcleodganj and then set out to explore Bhagsu. Bhagsu, therefore, is an amalgamation of tourists, locals and visitors from different parts of India. People (many of them career tourists) tend to lapse into the languid lifestyle of the place and, engage closely with their passion for the arts, music or other creative practices. Here you’ll see a busker playing the flute- with scant regard for an audience- as he seems to be lost in the transcendence of nature around. I loved the food at ‘Om Star Cafe’ because of its laid-back ambience, but foodies swear by German Bakery.
We ambled down the steep road checking out stores full of tourist flytraps with an occasional interesting find. At one point you see the Bhagsu Falls appearing as if hung in mid- air, from the lowest point near the Bhagsu Cafe. You can also see a trail of Tibetan flags hanging atop the falls. For the best views it is recommended you climb 2 -3 kms further to Shiva Cafe up top . If you don’t you will miss the wonderful views of the fall and its valley. The cafe has a few books on travel, spirituality, metaphysics, and tantra- with surreal Tantric paintings stacked on the other end.
The distance you climb feels like a cakewalk while you climb down. You pause at No Name Café, where you treat yourself to a beverage and, the scenic delight of the mountains. Also, the absence of a crowd is an added advantage as there isn’t any obstacle between you and your encounter with the scenery!
Back at Dharamkot, if you love warm soul food and a fun ambience, you must stop for a meal at Morgan’s Place. This is not like the cafes you come across at Bhagsu- it is a little more sophisticated. Stop by for a drink and good food, for great company and good music.
The next day,we headed out for a trek to Triund from Dharamkot. The trek to Triund takes around 3- 4 hours depending on whether you are a first- time trekker or a pro. It is a stretch of around 8 kms through topsy- turvy winding rocky pathway. On the way, you come across a small temple ‘Galu Durgeshwari Temple’ which acts as your first trek post. While you continue to climb and walk through the dense clouds, you occasionally have to fight rain and the slippery surface of the rocks. The climb feels unending if you’re a first- timer. However, when once you reach the top, you regain all lost vitality. Situated in the lap of Dhauladhar mountains, it has the perfect view of the Dhauladhar mountains on one side and Kangra valley on the other. It is 2857 metres above sea- level.
In Triund, you either can stay in tents or book a guest-house prior to the trek. There are some two or three stalls where you get tea, coffee, noodles as well as plain dal- rice for dinner. If you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of the mighty barren mountains that look nothing less than Mount Olympus in your imagination as the clouds clear out the sky. They look hanging poised in mid- air and, the moon poses for cameras like a shiny disco ball. The visual, heavenly!
“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar,
I love not man the less, but nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I maybe, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.”
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