Hi all (to those kind enough to read this)
Here is a quick photologue of my whirlwind trip to Chamba (Himachal Pradesh, India) in Jan 2012. (the first part that is!) (yea, Im late posting it, but better late than never!)
So… where do I begin?….
I always have a longing to visit the great Himalayas as often as I can but family and work make it increasingly difficult to find time to trek or even have a long visit. I could not bear not having gone to the Himalayas in winter (think of it as my tradition….a winter spent up in the mountains freezing my …. bones …. off ) When I saw the reports of recurring western disturbances early this year, I could not help myself and decided to steal 4 days away from it all and go to where I had not been to (as yet) – the Chamba district. With grand plans and all equipment (sleeping bag, trekking gear et al) I departed from Mumbai sometime in mid Jan (dont remember the date!)
I had consulted snow-forecast.com and tried to plan my flights in and out around the western disturbance, but I always knew it was going to be tricky (cos weather isnt really something you can predict with certainty and has a nasty habit of smacking you on the head… but well it was a risk I was aware of , and willing to take) Cut to the chase and on with the story…
The impenetrable Himalayan Range from the flight
Landed at Gaggal airport (the airport servicing Dharmsala) The only operator servicing it is Kingfisher with only one ATR flight a day in and out. When the weather is not good, it usually ends up getting cancelled (as I realised on my return) However the day I landed – it was sunny with excellent visibility, pretty much as per the weather predictions.
I caught a cab to go up to Dharmsala, the ride took about an hour and a half through some lovely tree cover and was extremely pleasurable.
Road up to Dharamsala/McLeodganj
Since there was time left in the day, I asked my driver if he would mind covering a few places close by, since I had very few days to spare, to which he readily agreed (and why not!) SO, before I checked into the hotel, off we went gallivanting to the Bhagsu Nag waterfall which was about 30 mins away from Dharmsala. It had snowed a few days back, so there was some snow sprinkled in patches on the hill to the right of the path leading up to the waterfall and some semi melted hard snow at the waterfall itself, in patches.
At Bhagsu, the car will drop you off outside the temple complex. The complex itself is not very remarkable, although it definitely is interesting, in the typical Himachali style. Strangely it has the usual pool fronted by another (swimming?) pool in front overlooking the valley! Cross the pool and then walk along and upwards for about 10 mins (depends on walking speed and fitness levels of course as the climb keeps rising) and you finally end up at the chilled Bhagsu Nag waterfall. There was some packed snow around in the crevices hidden from the sun and a couple of tea shops where I had some tea and biscuits, clicked a few pics and then pushed off back.
Route upto the waterfall
– the thin line of the waterfall can be seen in the distance.
Bhagsu Nag Waterfall
The trek to Triund can be done from Bhagsunag which I thought I might attempt on my last day but that sadly got scuppered.
After the waterfall, we moved on to Dal Lake, which is an interesting lake amid the Deodar forest. It was semi frozen as we passed by, had a quick look and then went on towards Naddi.
Naddi is higher than McLeodganj and is much more peaceful and has splendid views of the Dhauladhars, but unfortunately by the time I reached there, it was getting to be late afternoon and the weather was starting to look a big threatening. The range was covered with clouds and menacing grey clouds hung low.
Next, we went off to St Johns church, which is really quite amazing and spooky to say the least! Its bang in the midst of tall deodar trees and has brooding Victorian/Gothic architecture. To add to the atmosphere, there was no one around at all! I must say I quite enjoyed the peace and the beauty of being alone … although Im not sure its wise to be around in the night
St Johns Church
The tomb of James Bruce – ex Viceroy General of India
After the church, it was time to finally find a place to stay! I dropped off at the main market in McLeodganj instead of Dharamsala (decided I might as well go to the monastery today and save time) Hotel Mount View was on the main market street and was very reasonable. For Rs. 600 I got a nice room with a balcony overlooking the Dhauladhar range peeking out from behind the hills bang in front!
The Dhauldhars from the hotel room
McLeodganj town from the hotel terrace
Next step – drop your bags, freshen up and march off to explore the town. I went off for a spot of shopping first – bought a couple of traditional Tibetan rag dolls for my daughter (and they arent exactly cheap!) Then walked on down to the famous monastery where the Dalai Lama resides. Nothing spectacular as monasteries go, I have seen some amazing ones… this one was a modern, brick, cement construction and would have been very unappealing had it not been for its significance. The only remarkable feature was themonument to the martyrs for the FREE TIBET movement which was in the monastery courtyard just prior to entering.
The Dalai Lama’s Gompa
The Dalai lama’s Altar
The day ended with me looking for and successfully identifying a nice “watering hole” for myself
“Black Magic” even!
Quite an eventful day and McLeodganj was surprising, for a few things…
1. 3G!!! yes, I had terrific internet speeds! not what I had expected.
2. Finding cool pubs ! yes this was a pleasant surprise as well!
3. The extent of commercial activity and of course the population. My fault really, I was unsure of what to expect! I imagined a sleepy town and found a bustling, vibrant mini city!
Day 2 next… bored of typing!!
(Please pardon the typos!!! Im bad with my typing and too tired to check now!)