A Step Up North: Himachal Pradesh, India

Himachal Pradesh

Another weekend and another trip. The last week has been immensely satisfying thanks to the unplanned trips we have been taking. This time it was Himachal Pradesh which is one of the northernmost states in India. It is surrounded by the Himalayas in the north. The trip started on Thursday midnight in 2 cars and with seven people. With just 2 drivers among us it was kinda tricky to drive for 12 hours at a stretch. We did take small break on random highway dhabas. All the way we kept listening to 90’s Bollywood music which were hilarious and we couldn’t believe we actually used to like them when we were kids. When night turned to morning we were set with our GoPro to take a time lapse which I will be editing very soon.

We had planned to go via Chandigarh, Punjab but then we found an alternative route which would take us lesser time so we took that. So driving through Mohali, which is also in Punjab we entered Himachal territory around 9. We were directly heading for Palampur which is called the tea capital of the north and which is also famous because it supplies the most number of men to the Indian Army. I have never been to the mountains before. And this was the Himalayas that I was going to, I couldn’t afford to lose one moment of the journey, so I planted myself on the front seat of the car to memorize anything and everything. They say the journey is more important than the destination and it has been my motto all through. The  snow covered mountains, the gushing water of the streams, the ravine beside the roads, the tiny villages scattered in the distance, I din’t miss anything. I couldn’t resist getting out of the car multiple times just to enjoy the view and in the process I became a pain in the ass for the others. But did I mind? Hell, no!

We reached Palampur around noon. One of our colleagues is from Palampur and his parents were helpful enough to let us crash there for the night. His mom cooked lunch for us, simple dal-rice and one sabzi (curry). It was delicious to say the least. I was literally licking my fingers after the meal. Sated and completely full, we then went to see the utterly beautiful town of Palampur. It is a small town and my friend had so many anecdotes to share of his childhood that it felt like we had grown up in Palampur itself. We went to see the tea-gardens of Palampur and then we went to the mountain streams which the ‘Pahadi’ (people from the mountains) call “Khud”. We trekked down a hill and reached the banks of the stream. I dipped a toe into the water to check the temperature and in a nano-second y toe was out of the water and 1 feet away. The water was chilled. I refused to go inside and people started coaxing me to try it out. I realized it would be worthless to come so far and not take a dip. Relenting I took a breath and just got in. Brrrrr!!! Cold, cold, cold! But I was already halfway in so I had to see what I had started. In I went. It was fun but extremely scary. You see, I do not know how to swim, so gritting my teeth I somehow managed to enjoy the cold water. Later though I was paying for it. Anyway, we returned from the “Khud”, changed and went out on foot to see the market place of Palampur. Walking on the roads of hill towns is pretty tiring. If you want to lose weight I would recommend you stay in one of these small towns in the mountains and walk. You will be fit in no time! So this night we were walking up and down the streets and trying to get used to the breath loss we were feeling every time we went uphill. We returned to my friend’s place, had dinner and hit the sack as we had an early day planned.


Khud "Mountain Stream"

We woke up around 5 AM to find out it was raining. The plans of trekking were kept on hold and we decided to just go to Mcleodganj via Dharamshala. Supposedly the place is famous for it’s monasteries and momos. For those who don’t know, momos are Tibetan delicacies that are similar to Chinese dimsums. By the time we reached Dharamshala, it had stopped raining. On reaching McLeodganj, we found the place filled with tourists. We had to go to Bhagsu, nearby in search of a parking space but even there we faced parking problems, so finally we decided to go to Dharamkot where on we decided to go up to the Golu temple. We parked our car near the temple, had our breakfast and started our trek to Triund. At first I had no idea how far we were going to trek. One of us had already been to Triund so he kept telling us that it would be a 4 hour trek and we would be following a trail. What he hadn’t mentioned was that we were heading for the peak of one of the mountains in the nearby ranges. We were on our way to 9500 ft above sea level.

For someone like me who has never been to the mountains, the easy trek can very easily turn out to be the most difficult thing you have ever done in your life. I was enjoying the first couple hours. It was not that tricky to traverse the rocky trail. But as we neared the peak I had almost given up. There are 3 check posts when you are trekking to Triund. After the third one I had dug my heels in. I wasn’t going any further. I couldn’t breath and my legs were shaking with all the effort I had put in. My friends encouraged me, saying I made it so far, why not a little more further. After a lot of pep talk I agreed and off we went again. By the time I was reaching the peak I had sworn to myself that I will never ever go trekking again.

All the agony, all the breathlessness was forgotten the moment I saw of the snow covered mountains at the peak. It was indeed a sight to behold. The grass was green and the wind was cool. It was refreshing and so peaceful. There were some campers and other trekkers who were already at the peak. Everyone was just sitting and staring at the beautiful snow covered mountain peaks. I who had only wanted to find some place to sit a couple minutes back was still standing mesmerized and utterly dumbfounded. I was so glad I went all the way up, so glad I had the good fortune to see something that was serene that I felt at peace with the world. Up there at 9500 ft above sea level, when one is far away from the city lights, traffic and crowds, one finds true peace. I found mine.

The View from Triund

After all the trek we were famished and fortunately there was a small dhaba there. We ordered Chai and Maggi (instant noodle) and went back to enjoying our surroundings. When the sun was nearing the horizon we set out on our way back. The return trip was comparatively easier on our legs and lungs. It was past dusk when we returned back to our cars and then we had to fight for parking space again at McLeodganj. So we decided to leave the car we had parked it in Dharamkot and then walk all the way down to Bhagsu. We went to the “firang” (foreign) areas in Bhagsu and found a place to crash for the night there. These are places where the locals only cater to the people from abroad. You won’t any Indian tourists in the vicinity. We were entertained because one of us had a friend who was living among them for sometime.

Completely exhausted we had dinner at this Thai restaurant which was also in the “firangi” (foreigner) area. The Thai chicken with green curry is a must try if you somehow find the place. For the love of God I can’t seem to remember the name of the restaurant. Anyway, we trekked a km or two to our accommodations and slept like dead people (no offence). Next morning I was up and about early. I went out for some fresh air and felt so much at peace. Later we had breakfast at a local roadside restaurant. We ordered an assortment of breakfasts- Indian, Spanish, English, American. After the scrumptious breakfast we returned to my friend’s place in Palampur. We had lunch there which consisted of authentic Himachal dishes- “Lasiyadhe” and “lomdu” which are essentially vegetables which are available mostly in the mountains. I have to say his mom is a terrific cook. As before I was almost licking my fingers clean.

It was time to leave for Delhi. We packed, said our goodbyes and thanks to my friend’s family and set out. The return trip was fun as this time we were driving adventurously. Listening to loud music and taking just one stop we drove all the way to Delhi. Hectic trip but we were back safe and sound.

Take a trip to the mountains and I bet you will love it.

Lots of Love,
A.

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