26th June, 2010. 0400hrs, Chandigarh Bus Stand. I was desperately looking for a bus to Dharamshala. A kind man told me that the bus to Dharamshala will come from Delhi and as it was a Saturday, it would be hard to find a seat. So, I decided to go for a fragmented journey (I knew the route thanks to Google Maps). I boarded a bus to Una and I was there in 2 hrs. From Una I boarded a local bus to a place called Mubarakpur, from where I got a direct bus to Dharamshala. Bus halted at a place called ‘Dehra’ for Tea. It seemed to be a nice little town. Its name reminded me of Bond’s ‘Our trees still grow in Dehra’, but of course, Bond referred to Dehradun. Finally I was in Dharamshala by 1100hrs.
I was awestruck by the view of myriads of monks roaming around. I hadn’t seen so many Buddhist monks together before. And among those monks were numerous backpackers, some even in robes of monks. Anyhow, I boarded a mini bus to Mcleodganj. Driver of the bus drove fast enough, on the sharp cuts, to fasten the heartbeats of the passengers. Mcleodganj is about 9km from Dharamshala. From Mcleodganj Bus Stand, I headed straight towards the Dalai Lama’s temple, where my friend Rajiv Rattan Panda was putting up for last 20 odd days. I slept in his room for about 2 hours.
At about 1600hrs, we decided to go to Dharamkot which is about 3km from Mcleodganj. I was amazed to know that most of the local Cafés in Mcleodganj provide free Wi-Fi. Rajiv and I had a Coffee at a café named Peace Café before boarding an Auto-Rickshaw to Dharamkot. The weather dramatically shifts towards the colder side in Dharamkot. We saw a magnificent red coloured building on the hill in front of us. We asked a local person about it, he told us that it’s the Gallu temple. We, almost simultaneously, asked the next question ‘How to reach there?’
We were on the way to Gallu temple on foot. It was about 4 km from Dharamkot. To our shock, it was not the red building we saw from Dharamkot, but to our amazement, this place was beautiful. So, we reached the place in disguise. There was a small guesthouse called Sagar Cottage uphill, it was located at a vantage point. It enjoyed a breathtaking all around view of the hills. A nice room with a good tiled bath costed us a princely Rs.400/-. The room had a big window overlooking the hills and a spacious balcony to sit forever. I witnessed the most beautiful sunset, I have seen in my life, from this balcony. We had dinner in balcony itself. A monk from Tibet was also staying at the same guest house. He didn’t know either Hindi or English. We tried to communicate with him, and I realized that how big a barrier of language could be.
The next morning, Rajiv showed me a distant village on a distant hill and said that we must go there. We asked the name of the village from the local people. It was village Bal and the way to the village was from a kuchha road through the jungle. We had to go downhill first, cross a river and then again uphill. The forest was dense; we lost the track, but somehow reached the river, though by a longer path. There was a beautiful bridge over the river. We crossed the river and had some drinks (soft ;) ) at a local shop. It seemed like a different world out there. Nothing was similar to the cities except Coca Cola and Pepsi. The shop owner showed us the way uphill to the place we wanted to go. We followed the way uphill and finally reached the distant village with no road connectivity.
There, we met the residents of the village. Their archaic way of living astonished us. They weave their own clothes, sowed their own crops. It was hard to imagine for me that this kind of subsistence economy still exists and that too just about 250km from a city like Chandigarh. We met a person named Sher Singh who was 85 years old and was making wool by spinning some hand tool. I imagined that Sher Singh might be around 25 when India got Independence. He might had the same dreams of ‘change’ in his eyes at that time as other people of his age. But after 60 years, here he was, sitting in the same village, trying hard to survive. He is as human as Nehru was, but difference is that Sher Singh will permanently diminish into oblivion after a few years. Here I would like to take the honour to try to reduce the intensity of his limbo, by introducing him on the web. Anyhow, we went back to Mcleodganj on foot via a beautiful town called Naddi.
Back there in Mcleodganj, we again sat in Peace Café. A white guy asked for my laptop to check his mail. I obliged. When he returned the laptop, I asked him ‘What’s your good name?’, he stunned me with ‘Mera naam Carlos hai’. I decided to stay with Rajiv in the monastery itself for the night.
Next day we set off for a church named ‘lying in wilderness’ which had a grave of an ex-governor of Canada (of erstwhile times). On the way we saw a Carvan (Swades style) standing by the roadside. It had a strange number starting with FB. I saw a small German flag sticking to the lateral part of the Caravan. We met the owner. He was a German, Patrik, who came all the way from Germany on the Caravan with his family. He set off for the odyssey last August. There is no accounting for tastes. We decided to go to the Triund trek the next day. We decided to go till Gallu temple by a taxi. It’s hard to believe that Himachal Taxi drivers consider the Dharamkot-Gallu road as motorable. Anyhow we booked a taxi for next morning for Rs.350/- (just 6 km).
Taxi picked us from the monastery itself sharp at 6 AM and dropped us at Gallu temple. We started the trek with some bread and a litre of juice. Although the scenic beauty, which the trek offered, was tremendous; but the path was really hard, consisting of withered rocks and narrow passages all the way. There was a eating joint on the way called Magic View. It was a small hut meant to serve the trekkers. Shelling out Rs.50/- for a Gatorade seemed reasonable over there. Most of the passer bys were White backpackers. As told by the taxi driver, the last stretch of the trek was quite steep. There was one more eating hut on the way and the guy told us that we are at 2600m. Soon we reached Triund which is at 9350 ft.
The fact that we have walked all the way to an altitude of more than 9000 ft felt like an achievement. But the view at Triund has to be rated more than any other feeling. It seemed like a dreamland. Lawns of foliage were kissing the white clouds, all in front of your eyes. In fact you seem to be a part of this nature’s beautiful drama. The most beautiful plateau, I have seen till now. There were a few eating huts spread over the plateau, serving Maggi and other things. Coca Cola was there as well. There was one guest house as well, but it was full with backpackers. We saw one more amazing view over there, a girl from England with some fellow backpackers was picking the plastic garbage from over the place. They told us that they are very much concerned about the fact that where will this garbage go? They complained that most of the Indian tourists come and throw litter ignorantly and they are on a streak to clean the whole place up. We stayed at Triund for an hour or so.
It started pouring heavily on the way back. We watched our foot and kept moving. We met a group of students who were going uphill. They asked me whether there will be any STD over there in Triund. I told them even the electricity over there is generated through solar panels only. A guy asked me a favour to call his father (Col. Amreek Singh) from Dharamkot and tell him that they will return tomorrow. I obliged. When we reached Dharamkot, we were soaked. We sat in a cyber café and updated our Facebook accounts ;). I also called Col.Amreek Singh (from STD). Sometimes I wonder how we human beings socialize temporarily. I didn’t exchange numbers with those guys. They can’t even say me Thanks now. Anyways, that’s the way it is.
On reaching Mcleodganj we had lunch at some Mcleod’s (or something like that) restaurant. After that I had a nap for an hour in Rajiv’s room. Finally, boarded the non-Volvo AC bus to Delhi at 8 pm, with a promise to come back again… I have to…. clicked the below shown pic from the bus itself