Taking a break from routine always feels so good. One does not have to cook, clean or do odd jobs!! I needed to escape the heat before my school reopens on 2nd July.
Dharamsala is situated on the Dhauladhar ranges of mountains, which are part of the Himalayan ranges. Its elevation ranges from 1380 m to 1830 m. It is not far from Delhi, being 560 km away. One can drive but in rainy season, it is not advisable to do so in hilly areas, unless one is very familiar. There is no direct train to Dharamsala. One has to take a cab from Pathankot, which takes around two and half hours.
I along with my mom started from home on at 8.15 pm on 16th June 2007 as our train was at 9.30 pm. We met my brother and his family at the railway station. Our train journey was largely uneventful although it was one hour late. We reached Pathankot at 8 am, our resort before 11 am and checked in as soon as possible. The resort we stayed in is situated in the midst of a Jungle, in the outskirt of Dharamsala. After freshening up and lunch, we started exploring the area. I wanted to look out for local food joints. I am not much into hotel food and in a new place, I am open to all sort of food ideas. I find street cuisine the best kind available.
The mountains were supposed to be snow peaked but it has been a harsh summer this year, which has led to the melting of the snow. One can see mango and lychee(Litchi) trees laden with fruit in this season. Himachal Pradesh is famous for its apples orchards but this particular area, which comes under Kangra Valley, was bereft of that! When I asked around, I was told apples orchards are to be found in Kulu, Manali and Shimla, not in this particular area. Very enlightening! We spent day one largely exploring the area, doing nothing much.
Dharamsala is well known, as it is the abode of the 14th Dalai Lama. (At that time, he was on a two and a half weeks visit to Australia and New Zealand). There is a Dalai Lama temple and a monastery built by the Tibetans. One finds Tibetans everywhere. As they cannot go back to their country, India has some kind of arrangement with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, allowing them to live in India. One finds the Tibetan culture pervading in every aspect of the place. In attires, food, paintings. I saw many Israelis tourists too. Kosher food is easily obtainable for them.
The Norbulingka Monastery is only 2.5 km from the resort. It is a very peaceful, serene and is the summer retreat for the Dalai Lama. There is an institute, which only takes in Tibetans. There are around 400 Tibetans residing there as students, employees and monks. The institute boasts of a rich collection of art, paintings, handicrafts and thankas made by the students. The stuff they make there is, sold in the monastery itself. It is a no profit, no loss kind of thing as the money they get is utilized in the Monastery. I did buy two silver rings, garnet and amethyst, and a stuffed yak along with a silver amethyst bracelet from Mcleodganj. This mainstream market has much to offer but one has to be careful. Bargaining is very much the norm. I am good at haggling! I did pay almost half of what was asked for that bracelet.
I visited a very old, unknown, dilapidated fort, which was almost disintegrating; a church built by the Britishers some 200 years back, a lake almost dry and an ancient temple of Lord Shiva along with other non-descriptive places. In India, one can find most of the faiths co-existing peacefully at any given place.
I used to get up before 5 am and go out for a walk in the tea gardens near the resort. I had never been to a tea garden before this. I loved that time just looking at those endless tea gardens, inhaling the pure air, with only the sound of birds chirping. Where does one get that in Delhi?
Kangra tea is very famous after the Darjeeling tea. It is exported to most part the world. I also visited a tea factory where I learnt that tea is graded according to the filters used. I bought some green tea, fresh out of the mill.
The weather was not as cold as we had wanted it be. It was pleasant and rained much of the time. It did not deter us from enjoying. I walked around a lot. Walking is the best from of getting to know a place and I needed that as I was stuffing myself all the time! I relished the Tibetan food i.e., noodles, momos, thupkas, manchurians etc, as well as the local countryside food i.e., various lentils, fried stuff etc. Tea was welcome at anytime. The quietness of the place gave me a tranquil feeling.
One sad thing was, my camera developed a snag and most of the pictures I took were lost in that maze. I have asked my brother to send me the pictures he took. As soon as he does that, I will post those separately.
PS: Do feel free to check the list of books I plan to read for Book Awards Challenge and Summer Reading Challenge on my reading room blog.