Having just quit my first job, I was a little nervous, but excited to go on my first North India trip with my best friend, Prarthna. She had just got done with her CA exams and I was going through the "not-sure-about-what-i-want-to-do-in-life" phase. We both needed a break and decided that Himachal would be the place to explore.
Our first stop, Dalhousie (pronounced - Dalojee)!
We took an evening bus (trains are available too) from Delhi to Pathankhot as there isn't any direct transport to Dalhousie (unless of-course, you rent your own car). Needless to say, I was ecstatic about going via Punjab because come on, Lassi's made in a washing machine? Not that I saw any of that, but it would have been exciting to see it!
We reached Pathankhot at 5 in the morning and arranged for a driver to pick us up from the depot. Our driver, Kirnail Singh was a little late and we got going on our journey only to be met with endless curvy uphill roads that made us rather nauseous.
After three and a half hours on the road and a flat tire, we reached Panchpulla. A small town 3 kms away from the main GPO (i.e. Dalhouse Market). We stayed at a beautiful home stay called Birds N' Chirps, which is run by Dr. Bhalla and his wife. The home stay is the only property that is in the middle of a dense reserve forest. Needless to say, it was extremely quiet, peaceful and away from the commercial part of the town. The best part? You're treated to the most amazing food you'll ever eat in all of Dalhousie! So anyone who is looking for some alone time - this is your go-to place.
On our first day there, we took a walk to the GPO and ate the yummiest Amritsari Kulchas at Lovely Dhaba (recommended to us by Dr. Bhalla), some delicious Gulaab Jamuns on Mall road and spent an hour reading & journaling at St. John's Church. We were so much at peace sitting there in silence, taken naps alternatively and listening to the gospel prayers in Hindi.
We met Shivani and her daughter Neelanjali, a cute pahadi family who gave us company while we walked to the GPO. Neelanjali was cozily tied up in a dupatta hung around the back of her mother, peeking every once in while out of curiosity. Their eyes were a beautiful hazel brown, that shone bright in the waning sun on their monday morning walk.
I have to say one thing about the Himachali Pahadis. They are some of the nicest people we have ever met. Extremely patient, kind and flashing the brightest smiles, its hard to be even a little annoyed with them.
On our second day there, we were pretty lost in terms of what to do and where to trek. Our agenda was to trek. period. After a quick breakfast, we hopped into our taxi and our driver Ravi helped us chalk out a plan for the day.
We started our 6km trek to Kalatope from Lakkadmandi, walking through the main road that would take us to the peak. We didn't enjoy this much since we wanted to be away from the dusty roads and the gazillion cars honking at us. So at 800 metres away from Kalatope, we decided to walk back and meet our trekking guide Ravindra Kumar. I would best recommend having a guide because they always know the ways through the forest and away from the roads that make for memorable experiences.
We decided to go to Dainkund and trek to Jot from there. At Dainkund, we passed by the most beautiful valleys of daisy flowers, endless mountainscapes at the horizon and little mud huts where some Pahadi farmers lived.
I remember sitting there absorbing all that beauty and the nature that I was surrounded by and felt really silly having once worried about deadlines, timelines and project statuses. All I could hear were birds chirping, water droplets patter on fresh green grass and chill winds singing in my ears.
After walking for about three and a half hours, amidst discussion about our new PM, Bollywood, travel and music we reached Jot. The day we went on this trek, Jot had its annual one day mela! There was a variety of stalls - with food, jewellery and clothes. The street was flocked with pretty girls and ladies with lovely nose rings shyly giggling at us two girls wearing pants!
We also saw kusti for the first time in our lives! It was obviously very exciting :)
We then went to a small street side dhaba to satisfy our hunger pangs. As we started devouring the momos and jalebis, the rain poured down on us just in time for a hot cup of chai which we shared with Ravindra Ji and Ravi. And that's how we ended our lipsmacking evening snack! We then left for Khajjiyar and stopped by a beautiful Shiva temple on the way. It had a marvelous statue within the premise.
Khajjiyar was beautiful, picture perfect but no 'mini Switzerland'. I think the real beauty of Dalhousie lies in the depth of the forests, the vast plains and the daisy valleys. Khajjiyar lake is nevertheless, breathtaking. It is surrounded by endless rows of trees with the Dauladhar Range as the backdrop. We visited the age old Khajji Nag temple and headed home.
ps: We didn't trek to Khajjiyar as our guide told us that there were better views and treks in Dalhousie, which I second!
I promise I won't make you wait too long for Part 2!