I haven’t slowed down since my mom’s death in October last year. Maybe it was my way of coping with the loss. So, when this project to visit McLeodgunj came my way (yes on good days, bloggers get to do this too), I was apprehensive. Mountains force you to slow down, they make you feel small and remind you of how unimportant you are, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to be with myself yet. What’s worse is that it had been years since I took a bus for a long journey and did a backpacking kind of a trip. But I’m glad I went ahead with it because, even though I didn’t realize it, it was time for me to slow down. I will try to give out all the details of the journey and at the end of it some pointers as well and loads and loads of pictures.
I took the bus from Majnu KaTila at 6:30pm, thankfully there is a direct metro from Gurgaon. The little time I got to spend at Majnu Ka Tila, I know I will be going back to just chill or shop. The bus ride in the Volvo for 12 hours was a breeze. We only stopped once for dinner at 10pm. The reclining seats were comfortable but I was up at 4 am to look at the stars and silhouettes of hills, trees and little houses. I reached McLeodgunj at 6am, and someone from the Pink House Hotel picked me up. The hotel is a backpackers’ haven. Safe, clean with great WiFi connectivity. I just sat at my balcony sipping cups of tea and soaking in the view. I didn’t want to do too much touristy stuff as I was looking forward to the Triund hike.
But on suggestion of people I met, I did head to the Dalai Lama temple (about 15 mins walk from my hotel) and then stopped to eat local noodle soup. Post that I headed to Dharamshala with Abhinav (if you haven’t till now then you have to check his insta handle @abhiandnow for his writings as well as stunning pictures) to visit Norbulingka. It’s an institute working towards preservation of Tibetan art and culture. You can spend an hour or so there. Just outside it, there is a cute cafe called Queenie’s which serves excellent coffee. Post that we headed to Indru nag temple, a beautiful spot to watch the sunset from. Even though Abhinav clicked some surreal pictures of that place, I would still say that they don’t do justice to the view. And I know my words won’t do justice to how I felt sitting there and playing with the mountain dogs.
We headed to a quaint café, not too far from my hotel, which serves excellent food, called Illitrati post that for quick early dinner. I met some really interesting people there. A young actor Shavo Dorjee who’s the lead protagonist in the internationally accliamed movie Pawo, based on the life of a Tibetan refugee.
The next morning I was up early in excitement as we were headed for the Triund trek. We knew that we wouldn’t be allowed to camp overnight due to snowfall but I was still being optimistic and decided to carry my backpack. Just in case. The trek/hike is a slow single file incline, rocky in places. We took a couple of tea/snack breaks but still made it to the top in three and a half hours. My trek partners have done this trek innumerable times but one can never get tired of views like this. And for me, it was surreal. Just a couple of hours in to the trail and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
The hike got a lil tricky in the last kilometre or so because of slushy snow. I’m glad I was wearing the right boots. I’m also nursing a weak ankle and so ankle support was important. Anyways, once on top, I felt like a little girl in Disneyland. There are a couple of shacks where you can eat. We also took refuge in one of them as it started snowing a lot. The best part of the heavy snowfall was that we got to descend from the trail on fresh snow, an experience like no other. We constantly chattered while going up but while coming down, we were completely silent. Soaking in, thinking and reflecting. Silence at its best. The highlight was the mountain dog which accompanied us all the way from top to the valley. I was tired but really exhilarated by the end of the day and definitely had earned my 10 hours of good night’s sleep.
The next morning I took it easy. I lazed around in my balcony knowing well it was time to head back home in the evening. I spent time at Main Square (5 minutes from the hotel) and picked up a few fridge magnets. I stuck to my resolution of not shopping on this trip. For brunch, I headed to this café I had seen on the way back from Triund, called Common Grounds Café. I ended up striking a conversation with an American woman who’s a Sikh convert and we ended up talking for almost 3 hours! Post which I headed to café Illitrati again for a cup of coffee. I struck up conversation there with a Nat Geo Photographer and a local designer. I was surprised that I found it so easy to strike conversations there. Smiling came easy too. I almost missed the bus on the way back, maybe I was hoping to miss it.
- Traveling to McLeodgunj in the volvo didn’t feel unsafe at all. There were a lot of women solo travelers in the bus like me.
- If you are planning to trek, right hiking/trekking boots are really important. I saw a lot of people slip and fall due to incorrect footwear.
- Carry extra layer of inners and socks. The weather can change any time.
- You can buy most of the things required for hiking in Mcleodgunj just in case you forget to carry something.
- I only had two days, so I couldn’t go to a lot of places I would have liked to like Bhagsu waterfall and Dal Lake. You might want to include it in your itinerary.
- If you choose to stay at Pink House Hotel, they can arrange hiking, camping and trip to Bir as well.
Hope this helps in someway. *Most pics are clicked by Abhinav Chandel, some are from my phone and some from Abhikshit’s.