It was a quick quick getaway.. Spanning over 4 days partly over the weekend, we had this ambitious plan to cover Yol, McLeodganj, Dharamshala, Palampur, Manali and if we could risk it, the Rohtang Pass.
The first leg of the journey was a night train journey from New Delhi to Chakki Bank in Jammu. Though we were travelling first class, the whole night was ruined by bedbugs which was earlier preceded by the most drab vegetarian meal i'd ever had in a long while. This was not to bog us down,( though we hadn't caught a wink) and we soon freshened up, catching quick power naps while the other got dressed. We then set out for Yol by road.
The Kangra valley is a beautiful expanse of hills and fields with women wearing brightly coloured salwar kameezes and chunnis dotting the countryside. The toy train came hooting alonside us bellowing clouds of smoke and then vanishing now and then around mountain sides and grass fields. The beauty of the state of Himachal Pradesh around this region can actually be enjoyed mostly during the long road journeys. Women with their fair skinned and flawless complexions are absolutely fascinating. The mountains tower over alongside as one drives around the lovely sun kissed fields and cosy cottages amongst perfect settings for breathtaking views.
We arrived at Yol at around 12:30 or so after having set out early in the morning. Yol is a sleepy town and an army cantonment, a pretty place with pretty people. Though it was raining in Delhi, we were greeted with warm sunshine and pleasant weather throughout our stay there.
We could hardly wait to dump our bags and get to McLeodganj, the residence of the Dalai Lama. I'm a big fan of his. If everyone could think as simply as him, the world would be a much simpler and better place to live in!Sigh! We made it to the Tibetan school cum muesuem called Norbulingka, just short of McLeodganj in good time and took a tour of it, voluntarily guided by a handsome young Tibetan man. The school was where they taught the exotic art of the tangkha paintings and embroidery! It takes one about 3 years to master the painting techniques and upto 6 years for copper sculpturing of the various gigantic, majestic statues we see in various monasteries around the country. The students, mostly boys were deep in concentration with their piece of artwork. I liked the way they were listening to Tibetan rock(or something similar) on their headphones, not a bit distracted with us going around the room, clicking pictures like Japanese tourists!
A Tibetan poem that can be read in any direction..
The setup is lovely with authentic Tibetan/ Buddhist architecture, water bodies, a monastery, a doll museum and an emporium.
The Church in the woods was our next stop. Amidst a thicket of jungles beyond, it stood out ancient and very British. It was a lovely setting as if out of a children’s fairy tale.. Hansel and Gretel comes to mind. We arrived at McLeodGanj, starving and excited. Hunger got the better of us so the loot in the market had to wait. We were suggested to try Jimmy’s Kitchen for Italian food but we opted for the Tibetan Kitchen. Like they say: ‘When in Rome, Do what the Romans do!’ We ordered noodles, chicken momos,thukpa, a Tibetan patty and chicken soup. The momos were yummy and very authentic and we generously helped ourselves. Smug and cosy, the kitchen left the same effect on us, so we prepared ourselves for a nice shopping workout while Papa went off for a snooze. It was getting cloudy and the clouds came in quietly, enveloping us snugly while we walked through the streets packed on each side with Tibetan memorabilia and souvenirs inviting us into almost every shop. The shops were tightly squeezed in with clothes, cloth bags for the cause of a Free Tibet, incense, essential oils, tangkhas, prayer wheels, prayer flags, jasmine pants and jewellery.
The scent of Tibetan incense is a heavenly fragrance which surrounds your senses and you can’t ignore tranquillity setting in. Women are very friendly and people love animals around here. Young women were picking up stray puppies to adopt them. I find the Tibetans an exotic group of people headed by the Dalai Lama. He’s one of my surviving idols I have to have to meet besides Queen Rania of Jordan.
The Church in the woods
The shopping spree was not long enough for us to soak in the essence of the place. The real quintessence is to walk around and laze about for a couple of days, discovering the little pizza place which can be accessed on foot, sitting for hours over coffee at German Bakery and maybe waiting outside Dalai Lamas palace to catch a glimpse of him when he’s in town..?
The day had been quite striking and we yearned to stay on. Yol heralded us in the setting sun and we spent a quiet evening with family friends. The breeze was light and as we prepared to turn in for the day. We slept like heavy logs until the first ray of dawn the next morning..