People in Delhi have lot of things to complain about. But one thing that they have going for them (among a few, to be fair), is the proximity to hills. A few hours away from Delhi, lies the pristine hills of Himachal Pradesh. From treks to waterfalls, from monasteries to age old temples – this state has a lot to offer. And I decided to make use of the weekend and head out to sample some of that.
McLeod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh is popular with young tourists. Located further north from Dharamshala – the abode of the Tibetan government in exile and His Holiness The Dalai Lama – McLeod Ganj has a pleasant weather even in peak summers (I went in late May and was pleasantly surprised by the rain and cool breeze). Pack a pair of light jackets, some comfortable shoes and you should be good to go.
Having been to McLeod Ganj thrice before this, I did not want to go to the popular Bhagsu Nag waterfall, though it is easily reachable from the town centre. Nor did I want to just visit monasteries and museums about the freedom struggle of the Tibetans in exile. Encouraged by likeminded folks, I decided to focus on one short trek to a not-so-popular waterfall and sampling the local cuisine. The waterfall we had zeroed down on was a quick two hour trek from Upper Dharamkot – a little hamlet above McLeod Ganj. The nameless waterfall lies in the village of Gallu, the same village one needs to cross if trekking up to Triund – the more popular camping spot. The road to the waterfall is not too steep, not even difficult, but it can get a bit narrow in certain spots, and slippery if it rains. The good thing is – it is just one straight road, with no option of you losing the way. Once you reach the waterfall though, it is wonderfully deserted. If the weather gods are kind, or if you are of the brave and adventurous kinds, this is where you can enjoy a swim in the natural pools – albeit in freezing waters. (All I could do was dip my legs in water before crying out in pain). The trek route also has one small café – stop here for the Maggi and Chai, and time your trek so that you can be here for the sunset. Closer to Dharamkot, you will find more local cafes and stalls and you can pick up everything from vegan cakes to natural organic honey, from sundried mushrooms to local spices.
The trek done, we had exhausted ourselves and were in need of a nice hot shower. In the attempt to do everything, we skipped lunch and ended up in McLeod Ganj town for an early dinner. We walked around till we found Cafe Ri – a literal hole in the wall Korean restaurant. From Kimbap and Bimbap, to Anchan tea – we had our fill here. After a short rest, we moved to yet another café – Illiterati Bookstore & Café for a glass of warm honey lemon ginger and desserts. But the main motive must have been to sit in the balcony with the perfect view, and listen to live piano music. It was quite an uphill walk back to the town after both meals, and we decided to hire a cab (easily available from the town centre) to our hostel.
A two day trip, with one day dedicated to moving around and one day for only relaxing. This seemed perfect for me. And to think that it had all been decided three days before the trip and wasn’t even burning a hole in the pocket seemed to be the cherry on the cake. I wonder if my next trip to the hills will tell me about yet another trek route? (Dharamshala is easily accessible by bus and cab from Delhi and Punjab. McLeod Ganj is further north from Dharamshala and usually has buses and cabs driving to and fro. There are many hotels and hostels in McLeod Ganj and Dharamkot – for any budget that you choose. Food is cheap but cabs can be expensive. The best time to visit is the summers).