Moon Lake, Galaxy and Photography!

Before I embark my steps towards another journey to hills, here’s a very quick sneak peek to my memorable trip to the moon lake of India. Chandratal it is! Though it has been a month since I’ve come back and I believe it’s never the late to write (experiences). So here it goes –

Okay! So a trip to Chandratal was planned for few reasons, one that I was short on leaves, two it was first trip organized by my friend’s own venture, I was travelling after a major mishap that happened with my brother and his wife, it was an Astro photography tour, and finally I wanted to dedicate my first astro picture to my brother who was also an avid traveller and always inspired me to travel. After much doubt, ifs and buts, I finally said yes to join the trip.

I didn’t inquire much about the people I was travelling with as I believe that meeting people on start of the journey itself is a good start to the journey. So, I boarded bus to Manali from Delhi along with ten other enthusiastic photographers. One more was supposed to join the group in Manali. Even after much travelling, I’ve still not overcome to handle butterflies in stomach before the start of the trip. And I think this is what makes me a seeker for knowledge and experience. I was trying to find a seat for myself when I was asked by one of the fellow traveller, Arpita Bose, to sit by her side. Well! Thanks to her as I’m very bad at striking conversations and even bad at talking. Anyhow, so we started talking and I think I took a quick escape from all the conversations and soon dozed off. But when I woke up in the morning, we were no more strangers and were friends now.

On reaching Manali, the twelfth photographer, Prabhjit Veerji, joined us and after getting ready we went out for fun and food. Eleven of us were out whereas; Nimit (one of the organizers) was sleeping in hotel. I’ve met Nimit earlier on few photo walks and he is a good human being who is always ready to help people around him (as much as I’ve observed him). The rest of us strolled together on the streets of Manali, talked, laughed, ate, shopped, and most of all made friends with each other. In the evening when we came back to hotel, Nimit was still sleeping, and when we went out for dinner, he was still sleeping. He slept like a polar bear that sleeps in the day light and prepares himself for his prey seal that is most active at night. Well! Nimit prepares himself for astro photography. 😛

Next day our journey started to Losar. Losar is a small village in Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. Losar is relatively remote and hence unexplored. There are very few houses and even lesser accommodation and food options. It is situated at an altitude of 13,400 feet above sea level and therefore the weather here is usually very windy and chilling. To reach Losar, we had to cross Kunzum pass which is considered to be one of the most treacherous passes in the world. I was more excited to cross Kunzum than reaching Losar because it has been one such place which I’ve wanted to visit since 2-3 years. Travellers crossing pass take a round around a small monastery built at pass and seek blessings.  We reached Kunzum on 4th July, on this day every year, prayers and rituals are conducted at the monastery here. We were really lucky to experience it. The aura of being at Kunzum is inexpressible in words. With every bell that rang there, I missed my brother and his wife and tears rolled down from my eyes. Anyways, we left Kunzum with good memories and proceeded towards Losar. The view leading to Losar is picturesque and breathtaking with mountains of different shades of brown and clouds and sun playing the game of light and shadow with them. If you are nature lover, sit by the window side and enjoy the view, else sleep and prepare yourself for low oxygen problems. 🙂

It was still afternoon when we reached Losar, with not many faces around, I was little disappointed but at the same time I was in awe of the serenity that Losar offered. After having a quick meal and deciding on the further plans, I took my tripod and camera and went deeper in the valley where there were few houses. Here, I was guided by an old shepherd when I couldn’t find the way to the village.  I love these small incidents that happen while travelling and make your belief firm in humanity. 🙂 As I went down, I saw a cute little girl wearing red sweater and was immediately driven to her innocence. I humbly requested her mother to take picture of her and to my surprise I was granted the permission with much excitement. I took little Tenzin (name of the little girl) in my arms and walked down towards a small field that was few meters away from the house. Four of her siblings followed me to that field. And I didn’t miss a chance to click a picture with them. I clicked a tripod selfie with them! It was great fun. 🙂 We all were smiling and smiling faces look gorgeous. At night we tried our hands at astro photography. We all were shivering with cold but determined to take our best shots. I couldn’t take a good shot that day but was in a hope to click a good galaxy shot next day at Chandratal.

The gang!

The gang!

Next day we headed to our main destination, Chandratal. As we started in the wee hours of the day, most of us were in slumber. On the way, one of the tyres got punctured and busted. We were saved because of the slow speed on the rocky road of mountains. We didn’t miss the opportunity to click pictures here while driver, Vijay Deenanath Chauhan (named by Sabby), fixed Tyre. We reached Chandratal at around 8:00 am in the morning. Immediately on reaching, we unloaded our stuff from the vehicle and went to the last motor able point before the lake. There’s a small 15-20 (timing depends upon your speed and stamina) min trek to the lake. Many of us were exhausted till we reached the lake because of less oxygen at higher altitude. Chandratal is the beauty! The view left me totally flabbergasted. The sky, the water, the clouds, the mountains, the flags, the flowers, the green hilltop and the calmness of the moment filled me with rapture. We all took out our guns (cameras), pointed at the lake and shot beautiful reflections of sky and clouds on the lake. Apart from offering mesmerizing view, Chandratal also offers peace and serenity. We then went back to our tents and rested for some time to rejuvenate ourselves for the night’s activity. The wind here was so fast that I couldn’t stop myself from saying – “Fuck! The wind is so fast yaar. :P”. In the evening we had a little music and chatting session with Old monk (savior on hills and in winters). At night, we took our positions to shoot and Voila! I was able to get a descent astro shot if not good. Thanks to Sabby from bottom of my heart. I hope he reads it. He helped me so much that day. Without him I would not have been able to take a good shot. And of course how can I forget little Subro (boy from Assam) who was with us all the time while we were shooting. He too got some good shots. Hardik, Arpita, and Aditi laughed so much while clicking, unaware that they were making memories for the rest of the group too. 🙂 I never wanted that night to pass, I wanted to seize the time and stay there under the stars forever. It was yet another beautiful night under stars in mountains.

Next day, with heavy heart we bade goodbye to the place to return back to our daily chores of life, get frustrated and run for another escape to mountains. Everybody in the trip was hash tagged with a name given on the trip. The names that remind us of the awesome time spent together. I got to learn so many things in this trip and most of all made friends with awesome people.

Ohh! I forgot to mention about the famous chacha chachi shop at Batal on the way to Losar. A husband and wife run this small eatery and they are known for their kindness among travellers. Also, we met a Serbian cyclist who was riding from past 23 days and had plans to cover most part of India on cycle by November. This is why we need to get out, meet people, be inspired, and stay inspired.

Thanks to all the fellow travellers and wishing them good luck in their lives. Thank you all the readers for reading till here. Love for all!

I’ve managed to collect pictures of few fellow travelers along with my pictures and here it goes. Enjoy!

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Notes from a solo trip!

I’m very excited while writing this blog as I’m going to write about my first full fledged “solo trip”. Yes! I was lucky enough to have been supported by my parents to travel solo. It wasn’t easy, neither for my parents, nor for me. I was nervous and experienced all sorts of butterflies in stomach till the end of my journey. Parents were of course worried for my safety. They always come to drop me; no matter whether I’m traveling in a group or I’m traveling solo. I saw fear in their eyes. Mom was perspiring in normal conditions where as dad was quiet. I remember my dad saying – “jab tak tu vapis nahi ati, hume dar rahega. Par dar se ghabrake ghar nahi baithna (We will be worried until you are home but the fear cannot make us sit at home)”. Tears came rolling down my cheeks on hearing this. Grasping all my courage, I picked my bags and boarded the bus to McLeodganj.

View of Himalayas from Green Hotel!

View of Himalayas from Green Hotel!

The next morning I was in McLeodganj at 5:45AM. McLeod bus stand is not far from Main Square. My hotel was near Main Square on Bhagsu Road. I decided to walk towards my Hotel and waited for the lady who is the owner of the hotel to open it and allot me the keys of the booked room. The chosen hotel for stay was “Green Hotel”. The lady is really nice and helping. I was given a room with the view of Himalayas. I took a quick cat nap to fend off the last night’s fatigue of travel. McLeod has plethora of eating options with some very good cafes and restaurants. So there is no need to worry about food when in McLeod. I got ready and had breakfast in Green’s restaurant. I spent whole day in leisure, just visiting two or three places. I was actually saving my energy for the trek for next day which was my main purpose of traveling solo.

 

Starting point to trek!

Starting point to trek!

Before I started the journey from Delhi till starting the trek to Triund, I was having different kind of thoughts in my mind. Sometimes it was looking for omen of good and sometimes for omen of bad. Like when I left the hotel in the morning for the trek, I had to take a cab till the starting point of trek, i.e., Galu temple. I asked the cab driver to wait for any other passenger or trekker to come so that I can share the fare with that person. 400 bucks seemed too heavy for pockets. Not finding anyone after 20 minutes of wait, it came to my mind that may be God is giving me hints for not going alone for the trek. Superstitious I was being. I then decided to pay 400 bucks and take the cab to the starting point. There’s a small shop at the starting point which can serve you with all sorts of chocolates, biscuits, chips and drinks along with butter toast, Indian masala chai, coffee and omelette. I had my cup of “pahadon vali cha (the mountain tea)” and started the trek thereafter. Before starting the trek, I requested a group of Tibetan students at the shop to let me have a tent nearby their tents at night on the mountain top. They were really sweet to agree to it. This was my first stance of talking to strangers and was now little confident about staying there at night. Since it was a backpacker trip, I had a rucksack on my back which weighed around 15kg and a small bag on my front. I started walking very slowly. I didn’t care about the time I would take to reach Triund but to reach there. The trek is considered one of the easiest treks in Himalayas. To be very frank it is not that easy for city dwellers like me who are more habitual of walking on plains. There are lots of pebbles on the way that will make you stumble and large stones that will make you take longer steps and thus will make the climbing cumbersome for you. Everybody coming downhill was motivating the people trekking uphill. I trekked well till the mid way where there is “Magic View Cafe”. It was only after here that I started to perspire and felt very tired. I had exhausted all my stamina and was only left with my will. There was a point when I felt like going back because I couldn’t take a single step ahead with my bag on my back. To my rescue came a porter with his three mules. I request him to carry my rucksack on his mule so that I can

Rucksack and I!

Rucksack and I!

climb to the top. He agreed to carry it with him for 100 bucks. I was now worried for getting my bag back. Everything was in that bag and what I would do if I didn’t get it back was a thought that came to my mind when I saw the porter going away from my eyes. I took good one hour of time to cross just a few metres of stretch which should not have taken more than 15 minutes. I very well remember at one point over here, an old man saying me – “It’s not that far. You can do it. God be with you”. It really motivated me to keep going. Anyways, after crossing all the hurdles, I reached the Triund top in 4 hours and 17 minutes. I took one hour lesser than the last time when I climbed Triund. The first thing I did on reaching the top was searching my bag. I got it with much ease than expected. Mountain people are descent and trustworthy! I then searched for the group of Tibetan students and got a tent booked near their tents. Ohh! I forgot to mention that I was going to be without network here for next whole day till I go downhill. The food is available here but little costly. That’s ok because getting a food at such height is a great deal in itself. I then relaxed for an hour and soaked the mountain sun. I have always felt the healing effect of soaking my body in the mountain sun. The mind comes to peace! And I get time to contemplate! This is the advantage of travelling solo.

The retiring sun!

The retiring sun!

After some rest, I strolled around the valley and clicked some pictures. Here I met two strangers – Jas and Sourav. Our language connected us well and we became friends. They clicked really good pictures of meJ. Who doesn’t like to get clicked? These are the memories that will always remain with me forever and I could go back to them whenever I will see the pictures. We then, strolled together and clicked some pictures till the sun was set to retire for the day. The sky turned into hues of orange and blue with the crescent moon, stars and lit up towns of Dharamshala and McLeodganj down the hill. It was gorgeous! It was a magical moment. We tried capturing the moment which came out quite well but it cannot be better than what the naked eyes saw. The shopkeeper who provided us the tents build up a bonfire and we sat with other trekkers to have dinner around that bonfire. We talked about photographs, places to which we belong, travel stories and trekking of course. Soon we were under the galaxy of stars with Milky Way visible to our eyes. It was both stunning and soothing to eyes. I felt cosmic energy in my body! It is hard to explain in words! As the bonfire was losing its fire and heat, we all joined the group of Tibetan students who were really high, fun and frolic. We then played antakshri (a game where teams are divided and one has to sing a song from the last word of the song that the other team has sung), sang random songs, talked on various topics from politics to religious to spiritual to being vegans. I remember Champa,

Gorgeous night view from Triund!

Gorgeous night view from Triund!

a Tibetan guy from Ladakh singing a Ladakhi folk song for us. Ishi, the guy from Bhutan sang a Bhutanese folk song. Varun, a Himachali guy from Kangra sang Himachali folk songs. And Sourav, the Punjabi guy from Jalandhar sang Bollywood and Punjabi songs for us. I too sang few songs and thanks to them for bearing my singing (it is actually very bad). Then Champa, Ishi and there one more friend made tea for everybody. I liked the way they served tea to everybody. Few hours ago I was nervous of travelling alone and now I was sitting among a group of strangers, chatting, singing songs and having tea. “A simple hello can lead to million thanks”. We then bade goodbye and dozed off in our Nomadic abode (tent). I couldn’t sleep at night because of freezing temp. I had an additional dread: I feared that my bladder might not hold out. And it was “freezing your ass” task to release the bladder in that freezing temp under the open sky. Sadly, I had no other choice. After this, I wasn’t comfortable for around next 20 minutes.

I got up little early to see the spectacular sunrise amidst hills. The locals said that it will not happen before 7:00am. Not taking a chance to miss it, I was up before 6:00am. The sun rose behind the hills giving the hope of warmth. I remembered this poem by Miachel Watts:

The sun is rising over the hills
Lighting the dark fields and rivers.

The red burning fire in the sky
Brings the shepherds warnings for the morning.

The fire is spreading, further and further,
Shining in the eyes of those that are stirring.

The passion of red overpowering the
Darkness, greyness and coldness of the night.

The redness spreads the heat of the fire –
Others cannot fail to be touched by its power.

The morning grows stronger and stronger –
Just like our love it is infectious and spreads.

The redness of the fire in the sky
Burns forever in our heart.

The fire in the sky!

The fire in the sky!

New day began with watching the sunrise and then brushing my teeth under the open sky. I was shy doing that as I had never brushed outside the bathroom in front of everyone. After having the last food at Triund, I hugged the strangers of previous night (now friends) and said good bye with a promise of seeing them again. I then started my journey downhill. On the way, I wished everyone good luck who was going uphill. My heart smiled every time I did that. It took me around 4 hours to reach back to McLeod. First thing on reaching downhill I did was to call home. I felt the pride in Dad’s voice. I then boarded the evening bus for Delhi.

At the end I want to thank Jas Kaur (a traveller friend), Raman (my brother), Manveen (Raman’s wife), Raj  and Sumit  for their endless support throughout my travel. This solo trek has not only left me enriched but also strengthened me to take up life’s challenge dauntlessly.

Here goes the picture blog!

Friends made at Triund! From left to right - Jaspreet, Amrita, Varun d Vegan, Sourav and I.

Friends made at Triund! From left to right – Jaspreet, Amrita, Varun d Vegan, Sourav and I.

Group of Tibetan students!

Group of Tibetan students!

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Down the valley from McLeod!

Series of Rising Sun - 1

Series of Rising Sun – 1

Series of Rising Sun - 2

Series of Rising Sun – 2

Series of Rising Sun - 3

Series of Rising Sun – 3

Melting with the sun!

Melting with the sun!

Triund Top!

Triund Top!

I belong to this mountain top!

I belong to this mountain top!

 

 

 

My Himalayan Odyssey!

Clouds are rumbling; teeming rain, as I sit to pen down my experience of a weeklong stay in Himalayas. My Himalayan Odyssey! It’s been more than 4 weeks that I’m back from yet another unforgettable road trip. Trips that are adding up to my life! It was surely a wonderful journey and I’m equally excited to write about it along with the sound of rain drops falling on the window.

As usual, journey started on Friday night. Friday – happiest day of the week for all Grey-collar workers! 😛 There is no need to worry about food when on National Highway -1. There are lot of “Dhabas (small kitchen)” on the way. The famous place for Dhabas and food is, Murthal. We stopped here, at Gulshan for dinner. The first destination was Manali! We were four friends, connected to a string of same passion. Harpal, an expert in driving and well versed about the places to which we were travelling. Joy, “Google Maps” as I call him and a dexterous photographer! And the two girls who were filled with  enthusiasm of exploring the new places. Taking advantage of Harpal’s travelling experiences; we stopped at every beautiful spot on the way to Manali. Slowly, we were absorbing the beauty of hills. There was a place en route Manali, where on our right were the hills, and on left was the Beas River. Sky was gheraoed by smoky clouds and we were chasing it in our little car. It was fun looking at the roads.

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On the way to Manali!

Finally! Happily tired, we reached our destination on Saturday evening. Manali is approximately 16 hours drive from Delhi. We chose to stay in a budget hotel with only basic amenities. We were satisfied with whatever there was in that hotel as we were too tired to go in search for another hotel. Sometimes it’s better to be content with what you have got! 🙂 We then met two friends – Nimit and Sabby, who are from Delhi, and had arrived Manali from Leh. Nimit is an awesome photographer and a humble soul. Whereas Sabby is a cheerful photographer who is fond of selfies. It is always good to meet someone you know at a far off place.Though, they confused us a lot about our next destination. We finally had dinner at Johnson’s Cafe (one of Manali’s best restaurants) along with some live music that was playing there. We then retired to deep slumber.

 

Apple Orchards, Manali!

Apple Orchards, Manali!

Day 2:

Being a morning person, I woke up before dawn, went out of the room and let the cool breeze of mountains rejuvenate me with its touch. I witnessed the rise of sun, slowly fading away the night’s darkness, and moving clouds making the snow clad mountains visible to the eyes. We then went deep into the apple orchards that was just opposite to our hotel and enjoyed clicking apples and posing with them. Till the time we got ready for our next place, the daylight was bright and  sun was over our head with deep blue sky and white cotton like clouds. There are very few times when sky is that blue in Delhi!

Manali Morning!

Manali Morning!

We then headed towards Rohtang – Pass. A beautiful pass from Manali! One has to cross this pass for going further to Leh. A permit is required to go there. Since we had not got the permit before hand, we could only go till the barricades or check post where the permits were checked. We had breakfast at river side and soaked up the sunshine of mountain sun. I love to sit with my face towards sun. I abhor any use of sunscreen lotion as “I love tans”. And I 20150726_174118believe – “Any makeup cannot be better than a tan“. Yes!  I got tanned :). En route we enjoyed watching huge mountains, driving on steep hilly roads, water falls and everything from a simple rock to its people. I was in a world of my own. Listening and humming to the tunes of Kishore Kumar (my favourite singer). By the evening we were back to the city and decided to take a stroll in the market. As a travelling ritual, I found out about a Gurdwara (a Sikh Temple) in the locality and went to pay my homage there. I am a strong believer of Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Holy book of Sikhs), and travelling is making my belief more firm. We munched on evening snacks at Saba Restaurant. I then came back to the hotel. The night was longer than usual as we were confused about our further travelling plan. Actually we had to go to Leh, but due to bad weather, we had to cancel it. So finally, Kinnaur in Himachal was decided.

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Day 3:

With deep heart of not going to Leh, we started our journey to Kalpa, a small town in Kinnaur district of Himachal. There are two ways of reaching Kalpa from Manali. One is via Jeori Pass and other is via Shimla. We chose the former one! We stopped at a very small restaurant on the way, run by a simple husband and wife. The food was tasty! More than taste it was their humbleness and simplicity that added to the taste. Though estimated time to reach Kalpa was 10 hours, but it actually took more than a day to reach there. One, because we were stopping at every beautiful spot and trust me whole route was beautiful 😛 🙂 And secondly, because of the rains and cloud bursts, we got landslides and rocky roads.

Clicked near Shoja

Clicked near Shoja!

There was not even a single time when we had to buy a water bottle. Every time the water was finished, we stopped at a waterfall on the way to fill the bottles and I didn’t miss a single chance of washing my face with the fresh water of hills :). Every time my hands got freeze! The most difficult drive was to Jeori Pass. It took around 4 hours to cover a stretch of just 5 kilometres. Kudos to the experience of Joy and Harpal! We safely passed the deadly hilly road. I exaggerated it a little 😛 But yes I was scared out of my wits! There was rain on the way and we crossed amidst clouds. Though I was afraid but I enjoyed it. The best part was, stopping at a village called Shoja for a tea break and having tea amidst mountains. We also happened to see a foreigner who was cycling on the hilly road. I somehow envied him of riding a cycle on such a beautiful road of my country. I wish to do it someday! Taking 2 – 3 tea breaks on the way, we halted at Rampur for the night.

Day 4:

Rainbow, Kalpa

Rainbow, Kalpa

We again started our journey to Kalpa (with a hope of reaching in 5 hours). Yes we reached Kalpa, only in the evening though :D. Ohh! I forgot to mention about the people that we met on our way. I remember names of some; I spoke to some, played with some and clicked some. The pictures with their names (if I remember) will be shared at the end of this post. There’s a memory of this day; we happened to stop at a place called Urni for a tea. Tea is a saviour in hills! While the tea was getting ready, we were sitting and chatting, and suddenly there was a sound of “boom!” friend’s iphone had fallen down and the screen got broke. All our life, we will never forget this place and this incident :P. I’m sure my friend is going to laugh when he reads this :).  Kalpa welcomed us with a full rainbow in hills. Due to incapability of my camera, I was not able to click a picture of it but it is captured in my heart forever. Till the time we found a hotel, moon was rising from behind the famous “Mount Kailash” (one of the peak in Kailash range). I just couched in a plastic chair and watched the moon filling up the darkness of night with its bright shine. Kalpa being a small town retires early in a day as compared to cities. So after a difficult search operation, we got food to satiate our day long hunger. We then tried some night photography and retired for a sleep sound after a long drive in hills.

Tea is a savior in Hills!

Tea is a savior in Hills!

Day 5:

_DSC0072 (2)Kalpa is located close to the foot of high Kinner Kailash. Kinner Kailash is the legendary winter home of Shiva. There is a spectacular sight early in the morning when the rising sun touches the snowy peaks with crimson and gold light. As suggested by locals, we woke up early to have a sight of “Golden Peak”. Though we didn’t really experience anything like that, but the simple sight of Kinner Kailash in itself was spectacular. I went up to a little height and remember being guided by a deaf-mute man. His smile has put a deep impression on my heart! After sometime, we could hear chanting from a temple and whole town was immersed deep in those chanting. Mind was at peace! Every living being from a single leaf to a beautiful flower to its people, was diffusing positive vibes. We visited a very old monastery in Kalpa and missed going to a famous suicide point there. With this positive vibes, we left Kalpa for Chitkul.

Inside Monastery, Kalpa

Inside Monastery, Kalpa

 

En-route Kalpa

En-route Kalpa

Terrain from Kalpa to Chitkul changes drastically! From high, dangerous hilly roads, we were welcomed to a beautiful valley of Sangla – Chitkul. Green mountains, flowing river and plethora of flowers, looked like a fairy tale. Chitkul is still an unexplored place, so there are not much hotels. But there are not much tourists either. So you can easily get a room there. After having some rest and food at hotel, we went to the river side to spend a peaceful evening. It was relaxing! I had a thought of being a ferociously flowing river and making my own way just like River Satluj. The setting sun in west and moon rising from east – north (I guess so), was mesmerizing. It was a full moon night! By the time we were back to our hotel, we were hungry. We tried food at Samaa Resorts. It’s a resort maintained by a very humble couple; Manmeet and Manali (we are now friends on facebook too). This is one more thing about travelling that I like – “making friends”. The food was good. We actually didn’t expect food of that level of taste. I wish the couple good luck for their future endeavours. Whole night, there was a sound of flowing river and rumbling of trees. I slept in ease with those sounds.

Spectacular Chitkul!

Spectacular Chitkul!

Day 6:

We again lazed around river and embraced its beauty. It was and extraordinary spectacle! I’m speechless to describe its beauty! It’s far away from my words. And I have incapability of describing His beautiful world. All my life I have believed in “magic”. It happened here at Chitkul. It was magical! I’m a kind of person who would like to sit and watch the beauty of the place rather than capturing it. It is because of the enthusiasm of my friend who goes beyond limits to click pictures. I owe one of my best pictures of the trip to him!

Chitkul Morning!

Chitkul Morning!

 

Day 7:

We started our “Nonstop” journey back to Delhi. Thanks to Harpal! I was almost in half slumber while coming back. There’s a lot that is left unsaid. Many memorable moments those are in my mind. Not making it too long to read, I decided to end it here. The post is only about my experiences and I’ve not shared much about the route. Get in touch with me if you want any information about reaching the place.

Little girl, Manali

Little girl, Manali

Old man at a restaurant, Manali!

Old man at a restaurant, Manali!

Cute Kid, Manali

Cute Kid, Manali

Little boy - Kaku!

Little boy – Kaku!

The highway girl - Aarushi!

The highway girl – Aarushi!

Mountain girl - Ananya!

Mountain girl – Ananya!

Mom and daughter duo, Manali

Mom and daughter duo, Manali

Hats off to truck drivers for driving on narrow roads of hills!

Hats off to truck drivers for driving on narrow roads of hills!

Kinnaur Kid - Riya!

Kinnaur Kid – Riya!

Kinnaur Lady 1!

Kinnaur Lady 1!

Kinnaur Lady -2!

Kinnaur Lady -2!

Storage house in Chitkul! Every family have their own storage house.

Storage house in Chitkul! Every family have their own storage house.

Houses in Chitkul be like!

Houses in Chitkul be like!

I envy those who studied here. A school building at Kalpa!

I envy those who studied here. A school building at Kalpa!

A Temple, Kalpa

A Temple, Kalpa

Samaa Resorts, Chitkul!

Samaa Resorts, Chitkul!

Full Moon, Chitkul!

Full Moon, Chitkul!

 

Food Trail in Queen of Hills!

Finally! I was able to hit road in 2015. Well! Never the late, it was a short weekend trip to erstwhile ‘Queen of Hills – Shimla’. It was more of a leisure trip. I remember an Italian phrase from the movie ‘Eat, Pray and Love’ which says – ‘Dolce Far Niente’. It means ‘sweetness of doing nothing’. And Shimla is exactly the same!

Shimla!

Shimla!

 

If you are not pleased with the first sight of Shimla, you are not the only one. It is over built and overcrowded, forming layer on layer on mountain. Its first look is little tacky. But once you begin to unmask its layers, you start feeling its rich history. You will start enjoying it. Its grandeur buildings will make you fall in love with every layer of it. Its amazing past lives on in the cobbled lanes and celebrate it. No matter how the time has changed!

 

During British rule in India, Shimla was marked summer capital of India. It is one of the densely populated hill stations of India. The first thing to do upon reaching Shimla is to hit ‘The Mall’, the happening street of Shimla. As the title says, this blog will only be about food and restaurants in Shimla which we were able to cover in 2 days of our stay.

 

View from Hotel Flora, Shimla

View from Hotel Flora, Shimla

There are many budget hotels in Shimla. So, a backpacker like me need not worry much about staying options. You can get quite a comfortable room from Rs800 – Rs1500. It is around 6-7 hours drive from Delhi to Shimla. But since we had chosen to drive at night, it took 7-8 hours. Highway NH-1 from Delhi to Chandigarh as well as highway NH-22 from Kalka to Shimla, both are amazing. There are lots of dhabas (roadside small kitchen) on the way. Even at the odd hours of the day. On reaching the hilly area from plains, you can also stop on the way, move out of your car, feel the cool breeze and watch sky full of stars. A rare sight in cities!

 

 

The Mall

The Mall

Shimla has its own charm! Its people walk with pride of its past. The buildings tell a story of its great history. After getting fresh, we were ready to hit heart of Shimla, the mall. But before that, we stopped at the end of Lakkar Bazar at Sita Ram’s shop to devour Shimla style Chole Bathure which had a tinge of sweetness in it. Quite a unique taste! Then we headed to Honey Hut for a perfect cup of coffee and lip smacking finger linking walnut pie. It was divine! I mean it will leave you satiated with no more desire. Well! At least I felt that. Taking a stroll on mall will leave you amazed. It has very old book shops, eateries, bakeries and coffee shops. I always wonder why hill stations have great bakeries and that too those which are years old. Anyways, walking on mall made us thirsty and we headed to HTDC’s shop under a huge tree to quench our thirst with fresh apple juice. It’s on the upper mall. And you can watch people riding horse, clicking selfies, taking family pictures. One can also wear Himachali dress and get clicked. After a long stroll, we went to Indian Coffee House, one of the oldest coffee houses in India.

Strawberry Jelly Cream at Indian Coffee House

Strawberry Jelly Cream at Indian Coffee House

It is famous for Indian style filter coffee and Strawberry Jelly Cream. The taste of strawberry jelly along with cream and little crystals of ice melted in mouth and tasted very good. The day was retiring and we too were tired after a long stroll. There are benches on mall where one can take rest. There’s a little area at the middle, we chose that place to sit and sooth our eyes with changing colors of sunset. We then headed to Goofa and Ashiana for dinner. The amazing thing about this place is that if you decide to sit in the outer area of the restaurant, you will get to see amazing view of lit up houses on the hills. The food, the cool breeze and the view are enough to fulfill your visit to Shimla.

 

Gurdwara at Shimla!

Gurdwara at Shimla!

I woke up little late next day as I was enjoying being in bed more. I got ready till early afternoon and along with my friend, went out to try out a new restaurant for breakfast. So the restaurant to hit for breakfast was Wake $ Bake. It is a very small restaurant on the mall. The yellow window panes let you see the outside building and the people on the mall. It is best in all ways. Be the ambiance or the service or the food. I loved being there. You just can’t miss it if you are in Shimla. I then wanted to visit Gurdwara in Shimla. This is ritual that has been inculcated in to me by my parents. Where ever we go, we make it a point to pay our homage to a Gurdwara at that place. One need to cross many stairs downwards from mall to reach Gurdwara, we actually got worried to climb all those stairs back to mall. But we were determined to pay our homage at Gurdwara. Thank god! My friend found out about lift which goes up till mall. There’s a nominal charge of Rs10 per person for the lift. We took a breath of sigh on reaching mall 😛 :).

 

We then headed to ‘Thakur Brata’, a famous shop for pickles and murabba’s (traditionally sweet). It seemed to be a very old shop. You can also get pure honey of hills and ayurvedic medicines. As I mentioned hill stations have very good bakeries and Shimla is no different. It has three famous bakeries, Krishna Bakers (being the oldest), Trishool and Baljee’s. You can try different breads and pastries at these bakeries. Baljee’s have Indian sweets too. I bought some freshly baked biscuits for my parents back at home. We then spent some time on the mall. We watched people talking and walking, mothers waiting outside school for their kids, lovers walking hand in hand, oldies enjoying post retirement with their friends. Everybody was happy being there! God damn! There’s so much to observe and write.

 

View from Dining Table at Goofa

View from Dining Table at Goofa

 

I am very fond of watching plays. The lighting, the stage, the actors and the perfectly written stories can sometimes give you goose bumps. And we got a chance to watch a play ‘Chanakya’ by a renowned TV actor Manoj Joshi. We were lucky enough! After having dinner at Goofa, we headed back to take a sound sleep for few hours and start our journey back home.

 

While writing this blog, I am back to my daily routine. And I’m missing being in Shimla. I think that’s the best thing about travelling. After coming back, you have stories to tell; you have things to write about, you have pictures to share.

 

I’m about to end this blog but there’s a feeling that a lot more has left unwritten. The feeling of being there has not been expressed well in words. Anyways, there has to be end to a vacation and this blog too. But now you know your next destination for leisure trip and to enjoy the sweetness of doing nothing:). It will rejuvenate your soul!

Sunset from Mall Road

Sunset from Mall Road