Travelogue part Trois – Dalhousie

The details of my vacation are slowly beginning to slip away from my mind, which apparently follows an automatic prioritisation system. Amidst work and other day-to-day stuff, the wonderful images of snow-capped mountains and beautiful valleys already seem slightly faded in my memories. Which is why, it has become all the more imperative for me to record them here as soon as possible!

I left off at Dharamshala, didn’t I? Next on our itinerary was Dalhousie, another scenic hill station in Himachal Pradesh. It is built on and around 5 hills, and is situated at 6460 feet above sea level. Dharamshala, on the other hand is only 4780 feet above sea level. So we were all terribly excited about going to a much colder place, as it hinted at the possibility of there being snow! πŸ˜€

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We had to cross a few mountains and traverse 120 kms to reach Dalhousie; and this we did on a warm sunny day! To us southern people, the warm sun felt glorious on our skin after just a couple of days of shivering underneath 4 layers of clothing. πŸ™‚ It took a little more than 5 hours to reach there; until we were almost there – just 15 minutes away from our hotel at Dalhousie, the sun kept shining relentlessly down on us. There seemed no sign of a nip in the air, let alone snow! 😦 We were beginning to feel terribly disappointed, until as we turned a hairpin bend.. the white patches started.. small and sparse at first, but growing in quantity by the minute! πŸ˜€

We were overjoyed and started whistling and shouting in the car! But the surprises did not stop there.. once we landed at out hotel and went inside to check in, we found that the whole area was covered in sheets of feet-deep snow. Sheets of snow hung from the roofs of hotels and shops, gently dripping down on to unsuspecting heads. Our hotel, it turns out, was so covered in snow that it looked like it had a snow garden in place of a grassy-green garden. We obviously did not miss our chance to have a snow fight right there! πŸ™‚

This is the portico in front of our hotel rooms.

We actually had a nice North Indian dinner and played a game of Taboo that evening. However, we had the opportunity of seeing a couple of other beautiful places in and around Dalhousie when we visited Khajjiar the next day. Since this post is dedicated to Dalhousie, that’s what I’m going to tell you about now! πŸ™‚

When we were descending the mountain to go to Khajjiar the next day, we came across this beautiful we suddenly spotted a pristine aquamarine lake at the bottom of the valley. We didn’t get a chance to actually visit this lake or go boating in it, but that is probably for the best – I believe that this lake is best viewed from atop a mountain, because this blue body of water amidst the brown mountains is like an oasis in a desert. I literally couldn’t getΒ enough of it! We later learned that it is called the Chamera lake.

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While on the way to Khajjiar, we came across one more body of water – this is somewhere along the Ravi river in Chamba district. It was magnificent even at a distance, and we stopped there at once. At that time, only a thin flow of water was seen, and there were multitudes of rocks surrounding the river. We climbed down a hazardous path with some difficulty and reached the rocks. Well, anything for a photo op right?! πŸ˜›

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After an extremely satisfactory and unforgettable vision of the blue of the water merging with the green of the trees which in turn merged with the golden brown of the sunlight falling on the mountains, we came away with amazing memories. I’m afraid I wan’t able to capture that beauty.. did I mention that a camera can never equal the human eyes?!

As it was already late evening and we were shivering in the chill air, we went back to the hotel, where the owner arranged a warm private bonfire for us. We rushed to the warmth like moths to a light, and had a happy evening with awesome company, a few breezers, good food and a warm fire! πŸ™‚

However, our vacation was nowhere near over yet. Apparently, we had saved the best for the last! And that, children, is something I’ll tell you in the next post! πŸ™‚

To be continued…

Travelogue – Part Deux – Dharamshala!

If there is one thing I learnt during this trip, it is that a camera can never ever equal the human eyes. From the moment we started ascending the hills to Dharamshala, until the moment we left Amritsar to go back home, we tried to drink in the images before our eyes to the best of our ability. My paltry 8MP camera phone did no justice to the magnificent view at those heights, the brilliant colours and shades of sheet-white snow contrasting with that of brown mountains, which smoothly gave way to green pine cones.

Well, that first statement may not be entirely true – one of my relatives had brought his DSLR, and he managed to capture those very views beautifully. Sample this:

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However, although a picture speaks a 1000 words, my job is to write. So I’m going to take the “1000 words” route and describe our vacation to the best of my ability! πŸ™‚ So, as I was saying, our vacation started at Dharamshala, which is famous for being the centre of the Tibetan exile world in India. Following the 1959 Tibetan uprising, there was an influx of Tibetan refugees who followed the 14th Dalai Lama. His presence and the Tibetan population has made Dharamshala a popular destination for both Indian and foreign tourists.

We reached the foot of Dharamshala and started climbing the hill around 7:00 PM; so it had already darkened by then, and we could see very little of the view. However, as our car adroitly handled the hairpin bends and we went higher up in the hills, we came upon two magnificent views – The first was a multitude of brilliantly sparkling stars across the night sky; I swear I’ve never seen so many stars at a single point in time. The second was another set of brilliantly sparkling jewels in the deep valley below us; the lights were on in most houses and other places at that time, and in the darkness that shrouded us, the valley literally appeared to be a huge bowl sprinkled with sparkling jewels! πŸ™‚

We reached our hotel only around 11:00 PM at night, and were greeted with shivers and chills; the temperature there was probably around 10 degrees Celsius. Now, anyone who has lived in Chennai all their life (like yours truly) will tell you that it is impossible to live in a place with a temperature less than 25 degrees. That is because we are so used to living in temperatures between 25 and 45. 10 degrees is something most of us had never experienced before, and we were violently shivering until we finally found warm rooms with warm heaters. By that point, we were all dead on our feet, and stowed away the enjoyment for a later fresher time.

However, the next morning was truly magical! It wasn’t until we were all well-rested and fresh, that we are started looking around; needless to say, we were shell-shocked and awed by the sheer beauty of the place in front of us. One look at the view, and you could tell that this place has been untouched by humankind. It was nature in its truest form. This change of scenery (from the polluted atmosphere, the crowded roads, and surrounding skyrises that make you positively claustrophobic) was exactly what we needed to become energized! πŸ˜€

My first real view of Dharamshala from my balcony!

My first real view of Dharamshala from my balcony!

A view of the valley.

A view of the valley.

We followed it up with breakfast and a photo session (obviously!). We couldn’t get enough of the breathtaking views in every direction. On one hand, steep mountains rose magnificently in front of us, snow-clad in such a way that it looked liked icing sugar had been sprinkled on them. On the other hand, we had the whole valley in front of us, covered by a sheen of mist and fog. We couldn’t wait to go sightseeing and explore the place further! πŸ˜€

We primarily covered three places in Dharamshala (I’m told there are more; but this was all we could fit into our schedule). The first one was Bhagsu waterfalls; this one involved walking up a long trek of stairs for about half an hour to get close to the waterfall. However, the view on the way was magnificent, and the trek did us a lot of good with plenty of photo opportunities. The waterfall itself was relatively thin, but it ended in a cool pool that was refreshing to us tired trekkers. πŸ™‚

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A view of the trekking path to the falls

A view of the trekking path to the falls

Next, we crossed the Dal lake, and went to a place called Naddi, to see snow! This was my very first time seeing snow directly, and I must admit, I fell crazily in love with it. Naddi is definitely a scenic viewpoint, but all we did there was play with the snow there! πŸ™‚

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Lastly, but most importantly, we went to the Namgyal Tibetan monastery. Visiting this monastery was an entirely new experience for us, as it gave us an opportunity to explore the traditions of a different religion – Buddhism. We were surprised at every turn of the huge monastery – the old women who were praying on a mat in the huge verandah, the huge Buddha idol, the numerous bowls filled with oil (or some other liquid?) and placed in front of the idols etc were a visual treat and taught us a lot about the religion.

However, what I loved most about the monastery was its set of prayer wheels that you can spin; spinning these cylinders supposedly emanates positive energy, allowing the practitioner to accumulate wisdom and merit.

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Apart from all these, we were staying at Mcleodganj, and did a bit of shopping at the market there, and also binged on yummy Tibetan momos! πŸ™‚ I know that these words are probably nowhere near enough to describe the amount of beauty we saw and enjoyed every moment; and I know that even pictures sometime don’t do enough justice to real-life experiences. However, this visit to Dharamshala really was a wonderful experience for us.

However, if we thought that we had seen the best by this point, then we couldn’t have been more wrong! Our vacation continued on, to even better places. Watch this space for the next part! πŸ™‚

To be continued…

Travelogue – Part Une

The best years are those that begin with a vacation! 2015 kicked off to a fantastic start for me, with a 6-day holiday along with my family. πŸ˜€ This vacation came at a much-needed time, since my husband and I had not been able to go anywhere last year. So, after months of planning, we finally departed on this dear vacation along with our immediate and extended family, comprising 4 couples and 4 kids. Mid-Jan sees the festival of Pongal/Sankranti celebrated all across South India; so we made use of the long weekend to make this trip happen.

After continuously ending up in beach destinations from 2011-2013, we had a refreshing change of scenery this time, at hill stations. We holidayed at two hill stations in the state of Himachal Pradesh (HP) in India – Dharamshala and Dalhousie. πŸ™‚ For those of you who don’t know, Himachal Pradesh is situated in the Western Himalayas, and is a mountainous state. Hence, there is no dearth of scenic hill stations and snow-clad mountains. This state comprises of multiple tourist destinations such as Shimla, Kullu, Manali, the Spiti valley etc.

Since all three other families (except us) stay at Bangalore, we had booked our flights from Bangalore too; the plan was to fly from Bangalore to Chandigarh, and then take a roadtrip from Chandigarh to Dalhousie. Bangalore, however, chose to be extremely foggy the day we had planned to fly out; so our flight was delayed and we landed at Chandigarh only around 2:30 in the afternoon. Unfortunately, Dalhousie chose to be snowy the same day, making it impossible to make that road trip that day. Since it would be past 10:00 PM by the time we reach Dalhousie, and the snow would have turned to ice, the steep roads and hairpin bends would turn treacherous.

Foggy morning at Bangalore

Foggy morning at Bangalore

So we smartly took a detour to Dharamshala, which is closer from Chandigarh. Dharamshala was part of our itinerary anyway, but we had planned it for after Dalhousie. Until this point, our whole plan was a mere storyboard, torturing us with excitement. I should mention that, this trip almost seemed jinxed, considering the number of times we thought it would get cancelled. We had initially booked our flights with Spicejet; but as you all know, Spicejet was bordering on the verge of going under, and our tickets got cancelled. Re-booking at that point proved to be terribly expensive, and we almost.. almost cancelled the whole plan. However, thankfully, by some Godly miracle, we were able to rebook tickets with different service providers, without too much of an additional cost, and the trip still seemed set to happen!

Excited in the flight to Chandigarh

Excited in the flight to Chandigarh

Even after we had reached the Bangalore airport, our flight kept getting delayed, until we started wondering whether it might be a good idea to just set up a camp somewhere and call it a holiday! πŸ˜› But thankfully, and at long last, our flights did take us to Chandigarh, and it was not until we were on the road from Chandigarh to HP, that we actually believed that the vacation is happening! πŸ™‚

However, once we started the ascent to Dharamshala, we realised that the whole trip was worth every single penny, and every moment of tension and planning. You’ll find out why.. in the next post! πŸ™‚

To be continued..

Sisterhood of The World Bloggers!

Maggie has been kind enough to nominate me for the Sisterhood of The World Bloggers award πŸ˜€ Thank You Maggie! πŸ™‚

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Now, as part of accepting this award, I have to answer a few questions that she posed for me. So here we go:

1.Β How many times a week do you like to post on your blog?

Honestly, I would love to write a post every single day. I envy people who can blog every day; but unfortunately, I either don’t have enough content, or I am just not the kind of person to bare my heart and soul, or post every little thing about my day to day life. After a serious introspection session and realising all this, I’ve now set a more realistic target of one blog post a week, at least! πŸ™‚

2. Why do you blog?

This is pretty straightforward! I love to write; after years of self-searching, I finally figured out that writing is my most favourite form of self expression. I know I am a natural at it; and blogging helps me define myself as a writer. My blog has given me an identity, and blogging is my pathway to a variety of destinations.

3. What’s the thing you enjoy most about blogging?

When I put pen to paper, or well.. fingers on the keyboard to blog, I feel like Harry Potter did, when he flew on a broomstick for the very first time. THAT is what I love about blogging! πŸ™‚

4. What inspires and motivates you for your ideas on posting?

Everything under the sun! Sometimes I write about my own experiences; sometimes I take inspiration from my dreams and fancies; and sometimes I succumb to my writer’s block and resort to prompts.

5. Do you like English Bulldogs?

I love them! πŸ™‚

To spread the happiness and cheer, I now nominate the following fellow bloggers for this award:

1. Sucheta – The scribbler

2. Tyler

Hasta luego, πŸ™‚

Writer on the rocks.

2015 – The year of words?

That’s how I want it to be! When I took a moment to think of what I really really want to do this year, all I could come up with was two things – read and write. Well, obviously I’m not going to say ‘No’ to a yummy bowl of pasta; so I won’t be stupid enough to rule out food. But apart from that, I would love to spend my entire time reading books and writing or blogging.

Since the blog is already under progress, with a decent posting frequency and visitor count, I wanted to start reading more actively. So I’ve signed up for the ‘Goodreads 2015 reading challenge’, with a modest goal of 25 books this year. I would love to read about a 100, but practically speaking, it seems hard to get even half an hour a day to devote to reading. 😦

downloadBut hey, it is always easier to get the time to mark all the books read by my friends as “Want to read” in Goodreads, and spend at least some time each day wonderingΒ how on earth I am ever going to finish reading all those books in this lifetime! :O In case you’re wondering, my Goodreads account currently has around 300 books in it – 260 of them “to be read”! πŸ˜›

One step at a time, I tell myself. I don’t have a fixed list of books that I am planning to read this year, since I basically read anything that is printed, and everything under the sun. So when I got the opportunity to read some children’s books that I ought to have read when I was, well, a child.. I jumped at it. I bought ‘Swami and Friends’ by R.K. Narayan and ‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl for my niece, without realising that she has already read them. So instead of returning the books and getting a refund, I ended up reading them myself. I must say, they made my new year a fantastic one – I didn’t realise just what I had missed in my childhood, until I actually read these.

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Not that I stopped there; I had read ‘The Alchemist’ a long time back; although I loved the message, I didn’t become a big fan of the writing style itself. And hence, I’ve never actively sought out and read a Paulo Coelho book since. However, with the New Year beckoning me to try new things, I braved a Paulo Coelho book once again, and started reading ‘The Winner Stand Alone’. Surprise of all surprises, I fell in love with it only a few pages into the book! Further proof that we should give people and things a chance.. and initial impressions are usually neither the best, nor accurate. πŸ™‚

And along those lines, there is one more thing that I really want to give a shot this year – and that is writing fiction. I did try a couple of times, and came to the hopefully erroneous conclusion that I can’t write fiction to save my life! But the more fiction I read, the more I do want to write. Hence, I’m planning to start a fiction series on this blog soon – just waiting for inspiration to strike! πŸ˜›

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2015 is one of those years that got off to the best start for me – and I am pumped about trying a ton of new things this year. The older you get, the more you realise that you want to spend what little time you have, in doing what you love. Here is a toast to everyone who has resolved to try new things this year! Cheers! πŸ˜€

2015 – Time to reboot!

It is the dawn of a brand new year! And for a typical type A personality like me, it is the time to revamp, reorganise, and make a whole set of super-organised lists, start writing in a fresh new diary etc. 2015 is no different – I’ve, as usual, vowed to read more, get healthier, be more organised (ahem!), work hard, party harder, travel more, and you know.. the whole enchilada!

However, I think one of my most important resolutions for the new year is to blog much more than I’ve been doing! 2014 was a good year for me in terms of blogging – no doubt! I started a brand new blog, wrote 38 posts in 9 months, participated in Blogging 101 (grand success! :), and partially participated in NaBloPoMo – before I gave up! 😦

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However, writing has suddenly become a far more important part of my life and my future plans than it was until very recently. Blogging is no longer just something that I list under the “Interests” or “Hobbies” columns when I write my bio in a social networking site. I’ve come to realise that blogging is a much more fundamental form of expression that I use, than even I had realised before.

Therefore, no surprises – my goal is to blog at least one post a week. That means, around 50 posts for this year! Of course, I’m also eagerly waiting for Blogging 201 to start. I seem to need some form of accountability to actually stick to my blogging schedule! 😦 But as long as I can count on being able to draw inspiration from fellow bloggers around me, I’m sure I’ll be able to make time and blog more!

Even today, I read a number of posts in the blogs I follow, on how everyone wants to blog more regularly this year. So here is wishing everyone a fantastic blogging 2015! πŸ™‚

Cheers!

Writer on the rocks.